A Place Prepared
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also. And where I go ye know, and the way ye know.”—John 14:3, 4
A Home for the Church
These words have changed the world forever, yet many are still as puzzled as the ones to whom they were spoken. “Lord we know not where thou goest; and how can we know the way?”
The fact that it was doubting Thomas in his spiritual infancy suggests that we ought to be more informed or at least as assured as the apostle John who said: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Then, in the next verse, ,the condition of one who has this hope is described: “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he [Christ] is pure.” So, then the force of these and far more scriptures keeps the Christian still in the tradition of cultivating increasing sonship and holy living, “without which no man shall see God,” to be granted future glorification according to divine will and mercy.
We may wrestle in our minds whether billions will be in heaven or just a saintly few. Christ in Matthew 7:13, 14 simply said: “Enter in at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in that way; Because narrow is the gate, and hard is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Most believers choose not to gamble but to submit lovingly to discipleship and training, especially in view of the grand prospects awaiting them. The scriptural accounts of that great event or series of events involving the glorification of the Church are nothing short of stupendous.
Two Women Compared
Two great women are dealt with in the Bible, reinforcing the thought that God is both a rewarder of those faithful and a punisher of those who are reckless, presumptuous, and disobedient The eighteenth chapter of Revelation graphically describes the harlot who has not found favor with God. She has had illicit affairs with worldly institutions and kings: ” … the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are grown rich through the abundance of her wantonness” (v. 3);”… her sins have reached unto heaven…” (vs. 5); “…she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow (absent from the crucified Lord), and shall see no sorrow…” (v. 7) but “they shall see the smoke of her burning” (vs. 9) and “no man buyeth their merchandise any more (v.11)” even including trade in “… the souls of men” (v. 13).
Whoever this unfortunate woman might symbolize, it is said of her (vs. 23): “… the light of a lamp shall shine no more in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be no more at all in thee; …for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.” Her failure is due to refusal to separate church from political matters.
In contrast, the reward and exaltation of the Bride, the Lamb’s wife is recorded in Revelation19. She has the voice of the bridegroom and bride in her (espousal to the Lord); she is the true Bride of Christ. Verses 7 and 8 portray those about her as happy: “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him (Christ); for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” Then, we read of the unmistakable link between the faithful saints throughout the Gospel Age and this wife or bride: “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen,clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” The connection is reinforced, the time frame is established and the accomplishments of the saints are outlined in Revelation 20:4-6: “And I saw thrones, and they [glorified saints] sat upon them,and judgment was given unto them [a gradual, subtle exchange of authority early in the period known as the Millennium]; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, [those who stood against error in the Gospel era] and who had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Each professed believer hoping to become a part of the priest-hood of Christ in heaven can correctly include him or herself in the blessing of verse 6: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such [immortals] the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”
The centuries old debate over who these favored beheaded ones are still goes on but is muted in our day by strong cries the world over for tolerance, forgiveness, and ecumenism. Many lack assurance that they are saved. But most likely those who showed a true witness in life and in death, having learned of Jesus, came from many, if not all, sects of the past, regardless of the excesses and atrocities committed on every side. This explains why the search for the identity and character of those who have successfully avoided the worship of the beast, refused its mark, and who continue to do so, is still so very intriguing.
Especially engrossing is the reference to the victory of those who presumably refused to be marked in the forehead with something abhorrent and evil in God’s view. We are constantly reminded of Jesus’ message of mistrust of the power-brokers of his day. The beastliness of that which is to be avoided no doubt refers to a system of thought or ideology which still feels compelled to impose control on those within its sphere of influence, and to do so as if dominance and predation were a necessary part of its fundamental nature. There would seem to be an arrogant disregard for the warning of John 16:2, ” … yea the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” Many today fear totalitarianism, in the light of unrest, crime, and increasing terrorism because it might not be ruled out much longer as a solution to local and global problems. Law and order are precious to all men. Freedom even more so. Local and international news broadcasts all show the pained condition law-makers are in trying to enforce and guarantee the individual rights and protections contained in say, the United Nations Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the U.S. Constitution and its amendments.
We may inquire whether those in the past, the true Reformers, ones who were truly holy and righteous Christians in all sects, qualified as these overcomers. If we are considering the cream of all Christians, yes, few can argue that there have indeed been those who suffered and died for noble causes. Their sufferings brought them polishing of character, testings of faith, divine approval, and eventually, increased glory on the spirit plane of existence as members of the Bride of Christ. Scripture abounds with lessons of rewards for strong efforts.
Sealed in Their Foreheads
Most Christians are aware to some degree of the work of “sealing saints of God in their foreheads.” Few disagree that this means a final comprehensive revelation to them of God’s plans. Most are aware of some scriptures which say that the Church cannot be glorified until after it suffers, and that great destruction strikes the earth after its departure to heaven. “And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal [truth] of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, hurt not the earth [organized society], neither the sea [the rebellious of society] , nor the trees [believers], till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads” (Rev. 7:2, 3).
This is further corroborated by another passage, in Revelation18:4 about the two women: “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out of her [the profligate one] my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” The inference here is that the separation and overcoming work requires energy, purposefulness, and scientific reasoning to set aside time-worn solutions of institutions now more or less helpless, despite recent strong efforts, to undo all past wrongs. So much mention is made of the rapid failure of trade, commerce, technology, and so forth in chapter eighteen that one wonders whether those failures and declines are not due to false, poorly conceived, and exploitative views of the earth’s resources and of a fundamental ignorance by past spiritual and secular leaders of the delicate ecosystems of earth—an ignorance which belies their claims to both spiritual and temporal authority.
Can there still be in quiet formation today a cabinet of worthy ones unknown by the majority for their earthly and spiritual wisdom throughout the ages, but known to God and to Christ? Faith in the inerrancy of scripture along with the critical human predicament both motivate us to so believe. If the time ever was ripe for a comprehensive solution it is now.
The saints beyond death will be well cared for and rewarded. But does the glorification of the church involve mankind and their ecological predicament? Mankind has much technology but time and harmonious efforts for recovery are sadly lacking. Will it require the work of the glorified church to assure survival of the earth? The Apostle Paul has told us in Romans 8:22-23: “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption, that is the redemption (glorification) of our body.” Why the inference that the human predicament is linked to the salvation or glorification of the saints? This is a very utilitarian view of the value of Christian lives. If so, it is something far removed from harp-playing which is being described, for it involves the whole imperiled groaning creation.
Only seven trumpets are recorded in Revelation. The last one, recorded in Revelation 18:15-18. sounds during a time of impending crisis on earth: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven saying, The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. And he shall reign [with the glorified church] forever and ever.” Heaven gives thanks for the reign begun (v. 17), but still there is an inappropriate response by nations yet uninformed or unaccepting of the proposed changes and helps. “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, [all in the prison-house of death] that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest: give reward… ”
“… unto thy [the Christ’s] servants the prophets.” In Psalms 45:16 we read, “instead, thy fathers [prophets of Israel] shall be thy children [with an earthly leadership role] whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” The least in the kingdom of heaven shall be greater than John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11).
“…and to the saints…” This harmonizes with 1 Thessalonians 4:16: “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout…and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ [saints asleep for centuries] shall rise first.”
“…and them that fear thy name [teachable ones] small [slower learners] and great [quick students].” Note Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of man shall come in all his glory, and all his holy angels [saints] with him …before him shall be gathered all the nations, and he shall separate them one from the other, as a shepherd divideth his sheep [right hand] from the goats [left hand].” To the sheep, slow and quick, at the end of the thousand years Christ and his glorified church say: “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
“…and shouldest destroy them that [still have the tendency to] destroy the earth.” In Matthew 25, it is to the goats that he says: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire [not torture, but oblivion] prepared for the devil and his angels.” This still leaves plenty of latitude for God’s anger to be vented as the case may be.
We stress this view because we believe that the glorified church will consist of sympathetic and merciful characters empowered for the great effective work of correction and rehabilitation and guided of course by Jesus. We stress this because the world no longer can hold to a God of eternal torment. All religious groups and individuals may recite creeds involving torment but their hearts are set chiefly on helping and on being an uplift to the world. Their actions and desires are far wiser than their dogma.
We applaud the recent decision by many Anglican congregations to forego any careless teaching of hell and eternal torment, simply because it does not square with the character of an all-loving God. Violent and dismal images of the future can hardly foster harmony especially if we are mistakenly sure that salvation is ours exclusively and all others go to perdition.
For more than 100 years, in journals like this, the purpose of heavenly reward has been taught to the point that narrow views can simply no longer apply, given the challenge which is before mankind to receive: “… times of restitution spoken by the mouths of all God’s holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21).
Who Qualifies for the Church?
We ask then, who are these modern candidates for the glorified church? In addition to becoming friends and sons of the Almighty, will they apply the lessons of past church history and are they also able to understand the modern day issues and gain the Christian victory? Recall the unspeakable tortures suffered by the early martyrs, and how harmony existed between Gentile and Jewish Christians. They struggled to remain uncorrupted after they churh was granted power as Rome’s official religion. The list goes on: those who were willing to protest when corruption did occur; those who managed to find both the word and the spirit of truth during times when free and open Bible study was forbidden by religious leaders.
There were those who viewed the fall of monarchies as a greater occasion to hail Christ as the only deserving King, while they avoided being seduced in their faith structure by the faulty claims of socialism and communism. We recall that victory was gained by those who refused the riches of the 1920’s, who accepted the poverty and the lessons of the Great Depression, and who did not bow to fascism, genocide, and nazism’s final solution mentality as a simplistic way out.
Today earnest students of the Bible easily harmonize the regathering and the nationhood of Israel with Bible testimony. Informed believers today do not view the Jewish people as their hated rivals in history but simply as ones who have earthly hopes while their own are heavenly—a chief safeguard against prejudice, envy, and hatred which all too often rear their ugly heads even in Christian nations.
True Christian overcomers see sharp distinctions between worldly politics and a true relationship with God. They are comfortable with change, believing it to be more a sign of Christ’s invisible presence and chastening love of mankind rather than his sanguine rage. They welcome more even distribution of wealth among the nations even if it means lowering their own standard of material life for a time to aid the process. They are not covetous of earthly power for they anticipate far more shared authority with Christ and fellow saints beyond this life. Their concept of service goes beyond involvement in church or local charities and beyond the throwing of money at human problems. They search God’s word for the most scripturally harmonious view they can find of God’s plans. They understand increasingly that their walk with God involves not only caring for their immediate family both now and in the future, but that it may also (if rewarded with glory) impact all mankind for ages to come.
As the spiritual seed of Abraham through faith in Christ, their commitment to eventually being part of the saving of the earth is reflected in their growing respect for the environment (God’s footstool) as well as in their faith in the ultimate glorification of the Christian church. Of key importance to them is the seeking out of those, their brethren, in the School of Christ, who have like hopes, aims, and ambitions.
As pictured in Revelation. 21 and 22, they become givers on a grand scale, more than receivers, a part of the nurturing bride of Christ. “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as a bride adorned (glorified) for her husband…Behold the tabernacle of God is with men….and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain;” for such are the duties and hopes of those who profess faith in the Bible, the only divinely proposed solution to mankind’s predicament. Rather than require a direct revelation about their worthiness for glory they see ever new depths to Christian endeavor, and humbly trust with Paul in Philippians 1:6, that “he that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”