Lesson 11 – The Key Topics of the Bible (2)
Eternal life is simply life, it is not merely a blessing. In our physical body we have a biological life (bios), and in our soul we have a psychological life (psuche). We had these two kinds of life before we were saved. But when we were saved, we received another life, the eternal life (zoe). The eternal life is the life that is not only everlasting but eternal both in time and in nature (John 3:16, 36; 1 John 1:2). This life is unlimited both in time and in nature; hence, it is eternal. The eternal life is the uncreated life of God (Eph. 4:18), the indestructible life (Heb. 7:16), and the incorruptible life (2 Tim. 1:10). The eternal life is the life that is in the Son of God and that is the Son of God (1 John 5:11-12). This life is not only in the Son of God, but it is the Son of God Himself. The eternal life is the life with which the believers are regenerated and which becomes the believers’ life (Col. 3:4a), making the believers the children of God (John 1:12-13) and the members of Christ (Eph. 5:30). To be regenerated is simply to receive God into us as our life, to receive a life that is divine, a life other than our human life.
In 1 Timothy 6:12 the apostle Paul charged us to lay hold on this eternal life. The New Testament teaches us that the eternal life has three stages… [in three ages]. In the first age, the church age, we receive the eternal life. Thus, it becomes our life, and we enjoy this life and live by it. In this age the eternal life is for us to receive as a free gift (Rom. 6:23b), but in the coming age [the kingdom age] the eternal life will be for us to enter into, not as a free gift but as a reward. Then, in the eternal age, that is, in the new heaven and the new earth with the New Jerusalem as the center, the eternal life will eventually be the consummated gift for all God’s redeemed people to manifest the Triune God for eternity.
The believers are tripartite beings of spirit, soul, and body (1 Thes. 5:23). The believers are redeemed, justified, and reconciled to God in Christ (Rom. 3:24; 5:10a). We have not only been saved; we have been redeemed, justified, and reconciled to God in Christ. The believers have been baptized into the Triune God to have an organic union with the processed Triune God (Matt. 28:19). M. R. Vincent, said, “Baptizing into the name of the Holy Trinity implies a spiritual and mystical union with Him.” Baptism is to baptize us into the Triune God that we may have an organic union with the processed Triune God. The believers are regenerated in their spirit by the Spirit (John 3:5-6) with the divine life, which is Christ (Col. 3:4a), to be the children of God (John 1:12-13), having the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4b), and to be the members of Christ (Rom. 12:5) in the union of the divine life. The believers have been sanctified positionally by the blood of Christ (Heb. 13:12) and are being sanctified dispositionally by the Spirit (Rom. 15:16; 6:19, 22), that they may be renewed, transformed in their soul (Rom. 12:2a; 2 Cor. 3:18), conformed to the image of the firstborn Son of God (Rom. 8:29), and glorified (redeemed) in their body (Rom. 8:23) in the glory of the processed Triune God (Rom. 8:30, 17-18).
The church is the goal God wants to obtain in His eternal economy (eternal plan, dispensation). Each one of us who is saved participates in this goal, that God may obtain His heart’s desire according to His good pleasure. Therefore, we must also know the church. The Lord Jesus Christ said that He will build His church (Matt. 16:18). The church is what Christ will build through His death, resurrection, and ascension. The term “church” is ekklesia in Greek, which means the called out assembly. Thus, according to its literal meaning, the church is the congregation called out from the world by God. It is not a church building or any edifice for the worship of God. The apostle Paul said, “The church, which is His Body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). The church is the Body with Christ as the Head; it is constituted for Christ in His life and Spirit with all those who have believed into Him. It is a living organism and not a lifeless organization like the clubs and associations in society.
The body of a man is the fullness of a man to be his expression. Likewise, the church is the fullness of Christ to be His expression. Since Christ is the One who is unlimited and extensive, and who fills all in all, He needs a great Body to be the fullness of Himself who fills all in all to express Him in all things. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” This word reveals that the church is also Christ’s counterpart. As the Body of Christ, the church receives life from Him for His expression; this is a matter of life. As the counterpart of Christ, the church receives His love for the satisfaction of His heart’s desire; this is a matter of love.
The Bible also tells us, “That you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). [To Christ, the church is His Body and His counterpart, while to God, the church is His house. On the one hand, this house refers to God’s dwelling place, and on the other hand, it refers to God’s family, God’s household. These two, God’s household and God’s dwelling place, are just one. God’s household is the very house for God’s dwelling (Eph. 2:19, 22). A person’s house is his place of living, residing, and rest. The church, being God’s house, is also such a place to God. Today, the living God is living, residing, and resting in the church on the earth.
God is living, and the church as His house is also living, having the life of God, living, residing, and resting with God. Thus, the living house of God is the pillar and base of all His reality, which is the reality (truth) of the universe. Everything of this living God is the reality in the universe. Without Him, the universe is vain and empty; yet all His reality is being supported and upheld by the church, which is His living house. Colossians 3:10-11 says, “And having put on the new man, which is being renewed unto full knowledge according to the image of Him who created him; where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, freeman, but Christ is all and in all.” [Just as all of mankind is a corporate old man created in Adam, the church is also a corporate new man. Christ, having abolished on the cross all the ordinances which caused discord among men, created this new man in Himself (Eph. 2:14-15). This new man bears the image of its Creator, Christ, who is its life and its content. In this new man, there are no persons of the old creation belonging to any race, religion, culture, or class. Only Christ is all the constituents of this new man and is in all its constituents. The church as the Body of Christ takes Christ as its life for His expression; the church as the new man takes Christ as its person for the fulfillment of God’s will. “The church of God…those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints” (1 Cor. 1:2). The church is constituted with all those who have believed into Christ and who possess His life. Any person who has not believed into Christ and has not been saved cannot become a constituent of the church. Without being saved, even our closest relatives are not constituents of the church. Only after they are saved and have the Lord’s life to become saints are they constituents of the church.
A kingdom is not a simple matter. For example, the United States as a nation, a kingdom, is not a simple matter. The kingdom of God includes many things that need to be understood. In the Old Testament there is the kingdom of Israel. In the New Testament there is the kingdom of the heavens. Then after the church age there will be a period of a thousand years known as the millennium. The millennium is a kingdom of a thousand years (Rev. 20:4, 6). If we read the Scriptures carefully, we will see that even in the millennium there are some further divisions. The kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament, the kingdom of the heavens in the New Testament, and the millennial kingdom after the church age are parts of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God runs from eternity to eternity. It is a realm, a sphere, in which God can rule and exercise His authority. From eternity past to eternity future there is such a thing called the kingdom of God. In this kingdom, God exercises His authority to rule over all things.
THE NEW JERUSALEM
The New Jerusalem is a sign signifying the dwelling place of God and man in eternity. After God finished the creation of all things and man, He used different ways in the different dispensations in the old heaven and old earth to carry out His work in the man of the old creation by choosing, redeeming, renewing, transforming, and glorifying them; thus, He perfects them according to His desire and builds them up to be His eternal habitation, which is the New Jerusalem of His heart’s desire. This is the crystallized product and masterpiece of God’s work of the new creation throughout the generations. Revelation 21:2 and 9 clearly tell us that the New Jerusalem is the bride, the wife of the Lamb. In the whole Bible God repeatedly likens His chosen people to a spouse (Isa. 54:6; Jer. 3:1) for His satisfaction in love. As the wife of Christ, the New Jerusalem comes out of Christ to be His spouse, just as Eve came out of Adam and became his counterpart (Gen. 2:21-24). The bride is mainly for the wedding day, while the wife is for the entire married life. The New Jerusalem will first be the bride of Christ in the millennium for one thousand years as one day (2 Pet. 3:8), and then His wife in the new heaven and new earth for eternity. The bride in the millennium will include only the overcoming saints (Rev. 3:12; 19:7-9), but the wife in the new heaven and new earth will include all the redeemed and regenerated sons of God (Rev. 21:7).
The Bible is a record and a revelation of God’s two great works, the first being God’s work of the old creation, and the second, God’s work of the new creation. God’s work of the old creation is a preparation for His work of the new creation. It is His work of the new creation that will accomplish His divine and eternal economy. The New Jerusalem is the ultimate consummation of His two great works; it is the masterpiece of His divine work and the crystallized product of His works of the old creation and the new creation. The New Jerusalem is mysterious, divine, glorious, and holy. Its revelation is the conclusion and consummation of the whole Bible, including both the Old and New Testaments.