Isaiah prophesied, saying, “Arise, shine, for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you!” (Isa.60:1) Truly uplifting words, and enjoyable to read. But what do they mean? What is GLORY?
John witnessed of Jesus saying, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
The simple fact is this.
Glory is the character of God, expressed in the Person of Jesus our Lord.
When Isaiah said, “Arise, shine,” etc. , one is apt to think loosely, and imagine people shining with a golden glow! The uninstructed mind tends to think of glory as a golden light. Do we then imagine that all of a sudden, one day, on the day of our “change” into our resurrection bodies, we shall “glow”? One might ask the question, what use would that be? But more seriously, do we imagine that we shall suddenly BECOME what we have not already REACHED? “The glory of the Lord isrisen upon you” means that you have reached a certain stage, you have attained that for which you were redeemed. You have allowed the character of God to GROW within you. Only then can the Lord say of you, that the glory of the Lord is risenupon you. Much emphasis (in the evangelical world) is placed upon the need to be saved. Of course, this is right and proper and no one would seriously challenge it. But a saved person is at the BEGINNING of a journey, not the END! Paul said “The One having BEGUN a good work in you, will perform it until the Day of Christ Jesus.” Phil.1:6. Perhaps a little more emphasis on the PERFORMANCE of God in our lives would not be out of place. Maybe we should pursue that thought further.
Jesus said to John in Rev.21:5 “Behold I make all things new.” Here then is the answer. God has it in mind to re-make fallen humanity. As we are born in the image of Adam, so we must be re-made in the image of Christ. John said, “Beloved, we are NOW the children of God, but it has not yet been manifested what we SHALL BE. We know that if He is manifested, we shall be like Him, for we shall SEE HIM AS HE IS.” (1 Jn.3:2) The A.V. says “WHEN He is manifested”. But the Greek word EAN is almost always translated IF. We must not assume that John was referring to a moment of time. He was not speaking of the Lord’s return. He was saying in effect, “if, that is, whenever, the Lord is manifested to us in our lives, we shall see Him as he really is, and not have an imperfect knowledge of His nature and His character. Only then shall we be progressively changed to be like Him.” Paul bears this out very clearly in 2 Cor.3:18. “But we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord as ma mirror, are changed into the same image, FROM GLORY TO GLORY, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Not so much a golden glow of increasing intensity, but a growing likeness to the Lord’s own character.
In the flesh we exhibit all manner of characteristics that are abhorrent to the Lord. This is our inheritance “in Adam”. A point comes in our lives when the Holy Spirit illumines our hearts and consciences, and we bow the knee to Jesus, and confess Him as Lord of our lives. At this point, the Lord takes over the control of our lives (if we let Him) and He begins to make us anew. But experience tells us that although we have become sons of God by faith, we do not always welcome this re-making process within us. Our old Adam-nature does not like to be changed. We make all sorts of excuses for ourselves as to why we are all right as we are. The re-making process is often painful, and we resent it. Our pride is hurt. But unless there is a change, unless we allow God to re-make us, we cannot reach the point where “the glory of the Lord is risen upon us”
Jesus made the way clear enough. He said, “If any man wills to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross DAILY, and follow me. For whoever wills to save his life (i.e. cling on to his old Adam nature) will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake (i.e. abhors his old nature, and desires its death) will save it.” Luke 9:23-24
It is quite a mature spiritual thought to desire the crucifixion of one’s own Adam nature. It does not come immediately upon conversion. It is part of the growing revelation of God’s purpose with man. Sadly it is not taught with emphasis in many churches. Often there is too much emphasis on being “nice” to each other and having a happy time of fellowship. But this is not a Biblical approach. It is not God’s way with us. He places us on a tough road. There is little place for ordinary human pleasantries in His work. He looks for CHANGE in us, and expects change. He desires to REMAKE us, and asks us to remember that fact daily. Time is short, and must be used to the maximum advantage. We are duty bound to ALLOW God to continue this work in us, day by day, unabated, letting Him touch all those areas of our lives that are offensive to Him, and bringing them to the cross to be put to death.
At the same time we must be aware of the danger of being so ready to have this work accomplished, that we take it into our own hands, and try to remake ourselves. “Self-made men” are noted for praising their “creator!” I am reminded of the words in one of Arthur Wallis’s prophecies from 1967, “Yield yourselves into my hands – – and I will engineer your circumstances to bring you to the place you long to be.” Yes, it is God’s new creation work, and we must accept this as a fact. All He asks of us is the readiness for it to be done, the daily “permission” for Him to use the hammer to break our rocky defences, or the pit to prevent us from over-activity in the flesh, or the fire to burn away hateful things, and to refine us, or the valley of the shadow of death to make us cling ONLY to Him when all seems to be lost. Whatever the instrument used, it is part of the daily “cross” that Jesus spoke of. All God’s instruments are positive. Although they may seem to be destructive, they only destroy that which is worthless in His sight.
When an alteration is being made to a building, there is inevitably some demolition work to be done, some clearing away of rubble, much dust, areas of inconvenience and so on. But at the same time there is the clear evidence of something NEW emerging, some new creation that will enhance the usefulness of the house, and beautify it. God’s new creation work is very much like this. We must not shie away from the demolition and the mess and the inconvenience when we witness our brother or sister being recreated. Rather must we be on hand to help where necessary, to encourage, to re-assure, to point out the evidence of the new facets of character.
In our own house-fellowship group, which is but 22 at a maximum, we have witnessed a great deal of changes over the last year. The Lord has been in our midst to bring His fires to most of us, and we have had to support each other during our trials. But looking back there is so much evidence of CHANGE, and praise His name, no one can take credit for it but the Lord Himself. We have been so aware of God’s “engineering of circumstances” that it is now possible to write about it in this way without fear of pride. In fact pride is one of the Adam characteristics which has taken the most serious of knocks.
It might be asked by some, “Are you not becoming rather introspective in this teaching? Surely it is more healthy to be up and doing, leading people to know the Lord. That is the Great Commission.”
Such a criticism has to be faced squarely, and not cast aside. It would be right to say that each member of the fellowship appreciates the need for personal evangelism, and pursues it whenever occasion permits. But the justification for the teaching about new-creation is its wholly Scriptural perspective, particularly in the sayings of our Lord. Furthermore, the Lord has taught us in many ways that whenever we allow Him to change our lives, we are advancing the growth of His Kingdom in Heaven, in readiness for it to be manifested on earth. God is looking for mature sons, recreated in the image of His own beloved Son, who will be able to take responsibility and leadership in His Millennial Kingdom. We must not think that when the change occurs, God will suddenly perform a miraculous improvement in our character as by divine fiat, without us having any part in it at all. It is not His way.
A dear friend and brother in Christ from the U.S.A. has recently sent us an article, in which he speaks about Enoch being translated. He pointed out that “Enoch walked with God, and God took him.” If Enoch had not been “walking with God” he would not have been taken. To Enoch, his translation was but a natural progression from one state to another, not a sudden wrench. Similarly, a year or two back, we were returning from Yorkshire by car, and as we passed a county boundary, the Lord spoke to me and said, “It will be like that when you are changed.” At first I remonstrated with the Lord, not understanding what He was saying. I could not understand, because I was witnessing a change which was so ‘ordinary’ from one county to another. But the Lord spoke again and assured me that our change would be an easy stepping from one dimension to another as by going through a doorway. It was when our brother wrote to us from America that we saw the meaning of this in its fullness. It may seem to be very spiritual to be longing for the Lord’s return, to ‘love His appearing’, and expecting the change into our resurrection bodies. But let us be aware of this one thing, that the Lord will not perform a wrench of nature in doing this. He will change people when they are ready to step through the dimensional barrier as a easy progression. Truly, if we have learned to ‘walk with the Lord’ in the fashion of Enoch, then we may well be‘translated not to see death’. But not until we are ready.
Paul wrote to the Philippians in this wise, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death, if by any possible means I might attain unto the resurrection from among the dead.” (3:10-11) Notice that Paul sought after only those things which were part of his Master’s experience. He sought the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, not his own, he sought to be conformed to Christ’s death, not his own. He didn’t want to speak of his own ministry, his own sufferings and trials, though he had plenty. In fact everything from his past Christian life of nearly a quarter of a century he referred to as being forgotten. How many ministers today would be prepared to have their life-work ‘forgotten’? But what was Paul’s aim?. He desired to reach the resurrection from among the dead. Not the resurrection OF the dead, but FROM AMONG the dead. Like his Master. He explains this further in verse 14, “I press towards the mark for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus.” He wanted to be like Enoch, translated into the presence of the Lord without seeing death.
This passage in Philippians is the basis of our present study, and we commend it to our readers for earnest and prayerful thought. It could well be that the powers of darkness are quite prepared to see multitudes come to the front at evangelistic meetings and ‘make a decision’. But when it comes to progress from ‘being saved’ to being made perfect through sufferings there is intensive opposition from the Satanic realm. Many believers die without having reached the perfection God requires. It must not be thought that all progress is halted after death. That which has not been completed here on earth, must be completed in the heavenly realms ‘until the day of Christ’.
Whereas eternal life is the gift of God by faith to those who believe, the progress AFTER conversion is very much to do with our own attitude towards the Lord. There is no ‘free gift of character’ here. It is very much like being born on the earth. The baby is a gift from heaven. But the adult derived from that lovely gift of life depends very much on family discipline, and personal application. So it is in the spiritual realm. God grants His unspeakable gift, through His Son, and we do well to ensure that our growth to maturity is via God’s discipline at every stage. Only then will He be able to have joy in the end product.
Jesus said that “Many of the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” (Matt.19:30) He was not speaking about LIFE. No man can achieve in this realm. As we have said, it is God’s gift. But of His own people, our Lord said that relative positions would be changed quite dramatically from what man EXPECTS. Many of those who have been ‘up front’ in the ministry may sadly find themselves at the end of the line, whereas of those who pass by without being noticed by the Christian world, some will find themselves called up beyond their wildest expectations. Jesus’ words suggest that we tend to look at things from the wrong perspective, and we do well to correct this, lest we chase, not the true glory, but gilded clay.
Paul wrote at length on the subject of resurrection in first Corinthians 15. As to these relative positions in glory, he had this to say. “There is one flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. But the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars, and star differs from star in glory. SO ALSO IS THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD.” (15:39-42) Paul uses these figures to give us an important truth. There will be TWO quite distinct areas of resurrection, those who will belong to the heavenly realm, who attain to the ‘prize of the calling on high’, and those who attain to an earthly resurrection, as Adam was before he fell. And in each of these two categories, there are differences in glory. In fact he gives an indication that there are FOUR distinct orders of earthly resurrection and THREE orders of heavenly resurrection. Much more could be said about this deep line of enquiry, but it cannot be pursued in this article. One thing is certain however. Although some will be first and some will be last, Jesus calls Himself “the FIRST and the LAST” (Rev.22:13) and by this formula He embraces ALL those who are raised. They are all HIS, and to HIS glory.
We quoted from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in the passage that began “That I may know Him.” To know Christ is most important, and this has been emphasised throughout this article. In John’s first letter there are numerous allusions to the necessity of knowing Jesus our Lord. But in his letter to the Galatians Paul says this, “But now, after that you have known God, or rather ARE KNOWN OF GOD – -.” (Gal.4:9) And in this aside there is another important aspect of this teaching. We often speak of those who are Christians as the ones who ‘know God’ or ‘know Jesus Christ’. But what about looking at it the other way round. How many of us ARE KNOWN by God? How important is Jesus’ word in John 10:14, “I know my sheep and am known of mine”. Is there any difference in these two knowings? I believe there is an important distinction to be made. God will not know us unless, on looking at us, He sees in us the image of His own Son. Unless we have allowed God to remake us in His own image, we cannot be known by Him.
A sharp but salutary note on which to close comes from Matthew 7:22-23. Jesus said that many would say to Him on that day, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and in your name done many mighty works? And then He declares to them, I NEVER KNEW YOU. Our Lord has no query about their works. They were performed in His name, and they accomplished many things. But these leaders of the church (for such they must be) were too busy to allow God to touch their lives. They had not allowed God even to begin His work of new creation in them. Whereas they expected to have a high and heavenly calling, they end up with an earthly one. Expecting to be amongst ‘the first’ they end up being amongst ‘the last’.