WHAT IS PROPHETIC ULTIMACY?
BY: T. AUSTIN SPARKS
Here is the thing to which the prophetic ministry all-inclusively relates: the original and ultimate purposes of God in and through His people.
We need to have something come into our consciousness as to the meaning of the words, ultimate and God’s ultimate purposes and even the church in its ultimate configuration because whatever is ultimate is God’s intention. To bring, therefore, the ultimate requirement of God in a world that is temporal, expedient and compromising, is to find ourselves in opposition to the whole spirit and tenor of the world. That same spirit has unhappily come even into the church. There are not so many in the church who want to hear about the ultimate purposes of God. If we will not, however, embrace the ultimate purposes of God, then neither, ironically, will we have any relevance in His immediate purposes. It is only in the investment of the ultimate that we have any practical significance. It is a paradox and yet it is true. That is why we are more or less of no value, because we have circumvented or not known the things that are ultimate.
The connection between ultimate and immediate is precisely the same as the connection between the past and the future. We have no immediate significance, until we have embraced the things that are ultimate. The ultimate purposes of God have very little to do with our self-gratification, in fact, they have nothing to do with it, and who has a heart for embracing something that has no particular relevance for oneself? When we do, however, embrace them, then all Hell will howl, and we will have made ourselves candidates for such fierce opposition, which never would have been our portion if we had only contented ourselves with the things that are at hand. The moment we embrace the ultimate purposes of God, we become marked people before the powers of darkness.
We presently have little or no understanding of the ultimate and full purposes of God in and through His people. The church is bored stiff, lacking an orbit, a line of thought and a direction because it lacks this understanding. We condemn ourselves, therefore, to programs and services whose forms are unhappily predictable. To embrace that which is ultimate and full is what makes church the true church. It is at the heart of the very purpose for our being. For that reason, God has given us the full gospel and the fullness of His Spirit. Yet we can talk about the gospel and the indwelling Spirit and not have either because we do not have the full purpose. I am a little suspicious of people boasting on the “full gospel” and “the baptism of the Spirit” who have not the full purpose, because the Spirit is given for that very purpose. It cannot be obtained without Him.
To interpret the mind of God in all matters concerning the purpose of God, to bring all details into line with that purpose, and to make that purpose govern everything.
He is fanatical! It is not just to announce the purpose, but to demand that everything else be related to it. That is prophetic intensity and prophetic insistence. We are not only to understand the ultimate and full purposes of God, but everything else that constitutes our life and being is to be related to that. That will require a radical adjustment, and that is why prophets are not popular. That requirement is painful and that is why people do not want to hear it.
A prophet shows the unbroken continuum of things past, with the imminence of the eschatological (end-time) future, that culminates in the theocratic glory. In other words, he is so aware of the invisible cloud of witnesses that make up the saints of past times as being present, in order to prod us on to the fulfillment of the thing that is future. This prophetic way of seeing the continuity and relevance of things past and future is also God’s way of seeing, and it is the way that God would have the whole church to see. The absence of that seeing is to be rooted in mere time or mere culture itself, which is the product of time. We break the bondage of culture and tradition that is so fixed in time by breaking out of the orbit of time itself. We do not need to wait to die to come into eternity, but we can already be in that eternal place. We are already seated in heavenly places with Christ. That is the prophet’s seeing and he has the responsibility to communicate that seeing in such a way as to engage the hearer and bring him into that very reality.
The prophet sees the sweep and the purpose of God, the larger picture, the panoramic view. He is not one for the ‘nuts and bolts’, for the details: ‘how do you do this and that.’ He sees the arching overview, and that is what the church needs to see if that is the framework of its life. Without that overview, fellowships will be fixed entirely in the present moment. They will remain in the things that are really so narrow and so petty because they cannot see what they are doing and what they are about in this moment in the context of something much larger of which they are in connection and moving toward. Without the prophetic overview, they are caught up in the immediate program, which very likely has been birthed out of their flesh or out of a necessity to ‘do something’, and is not consciously in the continuum of things apostolic and prophetic. The prophet communicates the eternal perspective, which also includes the past. One has no more apprehension of the future then one has of the past. Our ability to perceive the things that are yet future is altogether relative to the appropriation of the things past.
If we are going to be the one who turns aside to see the ‘burning bush’ as it pertains to God’s purpose for Israel, then we need to have already turned aside to see the flaming issues of our own life and not pass them by. We will not turn aside to see the ‘burning bush’ of God in which the Lord Himself is in the midst, in the revelation of Himself that waits on that moment of a particular kind, if we have not already ‘turned aside to see’ the ‘burning bushes’ of the issues of our own life. Most of us look away and our past is the wreckage of failed marriages, failed relationships, failed church situations, where we go on to something else and sweep the past under the proverbial rug and have not turned aside to see. It is painful and that is why people do not turn aside, and we look to the next situation to remove the memory of the past. That is the human propensity and it is a propensity that the prophet cannot indulge. He has got to have the guts to face up to his own past and his own failures. In fact, those failures have very likely been given him by God to fit him that he might not miss the ‘burning bush’ when it comes in the moment of his final calling.
That message is going to be resisted, because it is not convenient to be lifted out of time. The prophet must make that view, which is a lost view, the first priority for the hearer. It is not another option it is the way. The eternal view is the view, and he has registered it with such forcefulness in his speaking that it has become now the priority of the person who hears him. That is what the prophetic word is: the ‘event.’ It is not information or inspiration, it is the word as ‘event’ that creates what was not there before, namely, the eternal perspective, where God’s own seeing now becomes that of the believer. To be apprehended by that perspective will alienate that believer from the world and from those who are still seeing conventionally, including his own family.
The prophet absolutizes those things that the world has made trivial, and he makes trivial and relative what the world has sought to make absolute and ultimate. He stands the world on its head and he turns it inside-out. He says, “What you are celebrating is self- delusion, and what you are ignoring is of eternal moment and significance.” He not only says it, but he establishes it. That seeing will change and affect everything: the way that you see your family, your daily life, what you do, how you order your time, your resources, your money, your future. The power of that word, and it requires power, is altogether relative to the authentic sending and the intercession that goes forth behind the one that brings the word. He is not some virtuoso in himself who is operating independent of the sending body. He is coming against the whole weight of a moral order that has not its origin from above but below, but has become so normative that no one thinks that there is any alternative to it and even thinks that this is valid. The prophet brings another view of the eternal kind that is calculated not only to compete with, but to demolish the other. It has, therefore, got to be expressed in power in order to win the willingness of the hearer.
The prophet announces or projects the impending end of the world in apocalyptic fury and judgment in a way to birth the longing for the new heaven and new earth in which dwells righteousness. If we have any investment in this present world, the prophet demolishes it and makes clear that God is bringing a judgment in which everything that is not sanctified and separated unto Him, will go up in the conflagration. We are willing for that because we are won over to the view of a new heaven and a new earth in which dwells righteousness. If this is what it takes for God to be glorified in His own creation, then let it come.
WHAT IS PROPHETIC ULTIMACY [T. Austin Sparks] 1