Laodicea has for too long drawn on the account of luxurious blindness that one day will demand compound interest. We have been more than willing to justify a substitutionary grace that has insulated us from awareness of the consuming fire of God's shekinah glory. Like James and John, we have been content to talk about and even plead for things without knowing what we were asking. As Jesus told them, He tells us, "Ye know not what ye ask" (Mark 10:38).
We have been blind to the specific counsel given to this church at its very beginning. Truth has lain dormant for over a century. We are told that the seal of God will be placed upon those only who "reflect the image of Jesus fully." There will be no latter rain "refreshing" without "victory over every besetment."1 The final events cannot take place while God's people continue in sin and to hide behind mediation. The final judgment of the world must wait until there is a people willing to be members of the group Jesus declared were righteous. They will be sealed in this righteous condition, pronounced "holy" as the fruit of righteousness, and they will remain "holy" (Revelation 22:11).
While Jesus continues in mediation a line is being drawn in heaven between the righteous and the unrighteous. In heaven' eyes the righteous vindicate truth and pass judgment on the unrighteous by their evident lifestyle. By the grace of Christ the holy become the norm which proves there is no need for sinning. This is the practical outworking of the investigative judgment going forward now to develop this body of believers. The result of this ultimate dealing with sin is made clear to the church:
This forthright counsel means that before the end can come there must be a people who reach spiritual maturity. They will speak to God "as a man speaketh to his friend," like the Lord spoke to Moses and Moses spoke to the Lord (Exodus 33:11-19). With holy boldness they will beseech the Lord to show His glory and God will be gracious to make His goodness, His righteousness, to pass before His people. They will "know" the Lord. This glory, this knowledge, this righteousness, this message will illuminate the earth. The need for mediation will have ended. This group will prove that: "Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14).
For millenniums God has had to bear with a soul-wrenching problem described in the book of beginnings:
What kind of return has God received for His patience and infinite outlay? Are all the millenniums of death and agony the regrettable byproduct of an irresponsible obsession? Or is there a divine genius underlying the raging storm of human history? What incomprehensible value does God recognize in redeemed man that has sustained His faith to endure 6000 years of human contempt and unbelief?
Questions like these confront the rational mind. They cannot be avoided and they provoke the Adventist conscience. Perhaps answers can begin to be found in the record of Genesis when it all started.
Can we imagine God resting? His creations are not like things we make. Our inventions and the projects we build are inanimate. We can set them on a shelf or put them in the garage and then sit and rest when we are done. But God's creation is living and breathing. He is the great cosmic Source of power that keeps suns burning and worlds turning. How can He rest or we may ask, Does God get tired? Was He worn out when He finished creating the heavens and the earth? What kind of rest could He need or enjoy? We may wonder, but God asks some of these same questions.
In Isaiah He tells us to ponder: "Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest" (Isaiah 66:1)? Then to help us understand He proceeds to answer His question in the next verse. His place of rest is to be found in that one with a "poor and contrite spirit."
The Hebrew for this word "contrite" has a remarkable similarity to the description given of Jesus when we are told "we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4). A similar version is given by Paul as we are told to "think" like Jesus thought:
"Contrite," "smitten," "humbled,"—here is the heart where God desired to rest. This was to be His abode in man. This was inherent in profound symbology as God called Israel to be His peculiar people saying: "Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Exodus 25:8).
The mind of God was revealed as Isaiah records the question: "Where is the house that ye build unto me?" His desire was fixed. His people were called to respect His original intentions in giving them the earthly temple. It was a symbol and representation of the human heart. God could say with satisfaction, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," because Christ allowed the purpose of God to be fulfilled in Him (Matthew 3:17). And so God rested upon the seventh day as Genesis tells us. The entire creative endeavor culminated in the creation of one made in His image, after His likeness (Genesis 1:26).
The "finishing of the work" was when He took one of Adam's ribs and made the woman. Here is the first glimmer of the destiny of Christ's own bride, the church. In the most profound spiritual sense she is His "sabbath" and His sanctuary. She is to be His resting place.
What is this need that drives God to such sacrificial devotion? A 6000-year courtship of frustration and rejection! What hidden value does the repentant bride possess that only He can see? In full view of the universe she is the canvas upon which He can paint the reflections of His attributes. No celestial resume could adequately represent Him and dispel the doubts and accusations that have taunted Him since Lucifer's rebellion. She alone can open the chest of God and display the compassion and love that burns in His desire. She alone is the rib that rested in the cavity of His soul.
The truth stored up in His heart is like a seed waiting and ready to burst forth into life and radiant growth. Here in His innermost longings is the fruition of all the trials the human race has ever struggled with or the achievements they hoped to attain. Here the universe stands enthralled as they see the outworking of the mystery of godliness in human "flesh."
Weak, vacillating human beings in contrition and uncertainty are the medium through which He exhibits this mystery of godliness. The word of truth apart from such human passion and understanding is a sterile testimony in the environment of a cemetery. This deadly atmosphere has been the hallmark of those who failed to understand that "the Word was made flesh." It is the dead letter of pharisaism. The testimony of Jesus, God manifest in human flesh, the living Word, is the icon of heaven. The contrition and struggle to manifest this revelation to the universe is the desire of God's own heart. His "strength is made perfect in weakness," it is "not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (2 Corinthians 12:9; Zechariah 4:6). The testimony is clear, that Spirit resides with the humble and contrite.
God does not need to prove the supremacy of His strength. He has every right to be omnipotent and omniscient. But Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself of no reputation and took on the form of a slave (Philippians 2:6, 7). His omniscience does not allow Him to coerce the minds of the universe looking on. Only when stripped of His power can He prove that sacrificial love is the basis of His government. Only when "made in the likeness of men" can He show the total power of righteousness. By humility and love He must conquer in the conflict that man would try to rule by force and reputation.
To avert the perjury of His enemies who exempt Him from His demonstration and victory in the weakness of the "flesh," He manifests the same truths in an irrefutable setting, even in His bride. But before she can be His bride, she must be His friend, and that entails far more than we or the onlooking universe have imagined.
To be His friends we must know "all things." We must understand that which the Father gave to Him for us. A servant stands by, waiting for the Lord to do something. A servant does what is commanded. But a friend sees beyond any command. A friend seeks to understand the need. The servant only does as told, whereas the friend sees into the heart of his companion and knows without being prompted by demands.
But more than this, friendship is a risk. It entails a benevolent comprehension of mutual vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Insight in the hands of a friend is a great asset to the exposed party, for the friend not only serves in time of need but defends even weaknesses. Christ's weakness and vulnerability revolve around His "laying down His life for His friends". No one can aspire to fellowship with Him and "know not". It is the servant that "knoweth not," and so we must understand how much God has risked for our friendship. Such knowledge in the hands of the remnant will give power to defend and represent our Friend.
This friendship will culminate in the final judgment celebrated in the betrothal of Jesus and His people. They will "know" the secrets of a marriage consummated. Then sin will cease and the weight of mediation under which God has labored for 6000 years can end. This is the rest God has longed to have. This is the rest we can initiate for a Friend who is in need. "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7). God's people have heard about this wedding but they stand by waiting, undecided whether to take part and fill their proper role.
Like the people who waited for the flood in Noah's day and "knew not until the flood came," so we wait for the time of trouble and the close of probation and "know not" why there is this terrible delay. Modern ignorance has no virtue over ancient ignorance. The record sounds the dire warning that like the ignorance of Noah's day, they "knew not … so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matthew 24:39).
Every wedding requires some preparation, but the wedding of all time requires the ultimate in readiness. We catch a glimpse of God's view of this heaven-ordained union by looking at the first wedding on this planet.
In the book of beginnings is a key that unlocks God's own heart-longing. The first Adam, the reflected image of his Creator, was enjoined to name every creature. But before this the Lord had already acknowledged, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him" (Genesis 2:18). So when the animals were brought before Adam, a desire was born in his heart that mirrored a divine aspiration made evident by his creation. Two by two those creatures were paraded before Adam until he could bear it no longer—something was missing. "There was not found an help meet for him." It was from this need that God's most beautiful creation came forth—woman, Adam's bride.
Somewhere upon the distant edge of eternity, this same need blossomed in the heart of the Almighty. Eve was to be Adam's equal, taken from his side. Equal, not in stature and physical might, but in her capacity to understand and share their lives in union. No other one in all creation could appreciate the wonder and compassion that swelled up in Adam's heart as he gazed upon the majestic creation laid at his feet by the Lord. Only Eve could bow in adoration and merge her spirit with his in love and contemplative appreciation and worship of the Creator.
So God has desired a bride with whom He could merge His infinite love, and who has the capacity to understand and appreciate Him. She would be one who would come to sense truth and justice to its full, and to whom the Creator could with complete confidence make known the mystery of godliness. But the terrible history of the last 6000 years is a record of mankind's betrayal and harlotry controlled by insatiable self-worship. With immeasurable longing God has sought to reveal His love to mankind. The loftiness of His sacred desire and planned destiny for His people is beyond our most penetrating dreams; it has not yet entered the heart of man.
While governments and corporate tycoons work unceasingly to gather vast amounts of money to satisfy and capitalize human pride to launch space probes and missions to planets afar, God longs to lay the universe at our feet. The cost? To understand the truth of the incarnation. The universe stands amazed at our ingratitude and our mental block.
The Groom is waiting, the guests are invited, where is the bride?
The Father is infinitely grieved when we interpret the Saviour's birth, life and death, as merely some means to compensate for the fall of man and his sinful rebellion. The incarnation must be understood as a cosmic promise and the desire of God Himself calling us, as a corporate body, to a destiny beyond our most profound dreams. Merged with Him through His infinite love He will have a bride that comprehends "the breadth, and length, and depth, and height" of His love and "be filled with all the fulness of God," and she will be like Him (Ephesians 3:18,19).
For this purpose He was "made like unto His brethren."
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