AN INTRODUCTION TO TABERNACLES
The Day of Trumpets was really an introduction to Israel’s third Feast, the Feast of Tabernacles or of Ingathering. Like the Feast of the Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles is of a threefold nature. The Passover included (1) the Passover itself, (2) the Unleavened Bread, (3) the waving of the Sheaf. Then Pentecost stands alone, between the Passover and Tabernacles. And finally Tabernacles is observed, likewise in a series of three ordinances, (1) Trumpets, (2) Atonement, (3) Tabernacles.
It might be interesting to consider the three Feasts of the Lord in the light of the creative work in Genesis. When God commanded “let there be light,”--light sprang forth out of darkness, and we had the beginning of the old creation, the first day. And so it was said concerning Israel at the time of the Passover, “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” (Ex. 12:2). Then on the third day, God commanded the earth to bring forth her produce, “the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself.” (Gen. 1:11) Hence Pentecost occurred in the third month, the time of harvest and fruitfulness, when the precious fruit of the earth was to be gathered in. And finally we come to the seventh day, when God “rested from all his work.” (Gen. 2:2). So it was that the Feast of Tabernacles was observed in the seventh month. Furthermore it was not only observed in the seventh month, but it was the seventh event in Israel’s series of Feasts and their accompanying ordinances:
2. Unleavened Bread
3. Sheaf of Firstfruits
In other words, it is the feast of rest for the Church--the consummation of God’s glorious purposes in His people so far as this dispensation is concerned. We have much more to say regarding this rest which “remaineth for the people of God,” but we will deal with it later when we consider the various characteristics of the Feast of Tabernacles.
A NEW HARVEST
From the earliest days in Israel, time was reckoned not only from the month of the Passover, but there existed what was called a Civil or Agricultural year, which began in the seventh month. It is evident from Ex. 23:16 and 34:22 that the seventh month was the end of the old and the beginning of this new year. Also, from Lev. 25:9 we discover that the year of Jubilee began in the seventh month. All this helps us to understand more clearly Joel’s prophecy: “He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.” (Joel 2:23). The “first month” mentioned here is not the Passover month, but the beginning of this Agricultural or Civil year. A good translation is, “At the beginning of the season...” It was the end of the year, when the corn, the wine and the oil were gathered in, but it was also the beginning of a new Agricultural Year, when the rains could be expected.
All this is beautifully significant so far as the Church of Jesus Christ is concerned--for she has now come to the end of her long--and in many ways, discouraging career, and is about to enter a New Day in the Spirit. We thank God for her beginning at the Cross--the fountain and source of every spiritual blessing that we have ever enjoyed in the Church, or shall ever enjoy in eternity. We thank God also for the great harvest which began at Pentecost and has continued in considerable measure ever since. But the real harvest is just ahead! A harvest not only of souls, but of the fruit of the Spirit in the midst of the saints. Pentecost was a harvest of Firstfruits. This Feast of the seventh month constitutes the real ingathering of God’s great harvest field: “The feast of harvest, the Firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.” (Ex. 23:16).
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TRUMPETS
“Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them...” (Num. 10:2). In the verses which follow it is clear what the blowing of the Trumpets signified to Israel:
1. Calling the assembly. (vs. 2)
2. Journeying of the Camps. (vs. 3-6)
3. Preparation for war. (vs. 9)
4. Celebration of the Feasts. (vs. 10)
We will deal with each of these later; but first, what about the significance of the “silver,” and the fact there were “two” trumpets? It is evident that “silver” in the Scriptures speaks of redemption. Whenever Israel was numbered, every man was required to give by way of ransom a half-shekel, and the money thus collected was used in the service of the sanctuary. (See Ex. 30:12-16; Lev. 25:48). The number “two,” as we have discovered, speaks of Christ in union with His people, the “one new man” who was “created in Himself.” Hence the significance of the blowing of the two silver trumpets on the first day of the seventh month. “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.” (Lev. 23:24). It is the day and hour of the fullness of redemption’s story, proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit by God’s people. Yes, the trumpets were blown for all the Feasts as their seasons came around; but there was a day and an hour when the blowing of the Trumpets took on what you might call a seasonal significance, hence a dispensational significance. And that hour is upon us. From the historical standpoint the Church has enjoyed her Passover and her Pentecost--and the age of Pentecost is now about to reach her glorious climax, giving way to the Feast of Ingathering. We stand now in fields “white unto harvest,” when the corn and wine and oil must be gathered in, and God is beginning to send forth his ministers as never before--for this is the Day of the blowing of Trumpets. As one age or dispensation draws to a close, and another follows, there is always that overlapping and merging of the one into the other. Thus the Law merged into Grace through the ministry of John the Baptist and that of Christ. And so it is, we believe, with the Feasts. Even as Pentecost draws to its climax, the Day of Trumpets is being ushered in. And even as the full glory of Pentecost is about to break upon us--so also the Trumpets are beginning to blow, heralding the coming of a still more glorious Feast. The Trumpet ministry, as we have mentioned, is fourfold:
1. CALLING THE ASSEMBLY (Num. 10:2)
Once again is the Lord raising up a John the Baptist ministry to declare the Day of the Lord, and the approaching Kingdom. Again there is the “voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” Again the cry goes forth from God’s anointed ministries everywhere for the saints to assemble themselves together in the unity of the Spirit, to cast aside their carnal sectarian ways, and to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. John on Patmos was caught away in the Spirit and heard the words of One like unto the Son of Man calling the seven churches, and the voice “was a great voice, as of a Trumpet.” (Rev. 1:10). With clarion call is the Lord now speaking unto His people through the various ministries which He hath established in the Body of Christ, calling the assembly together that they might hear “what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Not only does this refer to the seven churches of Asia, nor yet to the seven historical church periods from Pentecost until now--but it refers to the seven-fold church of this present day and hour. That is to say, He is addressing the complete Church of this day and hour in which we live, “seven” being the number of completion. With trumpet voice the Spirit calleth to His people everywhere: to patience, to love, to repentance, to endurance, to faith in Christ in the midst of Satanic opposition, to holiness of life. In this great Day of Trumpets we should all study carefully the first three chapters of Revelation, and pay heed to their trumpet-like appeal to the people of God. They constitute the burden of the Spirit to God’s people everywhere, wooing them to repentance, and promising them great and mighty things if they will “overcome” the world, the flesh, and the Devil. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness...” (Isa. 58:1,2). This is no time for pretty sermons and soothing words to a backslidden and corrupt Church; this is the Day of Trumpets.
2. THE JOURNEYING OF THE CAMPS (Num. 10:3-6)
The Church has camped around this mountain long enough. Said God to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give them.” (Josh. 1:2). God is calling His people to go forward, as never before in the history of the Church. Only men who have ears to hear have been able to hear the call of the Spirit, but the Trumpet is blowing nevertheless, and many have heard the call. Thank God for the manna which has sustained us throughout our pilgrimage journey, even unto now. Thank God for the water out of the rock, to quench our thirst. Thank God for the Holy Spirit, the cloud that has gone ahead of us, and directed us all through this great and terrible wilderness. But there are better things ahead! We must leave the manna, and the water out of the rock, and enter into a new realm, a new experience. Instead of manna there is the old corn of Canaan. Instead of water out of the rock, there are ceaseless, perpetually flowing waters from springs and rivers and lakes of the land of rest. Instead of drought there is the dew of heaven every morning, and rain in due season. Instead of barrenness and heat there is fertility and life and blessing in the realm of the Spirit, in the heritage of Beulah. Let us go forward as we see the Ark of the Covenant crossing Jordan, with the priests the Levites bearing it.
3. PREPARATION OF THE PEOPLE FOR WAR (Num. 10:9)
“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. A fire devoureth before them, and behind them a flame burneth...” (Joel 2:1-3).
Joel’s prophecy is the sound of a Trumpet from beginning to end. In this passage he is sounding the alarm for war: calling God’s people together to prepare for battle, for the great Day of the Lord is at hand. It shall be a Day of darkness and gloominess to the unrighteous and disobedient, but “as the morning spread upon the mountains” to the people who know their God, and are therefore “great and strong.”
THE CHURCH’S FALSE HOPE
The Church of Christ is literally filled with carnal, earthly-minded Christians who sit back in ease and self-complacency and await a rapture that will translate them out of the midst of earth’s Great Tribulation at the beginning of the Day of the Lord. To this generation of world-conformers God speaks in no uncertain terms: “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light.” (Amos 5:18). In the vast majority of evangelical circles we are taught that any moment all God’s people shall be caught up, raptured, to be with the Lord in the air--to escape the Great Tribulation which soon shall visit the earth. It is not true. The saints shall be “caught up” all right; but “every man in his own order.” (1Cor. 15:23). What that order is does not concern us right now; but the fact remains, we are nowhere taught that the saints are going to escape the hour of Great Tribulation by way of rapture.
WHY WERE THE THESSALONIANS TROUBLED?
If it is true, as we are generally taught, that the Thessalonian Christians thought they had missed the rapture because of the supposed letter they had received from the apostle Paul, then how is it that the apostle Paul must have missed it too? Apparently they had received a letter bearing Paul’s signature, stating that the Day of the Lord had started or was about to start. (2Thess. 2:2). And the common explanation is that they were “troubled,” because they expected they would have been raptured when this Day began. Now if the Thessalonians actually thought that Paul wrote that deceptive letter--and it is clear that they did,--then why should they be “troubled,” for if they missed the rapture, then Paul must have missed it too!
But no, Paul had never taught them that they should be taken away from the earth when the Great Tribulation started. What he did tell them was that they should not be “moved” by afflictions or tribulations of any kind, “for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.” (1Thess. 3:3,4). Knowing, therefore, they they were to go through the Tribulation, they were particularly “troubled” about this deceptive letter they received, because according to this letter the Day of the Lord, or the Great Tribulation, was just about to start. Paul therefore would comfort them again by informing them that this great and terrible Day of the Lord “shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” (2Thess. 2:3). The Day of the Lord, Paul would tell them, was not imminent, because the man of sin had to be revealed before that great Day. It is not our purpose to prove, or to disprove that “the man of sin” has been revealed. The fact remains that a “rapture” is not held out to the saints as their hope in the hour of the Great Tribulation; nor are we taught that the saints who are walking in the light are going to be caught unawares when the Day of the Lord begins. On the contrary we are told, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” (1Thess. 5:4).
AS IN THE DAYS OF NOAH
As for the hour of the Great Tribulation, Jesus said it would be as in the days of Noah. What happened, then, at the time of the Flood? Those who were spared the wrath of God were left right in the very midst of the wrath of God, but protected by the ark. So shall it be in the Day of the Lord. “The one shall be taken, and the other left.” (Matt. 24:40). Now who were taken at the time of the flood? We read, “The flood came, and took them all away,”--all except those who were in the ark. (Matt. 24:39). In the very same way, Jesus said, would men be taken as in a “snare” at the time of the Day of the Lord. (Lk. 21:35). The powers of darkness and the wrath of God shall be poured out with such sudden fury over all the earth, that men shall be caught unawares, as if in a trap, and shall not escape. “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” (1Thess. 5:3).
Just in what manner this sudden destruction shall come upon men, perhaps we do not understand; but it shall be as in the days of Noah. Sudden cataclysmic judgments shall fall upon the earth, the ungodly shall be “taken” suddenly as in a “snare,” but the righteous shall be “left” in a place of safety. They shall be “in Christ,” hidden away in “the secret place of the Most High.” With their eyes they shall see and behold the reward of iniquity, for they shall be right on the earth; but they shall be in safety. What very few people understand is this: that this great event which shall constitute a snare and a trap to earth-dwellers or earthly-minded Christians, shall become a glory and a power and a means of victory to the one who is walking with God. Jesus promised “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Rev. 3:10). And if God’s people will but study the Scriptures carefully, they will discover in what manner the Lord keeps His own from temptation and from trial. One thing is sure; it is not by carrying them aloft in celestial chariots of ease to some Elysian fields--but by becoming their shelter and protection in the very midst of trouble and distress. Behold the children of Israel in the very midst of Egypt’s desolation, but protected by the glory of God and the rod of Moses. They had flies throughout all Egypt, but there were none in the homes of Israel. Frogs everywhere, but not in the humble cottages of the Israelites. Hail and pestilence on the fields of the Egyptians, but not on the fields of Israel. Darkness and gloominess throughout all Egypt for three days--a darkness so dense that it could be felt--but light in the homes of Israel. The death angel passes through all the land of Egypt, even over the homes of the Israelites, but passing or “fluttering” over the blood-sprinkled door posts of the covenant people of God. See Daniel in the lion’s den, but it is no torment to him; the very beasts became his best friends. Behold the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, but they are not consumed. Yea, the very fire which was intended for their destruction became their light and their life--it consumed the cords which bound their arms and legs, and lo the form of one like unto the Son of Man was seen walking side by side with them in the midst of the flames.
Thank God for this great and mighty truth: the day of the Lord to the wicked is “not light... but darkness.” But to the righteous, and those who have appropriated the fullness of the Spirit and are walking with God, the Day of gloom and Great Tribulation is not darkness, but a light and a glory. To the disobedient, “A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness.” But to the great and mighty army of the Lord it shall be “as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong.” (Joel 2:2).
THE DAY OF GOD’S POWER
The Church and the world are both going to be greatly surprised when they discover that the Great Tribulation, unleashed in all its fury, is nothing more nor less than the greatest display of Divine power and glory that this world has ever witnessed. (We should, perhaps, call this day the Day of the Lord, instead of the Great Tribulation; for it is only Great Tribulation to those who have not discovered “the secret place of the Most High.”) We have heard it said that Heaven would be Hell for the sinner, if he were allowed to enter its pearly gates. And that is exactly right. The unveiling of the might and power and glory of God in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation is going to produce on the one hand the Great Tribulation, and on the other hand the power and glory of the saints.
“Yet once more,” saith God, “I shake not the earth only, but also the heaven.” (Heb. 12:26). And this shaking is going to cast Satan and his principalities from their heavenly throne, while the Sons of God ascend into “the heavenlies”--first of all in the Spirit--to take upon themselves the authority which belongeth to those who are overcomers. And entering into this place of power and authority, the Sons of God shall be able to administer protection, and comfort, and help, and deliverance, and blessing to such as are in need. All this is confirmed by the prophecy of Joel the Trumpeter, concerning the Day of the Lord.
“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision, for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the starts shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope (shelter) of his people, and the strength (refuge) of the children of Israel. So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim” (Joel 3:14-18).
What can be more clear than this: darkness, the shaking of heaven and earth, judgment,--but in God there is shelter and refuge and new wine and milk, and refreshing waters from the house of the Lord! And why is this? Because the shaking of the heavens is in reality, not merely the shaking of the natural sun and moon and stars, but the shaking from their celestial thrones of the powers of darkness and the hosts of wickedness, and the rising up of the Sons of God in the power of the Spirit, to take the Kingdom which Satan has usurped and occupied for so long.
That Satan’s kingdom is situated in “the heavenlies” is Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians (Eph. 6:12). From there he rules and reigns over the world and its many religions, as “prince of the power of the air” and “god of this world.” But “the heavenlies” is also the heritage of the children of God; for God “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places (in the heavenlies) in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). The child of God is therefore called upon to war against these evil hosts of wickedness who have usurped the authority of Christ and His Church. Says Paul, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (the heavenlies)” (Eph. 6:12).
Can you see, child of God, what a tremendous heritage is ours, and how Satan has completely usurped the authority of the Sons of God? Paul says, “We wrestle...” True, Paul did so to a certain extent, along with some of the saints through the ages--but as a whole the Church of Christ has suffered defeat from the powers of darkness for century upon century. Deceived on every hand; afflicted with all manner of sickness and disease; demon-oppressed and demon-possessed; filled with carnality, sin, bitterness, bewilderment, sorrow, fear, and torment. The surging masses of humanity, including many of the real saints of God, have been taken captive by the “god of this world,” and instead of a glorious Church one needs only to visit a great healing meeting to behold a veritable Museum of the Devil displaying his exhibits: children of God twisted into the most gruesome forms; hobbling on crutches; dragging themselves; crawling on the ground; men with tortured minds; oppressed by demons; and cast into Satan’s mould of deception, fear, torment and filth. Thank God for the measure of deliverance we can see beginning to come to pass, and for the mighty healing power of God that is being delivered unto mankind through His anointed servants--but Oh, how little we have seen yet in comparison with the tremendous need that presents itself! And yet the saints really think they are telling the truth when they stand religiously on a Sunday morning, and sing to the charming peal of the organ:
“Like a mighty army, moves the Church of God,
Brothers, we are treading, where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
Onward, Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war!
With the Cross of Jesus,
Going on before.”
The exact opposite is just about the truth of the situation: a defeated band of slaves, divided into a thousand sects, all having different hopes and different doctrines, and knowing nothing of charity. “Bow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain...” Arise, Church of God, from the dust of defeat and desolation. Put on your beautiful garments, and the whole armour of God! The Trumpet call goes forth in this great hour, calling for a Gideon’s band who shall be “more than conquerors” through Christ that loved us. And the bank is being prepared, for which we are thankful; an army whose power is not in themselves, but in the Sword of the Lord.
WAR IN HEAVEN
The Book of Revelation is in reality, not the Revelation of John, but as John himself stated: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ...” The word “Revelation” is “Apokalupsis,” the very same word that is translated “The manifestation (apokalupsis) of the Sons of God...” (Rom. 8:19). Literally, it is the Unveiling of Jesus Christ that John was told to write about there on the isle of Patmos. It is lamentable that the Church should have become so deceived as to refuse to believe the Book is for them; so many are teaching that just the first three chapters are for the Church. However, it is enough for us that John should have said, “The Unveiling of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass... Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:1,3). If you want to be blessed, then, read this wonderful book and believe it is for you. God is speaking by the Spirit to as many as have “ears to hear.” If you can hear its message, then it is for you.
And so we are told in the Book of Revelation what happens when the powers of heaven are shaken: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old (ancient) serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev. 12:7-9). The powers of heaven shaken! Yes, and that means Great Tribulation for the earth-dwellers, but glory and honour and salvation for the saints! “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night...Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Rev. 12:10-12).
And then what happens? “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child” (vs. 13). By this time this man-child company, this group of overcomers brought forth by the travail of the Church, is in a place of power and authority in the “heavenlies;” and the Church that brought forth the man child through much pain and spiritual travail, is left in the earth. For a time she is persecuted by the Dragon who lost his heavenly throne, but soon a place is prepared for the “woman” in the wilderness, where she is nourished and protected.
The whole picture is a wonderful description of the Church of this hour. We cannot deal at length with the subject here, but a few Scriptures will help us to see the picture more clearly. As we mentioned before, Satan rules and reigns over the earth from his exalted position in “the heavenlies.” That is his fortress; but it is likewise the heritage of the saints. There it is that God hath blessed the Church with all spiritual blessings, even in “the heavenlies” (Eph. 1:3), and there it is that we are called upon to wrestle with Satan, as we become clothed upon with the “whole armour of God” (Eph. 6:12,13). Now when the saints of God begin to really press into their heritage in Christ Jesus, Satan is going to object--and there will be “war in heaven.” Hence the great “wrestling” that Paul speaks about. Michael the Archangel himself is going to enter the fray on behalf of God’s people in this great Day of the Lord, and he is going to take up their cause in this heavenly warfare. God has promised he would. “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1). Then angelic hosts are ministering spirits sent forth to wait in service upon the elect; and Michael is one of their chief princes. Consequently the hosts of Satan are cast down; the overcomer takes his place of authority in the place left vacant by these evil hosts of wickedness; and hence the triumphant shout, “therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them...” But the Dragon, having lost his kingdom, roams through the earth in great wrath, tormenting men, and attempting to persecute the Church which was responsible for bringing forth the overcoming man child. But God in mercy has a place prepared for her “in the wilderness”--some secret, spiritual hiding-place, and there she is protected and nourished. God, therefore, promised Daniel: “Thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” As we shall discover later, when we deal with the priesthood of this overcoming group, they shall be in a place of power and authority with God, and shall be able to administer the help and protection and sustenance that the Church needs.
4. THE CELEBRATION OF THE FEASTS
This brings us to the fourth purpose for which the silver trumpets were made. They were also used to call the people together to observe the solemn Feasts of the Lord. Joel’s prophecy is the sound of a Trumpet from beginning to end--and in addition to calling God’s people to repentance, and to prepare themselves for war, he likewise call the saints to the Feasts of the Lord.
“Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet... Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen... Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do yield their strength. Be glad then, ye children, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil...” (Joel 2:15-24).
The whole passage speaks loudly of the Feast of Tabernacles, and the coming glory of the Lord when the corn and the wine and the oil are to be gathered in; and at the same time, the hour of the rain from Heaven--the former and the latter rain combined.
LAMENTATIONS OF THE PROPHETS
God’s people everywhere should pay heed to the solemn exhortations and lamentations of the prophets. Jeremiah, who lamented over the desolation of the earthly Jerusalem, cried in the anguish of his spirit; “How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies” (Lam. 1:1,2). And again, “Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us; consider, and behold our reproach. Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens. We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows...” (Lam. 5:1-3).
If we could but take time to examine in detail these and similar Scriptures, how clearly we would see the true condition of the Church! Once married to Christ in the days of the early apostles, now a widow. Once a great and mighty spiritual power, now a tributary to the nations--and to the denominations. Once possessors of a rich heritage in the Spirit, now Satan holds authority in the “heavenlies” where the Church should reign. Once nourished by spiritual fathers with apostolic meekness, love, and authority; now the Church is full of orphans, having very few who really cherish her children, and the children themselves being loathe to recognize God-appointed leaders and fathers. No wonder Joel blows the Trumpet, and calls for repentance and lamentation: “The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men. Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God...” (Joel 1:10-13). In other words, Pentecost has lost its meaning--because the harvest has failed. There is no Feast of Tabernacles--because there is no early or latter rain, and the vineyards and the olive trees have perished. The fruits and graces of the Spirit are woefully lacking; and the flesh practically reigns in the Church.
THE DAY OF TRUMPETS IS UPON THE CHURCH
In view of what we have seen regarding the meaning of the Trumpet, and its significance in calling the people to repentance, there is no doubt that we are beginning to see the Blowing of Trumpets fulfilled before our very eyes. Perhaps we have not witnessed much yet by way of causing an alarm: only those with ears to hear and eyes to see have been able to discern the voice of Him that speaketh with the sound of a Trumpet in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. But His voice is beginning to be heard, nevertheless, and the saints are mustering for battle.
Psalm 81 is very significant of this day and hour in which we live, for it refers directly to the Day of Trumpets. Indeed, it is thought by some to have been composed especially for the Day of Trumpets. A careful examination of this Psalm will reveal just why the Trumpet-call of the saints thus far has failed to produce any notable results.
“Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery. Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day. For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob. This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: Where I heard a language that I understood not...”(Ps. 81:1-5).
That seems to have been the trouble with those who have been blowing the trumpets of present-day revivals: the language has been a foreign language, and consequently there has been no genuine preparation for battle. Our language has been one that men have not understood.
THE UNCERTAIN SOUND
Says Paul, “For is the Trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to battle?” (1Cor. 14:8). From this verse, and the verses that follow, we find that Paul is exhorting the saints to minister in the Body of Christ in such a way that the saints shall be edified. Such a ministry is the only Trumpet-call that will work a real work of preparedness in the hearts of the saints. We must have a genuine ministration of the gifts of the Spirit if the call of God is to go forth with power. For many years now the Church has enjoyed a foretaste of Pentecost, with a partial restoration of the gift of tongues. But it has been a language that we “Understood not.” And that in itself would not be so bad, were it not for the fact that no one else has understood our language either. And this is not only true concerning the “tongues” which the saints speak by the Spirit as they commune with God, the unknown tongue,--but it is also true of the language which we live before men. God’s plan for the saints is that they should become the veritable “epistle of Christ...written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God” (2Cor. 3:3). On the contrary, the Church has done everything but reveal Christ from the pages of the heart and soul. Rather do men look upon us and read a story of carnality, sin, wickedness, division, disunity, bitterness and strife. They know the Church is supposed to be God’s Bible, and therefore they read it intently, but they understand not the language which they read. It is absolutely contrary to their conception as to what Christianity should really be. And consequently, they turn away in disgust. The Trumpets are sounding--but to most people the sound has been one of “a blaring trumpet or a clanging cymbal” (1Cor. 13:1, Weymouth). The Trumpet has been giving forth an uncertain sound from all the various branches of the Church, who profess to have the baptism of the Spirit, and the gifts and ministries of the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit--but no one prepares himself “to the battle” because of the uncertainty of the sound.
THE CERTAIN TRUMPET CALL OF THE MINISTRIES
This uncertainty of the Trumpet is going to cease, and in the near future. God’s pattern has not been observed, and therefore we could not expect much more than confusion. But the pattern is being revealed, and God is raising up His own ministers who shall sound the Trumpet with such clarity, that men will know the voice of God and the meaning of the voice, and they will prepare for battle. God said, “The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets” (Num. 10:8). Ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are being established in the Church, established moreover by God Himself, and their Trumpet-call shall not go unheeded. Their word shall be with authority, and not as the Scribes. And their authority shall not be by self-appointment, nor by human-appointment, but rather by the appointment of the Holy Spirit, and the ordination of Christ. Soon there will be a “language” uttered in the congregation of the saints which men shall understand; for it shall be the Trumpet-call of power and authority, even as the very oracles of God.
Therefore, as we contemplate the coming glory of the Feast of Ingathering, how we rejoice in what God is now doing in the Blowing of the Trumpets. For there can be no latter rain, no vintage, no ingathering of the oil and corn and wine--without the blowing up of “the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.” It is the Feast of the New Moon! The new moon! Yes, it is the same old moon that God established in the heavens from the foundation of the world, but now it doth enter a new phase! The very same Church that was established upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone...but the Church doth now enter a new phase of her existence. A new day is about to dawn! A new life is to be our portion! A new heritage in the Spirit looms before us! “Blow up the trumpet” therefore, ye ministers of God, sound an alarm in God’s holy mountain of Zion, shew God’s people their transgression, and call them to mourning and to repentance because of the desolation of God’s heritage. It will not be long ere the Day of Trumpets shall have served its purpose, and the Church of Christ shall enter into her rest.
“Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer and offering made by fire unto the Lord...” (Lev. 23:27).
That full and complete Atonement was made for the whole human race by Jesus Christ on the Cross, there is no doubt whatsoever. But it is only too evident, as we consider our own individual lives, as well as that of the historical Church, that we have never really appropriated any real measure of the great atoning work of the Cross. And it is this experimental appropriation of the Atonement that the Church must now enter into. As there is a historical Pentecost, as well as an individual Pentecostal experience for all who will believe for it, so it is with the Atonement. All through the ages men have, by faith reached out and appropriated some measure of deliverance from sin; but as a Body and as a Church we have never really done so. But the Church’s deliverance from sin, as a Body, is just ahead--in the fulfillment of the great Day of Atonement by way of experience. The sin and carnality of the Church’s long career must be taken away from her midst before she can enter into the full blessing and power of the Feast of Tabernacles. Thank God for the Passover, in the first month, in virtue of which God has “passed over” the saints, not imputing their trespasses unto them. But the Church has been groaning with the apostle Paul for about two thousand years: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). God has certainly heard our cries, and soon He shall bring His people into a glorious liberty in the Spirit, wherein they shall be completely delivered from their sins and their carnal nature. This shall be the experimental fulfillment of the Day of Atonement for the Church.
ON THE TENTH DAY
The Day of Atonement was observed on the tenth day of the seventh month. The seventh month is the sabbath month--the month of rest. Even now the saints who are entering into the unfolding plans and purposes of God for this hour, and are becoming established with gifts and ministries in the Spirit--they are experiencing a rest which they have never known in the past, despite all the perplexing problems which might arise from time to time. And we may rest assured, there will be many more problems and trials arising in the near future. The Day of Atonement will be a time of great trial and sifting for God’s people. The number “ten” signifies trial and testing. The greatest test ever submitted to man, the Law of Moses, was written on tablets of stone and comprised ten commandments. Then we find that Daniel made this request, “Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days” (Dan. 1:12). And again, Jesus promised the Church in Smyrna (which signifies “bitterness”), “Ye shall have tribulation ten days; be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Then you will remember how the early disciples tarried for the Holy Spirit from the Ascension until Pentecost, a period of ten days--and what times of trial and sifting they must have been, knowing practically nothing of what they were to expect. There is no doubt, therefore, that from now till the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement in the Church, God’s people are going to be subjected to great times of testing and trial--with a view to perfecting them, and rewarding them as overcomers. The hour has come for judgment to “begin at the house of God” (1Pet. 4:17). God is sifting, sifting, sifting His people as never before, in preparation for the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles.
YE SHALL AFFLICT YOUR SOULS
There is no question as to what God would teach us by the Day of Atonement: it is the actual taking away from the congregation, of their sins and carnal ways. Israel could rejoice in the fact that the Passover Lamb had been killed in the first month, and the Feast had been observed according to all the ordinances of the Law. And that was their acceptance before God as a nation: “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” But now, six months later, we have the Day of Atonement--the day when Israel is called to a new repentance and a humbling of themselves before God in preparation for the Great Feast of Tabernacles. Israel had to have a new Passover every year, and a new Day of Atonement every year--because their sacrifices served only to call sins to remembrance, and to revive their sin-conscience. But Christ died once-for-all, and so effectual was His redemptive work that there is “no more conscience of sins” (Heb. 10:2). And yet we are constantly giving the lie to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, by falling into sin and being hampered by the works of the flesh, and harboring a sin-conscience. We testify on the one hand that God has taken away our sins and nailed them to the Cross--and that is true--but the next moment we are beset by sin and suffer defeat. We rejoice in the righteousness of Jesus Christ which has been placed to our account--and that is true--but how little of that righteousness have we been able to reach and appropriate. How little do we know and experience of real, vital holiness of life, and purity of thought, word, and deed.
Thank God, therefore, for the pattern we find in Israel’s Feasts, and for the knowledge that there is a place of real victory over sin and the flesh for the Church of Jesus Christ. We know that many have been preaching this for years, and testifying to having received it; but actually men have never experienced it to any degree of fullness. Those who have sought to go on with God can testify to having received a measure of victory, that is true enough; but real victory over sin and the carnal nature is still ahead for the Church of God. This, then, is the day and hour when God would call us to repentance, that we might receive from His hands that real, genuine victory over sin that the Bible teaches.
WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THIS VICTORY?
Let us stop trying to justify ourselves, and insisting on our holiness of conduct, when it is apparent to everyone about us that we do not possess it. “Living epistles” of Christ do not have to tell the world how holy they are. The world will see it and will be amazed to discover something real and genuine in the midst of this wicked and perverse generation. This victory of which we speak is the very victory of Christ Himself. When we attain to this victory, there will be no need to formulate weak excuses why the victorious Christian can again fall into sin and suffer defeat--for this place in Christ knows no defeat. We will not have to explain how Satan gained an advantage over us and planted a new seed of sin in the heart, and the victory we once had was lost; for this victory is the very victory of Christ. “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once...” (Rom. 6:9,19). He that overcometh according to the Bible enters into the very victory and triumph of Christ--a victory which can never be lost or forfeited. It is the very victory of Jesus Christ Himself, and the overcomer is therefore “more than conqueror” through Christ that loved him.
Here again the history of the Church is positively against us, because we cannot point with positive assurance to any person in the Church age who has really appropriated this blessed condition of holiness in its fullness. However, we are not going to take the history of the Church as our pattern--for it is a sad story of defeat, and worthy of far more lamentation than the weeping prophet ever expressed over Israel. If this glorious victory is declared in the Word, that is sufficient; and thank God, it is. And it shall be attained by the overcomer--not by the flesh, but by the Spirit. The experimental Day of Atonement is at hand for the Church of Christ. The promise, therefore, is held out to us at the ends of the ages, as to no other people in any past dispensation. “To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart...” Let us examine, therefore, some of the Scriptures which clearly promise this victorious, triumphant, overcoming life in the Spirit.
Lev. 16:29-31. “And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.”
Matt. 5:48. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Jn. 17:21. “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us...”
Jn. 17:23. “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one...”
Rom. 6:4. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Notice this passage: the newness of our walk is to be comparable to the very resurrection life and glory of Jesus Christ.
Rom. 6:5-7. “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Some would like to believe that the “likeness of his resurrection” refers to a future physical resurrection. The whole passage teaches to the contrary. God is speaking about the righteousness and life that overcomes the “body of sin” so that “henceforth we should not serve sin.” It is the appropriation here and now of the fruits of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Rom. 6:11. “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” There is no suggestion here whatever of suppressing the old nature, keeping the “old man” under your feet so that he will not be able to raise his head, or constantly dying out to self. It is a finished work; and just as Christ died and rose again once for all, so those who have appropriated His death and resurrection enter into a new life, a new sphere in the Spirit, a new victory.
Rom. 8:2. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Freedom! And when God speaks of freedom, He means you are “free indeed” (Jn. 8:36). As long as the world, the flesh, or the Devil can bring you into any measure of servitude, you are not “free indeed.”
Gal. 5:24. “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”
1 Jn. 3:3. “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure.”
1 Jn. 3:6,7. “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.”
1 Jn. 3:9. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
There is no argument against the direct, plain, indisputable truths here presented. The righteousness which God has in store for us is not merely a partial appropriation of God’s righteousness, or a certain degree of attainment whereby we measure ourselves with others, and we conclude we are victorious because we have ceased from our bad habits, conquered over anger, and no longer harbor ill-feelings against another. As likely as not, such claims of holiness are a sure sign of pride rather than of meekness and contrition of spirit. This life of which we speak is a life far beyond anything the Church has yet seen in her most glorious saints. It is God’s very own: “even as he is pure,” “even as he is righteous,” “he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
THE BIRTH OF THE SPIRIT
“He cannot sin...” This is the plain Word of God. However, as God’s children we all can testify that we are born of God, and that we do sin. And therefore we present some very plausible arguments to prove that God does not mean exactly what He said. Let us forever cease trying to justify ourselves. “Let God be true and every man a liar.” The only scriptural explanation of this verse is that we are not “born again” in the fullness of this regenerating experience. Our new birth, by the Spirit, genuine as it is, has not developed into maturity. We have been reproduced after God’s likeness like the seed which is produced by the flower, or the egg that is produced by the bird. That seed or that egg is a genuine birth, containing all the potentialities of a new flower exactly like the flower that produced it, or a new bird exactly like its parent. But the full glory and the potentialities of that new life lie dormant within the seed or the egg--and are by no means manifest, or even apparent to our observation. Once can see no similarity whatsoever between the tiny seed with its black crusty covering, and the beautiful red poppy which waves its petals in the breeze; no similarity between the little blue egg in the nest, and the bird that flies aloft into the atmosphere on wings of liberty. In fact, if we did not understand the mysterious processes of nature, we would consider one a fool to suggest that the seed and the poppy are one and the same thing; or that the egg and the bird are one and the same thing. And yet they are--in kind, in nature, in possibility.
So it is with the birth of the Spirit. Thank God for the seed, the incorruptible seed, in virtue of which we have become “partakers of the divine nature” (2Pet. 1:4), or “born again” (1Pet. 1:23). But that seed in the hearts of God’s people has scarcely developed beyond the germ state; it has not grown and developed to the place where we can testify, “his seed abideth” in us; and therefore we can and do sin.
A NEW MAN IS TO BE BORN
Let the saints of God who have eyes to see and ears to hear, rejoice in the plan and purpose of God which even now is unfolding before our very eyes. God is hastening the day and hour of Christian perfection. We do not have it, nor have we seen it in any person anywhere at any time. For we are not speaking merely of a life made from this particular sin or that particular sin, from a bad temper, or a bitter spirit, or sinful habits. We are speaking, rather, of a life which is the very life of Jesus Christ reproduced in the fragile earthen vessels of this human clay. Our prayer, therefore, should be as Jesus commanded, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, even as it is in Heaven.” It is, first and foremost, the birth of the Kingdom of God in our own little earth, in the clay of our flesh; for the “Kingdom of God is within you...” It is the perfecting unto maturity of the Christ who came into our hearts as the Seed when we received Him as our Saviour. It is the springing forth of the water of life into glorious liberty and spontaneity--even the water that we drank when Christ came into our lives. Jesus promised it would become a “Fountain of water leaping up into everlasting life” (Jn. 4:14, Literal). It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” rising up unto maturity, and being “formed within you” (Gal. 4:19).
HOW SHALL IT COME TO PASS?
This life shall not come by fleshly striving. Nor shall it come merely by prayer and repentance and seeking God’s face. This, of course, is most essential, and God will hear that prayer of sincerity and reveal the channel and means by which perfection shall be attained. But prayer and repentance in themselves are not the means by which the saints are to be perfected. Neither is the rapture of the Church the plan of God for the perfecting of the saints, and their deliverance from sin and carnality. God has another plan--a far more glorious plan, and yet a very simple plan; and here it is:
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in (unto) the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13). The Church may proclaim an imminent rapture as much as they will, and teach that any moment the saints will be snatched away from earth to escape the gathering clouds of Tribulation. But this is not the teaching of God’s Word. True, we must always be waiting and watching for His Appearing--but this is not the “Appearing” of modern evangelical theology. This glorious Appearing must first of all be manifest in the saints.
How thankful we are, therefore, that God is revealing the pattern of perfection. The Ascension gifts, the ministries in the Body of Christ--these are the means of perfecting the saints,--and as we have read, they are to remain in the Church till we all come unto unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man! Notice too, that these ministries were given “when he ascended up on high,” and not when He was here on earth. He gave twelve apostles when He was here on earth; but here we find that He gives apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers after His ascension.
The perfection of the saints unto maturity, then, is just as mysterious as the growth and development of the members of the human body from birth unto manhood--and just as real. Spiritual gifts in the saints, exercised by the recipient in the power of the Holy Ghost, develop into ministries of the Spirit. And these ministries are vital, living spiritual faculties in the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ, therefore, shall nurture and edify itself. Just as the human body has within itself the God-given and God-created ability to grow, to develop, to heal its own wounds, and to reproduce itself; so the Body of Christ, by means of these spiritual faculties, has the God-given and God-created power to grow into holiness, to develop into sonship, to heal its own sin-wounds, and to reproduce its kind. Says Paul, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15,16). “Unto the edifying of itself in love!” That is God’s pattern.
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE DAY OF ATONEMENT?
Briefly, this is what happened on the great Day of Atonement. The high priest, clothed upon with the holy garments, was designated to make the atonement for himself, as well as for the people. Besides the offerings for himself, two goats were chosen for the atonement of the people. Lots were cast upon the goats, the one being set apart for sacrifice, and the other as the scapegoat. “Scapegoat” signifies “the goat that went away.” The first goat was slain, and the blood brought within the veil in the Holy of Holies, and sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat. Then Aaron as high priest laid his hands upon the head of the scapegoat, confessed over it all the iniquities of Israel, and sent it away into the wilderness.
In type the whole ordinance speaks of the Atonement which Christ effected on the Cross. In the fulfillment of a type, of course, we may expect to see a contrast as well as a parallel. In contrast, we are reminded that Christ was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” and therefore needed not “to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s” (Heb. 7:26,27). Nor did He offer Himself often, as the high priest offered sacrifices year after year; for the sacrifice of Christ is eternally efficacious, and He offered Himself once-for-all.
But as there was a great contrast between the imperfect sacrifice of Israel, and the perfect Atonement of the Cross--so also is there a beautiful parallel. Here we can see what took place potentially at the Cross when Christ made an eternal Atonement for the Church. It cannot be without significance that the Passover occurred in the first month, Pentecost in the third, and the Atonement in the seventh. It is simply because the Church of Christ as a Body has never been experimentally cleansed from her sins. We may close our eyes to the age-long sin and corruption of God’s people if we wish--but the fact remains, the Church did not go on from early apostolic power and blessing to really appropriate Divine life and holiness as a Body. Thank God, however, that He knew all about it, and planned a great Day of Atonement for the seventh month--this Sabbath of the Church, when she shall be purified and made white and made to cease from her own works. “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you...” (Lev. 16:30,31).
And so the one goat was slain, and the blood sprinkled upon the mercy seat: for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul, and “without the shedding of blood is no remission.” Nor was that all: for upon the head of the scapegoat all the sins of Israel were laid (in type), and it was sent away into the wilderness. Thank God for the Day of Atonement, when God’s people shall be made free, and free indeed, from all their sins.
CHRIST, A MANY-MEMBERED BODY
We believe there is a special significance in the fact that there were “two” goats used on the Day of Atonement. As we have discovered in a previous chapter, “two” would speak of the Head and the Body, Christ in the fullness of His people. For Christ is one, but a many-membered Body. This is a great mystery, as Paul tells us, that the Church should be bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh. Christ the Head, therefore, is not complete without Christ the Body. In the “two” goats, therefore, we have (in type) Christ in the fullness of His Body. (They will be called Overcomers, Two Witnesses, Manchild).That the saints are to become thoroughly identified with Christ in His sufferings and in His Cross, is clearly taught in the Scriptures; but the mystery of it is almost too much for us to comprehend, even in the slightest degree. It is only as we can begin to see the truth of the Body, that we can in any measure comprehend the fact that when He died, we died; and that when He rose again, then we rose again with Him.
To many, of course, this truth of our identification with Christ the Head is nothing less than blasphemy. But this is to be expected. When Jesus called Himself the Son of God they said “Thou blasphemest.” And yet now we hail Him King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Man of very Man, and God of very God. And the ages to come are going to reveal, what is now revealed by the Spirit to those whose understandings have been quickened, that Christ is the Body,--the whole Body, and not just the Head. The Church is said to grow up “into Christ” (Eph. 4:15). Just as a “man” signifies a body with many members, and not just a head; so the name “Christ” also signifies a Body with many members. Paul therefore says, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, ...so also is Christ” (1Cor. 12:12). Using another illustration, Christ is the Vine, the whole Vine. “I am the vine, ye are the branches” (Jn. 15:5). He is the Vine, the root, the stalk, the branches, the leaves, the fruit--the whole vine; and we are part of that Vine. The Lord does not intimate here that He is one thing, and we another. But He is the Vine, and we are part of Him. The Son of Man in Heaven is not complete without the fullness of the Son of Man on earth, even the Body, “The fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:23).
THE BODY, THE FULFILLMENT OF JACOB’S LADDER
You will recall the story of Jacob’s ladder, how Jacob dreamed as he lay there at Bethel, with his head on a stone for a pillow--and saw in his dream the heavens opened, and a ladder set up on the earth, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the ladder. Jacob awoke out of his sleep in fear and dread, and cried: “How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:17). And so he changed the name of that place from Luz to Bethel--because Bethel signifies “House of God.” Little did he realize that in this ladder-vision he actually beheld, in type, the fullness of the Son of Man in Christ and His people.
This is brought out in the Gospel of John. You will recall how amazed Nathanael was when the Lord remarked how He had seen him under the fig-tree. Actually the Lord may have been miles away and Nathanael knew that. How could this Man, thought Nathanael, be able to manifest such Divine omnipresence as to have seen him under the fig tree, when He was perhaps miles away? And so he pronounced Him the Messiah without any further questioning. But Jesus replied: “Thou shalt see greater things than these... Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (Jn. 1:50,51). In other words, Jesus said: “Why that is nothing, Nathanael, comparable to what you shall yet discover about the Son of Man. That is nothing that the Son of Man should have been miles away, and yet have observed you under the fig-tree. The time is at hand when the Son of Man shall fulfill the type of Jacob’s ladder, His feet shall stand on earth, and His Head shall reach even unto Heaven; and the angels of God shall ascend and descend upon Him...”
Now there is only one way by which the angels of God could ascend and descend upon the Son of Man; and that is, if the Son inhabits Heaven and earth at the same time. And such is the case. The Son of Man is the glorious and wonderful fulfillment of Jacob’s ladder; and no wonder Jacob called the place “Bethel” for this is the House of God of which we speak, even the Body of Christ. The Head is in Heaven, but the Body is upon earth; and according to the Scriptures the Head hath sent forth the celestial hosts as ministering spirits, ministering to such as shall be heirs of salvation, ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, this “new Man” that Paul speaks about, “created in Himself...” It is Christ in the fullness of His people.
PARTAKERS OF HIS SUFFERINGS
“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1Pet. 4:13).
It is commonly recognized that some day the saints are to become so thoroughly identified with Christ in His resurrection that we shall be exactly like Him, having bodies like unto His own glorious body, and sharing His very own life and glory. But the corresponding truth concerning our identification with His death, has scarcely dawned upon us: that we must share His Cross so vitally that it actually becomes our Cross. This is hard to really comprehend; but God is going to bring His people into that place where they shall become actually identified with the death of Christ, so much so that with this experience we shall testify, “I am crucified with Christ...” For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:5). The word “planted together” signifies “grown up with,” and therefore thoroughly one with Him in His death. It is identification with Him, so vital and real, that His death becomes our very own.
We cannot comprehend these things yet, any more than the disciples could comprehend the approaching Cross of Christ. They understood not what He said to them, even though He told them plainly that He must die, and rise again the third day. Nor could they understand of what profit His death would be, when they were so anxiously looking forward to a Kingdom and a King. But Jesus explained, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (Jn. 12:24). This is a great mystery, and as true concerning the Body as it was of the Son. It is only as we enter into, and appropriate, His very Cross that we are going to be of any profit to others. Inasmuch as Paul was able to appropriate this experience, therefore, he could testify: “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). And again John the beloved exhorted: “He laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1Jn. 3:16).
We cannot atone for their sin; the Head alone could do that; but as members of His Body we can share His suffering and His rejection, and in that way transmit its efficacy to others. We can suffer for the Truth, and in our sufferings the Truth will shine forth. We can enter into the pangs of Gethsemane, in this evening hour of Christ’s betrayal--and in so doing share His Cross for the sake of the brethren. For just as truly as Christ the Head was betrayed some two thousand years ago, so once again Christ the Body is being betrayed today. Christ the Head meant no more to Judas or the Scribes and Pharisees than thirty pieces of silver. Today, Christ the Body means no more to the ecclesiastical authorities than large, costly church buildings, big salaries, pipe organs, choirs, orchestras, creeds, dogmas, and the applause of men. And if we, as God’s people, are going to be prepared to share His betrayal, stand true to Him even unto death, and follow Him “without the camp,” then we shall share His death. The Head died on a literal Cross; the Body is being nailed to a spiritual Cross.
No man with spiritual insight can behold the Body of Christ and fail to see that it is even now being crucified, as truly as was Christ. Stripped of its clothing, even the purity and righteousness of Christ; helpless to walk, its heel bruised by the Serpent; helpless to serve, its hands bleeding from the nails of ecclesiastical tyranny; powerless to love and to shew mercy, its heart thrust through with a sword of hate; all its bones out of joint--and therefore unable to supply strength and vitality “according to the effectual working in the measure of every part.” Every imaginable device of ecclesiastical tyranny has been used against the Church, to make her completely helpless and useless and powerless so far as functioning as a Body is concerned. Every conceivable form of sin, carnality, division, schism, and sectarianism has been foisted upon God’s people--largely by men in the pulpit who have been proclaiming a lie for the Truth. As truly as Christ was betrayed by the religious leaders of His day, so truly is His Body being betrayed and crucified today.
No amount of fleshly striving can produce this Death experience within us. All we have to do to share His rejection, His betrayal, and His death, is to recognize the Body, identify ourselves with the Body, minister in the Body according to our God-given ability, and refuse to associate ourselves with anything that will injure another member of that Body. If we do this we will automatically partake of Christ’s sufferings and death in this hour of His betrayal. And we will be doing it for the sake of the brethren. Then the resurrection follows: the hour of the Church’s triumph, the spiritual resurrection of those who share the betrayal of the Body. “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:5).
These truths, we realize, are difficult for us to grasp. Of necessity this must be so; for as yet we see “as through a glass darkly.” But as truly as Jesus said, “Father, the hour is come...” the time is at hand when the Body shall be able to say, “Lord Jesus, the hour is come...” Identification with Christ is a truth of infinite and eternal significance. It means much more than the fact that we are justified by His blood and saved from wrath through Him. It goes on to embrace not only the work of Redemption, but the Person of the Redeemer Himself: so that the Body becomes thoroughly one with Him in the “eternal purpose” which God hath purposed “in Christ Jesus.” Does not the apostle Paul affirm, “The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening (a life-giving) spirit” (1Cor. 15:45)? A life-giving spirit! Creative power! Such is the heritage and the attributes of the Last Adamic race. And should some insist that this refers only to Christ, the Last Adam, let us continue: “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly” (vs. 48). So thorough and real and vital is our identification with the Last Adam, that in all respects--His work, His ministry, His death, His life--we are to become like unto Him.
ENTRANCE BEHIND THE VEIL
It was on the Day of Atonement that the high priest was granted access into the Holy of Holies behind the veil. After the sacrifices, after the slaying of the sin-offering, once in the year, the high priest was permitted to go behind the veil and there commune with the Lord who dwelt above and upon the mercy seat. (Lev. 16:2). True picture, indeed, of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and His entrance “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24). But here again, there is a glorious contrast, as well as a true parallel. Israel’s high priest entered the Holy of Holies only once a year; but Christ has entered the Holy of Holies, not just for a few moments, but to abide there forever. “By his own blood he entered in once (for all) into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:12). And again, Aaron alone went in, while all the rest of Israel were excluded. But Christ went in as the “forerunner”--one who runs on ahead of others who shall follow later. (Heb. 6:20). “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh...”(Heb. 10:19,20). It is this unveiling for which all creation is longing and looking forward to with great anticipation, even “the unveiling of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19). It is having the veil removed, even the veil of His flesh, the veil of the flesh of His Body, the rending asunder of our carnal nature that the glory of Christ might be revealed. Some fear to enter...fear that this would be intruding into spheres of holiness and life and glory and power that God has not intended for us. But let us assure you, child of God, that God invites us to enter into this realm with all confidence: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest...” And why may we enter with such boldness, we who are but worms of the dust? Because of the precious “Blood of Jesus!” Let us not depreciate the glory and the power and the efficacy of the Blood. We have no right of our own to enter this wonderful sphere, this holy place, this Holy of Holies. But the Blood of Jesus has made us worthy. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain! Furthermore, God will never be truly glorified until His Sons believe what He has said, and reach out and appropriate this “new and living way,” this holy life behind the veil “whither the forerunner is for us entered...” God will be glorified in this wonderful experience; and God alone will be glorified. For His blood alone has made us worthy, and His Name alone shall be exalted.
This brings us now to the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of the seventh month--the culmination of the Blowing of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement. These two events, in fact, are really part of the Feast of Tabernacles in that they prepare and open up the way for the glory that is to be revealed.