going further with our main point there are two things
that I want to say in parenthesis.
want to correct a possible misunderstanding. The heavenly
and spiritual Israel, which is the Church of Jesus
Christ, is not an afterthought of God. It was not brought
in because Israel failed. Please be very clear about
that. There are those who teach that that is so. They say
that the Lord offered it to Israel, who refused it. He
had to do something and so He got the idea of a Church.
It was quite an afterthought, a kind of emergency
movement of God. That is entirely false to the whole of
the Bible, and it is one thing we are seeking to show in
these days. We have said that everything in the Old
Testament, including Israel, had Christ and the Church in
view. It was all leading on to Christ and the Church, and
they take up all the divine thoughts of the past and
embody them in themselves. The Church is the eternal thing.
It was in the heart of God before time was and was chosen
in Christ before the foundation of the world. The Church
is no afterthought of God: it is a before-thought.
God's Son is no emergency matter. He may have come in
at a time of emergency, but He was in view for this
particular work from all eternity. The Church was
eternally intended to be the Body of Christ.
want you to keep that in mind in all that we are saying.
We believe that if Adam had not been disobedient in
unbelief he would have been 'conformed to God's Son'; but
his sin meant that he forfeited the divine intention. In
the same way Israel would have become incorporated into
the corporate expression of Christ, but in unbelief and
disobedience Israel forfeited that 'inheritance'. The
Church universal stood eternally over Israel. This is a
very important matter.
other thing that I want to emphasize is this: that this
new Israel, the Church, is essentially a spiritual thing,
as truly as Christ, here, now, is a spiritual matter. And
Christ is here in this world by the Spirit. As truly as
Christ is here - though no longer in physical presence
and on a temporal basis (we can only know Him and have
fellowship with Him spiritually) - so it is as to the
has to be a revolution in the minds of many Christians
about this matter. That word 'Church' is taken up and put
on to almost anything. Forgive me! I mean no offence, but
we are dealing with very vital matters. We hear of, speak
of, this church and that church - the Lutheran church,
the Methodist church, the Baptist church, the Anglican
church - and how many more? We speak of all these as the
church. From heaven's standpoint that is a lot of
nonsense. From heaven's standpoint those are not the
Church. They may represent one or other aspect of truth,
but not one of them has the whole of the truth, and when
you put them all together they have not all of the truth.
All the truth is in Jesus alone.
Church is a spiritual thing. You cannot look upon
anything material, or on people in the flesh, and say:
'That is the church.' You are only in the Church in so
far as there is something of Christ in you. It is Christ in
us that makes the Church. You see, the Church
is a unity in Christ.
Jesus never looks upon so many loaves of bread all over
the world when there is a gathering to His Table. I
suppose that on the Lord's Day there may be thousands of
loaves of bread being broken, and I do not know how many
cups - but heaven never sees more than one loaf or more
than one cup. The loaf is Christ, the cup is Christ, and
by partaking we are united in Christ.
not quite certain whether the translators were correct -
though there may be something in it - when they
translated the words of the Lord Jesus at the supper. In
the old version it says: "This is my body,
which is broken for you" (I Corinthians
11:24 - A.V.) There may be very real truth in using that
word 'broken'. Indeed, the Lord's body was broken, but
the later translators have left that word out and have
put: "This is my body, which is for you"
(I Corinthians 11:24 - R.V.). Perhaps that later
translation dismisses a false idea, for that word
'broken' has so often been taken to mean - 'Here is one
piece, there is another, and there is another'; pieces
all over the world. Christ is not divided. Paul
said: "Is Christ divided?" (I
Corinthians 1:13). No, Christ is not divided. There may
be a thousand pieces of the earthly loaf, but the
heavenly loaf is one, and that is how heaven sees the
church is a broken thing on the earth. It is broken into
many pieces down here, but in heaven it is seen as one,
and the sooner you and I see from heaven's standpoint the
better. If this man or this woman is "in
Christ", it does not matter whether he or she is in
our denomination or not, whether he or she is in our sect
or not. If they are "in Christ" they are part
with all others in Christ.
that the Church is a spiritual thing, not an earthly,
temporal thing, and that is a very important thing for us
to recognize; it is comprised of all who are born of the
taken a lot of time before we come on to our particular
point. We are doing this: Along one side we are tracing
God's ways with the old Israel, and along the other side
we are seeing that He takes the spiritual laws of that
old Israel and perpetuates them in the new Israel. What
He did in a temporal way with the first Israel, He is now
doing in a spiritual way with the new Israel.
word was that God's glory in Abraham reached its climax
in sonship. Sonship in death and resurrection as
represented by Isaac. Sonship is the climax of God's
back in the Letter to the Hebrews now. What is the climax
of that Letter and of all God's movement as contained in
it? It is found in one fragment: "Bringing many
sons unto glory" (Hebrews 2:10). That is the
climax of the glory of God. As it was in a temporal way
with Abraham, so it is in a spiritual way with the new
idea of sonship did not begin with Abraham and Isaac. It
only came out in them. It went right back before them -
it was God's cherished secret from before times eternal.
That secret has been lost in Abraham's seed after the
flesh, but is taken up in Abraham's Seed after the
probably know that the Letters to the Romans and the
Galatians are concerned with this very thing. The Apostle
is saying just this in the Letter to the Romans, chapters
nine, ten and eleven (all one section really). "They
are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (Romans
9:6) - 'All the natural children of Abraham are not
Israel. Israel is only the spiritual children of
go into the Letter to the Galatians that is explained
very carefully, and Paul reduces it to this one thing. He
refers to the promise made to Abraham: "In thy
seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Genesis
the thing that got Paul into a lot of trouble. He said: "(God)
saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And
to thy seed, which is Christ" (Galatians 3:16).
It is not the many natural children of Abraham, but the
spiritual children - and that is Christ and the
companions of Christ.
cried: "He shall see his seed... he shall see of
the travail of his soul" (Isaiah 53:10,11), and
this heavenly Jerusalem is the spiritual seed of Abraham,
which is Christ and the 'born from above' ones.
Letter to the Galatians teaches that the rest have gone.
Even all the other children of Abraham are now set aside,
and God recognizes only His spiritual children. This is
taken up in this phrase which has governed our whole
time: "Wherefore, holy brethren, companions of a
heavenly calling... we are become companions of
Christ, if we hold fast the beginning... firm unto the
end" (Hebrews 3:1,14).
spiritual and heavenly Israel is called "companions
of a heavenly calling", and we will dwell upon that
heavenly calling for a few minutes.
God's intention in this world concerning the first
Israel? It was that they should mediate light and life to
the nations. That was their divine calling - that the
nations should receive life through their light; that
they should be the channel of divine light and life to
the nations of this world. We could take quite a lot of
the Old Testament to show this, but we are going to use
only one illustration.
notice that all the sons of Israel were focused in one
son. (Of course, when we speak of Israel now, we mean
Jacob.) That son was Joseph. If it had not been for him
that whole nation would have perished, and not only the
sons and families of Jacob, but all Egypt. In a sense
that world would have perished. God's strange, sovereign
dealings with Joseph brought him, through death and
resurrection, to the throne. Then his brothers came to
Egypt and he made himself known to them. They went down
before him in utter shame, began to apologize and try to
excuse themselves. Poor, miserable, wretched fellows they
were! But what did Joseph say? "Be not grieved,
nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for
God did send me before you to preserve life" (Genesis
45:5). Life and light came not only to all the families
of Jacob, but to Egypt, the world, through Joseph. He was
the inclusive representative of all his brethren. God
made him like that, and he sets forth this truth that God
intended all Israel of old to be a minister of life and
light to the whole world. That was Israel's calling and
what they were intended for in the old dispensation. They
were just down here by God's appointment, right at the
centre of the nations, in a position of ascendancy, in
order to mediate light and life to the nations. Abraham's
seed was intended to do that, but that seed failed God,
and instead of fulfilling their calling, they
not dwell upon their failure. It is a dark and terrible
story. And for the last nearly two thousand years they
have been where the Lord Jesus said they would be: "The
sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer
darkness: there shall be the weeping and gnashing of
teeth" (Matthew 8:12). That is the story
of the earthly Israel, as a nation, through all these
past centuries. Thank God for all those who have escaped
from the outer darkness, who are not weeping and gnashing
their teeth, but are rejoicing in Christ Jesus! But that
is where the nation went, and the last stroke of that was
in A.D. 70.
the dark side. But God had not finished with an Israel.
He still had in view a 'Prince with God', for that is the
meaning of the name 'Israel'. This heavenly, spiritual
Israel to which you and I belong is called into the
vocation of Joseph. God has transferred that in a
spiritual way to us. We are here in this heavenly
calling, this spiritual vocation to minister light and
life to the world. That is to be our heavenly calling
now, and that is why the Lord Jesus said to His new
Israel: "Go ye therefore, and make
disciples of all the nations" (Matthew 28:19)
... 'Begin at Jerusalem... Samaria... all
Judaea... and unto the uttermost parts of the earth...
and wherever you are your heavenly calling is to bring
light and life from above.'
beginning the Church almost settled down in the earthly
Jerusalem. They were very slow to move away from there,
so the Lord took a big hammer and brought it down on the
Church in that city. Then they were all scattered abroad;
and the Lord said: 'I have finished with this earthly
city. The new Jerusalem is above, and the new, heavenly
calling is to all the nations.'
the heavenly calling of the spiritual Israel now, but
that has to come to fullness afterward. That fullness is
represented at the end of the Bible - "the holy
city, new Jerusalem, coming down out
of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:2).
No, this is not a material and political
world-center. This is the Church. These are the
companions of Christ represented in the symbolism of a
city, and the last word about that city is this: "And
the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof... and on
this side of the river and on that was the tree of
life... and the leaves of the tree were for the health
of the nations" (Revelation 21:2,4,
22:2). Did you notice that I changed a word? Our
translation says "for the healing of the
nations", but that is not correct. The nations will
not need healing in eternity, thank God! But they will
need their spiritual health ministered to.
us here do not need saving. Remember, by the way, that
the word 'salvation' in the original is the word
'health'. It is being in a state of good health.
That is the meaning of the word 'salvation' -
being in spiritually good health.
nations then will be those that have had the Gospel and
have responded: "The earth shall be filled with
the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters
cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14), but right at the
centre of the nations will be the Church, and
through the Church light and life will go out to maintain
the health of the nations.
everything has been said and done, and you have gone
right through the long, long story, at last you come to
the end in the last chapter of history in the Book
of the Revelation: and the last picture is of a
heavenly Israel ministering light and life to the
some of you Bible students and you people who are
interested in doctrine are troubled now with a question,
in view of what I have said. 'Does he mean that
the Church is one thing and that there are a lot of
people who are not of the Church? In other words, is the
city one thing and are the nations another?'
I am not
going to enter on any argument over that, but I am going
to bring you back to this Letter to the Hebrews for your
answer. It is one little word of two letters:
'IF'! "We are become companions of Christ if..."
: "Whose house are we if...". In one
sense the whole Letter circles round that little word. It
is not now a matter of salvation and getting into
heaven. It is now a matter of that instrument of
eternal vocation for all the rest. This is the height of
the heavenly calling. I leave you to answer the question
by studying this Letter again. It does seem to say
that everyone will not be the city. If everyone is the
city, where is the country? No, the city is the center,
the seat of administration, of government and of light.
The whole country derives its values through the city. It
does seem that that is the truth that is here. It is
possible to get into heaven but not be of the city.
have trouble with that and you disagree with me - I
can only say to you: 'Go back to the Word.' I cannot
understand this Letter on any other ground, unless we
admit that the warnings relate to salvation and not to
inheritance. Why is it shot through and through with this
urgency to go on? I do not believe that if you do
not go on you forfeit your eternal life or sacrifice your
salvation, but I do believe that if you do not go on you
will forfeit your inheritance, and that is the teaching
of this Letter as I see it. Why, the whole of the New
Testament, after the Gospels, has this one object: to get
Christians to go on, and to go on to full growth.
something into the very constitution of Abraham
which had two effects. It made him a very discontented
man. He was possessed of a holy discontent.
He saw the land and God gave him flocks and herds in
abundance, but all the time he was going up and down the
land saying: 'This is not it. There is something more
than this. I can never be satisfied with this.' In a
right sense Abraham was a most discontented man.
other side, he had a vision of what ought to be. The New
Testament calls it a heavenly country. (See Hebrews
11:16.) He was looking for a city "whose builder
and maker is God", and no city on this earth
answered to what was in the heart of Abraham. Do you
think I am exaggerating? Do you think I am making that
up? What did Jesus say to the old Israel? "Your
father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and
was glad" (John 8:56). Abraham saw right down
the ages. He had a vision and nothing in this world could
satisfy that vision. His heart was ever hungry and so he
was a man who never settled down on this earth.
us go on", says this Letter to the Hebrews. 'Let us
not settle down, and let us never be satisfied with
anything less than God's fullness.' That is its message.
end it is represented as a race. We are running a race
and the goal and prize lie ahead. Let us not stop in the
race and turn aside! "Let us run with patience
the race that is set before us, looking unto
Jesus..." (Hebrews 12:1,2). "Your
father Abraham rejoiced to see my day;"
"Looking unto Jesus". Let us never settle
down with anything less than God's fullness. "Wherefore,
holy brethren, companions of a heavenly calling."
the Holy Spirit really has His place in a heart, that
heart will be a 'going on' heart. It will never settle
down to anything less than God's fullness.
are two different kinds of dissatisfaction. There are
those poor, miserable people who are never satisfied with
anything. They are always discontented, and in a wrong
way. We are not appealing for such people! But this
spiritual discontent, this that says: "Not that I
have obtained, or am already made perfect... but one
thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind... I
press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high
calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians
3:12-14), is the nature of a truly Holy Spirit-governed
life. It will always be pressing on to something more of
the Lord. Such are the true heavenly seed of Abraham, the
companions of a heavenly calling.