The reproduction of man continues the miracle. One cell, to naked eye invisible, containing complex computer mechanism and monitoring device to produce in perfect sequence and order the wide variety of specialist cells combining delicately and precisely together to form that great metropolis organism we call the human body. Such knowledge is too wonderful. And that is but the body, the vehicle of something even more mysterious that we call the mind.
Not even the wildest attempts of worldly science can produce life from the elements, nor can man dismiss the fixed eternal law, that life can only be begotten of life. Attempts to show the possibility of spontaneous life on this earth have served to completely confirm that law. We are told that for the humblest living cell to form requires the formation and combination of 239 protein molecules. The minimum number of amino acids in a protein is 410. The odds against the accidental formation of even the smallest part of this process are ultra-astronomical, by which we mean that it would be a chance in 4000 times the number of atoms in the whole universe. Yet here we are, not merely one living cell, but living beings, fearfully and wonderfully made.
And wondrously equipped! From our first baby breath to this moment we have been able to resist and conquer an untold multitude of hostile and injurious threats to life. This body has a built-in system of defence, and facilities for the on-going repair and replacement of most of the body tissues so that within a matter of a few years we are largely renewed.
The evidence lies within each one of us that we are built for everlasting life. Man was made to live, not to die. So why do we die? And how can we die? What happens to us, short of catastrophic accident, that causes that life to cease? What is it that, at some point in our existence, acts like a spanner in the works, that brings about the process of dying, and grinds the whole machine to a halt? What lack or aberration in our genes, common to the entire race, was missing in the first human pair that each offspring should inherit life with such potential, yet, with that life, a built-in timer to self-destruct?
The Creator was pleased to solve in part this mystery for us by means of the most ancient records in our hands, the Holy scripture account of Eden. We thereby learn of the entrance of sin into the heart of man, and the great wisdom of Our Creator in thus enabling free-willed man to experience the dire consequences of rebellion from the very Source of life in His God. We there have the basic truth as it affects mankind.
Free wills have the capacity to conflict with other free wills, and this is demonstrated to this hour as throughout the whole course of human history. So long as there is but one free will there is no conflict, but introduce another free will and the possibilities arise. When God was alone there was concord, for the attributes of God work only in the closest harmony with each other. When the Creator brought into existence the Logos He created something so beautiful, a mind that could reason and think for itself yet remain in deepest closest harmony with the Creator. The glimpse of this blessed union in Proverbs 8 is one of the most precious portions of the Word. Yet Christ, the wisdom of God, as Logos so perfectly fulfilling every wish of the Creator, was a being still capable of destruction, or, in human terms, of death. As He had power to bring the Logos into being so it remained within the Creator's power to terminate his existence. But the Lord had a most wonderful purpose planned for that being so like Himself in spirit and in mind.
The creation of other beings at the hand of this Logos progressed, angels and powers of a spirit realm each with wondrous ability. The continued existence of each remained in the Creator's hands. Then the creation of the material universe. When, in the course of the great ages of time, the earth was ready for man, death, we must recognise, was already an important part of the process of life in this planet. From the earliest forms of cellular life in plant and animal world the great cycles of generation, growth, reproduction, and death, have maintained perfect balance and order in this tiny oasis of life in what appears to be a vast but lifeless universe. From the tiniest crustation on the ocean bed to the giant redwood of the forest, from amoeba to mud-eating dinosaur, long before man was made upon this earth death had been an important part of the system of living organisms. Every piece of chalk confirms this, and so does our oil, and other fossil fuels.
Yet the evidence of the human frame concurs with that of Holy scripture, that man was created to live, not die. Human death was the result of sin, not part of the creative act of man. Furthermore, that same Holy Word of Our Creator reveals His purpose, that death should be but a transient part of human experience. When man rebelled against His Creator, in Adam's death Justice was satisfied, but, by Divine provision, the sacrifice of Jesus to correspond with the life Adam forfeited, unbalanced Divine Justice. Two perfect lives to pay the price of one. That balance can now only be restored by return of life to Adam, and with it the return of life to each of his descendants.
In the acceptance of the Saviour's sacrifice, as evidenced in His resurrection from the dead, assurance has been given to every man and woman who has ever existed on this earth. That word "assurance" in Acts 17:31, is the very same translated "faith", but here used as a figure of speech, the word for faith being used for the solid ground on which that faith may be based, hence, "assurance, guarantee, security and pledge." Now the undisputable ability of the Lord to fill this earth with human beings is a matter of history. Acts 26:8 "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?"
We also recall the words of Paul in 1 Cor 15:35-38. "But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body."
We have never been nearer to the time of resurrection of mankind from the grave, yet not one of us can do more than conjecture as to exactly how this great programme will commence and progress. The case of Lazarus and others is of little guidance to us, as such was resuscitation rather than resurrection of a being the elements of whose body has been dispersed.
The Creator has, thus far, demonstrated His ability to produce living beings
(1), by direct formation from the elements of the dust of the earth as in the case of Adam, and (2), as with Eve, by using a duplication of part of a human frame, from which He produced another being, and (3) since that time by human procreation similar to the animals.
The Lord Jesus on occasions demonstrated ability to produce a multitude of fish by an instantaneous process unknown to man. When feeding the multitude, having produced the fleshly bodies of fish, it would, if required, be well within His power to bring them to life... indeed on two occasions it is at least possible that He did just that, when the fishers of Galilee, having toiled for nothing in empty waters, were amazed at the sudden swarm of fish in their nets. He may, of course, have used other means to draw those fish from elsewhere in the lake. The examples Paul used in 1Corinthians 15, to depict divine ability to produce whatever body was pleasing to Him, were drawn from the present natural order, the development of plant growth from seed, a process involving time, but illustrating well that the Lord is not restricted by the form of that which falls into the ground when producing that new life that will emerge.
It seems to us a reasonable concept that the deformed will not be raised with the same impairment, but it might be inappropriate to take Paul's illustration to teach that. He goes on to say, in 1 Cor 15:44, "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." Much of Paul's language seems to relate more to the church's hope rather than to the general resurrection of mankind, although that is also undoubtedly mentioned in the chapter.
Concerning the identity of the individual in the resurrection, since the 'phonograph' illustration, to which may be added the 'micro-dot' illustration, and the perfect reproduction of masses of written material, for example, from invisible and minute messages on 'floppy disk', we now have some knowledge of what man calls the genes... the beginners or generators. ..Human character and ways, even predisposition to certain illnesses, a whole life all printed there in the chromosomes in a cell too small to see.
The lives of identical twins which have been parted since birth reveal, at times, an uncanny closeness of pattern, which suggests to some degree a previous marking out of the path in terms of the motivation and the character of reaction to given circumstance. Ps 139:1-4 "O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether."
The more we learn of human life the more can we believe the Creator's ability to reproduce the individual in resurrection in such a way that both identity and memory are preserved, enabling recognition of loved ones, and value of past experience, good or bad, in the future life. The Scriptures leave much room for trust regarding the mechanics of resurrection. They leave no room for doubt that in only a matter of time the resurrection process will be as commonplace on this earth as is the present process of reproduction of the race. Perhaps it is hard for us to imagine that not far hence the present miracle of child-birth will be replaced by the miracle of regeneration, and by fact of repetition, man will accept this miracle just as he today accepts the miracle of the birth of a babe.
What matters far more to our understanding is the information provided of the even greater miracle to be achieved following man's emergence from the state of death. We have thus been enabled to see that coming forth from the grave is but a beginning. That will be but the first stage of a process, in fact, as the Pastor taught, the first part of the anastasis, the restanding to that which Adam lost, a restanding with the Lord God Himself. Until that relationship is achieved and sealed, a permanent bond, full restanding will not be complete. We are filled with wonder at His promise to natural Israel, that rebellious people the Lord chose to demonstrate His wondrous ability and skill. Hosea 2:19-20 "And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD." Such is the purpose the Lord has in mind in bringing both Israel and all mankind from the grave. It fills the heart with deepest joy to know He is able to fulfil this purpose even in me.
But this will not be achieved by wave of magic wand. How long it took the Lord to actually make the first man we are not told, but it was to take 7000 years to complete the work of bringing the free-will human mind into perfect oneness with its Creator's Mind. Man has had life-time experience with sin and its terrible effects. Now a further age of training is involved, and an education programme such as this earth has never seen. 2 Cor 3:7-11, " But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious."
Paul makes a direct comparison between the age of kingdom development under the Law given by Moses, and the ministry of the Spirit, the age of kingdom development under Christ and the saints. There were also examples there, Paul showed, for ourselves today, but it is not difficult to recognise that what was illustrated in the shadows and types of that age have bearing on this future age of kingdom development for mankind on earth.
A period of exactly one thousand years commenced in the days of Moses and terminated in the days of Jeremiah and the judgment of Israel under Babylon.. since when the Gentile Times have marked out the period to the coming in of the age of kingdom development. There is a direct and clear link between those two ages. One was an age of shadows, of typical experiences of one nation, Israel, in the process of taking possession of their land, overcoming the giants, and driving out those enemies to future prospects, the iniquitous people of the land. The age before us is the reality those events foreshadowed. Here it is the whole world of mankind involved in the possessing of the promised new earth... The passing through death and the rise again, the overcoming of sin in every human heart, the establishment of a kingdom of peace, it is all there, told in the language of the history of one nation, Israel.
Within the framework of a thousand years we may recognise an evening-morning sequence. Five hundred years would elapse until the period of Judges gave way before the tangible signs of a full kingdom of blessing, when, in the days of David and Solomon, rest was at last given with the nations round about. We know that "rest" was but temporary, but it served as a marker for us of the probable division of the kingdom age before us from the first stages of overcoming of sin, to the realisation of full kingdom blessing.
The prophet Isaiah testifies of a similar sequence. The joys are described in Isa 35: Verse 10 reads, "And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." It is important to note, however, that this chapter is preceded by Isaiah 34, where in most lurid terms is described the overthrow and destruction of Edom.
Isa 34:1-6 "Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it. For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter. Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcasses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea."
Isa 63:1 alludes to this slaughter. "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save."
Edom, or Adam, (the Hebrew is closely linked,) represents in so many places that old Adam in man, that in the human make-up which has ever resisted the ways of God. The King's Highway, leading to the promised land and their future kingdom hopes, was blocked by Edom so that the Israelites had to make a detour to get round this obstacle. Even in the womb of Rebekah there was conflict. Gen 25:21-27 "And Isaac entreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them. And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents."
Paul takes up the account when, to the Galatians, he wrote.. (Gal 5:17) "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." Again in Rom 7:23 "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."
The old Edom, or old Adam, in man, is due for complete and utter destruction, just as the were peoples of the land of Canaan. Until this great opposer of the things of God is overcome, man will not know the full blessings of the kingdom age... the songs of joy of the Lord's redeemed people will result from their deliverance from this old enemy within each heart. So the vanquishing of Edom, of Isaiah 34, must precede the rejoicing of Isaiah 35.
The message to Dumah, Isa 21:11-12, refers to the same entity, here under the name of Dumah, a form of Idumea. "The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir,(the territory occupied by Edom,) Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come." The reply of the watchman is twofold, good news, and bad news. For those awaiting deliverance, the coming of the morning is the best possible news for which the groaning creation waits. But for the enemies of human happiness and hope, that adverse spirit lurking in the hearts of men, the heralding of dawn of the new day speaks doom. The message is of life unto life, or death unto death. We speak not of individuals, but of the spirit operating within, prey to the Adversary's vail upon the hearts of men, blinding them to the glory of God, and the blessing of truth.
Rev 14:6 "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people," This proclamation pertains not to the Gospel age, but to the new age of kingdom development. Isa 25:6-9 "And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
This blessed assurance comes in a sequence of Isaiah from chapter 13 to 27. Chapters 13 to 23 draw attention to ten nations and their judgments, nations which have been identified with various traits of character in the human race in antagonism with the Lord's people and ways. This is rather like an elaboration of the Edom, or old Adam spirit. Chapter 24 of Isaiah sums up the desolation of this whole system of evil that makes up this present world order, and the following chapter, 25, describes the aftermath of the Lord's judgments in the earth, with the bringing down of human pride, (Moab,) and the entrance of the light of truth. The next chapters follow through with both Israel, and the whole world that they represent, learning righteousness. Isa 26:9 "With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." The blessed result is seen in chapter 27,. when that former vineyard of the Lord at last responds to His great love and care. Nothing now can withhold.. The "briars and thorns" that before betokened a spiritual desert give way before the Lord, and the whole earth becomes filled with fruit.
The Book of Jesus.
This prophetic sequence in Isaiah gives us the Scriptural authority and clue to the understanding of the shadowy sequence of events relating to the typical kingdom development age of Israel, from Moses onward. We have in our Old Testament a remarkable historical account called the book of Jesus, or in the Hebrew, the book of Joshua. That Joshua was a type of the Lord Jesus whose very name he shared becomes quickly evident. Joshua's conquest of the land and driving out of the enemies is parallelled by the work of the Christ in this kingdom-development age opening now before us.
Josh 1:1-6 (vse1) "Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying, "Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them."
The conquest of death involves a sequence of events illustrated for us in this book of ‘Jesus'. First we note that statement that Moses was dead. The Law of salvation by works given under Moses could not bring the people into the possession of the land or new earth of the promises. Man cannot achieve the perfect utopia of his dreams.
Joshua, or Jesus, is described as servant of Moses, and indeed he was able to fulfil all that the Law required, and this He did perfectly. Num 27:18 And the LORD said unto Moses, "Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;" Josh 1:3, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses." (All the promises of kingdom blessing are now claimed by Jesus for mankind. They will be achieved in steps, progressing towards full kingdom development.) From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast." The land of Canaan was representative of the whole earth, and this promise speaks of universal domain. Mal 1:11 "For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts." Ps 72:8 "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." Joshua 1:5, "There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."
Under this Captain of salvation victory is assured for every man, yet every inch of ground was won by battle, and so will be the conquest of sin and death. Verse 6, "Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. (7) Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whither soever thou goest. (8) This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success."
Isa 42:4-6 "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;"
Joshua 1:9-11, "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it.(16) And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. (17) According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses." The people come to acknowledge the authority and command of Joshua.
Of Christ it was written in Deut 18:18 &19, "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him."
This was interpreted by Stephen in Acts 3:22-23 "For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people." Joshua 1:18 "Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage."
But before the conquest can begin the people must pass through the Jordan. The Jordan is the greatest river in Israel which acts as a drain, collecting by gravity the waters of life of the northern mountains, to drop them over 1500 feet into the lowest sea on earth 1290 feet below sea level, appropriately named, the Dead Sea. Jordan represents death. Its serpent-like course meanders 300 miles to cover the distance of 100 miles, but the end is the lifeless waste of the dead Sea. Nothing lives in that sea, yet we are given a vision in Ezek 47:8-10 of the effect of the waters flowing from beneath the great doors of the Sanctuary and issuing into that place of death. "Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many."
Before the people can experience the kingdom conquests and blessings, man must taste of death, must pass through Jordan. The sequence is shown again when Jesus feeds the multitude. The account there is of interest to us. First two illustrations seem to be afforded us of the end of the earthly walk of the Lord's people. The ministry of the twelve preaching the gospel of the kingdom comes to an end and they gather to be with the Lord. The news is received of the death of the Baptist around this same time, and Jesus takes them into rest, with the words Mark 6:31-32 "And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. [Rev 14:13 "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them."] But the departure of the church over that sea of Galilee, which is part of the Jordan, symbol of death, becomes the sign for a fresh seeking after the Lord on the part of the people. The people are on foot, that is on the earth, and to be where Jesus is they needed to travel two miles to where there was a place suitable for them to cross the Jordan by fording through its waters.
Here again is shown the death of the world, and their rising the other side of death's dark waters, where they find and gather round the One they will shortly come to acclaim as King. And Jesus, from an elevated position on the side of the mountain, type of the kingdom, speaks them about the kingdom of God. It must have been a wonderful talk, one of the most wonderful human ears had ever heard, and it was followed by something no less wonderful, the feeding of that multitude, the giving of the bread of life, the satisfying of the hunger of mankind. All four gospel writers speak of that wonderful day, and John continues the account beyond the others to show its significance in the mind of Jesus with His later reflective words about the Bread of life, the flesh that He must give for the life of the world. Wonderful to us too, the fact that the satisfying of the world's hunger was by the instrumentality of the church. Jesus said to the disciples... "Give them to eat." That simple instruction brought amazement and some concern to the friends of Jesus, as indeed it does now to us, until we realise that the power behind the miracle is of the Lord, but what a blessing that the instrumentality will be by these vessels of grace He has prepared.
Back in the days of Joshua we see the church again depicted, for it is the feet of the priests carrying the ark of God, symbol of divine presence, fellowship, and favour, that we have to watch. It is from the feet of the priests that the waters of Jordan begin to recede. The Jordan was in flood at that time, its waters swelling and overflowing its banks to their highest reaches because of the spring-time thawing of the winter snow and ice in the hills beyond. Yet as the priests placed their feet in that river, in what so beautifully typifies their obedience unto death, that moment becomes the signal for a dramatic change to take place. Way back up the river, at a place, can you believe it (?), a place called "Adam", the Lord had intervened in the course of that river of death. From the feet of the priests those waters began to recede, and the process continued until a wide road was made through that river of death through which all who needed to enter it could pass and rise again on the opposite bank. But the Priests were the first.
Brethren, we are living at that very hour. This day is this scripture fulfilled. The passing into death of the last members of the church is taking place today, and this is the signal, for the time of resurrection has come. It begins at the Lord's descent from heaven with that triumphant shout, and blessed are the people that know that joyful sound, for theirs is the first resurrection. These are the firstfruits, and in their rising is the promise of that great harvest of all mankind. The price for Adam's sin is at last fully applied, and with the resurrection of the last of the church the way becomes possible for the rest of the dead to begin that long process of salvation and restanding until they know that abundant life of fellowship with God. But the conquest over death is only begun by their passing over Jordan to reach that other side. Coming forth from the grave is but a first step of many steps before full kingdom blessings can be known.
The conquering of death involves the conquering of sin the erasing of its effects in every human heart. This process is, we believe, represented in the battles that were to follow as the people reached the other side of Jordan. Those enemies of the land were a wicked people, representing the worst in a pagan and evil society from which the Lord had determined to cleanse His land. Long before He had spoken to Abraham of the iniquity of the Amorites, in Abraham's day not yet full. The idolatry and evil practices that filled that land, typical of the earth, vividly portray those evils in the hearts of mankind that are totally incompatible with the kingdom of God and with life. Even in this our day, when man fondly imagines we are at the height of civilisation, we almost daily receive grim reminders of depths of evil in human minds and characters.
Again we are reminded of the gospel accounts, the man of Gadara. Mark 5:1-9. "And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many."
There is no chain, no fetter of iron, no law, no system of social order, that can restrain or counter the power of evil and its influence and possession of the human mind. Only the Lord can do that, and the cleansing involved takes place within, for it is in the inward parts that He seeks truth. The Lord will remove all things that offend from His kingdom, just as He did those swine. He only has the power, and with it the dedication, and He will not fail until He has set judgment in the earth, until He has put everything right, and the poor human race sits at His feet, healed, and in their right mind.
But the process is a long one, as depicted back there in the days described of that shadowy age of kingdom development in the days of the book of Jesus, or Joshua. Many battles will be fought, giant obstacles faced and overcome, many victories won. And time will be involved, because the teeming billions of earth will be involved, and the evils are many, as the evil spirit in the man confessed.. "My name is legion, for we are many."
First there had to be the willingness to acknowledge the need of a Captain of salvation, and then the recognition of Joshua, or Jesus as their Saviour. A bond of this agreement lay in the sincerity of the circumcision of their hearts, depicted there in the circumcision of Gilgal. The whole nation needed to be circumcised, the whole world. The name Gilgal means the rolling away, Josh 5:9 "And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day." "From my heart that burden rolled away, happy day..."
So many pointers rush in now to fill the picture in that book of Jesus. The days of healing and contemplation that followed as the people gathered strength for what lay before them. From the taking of Jericho onwards, so many lessons to be learned, and often relearned again. An age was involved in all that went into that kingdom development, and even when the blessings poured forth and they at last entered into rest from all their enemies round about and within, even then the durability of this state was to be developed under trial. Achieving righteousness in the heart is one thing. Fixing it there, so that it would endure eternity without change or shadow of turning, that is the other part of the miracle that the Christ must and will accomplish during this age before us.
When the people crossed safely over Jordan twelve men were chosen to raise up stones from beneath the place where the priests had stood, and to set these up as a memorial at Gilgal. These stones spoke of the power of God unto salvation through Christ. The Passover remembrance which they then celebrated at Gilgal took the mind back to the blood of that Lamb of God which was the basis of their deliverance, when that "ransom for all" became testified in due time. And the final sealing came when the last of those priests descended into the Jordan, bearing that ark of God. The fate of death was now complete.
1 Cor 15:51-56
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. . . .
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
Sin, those enemies of the land, unless dealt with, unless removed forever from man's heart and inclination, would yet defeat salvation's cause, the Saviour of the world would have died in vain. If salvation was to take place in this past age, then could we echo that Servant's cry of Isa 49:4, "Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain:" for so would it seem. But such is not the case, as the Servant continues.."yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God." There we have another "surely" of the Word.
The message the spies brought back from Rahab is one of great cheer to us now, as it was to the people then, and will be to the world. The enemies of the land were quaking and trembling. They recognised the superiority of the greatness of the power of that God Whose purpose would not be defeated, come what may. They trembled before the coming of Joshua, as trembles now the god of this world before the coming of Jesus.
Those stones of Gilgal corresponded with a further memorial in the upper reaches of the swollen Jordan at the place those feet of the priests had stood. These two memorials, one speaking of death, the other of life beyond the grave, were solid ground for faith and comfort of those who under Joshua now claimed that land, and fulfilment of every promise of God. "If God be for us.". .
But what deep lessons must yet be learned. The craving after those things forbidden, what a deep change must take place to eradicate that from the human heart. That was the lesson of the battle of Ai, Joshua 7. Everything of the condemned city of Jericho had to be destroyed, save that which could be turned to the treasury of the sanctuary of God. Nothing could be clung to, nothing preserved for man's material use, nor could that city be ever built again. The same applied to every victory. There could be no holding back of some little thing to treasure, some transient pleasure of that former life of sin. This was the story of the defeat of the people at the battle over the town of Ai. And Achin, whose name meant "troubler" (Joshua 7), was to be discovered and destroyed as warning to the people of the seriousness of this failure to obey their Captain.
Nor will this foe be easily overcome, as 1 Sam 15:13-14 "And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?" The Lord will deal effectively with this natural tendency of human frailty, or death will not be vanquished at the end.
We see then how many factors are involved in the work of this age before us of kingdom development. For many of the world, whose hearts have never been in sin, that way of holiness we feel will soon be reached and progress made. For these, as for the saints in present days, a work of many years is yet involved before that holiness is perfected within. But some in whose hearts are deeply etched the evil course of years will find it hard. Isa 26:10 "Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD." For any who had misjudged the vast scale of the work ahead, or had supposed a simple wave of the Master's hand would swift achieve complete transforming of the mind of evil men, these warnings of the Word would soon correct.
We have not space to tell in detail here all that is portrayed in that ancient yet so up-to-date book of Jesus. It seems to us that in the account of Joshua we have, as it were, a cameo of the whole work of the Christ before us now.. The various campaigns against the causes of human ill... The cities of refuge, Oh what need for those, as we today have found (Heb 6:18) who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: The sharing out, without dispute, to mutual profit and delight, all the facilities and resources of the land, this wonderful earth, man's eternal home. Establishing the spirit of mutual helpfulness and sensitivity to each other's needs, helping each other in the battles against self, against doubt, against lust of the flesh and eyes, and pride of life, against every feature of this present life which has been the cause of so much misery and pain. Building that covenant relationship with God that will endure the eternal ages to come. Dealing with every appearance of evil, even though it be made to look like an altar to the Lord. It is all there in the book of Jesus... and more.
The very mention of these truths as blessed principles and aims of the kingdom progress give us delight. Yet do we wonder that so many glimpses of that kingdom prospect are spoken in the Word in the language of poetry... for poetry in so few words conveys to the heart what our heads are not yet ready to comprehend.
What lies before us is no simple task, and it is well for us to grasp what God has shown, that process yet involved of loosening sin's hold from every soul. Like the Niagra, sin comprehends each missing of the mark, ten million drops each moment of man's day, a mighty fall indeed. Vast energy is wasted, countless ages lost, the total of innumerable lives away from God, as blinded minds forsake Creation's Source, and plunge to that abyss, oblivious of all meaning to life's course, for they deny its Cause, and in their swift descent, without relent, pursue their flight from things above, and yet cannot escape redeeming love.
When we survey the scene, that darkness try to probe that shrouds this earth, we fail to sum the tears, asses the weight, the total burden tell of human grief, the legacy of sickness, pain, and loss, but man's Creator knows, and man's Redeemer took that load.
Can it be turned, this tide? Can earth be cleansed of sin? Can countless myriads like the sand . . be washed? Can any change of heart thus wrought in man by any programme teaching of righteous ways, or course of holiness, the reaching of those deep emotions of man's heart, can any change of mind achieved change also that deceit of heart, that fickleness of loyalty and love, that trend to infidelity so deep engrained within the human soul? Can this as well be changed?
We see no profit though a thousand years be spent transforming guilty ways of man to innocence, unless each step along that upward path of holiness be one of permanence. The trend to sin that now controls man's path, a prison for man's ways, impossible to break those iron bars, those walls. At times the soul may glimpse another world beside it cannot reach, and, powerless to attain, falls back. As gravity decides the downward pull upon each body so does sin, and from its hold none can break free. Yet greater far the heavenly force the sun exerts upon this earth controlling in its course each planet, never letting go that hold without which each would make its headlong plunge through depths of space. Such is the Greater Power than sin that from its mighty Source above will grip this earth, and draw each heart, each intellect, to influence every thought, and overwhelm with love divine. When stars that turn to righteousness shall shine, and all their holy power combine to beam into this darkness with their light of grace, reflected from a Father's face, to captivate and thus forever hold each human mind, and reach the blind, the deaf, the tongues now tied that cannot tell His praise... Oh may that joy be mine!
Shall I those deepest needs of man so understand? And will I be equipped to deal with leprosy of soul, each wound of sin to heal, each broken heart console? How well the Master Craftsman first designs, prepares, and then refines with great precision for each future role the instruments of His peace, the tools that He will use to shape mankind, to reach the deepest corners of the mind, to peel the scales from eyes now blind to heavenly love. These weapons He will use so wisely to defeat the giants of doubt, and darkness, and despair that have so long forbidden man's approach to claim his heritage of promised rest.
The Christ equipped for that great work now stand, poised, waiting, ready for command, the signal that will change the scene from darkness, dying, death, despair. "Let there be LIGHT, NOW, everywhere!"
Oh brethren, how we haste that hour! How earnestly we long to lift that veil that hides now from each heart of man that light of life that is the Lord. To watch those eyes then in surprise wide open to that feast prepared of God...wine of the Spirit gladdening hearts of men...the fatnesses of abundant living satisfy each soul's desire. Within each heart a holy fire to testify each walk with God, and His with men. Sorrow and sin NO MORE! Death will be conquered then!