In chapter 4 we quoted from a book by H. A. Baker, in which he described the visions seen by the Chinese boys in the Orphanage. In particular was the following –
“The children described the City in the sky as three cities in one; one suspended above another, with the largest at the bottom and the smallest at the top, forming a pyramid.” In this chapter we should like to expand on this, revealing hidden evidences from the Scriptures to the truth of the vision.
It is easy to imagine a pyramid consisting of three layers, with a Capstone on top. But that is just a symbol, and we now have to investigate the meaning of the figure. First and foremost we come to the 12th chapter of Revelation, where we find the grand vision of the woman, clothed with the Sun, the Moon beneath her feet, and wearing a tiara of twelve signs of the Zodiac. This corresponds exactly with Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 15, where he says, “there is one glory of the Sun, and another glory of the Moon, and another glory of the stars, and star differs from star in glory. So it is with the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor.15:41) And so we find there are three degrees of glory in the composite Woman. Further on in the 12th of Revelation we are shown more details of these three degrees. First there is the Manchild, then the Woman herself, and finally “the rest of her seed.” As to thedifferences, they may be looked at in this way, but as to their inherent unity they must be seen as one, as the Glorious Woman in the first verse. Watchman Nee was very clear about this in is fascinating exposition, “The Glorious Church.”
Now let’s have a closer look at this chapter. First of all we see that the Dragon, the Devil, is very anxious to destroy what God is doing, and so he stands ready to devour the Manchild, but the child is snatched away out of his grasp. Up to this point his focus is not upon the Woman, but as soon as the manchild is snatched away he turns his attention to her, and tries to sweep her away by a flood of false prophecy. But the earth comes to her rescue, and so once again he fails, once again he “bites the dust.” Finally he turns his hatred upon the rest of her seed, but because “they keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus” he fails once again. And so we learn that the Woman, the Bride of Christ, is wholly able to overcome the wiles of the Devil, and reach that place of glory in resurrection.
Many years before John received this vision, Daniel was given a vision of four wild beasts, the second of which“was like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth, and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.'” (Dan.7:5) Our attention must be towards the word “ribs”, because it is the only place in the O.T. where the word occurs other than that of Genesis, where the woman was made from the Adam’s rib. There must be some special reason for this, and based upon the manner in which the Devil tries to overcome the children of God, we do not find it difficult to see that this beast has the three phases of God’s elect in his mouth, a figure showing the warfare that God had prophesied to Eve after the fall. “I will put enmity between you [the Devil] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen.3:15) The Devil doesn’t attack the people of the world like he attacks true believers. The rest of the world “lies [asleep] in the wicked one.” (1 Jn.5:19) He can safely leave them there, corrupting themselves, as he imagines, in accordance with their fallen natures, but those who have been called “out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Pet.2:9) are placed in his “black book”, and attacked constantly. But God uses his attacks as a means of strengthening them in all goodness, until they reach the plateau of achievement He has in store.
The fact that there are three different degrees of glory does not mean that those in the higher echelons look down on those beneath them. God has not made all His saints to be the same. He has given very special gifts to some, knowing that they can be in the front line of the battle and not be destroyed by the enemy, but others, equally precious in His sight have been granted less ruggedness, but achieve all that God has in store for them. Furthermore, there needs to be all these different degrees, so as to be able to govern the world in the Millennial Kingdom. Paul knew that there would be differences in ministrations, and he spoke concerning his great desire to receive “the prize of the high calling.” (Phil.3:14) However, he recognised at that stage he hadn’t reached the end that God had in view for him. By the time he wrote his second letter to Timothy, he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord will award me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Tim.4:7)
Twice in the Sermon on the Mount the Lord used figurative language to teach the same lesson of these three degrees of glory. First of all, in the parable of the sower, there were those seeds that fell into good ground, and brought forth a harvest. But the Lord didn’t stop there. He said that some will “bring forth 100 fold, others 60 fold, and yet others 30 fold.” This was not a vague way of indicating a variety of achievement, but a very definite allusion to the three degrees. And what is the seed? It is “the word of the Kingdom.” (Matt.13:8,19) Many have misunderstood the purpose of the Lord’s parables, because they want to see everything in the light of Gospel preaching, but that was not in the Lord’s mind. The parables are all connected with the Kingdom, its growth in those who “hear and understand” (v.23) and its outworking in Kingdom Rule in the Millennium. If the Lord was talking about evangelism, He would never have mentioned the three degrees, because for a person to be saved, it as a gift from God, and there are no “degrees” attached. This parable speaks very clearly about the three degrees of glory.
Here on earth, when we hear parables of this kind, there can easily arise within the mind a tendency to want the Lord to flatten things out, so that everyone has the same process to go through, and the same end result, with the same rewards. But with the renewed mind, one is able to see clearly that God’s purpose is towards individuals whom He has created, and no two are alike. Shall I be envious because my piano playing is not up to the standard of Paderewski? Shall I be envious because I cannot draw people, even as pin men, whereas my son-in-law is a famous artist, and is able to reproduce on canvas a likeness in a person’s face that is better than photographic? Shall I be envious because my lumbering old body cannot perform like Olympic athletes? No, of course not. So why have some been given these precious abilities? So that the rest of us “also-rans” can enjoy what they have to offer, whether it be listening to a piano recital, having one of Andrew’s paintings on our lounge wall, or watching the Olympics and being amazed at the feats the human body can produce. It will be like that in the Kingdom. No envy, no jealousy, but a “working together of each one part, making the growth of the whole in love.” (Eph.4:16)
And so to another parable in Matthew 13. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven [yeast] which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until all had risen.” (verse 33) Some have supposed the figure of leaven to be always bad. But this cannot be so. The reason why it was banned at Passover is clearly stated. For the rest of the year there was no ban on its use. If it was a symbol of evil, then the Lord would have made a law whereby all bread would have been of the unleavened type. No, leaven is a symbol of something that is alive and growing, and here in this parable it is placed by the woman in three measures of meal. Why three? Would it not have been sufficient to say that the yeast was placed in the flour and then she waited for it to rise before baking? The Lord chose three because He wanted to give a veiled reference to the three degrees of glory. Furthermore, in this parable we see that the inner working of the liveliness of the yeast is focused upon, and the Bride is thought of as Three Measures, but One Loaf.
In all these Scriptural references, we see the manner in which the Lord is preparing His Bride, His calling, His preparations, His help in times of warfare, and the gifts needed along the way. All is perfectly planned from the beginning, and will reach the desired end without any failures. “The Lord of Hosts has sworn, ‘As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.'” (Isa.14:24)
Christ is the foundation of the house we raise,
Be its walls salvation, and its gateways praise;
May its threshold lowly to the Lord be dear,
may the hearts be holy that shall worship here.
Here the vow be sealed by Thy Spirit, Lord;
here the sick be healed, and the lost restored;
Here the broken hearted Thy forgiveness prove;
here the friends long parted be restored to love.
Here may every token of Thy presence be;
here may chains be broken, prisoners here set free;
Here may light illumine every soul of Thine,
lifting up the human into the divine.
Here may God the Father, Christ the Saviour –
Son, with the Holy Spirit be adored as One;
Till the whole creation at Thy footstool fall,
and in adoration own Thee Lord of all.
John Samuel Bewly Monsall, 1811 – 1875