KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
THE INCREASE OF THE KINGDOM
What is man? The question is asked five times in the scriptures by men who probed the deep purposes of God. We first find this question in the book of Job, which is the most ancient of the inspired writings we have come to know as the Bible. It predates the first five books of the Bible, the books of Moses, and its exact origin is a mystery. It came out of antiquity, emerged from the mists of obscurity, and has always been a classic of human history. Job was a man of whom God witnessed that he was a perfect man, none like him in all the earth, an upright man who feared God and hated evil (Job 1:8). And yet God subjected him to testings so severe, that it is hard to believe that any man has been more severely tried. Why did God do this? Job wondered about this himself. He wondered about the plight of all humanity, the good and the evil that befalls every man, the joys and the sorrows, the triumphs and the tragedies. Job saw that all men were being tested in various ways. Why was this? In some cases man's lot didn't seem reasonable. So Job asked the probing question, "What is man that Thou shouldest magnify him? or that Thou shouldest set Thine heart upon him? and that Thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?" (Job 7:17-18).
It appeared to Job that there must be some great and divine purpose in man, that of all the creatures God had made in the universe, man was singled out for special treatment. God was dealing with man every moment of every day, in a way that was hard to understand. Man seemed to be in some great school of experience where the lessons were uncommonly difficult and the discipline exceedingly severe. There must be some purpose behind it all, some great goal, some grand scheme that God had in mind, and Job was moved to search out what it was. And so his question, "What is man?" What is the purpose of man's experience on earth? What is the plan behind creation? Why was man created and formed, and why do You visit him every morning, and try him every minute? There has to be some divine reason for all this, some mysterious purpose behind it all. But what?
Further along in Job's testing understanding began to break like the light of morning with a view of God's purpose in man and he cried out, "He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job. 23:10). Ah, when God had tried Job he came out on the other side a far different and better man, a greater man, with an experiential knowledge of God and His ways, and at the end of his training was able to confess, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye seeth Thee" (Job 42:5). He had heard of God before, he had been taught religion and doctrines and creeds and ceremonies, and all he knew was men's opinions, ideas, concepts and theories; but now he saw God, he knew God for himself, and understood the mystery of His great purpose in man as he had not understood before. God answered his question: "What is man?"
This question is asked again in Job 15:14. The next time we meet it is in Psalm 8:4. "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visiteth him?" This was David, the shepherd king asking it this time. He prefaced his question with this astute observation: "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man?"
Come with me now to the hills of Judea surrounding the village of Bethlehem, walk with me in the stillness of a star-studded night long centuries before the Christ came to earth. A young lad, a shepherd boy, at the close of the day has gathered his sheep into the fold, and sitting upon a jutting rock, gazes with contemplation into the arching vastnesses of space, at all those billions of galaxies with their trillions of stars and suns and planets and moons, scintillating in all their glory. Observing the harvest moon coming up over the dark horizon, he is awed and fascinated with the majesty of the heavens, and in the wonder of the moment begins to commune in his heart with Yahweh, the Creator of it all. What a beautiful situation that must have been! There alone in the sacred stillness of the night, no city noises, no clapping tires of eighteen-wheelers on the freeway, no noisy throngs of people rushing here and there, no gaudy flashing neon lights, no smog to blur the beauty of those exquisite stars. Just himself, and his flock of sheep, now resting in the fold -- and God.
As David stared into the twinkling glory above him, he said to God, "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visiteth him?" "Lord, what is all this? What are they doing out there? Why did you make them? What am I here for? What is man that Thou art mindful of him? Why do you visit and deal with the sons of men? Where does man fit into the great scheme of creation? What role is man destined to play in your universal purpose? Surely this was not all made for nothing! Perish the thought that it is all merely your plaything, designed for your entertainment. There must be some grand scheme behind it all, some great mystery yet to be unfolded. Lord, tell me about it, give me understanding and wisdom, instruct my heart, enlighten my mind. Teach me where I fit, where man fits, into the equation. Am I here only to tend sheep, to live out a miserable existence, full of trials and sorrows, with only old age and the grave at the end? Is that all there is to this? Or is there something that I am missing?" Ah, I know the feeling in David's heart that blessed night, for I have felt the same way, and have asked the same questions in my heart.
It has always pleased the Lord to shroud the deep things of God in mystery and to cover them as with a cloud of glory. Centuries ago David sought in prayer that he might understand God's ways in man. The word of the Lord came to him as it did to Job, and God granted him to be among that elect people to whom understanding is given of the great and glorious plan of God behind all His works. David knew that God was dealing with man in a very special way, and he wanted to know why. To David's heart came the most sublime of all truths. His spirit rejoiced as the heavens opened and the mind of God was revealed in him. When God revealed to David the purpose of His working with mankind, David began to speak eternal truths in the spirit of prophecy, declaring, "For Thou hast made man but a little lower than Elohim, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet" (Ps. 8:5-6).
As we meditate upon this blessed truth, surely we must realize that when God placed Adam, formed of the ground, in the lovely garden of Eden, he was just in the first stage of being the man that God wanted. He was like the lump of clay placed on the potter's wheel, he had not yet been scraped, glazed, and fired, and was in no way ready to assume his role as ruler of the universe. Surely his "fall" is the proof of that! He was the most glorious of all God's magnificent creation, yet he was like a little baby in a state of innocence. How could he exercise dominion over the earth and over starry worlds beyond (all the works of God's hands), how could he stand as a judge and ruler over nature, how could he command celestial orbs, and living entities of all kinds, from demons of darkness to angels of might and glory, when he himself had no sense of right and wrong, no knowledge of good and evil, and no experience with the laws of the universe or the ways of divine government?
The scriptures tell us that we shall judge the world and angels, that we shall inherit all things and rule from the Father's throne, but how many of us are in a position to do that yet? Have any of us got the knowledge, the wisdom, the understanding, or the experience to fill such a position? There is only one man thus far who has qualified for this great task -- the man Christ Jesus. Jesus is God's finished product! Jesus is God's perfected man! And how was he made perfect? Through the things that He suffered (Heb. 2:9-10). This is the revelation God gave to Job when he posed the question, "What is man?" Even though Jesus was born the Son of God, as the Son of man He had to be processed, He had to be subjected to the trials and the fire, He had to pass through God's great school of dominion, He had to learn the lessons and be trained in the ways and wisdom of His Father, as every human-divine son has to be before he can ascend the throne and fulfill God's purpose in rulership over all things. "For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Heb. 2:10). "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience through the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" (Heb. 5:8-9). It was absolutely necessary that the firstborn Son of God first be perfected to bear the image and likeness of God before ascending the throne at God's right hand. But, praise God, He is not to be the only one! There is going to be a vast multitude of sons who will be just like Him, and they are in the process now, even as I pen these words, of becoming like Him.
Can we not see by this that our present travail is distinctly necessary for the bringing about of God's glorious purpose for His sons. Our singular experience of trial, suffering, and overcoming is to render itself in a unique position of glory! The eighth Psalm is a poem on the excellence of the divine government in all the world, yea, through the entire universe. It begins by stating that God has set His glory above the heavens. Then follows a not unnatural contrast between man's littleness and the greatness of the unbounded heavens. The universe in all its immensity is contrasted with man, who seems but a speck in the ocean of infinity. What thoughtful mind does not echo the sentiment, "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him! and the son of man, that Thou visiteth him!" Yet there is something altogether unique even in the local habitation of planet earth which has been assigned to this mysterious being. But it is not to this that the Psalmist refers. He speaks of the extraordinary position of man in what may be called the spiritual universe, and describes him as being made but a little lower than Elohim, and being crowned with glory and honor, and enthroned as the ruler of all. Man was meant to rule ALL THE WORKS OF GOD'S HANDS! Man was destined to exercise a divine and spiritual dominion, the authority of God Himself invested in man. The image of God would clothe him with divine power. All things would be subject to his word. His life fluid would be heavenly. His will would be in God, and the fullness of God would dwell in him. He would live in paradise, clothed with heavenly glory. The light of the majesty of God would emanate from him, and he would live on the paradisical fruit of the Word of God. He would know no limitation, no sickness nor sorrow, and no death. All things everywhere would be subject to him in the fire of his love.
MAN -- THE IMAGE OF GOD
It all goes back to the creation of man. Jesus said, "The Father hath given Him (the Son) AUTHORITY...because He is the SON OF MAN" (Jn. 5:26-27). One might think it should have read, "because He is the SON OF GOD," but it doesn't say that. The awesome and universal authority of the Son is rooted in the fact that He is the SON OF MAN. Why was it necessary for Jesus to be the "Son of man" to have authority on earth? That man should bear the image of God and have dominion over all things is the first announcement of God's intention regarding man and the first announcement of His purpose, and locked up in that wonderful declaration is a universe of meaning that does not reach the eye and that the mind has never understood. We must re-establish and re-define the purpose of our existence. Why are we here? The purpose of God in man has been blurred, distorted, and hideously mangled by the carnal teachings of the church systems.
Oh that men would awaken to the truth that God has provided the answer to humanity's dilemma! "Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that MAN whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). I hope that we all have become aware that that MAN by whom God shall judge the world in righteousness is a CORPORATE MAN. "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ...for the perfecting of the saints...till we all come in 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. 4:1,12-13). "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that ye shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life" (I Cor. 6:2-3).
God in His great purpose of redemption and restoration is raising up A MAN, the MANY-MEMBERED CHRIST OF GOD. He is preparing an instrument, a channel through which to rule, deliver and bless. God has a MAN to fix creation's problems! You see, beloved, when God injected Himself into the history of this world to save, lift, redeem and restore it, He could not do it as God. He had to do it as man. That is why God was manifest in the flesh, because anything that is done in a governmental way on this earth must be done through man. "Let them have dominion..." is God's own sovereign edict and delegation of governmental authority. Man's rulership of the earth and the heavens is built into the constitution which He framed for creation. For God, as God, to do the job would be unconstitutional! Man is God's constitutional agent. To man has been given the stewardship of the earth and of the heavens! That is why there is now a perfected MAN reigning in the heavens! God remains the owner, but man is the manager and overseer -- the judge, ruler, priest and king! Jesus Christ had to take upon Himself the form of man, the likeness of flesh, being made in all things like unto His brethren, because nothing happens on this earth except through man The Captain of our salvation, the High Priest of our profession, the Head of the Christ-body, the firstborn Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords IS THE MAN CHRIST JESUS, not the God Christ Jesus; He is the SON OF MAN, not God the Son.
Man in the image of God is God's government in the Kingdom of God. Creation was originally established with a degree of splendor suitable to the dignity of Adam as its appointed ruler. Man was the final and crowning work of God's hands! I would draw your attention, beloved saint of God, to the fact that man was not created on the first day, nor on the second or third, but in the end of the sixth day when all the rest of God's creation had been completed. It was only after the vastness of the heavens and the earth and all the hosts of them had been made that the Creator proclaimed the awesome fiat, "Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness: and let them have DOMINION" (Gen. 1:26). You see, the dominion of the whole Kingdom was given unto man! David explains this universal dominion in the eighth Psalm. "When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what IS man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visiteth him?" And then he answers the question! "Thou hast made him a little lower than Elohim, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet."
Now that phrase, "under his feet," is a Hebrew term which means that man was to have authority over all the works of God's hands, over all creation, over the earth, the moon, and the stars, over absolutely everything! He was to rule it all, govern it all, be head of it all. God made man for that intent and purpose. That is the answer to the question, "What is man?" That is what man is! The writer to the Hebrews makes this truth so plain that only a fool could question it. "But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visiteth him? Thou madest him a little lower than God; Thou crownest him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put ALL THINGS in subjection under his feet. For in that He put ALL in subjection under him, He left NOTHING that is NOT put under him" (Heb. 2:6-8). There is holy wonder to these words that is almost beyond our understanding. Nothing has been left outside the dominion of man! Weymouth puts it this way: "Thou hast put everything in subjection under his feet. For this subjecting of the universe to man implies leaving nothing that is not subject to him. But we do not yet see the universe subject to him." The whole cosmos really belongs to mankind, it is his dominion, his sphere of authority, and everything is to be put under his control.
Now for Jesus to have anything to do with this dominion He had to become a man, for the dominion was given to man, and in order for Him to receive the kingdom, He had to be a man. As the eternal Word of God He could have nothing to do with this dominion, though it was through Him that all these things were made. But become a man He did, and through His life of obedience to the Father, by His holiness, His purity, His grappling with sin, sorrow, pain, limitation, and death, and triumphing over it, He qualified to receive the Kingdom and be the ruling head of it, the King of glory. The man in God's image has a divine and royal destiny to exercise dominion and authority in this world and throughout the unbounded heavens. He is to be the head of all. All that happens in the cosmos must take place under the direction of man. God created all things and then man in His image and likeness, as the connecting link between God and His creation, that through man in His image and likeness the invisible God might be seen and known and touched by the visible creation. The face of God would be revealed for all creation to behold, in the face of man. The likeness of God would be made known to the entire universe in and by man. The love, grace, wisdom, knowledge, power and glory of God would be exercised toward every creature and world and order throughout the vastnesses of infinity through the man in the image and likeness of God!
When God gave the world and all things into the power of man, who should rule it as a viceroy under Him, it was His plan that Adam should do nothing but with God and through God, and God Himself would do all His work in the universe through Adam. Can we not see by this that Adam was appointed God's KING-PRIEST on behalf of all creation? It had nothing to do with the fall of man or of other worlds, but everything to do with the revelation of God to creation and rule over it. When sin entered the world, Adam's power was proved to be a terrible reality, for through him the earth, with the whole race of man, and all things, was brought under the curse of sin and death. When he fell his kingdom fell with him. When he came under the dominion of sin and death he took all that he ruled with him. But when creation's new rulers, the second man, the last Adam, the corporate Christ, Head and body, are manifested as the sons of God, their kingdom will be elevated again with them. Christ has raised us up, and we shall raise them up! As the sons of God are forever freed from sin, sickness, sorrow, fear, limitation and death -- then will their realm be.
From the earliest dawn of creation's light it has been God's intention, and His eonian purpose, to make man in His image and after His likeness. This was His initial, original and only statement about His will for mankind: "Let us make man in our image and after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the works of our hands." We read in Genesis how God affirms that "it was good" after each act of creation -- except after the sixth day, when man was created. There follows a concluding assessment that God saw that all of His creation was good -- but not necessarily the creation of man. Man was not declared to be good, He was declared to be THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF GOD! This was God's purpose from the beginning, and He has never deviated from that purpose or changed or revamped it in any way. When our Father's great plan of the ages has been consummated, He will have accomplished exactly what He set out to do in that long ago beginning. He initiated this purpose when father Adam stepped forth out of His creative hand, He has been working on it ever since, and will continue until the whole race of mankind shines forth in the brightness, wisdom, knowledge, holiness, power and glory of the omnipotent Creator.
The making of man in His image and after His likeness is the pivotal point of all God's actions. This cherished plan which God kept hidden in His mind from eternity motivates all that He is working toward in the whole scheme of creation. Everything that has happened in the history of mankind, or is happening, is working to bring about this glorious end. It is with this unwavering resolution that God arranges all His works. When once we see this by the spirit of wisdom and revelation from God, we are for the first time able to truly understand all the various aspects of His plan, and all His doings, and all that shall take place in the ages to come. As the light of revelation streams from realms above, and our minds become enlightened to the higher and divine purpose behind all things, we see how great and glorious is the intention of God in man! The idea held by most Christians, that God finished this work with Adam in the garden is far, far, from the truth. God's original plan was not to make just one man in the garden in His image, or one Son two thousand years ago in His image, or a few saints through the ages into His image, but to make a whole race of beings in His image and likeness and give them dominion over everything He has made! When God began this vast, beautiful and wonderful creation, that is what He had in mind to do. Oh, the wonder of it!
The grandest of all truths is that CHRIST IS THE IMAGE OF GOD! If you want to know what God had in mind when He said, "Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness," you have only to look at Jesus Christ. That is what God meant! "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of CHRIST, WHO IS THE IMAGE OF GOD, should shine unto them" (II Cor. 4:3-4). "In whom we have redemption through His blood...who is THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD, the firstborn (prototype) of every creature" (Col. 1:14-15). His dignity is still further elaborated in these words of the writer to the Hebrews: "Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels..." (Heb. 1:3-4). The Amplified Bible reads, "He is the...expression of the glory of God -- the Light-being, the out-raying of the divine -- and He is the perfect imprint and very image of God's nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power...taking a place and rank by which He Himself became...superior to angels..."
How totally inadequate do our words become in the light of words of such wonder as these! Jesus is the prototype of what God intends man to be. He is God's finished product, God's perfect man; what every man should be and ultimately will be. We will only understand the majesty of man in God's image when we see Jesus as THE BEAM OF THE DIVINE GLORY, or THE OUT-RAYING OF GOD'S PERSON. We have never seen the sun -- we have only seen the light-rays which emanate from it. The light that floods our earth is not the sun itself, for were the sun to truly come into our world there would be nothing left but a cinder. The sunbeams radiate from the sun, travel ninety-three million miles through space, arriving at planet earth some eight minutes later. The ray is of the same constitution as the orb from which it comes; if you analyze its character you will learn something of the very nature of the sun; they live in perpetual and glorious unity. The sunbeam originates in and as the sun itself, and is the emanation, out-raying, effulgence, expression manifestation and revelation of the sun. We are reminded of those inspired words which tell us that "no man has ever seen God at any time; the uniquely begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him -- He has revealed Him, brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known" (Jn. 1:18, KJV & Amplified). God's Christ is the out-raying, projection, expression and revelation of the very Father Himself!
The Christ is also the express or exact image of the Father's person, the perfect imprint and very image of God's nature. The allusion here is to the impression made in ancient times by a seal on molten wax; and as the image made on the wax is the exact representation (though on another substance) of the die, so is Christ the exact representation of the Father in human flesh. And thus He was able to say, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." The life of Jesus is the life of God transmuted into the form of our human life, so that we may see, touch, hear, know, understand, and experience the very being and nature of God in human terms. The natural mind cannot understand such a truth as this, but this is what God meant when He said, "Let us make man in our image and after our likeness." CHRIST is the image of God and God meant for every man to look and speak and act and be just like Jesus Christ. This is the value of man's life in redemption, for God sent One who was all that man was meant to be to purchase us -- not to harps and golden streets and fluttering wings in some far-off heaven somewhere -- but back to relationship with God as sons in His very own image.
As we consider the wonderful advent of man created "in the image of God" we can only conclude that this is a SPIRITUAL MAN brought forth out of the very spirit-substance of God almighty, and bearing His own divine nature, character, power and attributes. The image of God is the nature of God reproduced in man. Thus, man is the true image of God! The divine nature was best and fully expressed in the man Christ Jesus who shined upon mortals the truest revelation of God and lifted man's sights higher than their poor thoughts would allow. Jesus revealed to men their true origin, heritage and destiny. He came to show man what man really is, was intended to be, and through redemption and so great a salvation shall be -- THE IMAGE OF GOD. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. In Jesus Christ you see man as he was in the beginning, and as he ever shall be world without end -- THE IMAGE OF GOD WITH DOMINION OVER ALL THINGS.
We have come to the most sublime of all truths. The beauty of these celestial realities is found in the fact that all Jesus did He did "for us" -- not in our place, but on our behalf. A musician demonstrates the beauty of the music he teaches in order to show the learner the way by practice as well as precept. This was the precious import of our Lord's sinless life and of His demonstration of power over the whole flesh realm, including death. Our heavenly Father demands that all men should follow the example of our Lord and Master. In order to enter the Kingdom of the Heavens, the anchor of hope must be cast beyond the veil of this carnal, dying realm into the Shekinah into which Jesus has passed before us; and this advance beyond the law of sin and death must come through the joys and triumphs of a people "led by the Spirit" who are "the sons of God" as well as through their sorrows and afflictions. It is by facing the enemy in the crucible of experience and by the authority of the Spirit that victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat. Each and every test in our lives is an opportunity to prove for ourselves and demonstrate to those about the triumph of the Spirit over the flesh. Step by step, battle by battle, victory upon victory we ascend into the heights of the Kingdom of Heaven. the image of God and the dominion restored in man.
One can never comprehend the length and breadth and height and depth of God's great plan of creation and redemption until he first understands that Jesus Christ is the revelation of the value of every man. In the mysterious mists of Eden God breathed into man the breath of His own divine life and prophesied of this man that he would be the image and likeness of Himself, and in due time would take his place in the Father's great Kingdom with dominion over all the works of His hands. There is a story about a little piece of wood that once bitterly complained because its owner kept whittling away at it, gouging it and making holes in it. But the one who was cutting it paid no attention to the stick's protests. He was making a flute out of that piece of ebony, and he was too wise to stop when the wood complained so bitterly. The man said, "Little piece of wood, without these rifts and holes, and all this cutting, you'd be just a stick forever -- a useless piece of ebony. What I am doing now may seem as if I am destroying you, but instead it will change you into a flute. Your sweet music will charm the souls of many and comfort sorrowing hearts. My cutting you is the making of you, for only thus can you be a blessing in the world." The meaning of this little parable is clear: That flute, whose music blended so sweetly in the orchestra, was made a flute only by the knife and file that filled it with rifts and holes which seemed to be its very destruction. But the purpose of the master was that it might become a melodious instrument to the praise of God. The Lord is shaping us. He is processing us into His image, that His glory might be revealed in creation. Hallelujah!
This divine potential lies in the spirit of every man and shows the value of man's life. Some do not believe that the seed of God abides in every man, but I do not hesitate to tell you that the spirit of every man originated with God and came out of God. If every man is spirit, soul, and body, then where else did man's spirit come from? When the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us we learned the true dignity of man. The wonder is not that God could stoop so low but that man was created so high, that He took our nature. The sinless Son of Man reveals indeed what a fall man has suffered, but shows what a destiny is his, when once the image of his Creator has been restored. Why lift a sot from his gutter to care for him and rehabilitate him and bring him to God? The reason is that man has in him some touch of the eternal and must be saved; and some ultimate tide of compassion moves us to save him! His salvation is not merely from his drink, from his lust, from his sin and bondage and hell; it is salvation unto all his awesome potential as a child of the Father in heaven! Is that not what Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son teaches us? Man was meant to be the head of creation.
Can man who has sunk so low be raised so high? Consider with me the destiny of one muddy road. The clay, left long enough, hardens into a sapphire. The sand becomes by refraction of light an opal. The soot is a diamond in the rough. And the water when it freezes, is a snow-white star. Ah, there is a finer destiny for muddy humanity, but you do not see it in our raw state! Only the mighty pressures and processes of God's redemptive dealings can transform the murky elements into the essence of divine beauty, glory and power! And this, my beloved, is the answer to Job's piercing question, "What is man, that Thou shouldest magnify him? and that Thou shouldest set Thine heart upon him? and that Thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?"
Sin-cursed and sin-broken, sick and weak, murderer and prostitute, proud and arrogant, mean and vindictive -- all that is humanity! But is that the value of mankind? What is the value of human life? JESUS is the value! For just such humanity there was the Man from Galilee, the Son of God, the express image of the Father, the pure, sinless, harmless One, love personified, the heir of all things, the Lord of the universe -- there was that One nailed to a cross, to redeem every man that ever lived or shall live. THAT IS THE VALUE OF MAN'S LIFE! JESUS IS THE VALUE OF MAN! The price that is paid for an object reflects its value. The price God paid for humanity was His own Son in the image and glory of the Father. God saw beneath man's tattered garment and marred image His own omnipotent potential buried there. Love pierced through the gloom and roughness and saw a diamond in the rough, but a diamond sure enough. It was in that divine spark within man's spirit capable of being renewed that we find the reason for the cross. The cross was God's great act by which He released His life-flow, the precious blood of Jesus, to heal, quicken, and restore man to his place in God.
It would do us all a world of good to take inventory of our attitudes -- how we see men. I fear that we would be both surprised and disturbed to see how often we view men out of our carnal minds rather than with the eyes of our heavenly Father -- the prodigal's Father! Oh mystery of mysteries! Jesus went to the cross not only to take away our sins, He went there for the good in man, to redeem it and restore it into the image and likeness of God. The deepest mystery of all is that God is multiplying Himself in man, and is bringing Himself into a new dimension. There is a MAN seated upon the highest throne of heaven. Not an angel, not a cherub, but a MAN! That man still is clothed in the body that walked along the shores of Galilee, for the cave of Joseph of Arimathea is empty, although that body has been spiritualized by the power of incorruptible life.
The dwelling place of a son of God is in the Father and the dwelling place of the Father is in the sons. The sons are the out-raying of the Father's substance and the perfect imprint of His nature in human form. I never enjoy trying to see pictures where no picture exists, but it is plain to an understanding born from above that ultimately all men will be manifested sons of God, for Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, died and rose again to save and redeem and restore all men to God as His very own children. That will be the glorious consummation of God's ages-long purpose to make man into His image and after His likeness. Nothing short of that can suffice. Only then will God be ALL-IN-ALL!
This wonderful truth cannot be stated more eloquently than it has been by F. B. Meyer in his book THE WAY INTO THE HOLIEST. He writes, "'We behold Jesus...crowned with glory and honor' (Heb. 2:9). This is the crown wherewith His Father crowned Him in the day of the gladness of His heart, when, as man, He came forth victorious from the wrestle with the prince of hell. All through His earthly life He fulfilled the ancient ideal of man. He was God's image; and those who saw Him saw the Father. He was Sovereign in His commands. Winds and waves did His bidding. Trees withered at His touch. Fish in shoals obeyed His will. Droves of cattle fled before His scourge of small cords. Disease and death and devils owned His sway. But all was more fully realized when He was about to return to His Father, and said, in a noble outburst of conscious supremacy, 'All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.'
"As He is, we too shall be. He is there as the type and specimen and representative of redeemed men. We are linked with Him in an indissoluble union. Through Him we shall get back our lost empire. We too shall be crowned with glory and honor! The day is not far distant when we shall sit at His side -- joint heirs in His empire; comrades in His glory, as we have been comrades in His sorrows; beneath our feet all things visible and invisible, thrones and principalities and powers; whilst above us shall be the unclouded empyrean of our Father's love, for ever and for ever. Oh, destiny of surpassing bliss! Oh, rapture of saintly hearts! Oh, miracle of Divine Omnipotence!" -- end quote.
Bill Britton penned these instructive words: "Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:49 that 'as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.' We were once in the image of the Adamic man. We once bore the image of the man of sin, of the earthly man, but we shall bear the image of the Christ. We have born the image of Adam, we shall bear the image of Christ, Paul says. 'Have borne' is past tense -- that means I am not bearing it now. I am not under his control. I am free from sin -- I don't have to walk in sin. I don't have to obey it any more. I am not a slave to sin any longer. But I'm not yet bearing the fullness of the heavenly image because we 'shall bear' is a future tense. I'm not yet bearing the fullness of what He has prepared for me. Then where am I? I am in a process -- a progressive development. There is a present, progressive work going on in me. That's that redemption of the soul that is happening. The quicker we get our souls redeemed, the quicker we yield to the spirit, the quicker we are going to get in there for our bodies to be redeemed. As we have borne the image of Adam, we shall bear the image of Christ.
"John 1:14 says that the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. Does that mean the Word of God actually put on the wicked, sinful nature of old Adam? When Jesus was here, was He a man of sinful nature? The word 'flesh' here is not the word for sinful nature. Nor does it mean that He was just made fingers, toes, and so forth. If that was true, we would all have to try to work on our natural appearance so we could look like Jesus as much as possible. I don't know, and thank God the Bible doesn't say, what Jesus looked like physically. It doesn't tell us whether He was tall or short, fat or skinny, whether He was black, white, or brown. Some folks say He had a Jewish father, so He must have been brown. But He didn't have a Jewish father! He wasn't a Jew by race. He had a Father in heaven, and He was born of a virgin. He had a heavenly nationality. So I don't know what He looked like physically. And thank God I don't, because I would want to be just like that to bear His image, and I would be dissatisfied with the way I look, and I couldn't change it! But I'll tell you what I can change -- I can change this nature by the help of the Spirit, into the likeness of the nature that He was made of. That Word became human nature, or flesh, inside of a physical body. And that human nature was a holy nature -- the image of God!" -- end quote.
One of our long-time readers, Paul Stumpo, wrote in one of his letters this beautiful illustration of the image of God in His sons. "There is a technology today for making pictures that can be viewed in three dimensions. That is, the image has height, depth, and breadth. This technology is called holography. As with all photographic processes, light is needed to radiate a photographic plate with the desired object. However, with a holography, a special source of light is needed, light that is produced by a LASER. LASER light, simply stated, is completely harmonious with itself, light that is in time, in phase, and traveling in the same direction. Using a LASER, the object and the photographic plate are radiated and the image becomes 'inscribed' onto the photographic plate. The amazing thing with a holograph is that the complete image resides everywhere on the plate. This means that if a small piece is broken from the whole plate, that small piece will have the complete image on it and the complete image can be seen. Now, because this piece is not the whole piece, the image on it is blurry -- not clear for lack of details. The remaining large piece is diminished somewhat because of the few details lost by the removal of the small piece, but most of the clarity of the image is still there. Is it not the same with us, since we are very small pieces of that whole which is the body of Christ. As He radiates our life with HIS Image, we begin to take on that same Image. Now, if we view this Body as He views it, it is one complete whole, and that whole is now being radiated with the Light that He is -- that perfect, complete, in time, in phase, same direction LIGHT. Each of us being small parts carry within ourselves the whole Image with a certain aspect of the whole more pronounced within each of us, so that when fitly joined together, one clear, crisp, distinct Image can be seen."
THE SON OF MAN
Jesus constantly referred to Himself as "the Son of man." Most Christians read right over that, thinking it means Son of God, though it says He is a man. This does not mean that He was born of Adam, the fleshly man, nor even that Mary in some mysterious way contributed to His genetic makeup. In solemn truth we may search the Bible through and we will not find that the "second man" was in any way derived from the "first man." Jesus was not conceived by the union of divine sperm with Mary's human egg. Mary's life was Adam's life, and if Mary contributed anything at all to Jesus' life He would then have been from the fallen Adam and would have Himself been of the first man Adam. He would, therefore, have needed a Saviour instead of being the Saviour! Nothing is more certain than this -- Adam cannot redeem Adam! The fallen cannot perfect himself to redeem and restore himself. The very thought is an absurdity. I have heard men say that when Jesus says, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last," He means that He Himself was both the first man Adam who sinned and the last man Adam who redeemed. I do not hesitate to tell you that this is not only an improbability -- it is an impossibility!
The first man is of the earth, earthy, the record states; the second man is the Lord from heaven! The first man fell by sin, marred his image, lost his dominion, forfeited his inheritance, becoming a poor, miserable, degraded creature, ignorant and godless, the impotent plaything of circumstances, and weak and helpless to the last degree. The second man knew no sin, was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and walked even upon this earth in a realm higher than the heavens. Have you ever wondered how the second man became the Saviour of the first man if He Himself was the first man? How could the fallen man become the Saviour without a Saviour? If Jesus was like us in that He needed a Saviour, but was able to save Himself without a Saviour, and then save others, then mankind really needed no Saviour at all, for they could have, like Jesus, simply saved themselves. Such reasoning is spiritual tomfoolery and theological drivel.
What, then, does Jesus mean when He calls Himself the "Son of man"? He means that He was born from the realm of true manhood, formed in that state of being in which the first man dwelt before he sinned. Jesus stepped right out of that prophetic, spiritual, creative dimension where the word of God proclaims, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." He was the second man to be fashioned in that realm of true manhood by the creative word of God. Being the second man of GOD'S MANHOOD CREATION, He is called "the Son of man" or the offspring of GOD'S MANHOOD IDEA. The first man Adam stepped forth out of the Creative Mind of God's Idea of Manhood, and Jesus was the second man to proceed out of that Creative Manhood Idea of the Father. As the second man He is the SON OF MAN, the second of an Order, the second revelation of the image and likeness of God in man, birthed from the Manhood Mind of the Father. This man, being tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin, is THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF GOD!
What is an image? An image is something which is formed, a representation of something, a likeness. A true image would be that which correctly depicts the appearance, form, substance, nature, character, and being of whatever it stands for. A true image of God would have to be a true expression of who and what God is! Today we have many false images of God! These, whether idols, concepts, ideas, or theological creeds are manufactured out of the carnal minds of men according to their own darkened understanding. So we have a distorted image of God. Many preachers portray God as vengeful, vindictive, unforgiving, unmerciful, demanding, laying heavy yokes upon His followers, taking away our salvation the moment we slip or fall into sin, consigning all who die outside of Christ to unending torture in hell-fire, and many other hideous, monstrous images. But, blessed be God! Jesus Christ brought a true and correct image of God, by faithfully walking out the true and divine manhood. It was in MAN, the highest of God's creations, that God placed the "invisible things of Himself" for display. Now we are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ -- the image of God that Christ gave. All the holy sons of God are becoming the image of God in the earth to reveal the heart, nature, wisdom, power, glory and love of God to every order of the universe, worlds without end. Through these manifested sons all realms shall be blessed to see and touch and experience the image of God. ALL shall come to know Him! This is the purpose of God in man. And THIS IS THE INCREASE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
To be continued...
J. PRESTON EBY
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J. Preston Eby
P.O. Box 371240
El Paso TX 79937-1240
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