Reading: Rom. 8; 1 Cor. 15; Col. 1.
1. The Creation Centred in Man
First of all, we remember that the world, or the creation, was, and is, centred in man. Man is not only at the heart of the creation, but the creation is centred in man. You can draw a circle, and that circle is man, and within that circle is the whole creation, for the creation is centred in man. It is important to see it that way as well as the other way of the universe as a circle and man as within it.
2. Man Centred in God
Then, in the second place, at the outset man was centred in God. The creation was centred in man, and man was centred in God.
3. Man Separated from God and Allied with Satan
The third stage is that man was assailed, deceived, seduced, separated from God, captured by and allied to, Satan. And seeing that the cosmos was centred in man, with the capture of man the cosmos is captured. Hence we have such words as: "the prince of this world": "the prince of the power of the air": "the whole world lies in the wicked one".
The Government of the Prince of this World
Now the next thing to see is how Satan governs the world of which he is prince, and the people of which he is god. Satan governs the cosmos through manís soul. Manís soul has become allied to the evil powers. Understanding what manís soul is, if you think about that for a little while, you will have little difficulty in recognising how true it is that the cosmos, the world, is governed by Satan through manís soul which is allied to him and his evil powers, since man in his soul was deceived, and seduced, and captured. That needs very little emphasising at this time in the worldís history when, perhaps as never before, the government of the world through manís soul is so pronounced. The soul has been developed so much along all these lines.
Take the line of reason and intellect. How the soul of man has been developed!
Take the line of emotion, desire, feeling. How tremendously it has been developed! You have only to look at the growth of the cinema and the development of that realm of things to see what a tremendous grip and development there is in the realm of manís emotional soul.
As for the volitional side of the soul, you have only to look at dictators, approaching the stage of Antichrist; the tremendous domination of the human will; of the rise of nationalism; and all these things are the projecting of a will upon man, so that in certain nations the will of man has become so pronounced, so strong, that people are simply held in the grip of a master will.
Manís soul has been developed in every way, and these are only some indications of it. We could spend much time noticing how the world now has its soul extended.
Then, when you look at it again, you see how the devil is running the world through that extended, developed soul-life of man. All this tremendous development of the intellectual soul is being turned to manís own destruction, turned in diabolical directions. It is astonishing to see the devilish way in which the developed capacity of manís intellect is being utilised towards evil, destruction and wreckage. It is a terrible thing. And so, also in the other matters, the devil is using manís soul for the government of this world, and for the destruction of man, and that soul is in alliance with the evil powers.
Does that need demonstrating? While there are reactions from these things as men stand back after a season in which these things have run riot (in the aftermath of a terrible world war, man stands back and there is a reaction, a horror, and he says, "Never again! This is the end of this sort of thing! Now for a cosmic Utopia! Now for the millennium! This is the war which has ended war!" and in the course of a few years the reaction is all over, and another kind of reaction sets in towards something infinitely worse than the last. God only knows what the next will be, it is either that the Lord has to hold that thing on a chain for a while to finish His work, or else He is coming, and then that which we are working up to will come about.
This all shows how the soul of man, in spite of himself, in spite of his reactions in aftermaths, is in bondage to this terrific domination of satanic power, and he goes mad. The whole cosmos is in bondage through manís soul. The whole cosmos is centred in man, and man, in alliance with the evil powers in the realm of his soul, is the medium of the government of this cosmos by the devil.
Paul, in the second chapter of the letter to the Ephesians, speaks about the course of this "cosmos"; not the course of this "age", or the course of this "world" in the ultimate sense, but the course of this "cosmos"; and now he says, "You are not to walk according to the course of this 'cosmos', because you are not of this 'cosmos'; you are out of it". That is the whole force of the emphasis in the letter to the Ephesians upon being in the heavenlies in Christ, not in this cosmos, not according to this cosmos, but out of it by translation union with Christ in a spiritual sense.
Man Powerless to Alter the Course of the Cosmos
The course of this cosmos can never be altered by man who is in it. It cannot be altered by man in it. Every effort that man makes to alter the course of this cosmos while he is still in it breaks down. You have seen that during these past few years, as perhaps the world has never seen it. There are national and international movements to try and change the course of this cosmos, and every one of them has broken down. No, the course of this cosmos can never be altered by man who is in it, and that is where all the social Gospel will break down, where all humanism as a saving thing will break down.
Man, Regenerated and Delivered Out of the Cosmos, the Key to its Deliverance
The only way in which the course of this cosmos can be altered is by these who are out of it by regeneration; that in order to make any difference in the course of this cosmos, to check it here and there and change that course, there has to be that which is not of it, but outside of it and in a superior spiritual position to that thing which is the course of this cosmos, which is the alliance between Satan and the soul of man. That is the Lord Jesus as dwelling within regenerated men and women in the power and fulness of the Holy Spirit. Those who have thus been taken spiritually out of the world, out of the course of the cosmos, through death, burial, resurrection, now in alliance with the greater One than he that is in the world and indwelt by His mighty Spirit, can, as Himself here, alter the course of this cosmos. I do not mean universally, but where they are they may change things. So that the Gospel has had that effect. Where there was war to destruction, and the Gospel has come in in power, it has changed the course of men there, and they have turned from war to peace, warring tribes to peaceful tribes, born from above.
The point for the moment is this, that the only hope for the change of the course of things is found in those who are outside of this cosmos. Therein lies the tremendous urge upon us to be in separation unto Christ from the world and all that belongs to it.
We said in our last meditation that cosmic redemption begins with
the individual, and in the spirit of the individual man. That is
where cosmic redemption begins, and that by the renewing of the
human spirit by regeneration. Then from that central point of
redemption in manís spirit redemption moves out to manís soul, and
when he is born again, not only is his spirit renewed in God and
becomes alive to God in Christ, but his soul is delivered from the
bondage of the devil. Its redemption is not complete in an act,
but it is begun in the sense that it is free from that alliance
You and I are not to accept that even although redemption has not been consummate in the realm of our souls any more than it has in the realm of our bodies, that our souls, as the Lordís redeemed ones, are still in alliance with the evil powers. The deliverance has been wrought for our souls from that bondage, but now that redemption has to be made progressive, so that mind, heart, and soul, under the government of a renewed spirit, are being conformed to the image of Godís Son. There is all the difference between the soul being in bondage to, by alliance with, the evil powers, and the soul being imperfect in the likeness of the Lord in redemption. The end of our faith is the salvation of our souls. The beginning of our faith is the rebirth of our spirit. The redemption of the soul is progressive, and the first part of the deliverance of the soul is its deliverance from the alliance with the evil powers, but that, as ever it has been from the beginning, is the point of all satanic assault. Inasmuch as satanic assault is spiritual, and what is spiritual knows no physical barriers, very often it seems that the satanic assault upon our soul is verily ourselves, but God forbid that we should mistake an assault upon the soul as an alliance of the soul with Satan in the old sense. If you surrender there, you are done. Let it not be at any time. That is admitting the enemy to the soul. The fact is that if the spirit, energised by the Holy Spirit, stands up to resist the enemy from the soul, the soul is delivered. That proves that the alliance has at some time been broken, because the man unregenerated by the Holy Spirit will fight the devil to his own undoing. He is in the cosmos in spite of himself, and all his fight and all his resistance cannot break through. But that is not so with the child of God.
It is very important to understand the nature of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The whole of redemption is after this kind. None of us would say (unless we were utterly out of our senses) that our bodies are enjoying redemption. We know quite well that the body is yet to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, that death works in these bodies, and that they are not the bodies that shall be. Nevertheless the satanic government of this cosmos has been broken in relation to our bodies and the point is this, that the power of redemption which is in our renewed spirits can manifest itself even in our dying bodies, so that it is proved that we are not wholly, even physically, in bondage to Satan and death now, but that by a quickening energy of the Holy Spirit, even in a state of death or dying, we may be lifted up again and again, and be a repeated testimony to the fact that redemption has been wrought for us, and we have the earnest of the redemption of our body in the Holy Spirit.
There is all the difference between the redeemed and the unredeemed, even in the realm of the body. We do not say that because these bodies may go into the grave, die and perish, that they are in the same realm of the unredeemed. I do not accept that my body is in exactly the same realm as the body of a man who has never had Christ dwelling in his spirit. If you accept that, you yield to death, you have no ground to stand upon. For spirit, soul and body there is a ground of redemption. In the spirit, that redemption is settled. In the soul and in the body the Spirit gives the earnest of redemption, and that earnest is an operative, active thing for soul and body while the Lord wants us here. You and I must stand upon the ground of the great difference in every part of our being which redemption in Christ Jesus has secured for us, and the ground upon which the unsaved stand. There is no hope for the unsaved while unsaved, in the same way. But we are saved, and from every natural standpoint, from every scientific standpoint, from the standpoint of the whole course of nature we may at this moment be dying, and our moments may be numbered, and yet it is possible, and has been proved to be so again and again, that there may come a quickening of the Lord in our spirit and we come clean out of that and take a new lease of life, to everybodyís amazement. There is nothing like that for the unsaved, unless God does it to keep them alive for their salvation. They have no ground to stand upon for that, but we have. It is our redemption that is in Christ Jesus: the spirit renewed; the soul set free; the body to be changed in the Lordís own time.
The twin forces by which Satan governs man, under the sovereignty of God, are sin and death. I say, under the sovereignty of God, because God said: "The soul that sins, it shall die": "The wages of sin is death". But Satan is the one who governs by sin and death, not God. God governs no man by sin. Death is the twin of sin. They are born of the same parent. They have not come from God. Satan governs man by this twin law under the sovereignty of God. These two forces go to the heart of redemption.
If man is governed in his bondage by Satan through sin and death, manís redemption means that sin and death have to be set aside, destroyed, as the two chains by which Satan holds men in bondage. So that they are the very heart of redemption. That is where the letter to the Romans has its force: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." But listen! Law means bondage. If there is no law, you are free; if there is a law, you are in bondage thereto. It is the law of sin and death which makes the bondage to sin and death a dominion. The Lord Jesus entered into the realm where sin and death held sway. They had no power over Him personally, but voluntarily He entered into that domain and broke the power of sin and death. Destroying the power of sin He destroyed the power of death which works as the consequence of sin, and death is swallowed up victoriously. Then, says the apostle, "Thanks be unto God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ"; that is, over sin and death as a present thing. That is redemption from the dominion of sin and death.
How we start all over again when see that! We have the firstfruits of Christís victory over sin and death in our spirits. In our spirits the full victory over sin and death is set up as in Christ. "Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin...". There is a sinless and incorruptible thing in us, the full fruits of the redemption in Christ, but there is a parallel truth all the time that we are being saved, but that latter does not relate to our spirits. That relates to our souls. The failure to recognise the difference between our spirits and our souls has led to a great deal of confusion in doctrine about sinlessness. The firstfruits of redemption are in our spirits, our spirits are set free from sin and death, and now, alive to God in spirit, just as before alive to Satan, we cannot die. That is the strong teaching of the Word. We are delivered from death. This is the seed for the new body, "To every seed its body". There can be no resurrection body unto eternal life unless indestructible, eternal life, is already there to have a body put onto it, to be clothed upon. What is it to be clothed upon? This inner man of the heart, the renewed spirit, in a life that shall see no death, and in a life eternal, being deathless is sinless, for where there is sin there is death, where there is no death there is no sin. It is the incorruptible life of the Lord in our renewed spirit. That is the redemption in Christ, deliverance from the bondage of sin and death.
This spirit in us is a free spirit, and it always cries for freedom. It verily shouts for freedom. Do you know the awful feeling of being suffocated in your spirit, pressed down in your spirit? How your spirit cries against that suffocating! And it is not until you rise up in your spirit, and fling off this thing by definite exercise, that you get free. See a man or a woman pressed by temptation, suggestions, the devil, all in their very spirit! How are they going to be delivered, set free? Never by reason, argument, persuasion. Nothing that can be done from the outside can get them really free. But if you can get that man or that woman to stand up and in the name of the Lord exercise themselves against that thing, in attitude, as it were, strip it off by a definite act of spirit, they will get free. You know what it is sometimes to be pressed in, as into a dark cell, and not until you have got down in prayer and exercised yourself, and fought your way through in your spirit, do you get free. It is like stripping things off, and it is not until you really begin to exercise your spirit against this that you come out into a free place. The spirit is a free spirit, and it claims liberty, and you and I, when we stand in our spirit for liberty as our birthright, are delivered. If only you can get a pressed spirit to stand up and in the Lordís Name assert itself, you are on the way to deliverance, but so long as there is a refusal to take that positive action there is no deliverance. The quickening of the spirit is always the way to the realisation of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
That is why I believe that very often a sheer singing out in faith is a deliverance from the pressure of Satan. The spirit claims liberty as its birthright, and will not tolerate bondage, and if you allow it to remain there, you will have no deliverance, for that is a contradiction of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. We have been set free. The beginning is there; the redemption in our soul is in progress; we have the earnest of the redemption of the body by the indwelling Holy Spirit; and these are to be consummated.
The Translation of the Church
But there comes a great interlude in relation to cosmic redemption. That interlude is marked by the translation of the church from the cosmos when the church is lifted out of the cosmos. It is necessary, because cosmic redemption has its consummation not merely in a process, but in a climax. It is not just an evolutionary thing, that the whole cosmos will be redeemed by an evolutionary process and one day it will wake up and find itself free from this bondage; it is all heading up to a climax. Cosmic redemption demands that at a certain point redeemed man, who has come into his redemption shall be lifted out of the cosmos. Those whose alliance with the prince of this world has been broken shall be literally lifted out of this cosmos.
The Wrath to Come
Do you notice that the apostle Paul and others speak about "the wrath to come"? If you look closely at it you will see that "wrath to come" is not just the judgment of hell; it is not just the casting of sinners and Christ-rejecters into hell. That is not what the apostle is speaking of specifically. He regards and speaks of the wrath to come as cosmic cleansing; it is the wrath of God upon this cosmos. That begins when the church is lifted out. Then it will be seen exactly what is the nature of an unrestrained satanic government of this world through manís soul. At present there is a restraining; at present that thing cannot take its course because the church is here. The world does not know what it owes to the presence in it of saints. The fact that they are here is a restraining. But when the church is lifted out of the cosmos, then, except those days be shortened no flesh should be saved (Matt. 24:22). There is a wrath to come which represents an interlude, which will work out eventually to the ridding of this whole cosmos both of the whole satanic system and of that whole order that is in alliance with the satanic system through its soul.
A New Heaven and a New Earth
Then there will be a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. Not "wherein dwells hosts of wicked spirits" or the prince of the power of the air. We are getting very near to the place where we can understand what that interlude will be. Of course we have not an insight into what is going on behind the scenes, even of this present time. If we had, we should probably be so horrified as to be driven almost mad. This is no exaggeration; we are not imagining things; it is fact. But when that thing which is even now going on underneath, comes to the surface, and has full sway, and the devil does govern through manís soul in an open and unrestrained way, this world will be a terrible place. Blessed be God, we shall be out of it, and in view of this our hearts cry for the coming of the Lord. That interlude is coming, between the redemption that is in Christ Jesus having become a practical experimental thing within the spirits of the elect and the new heavens and the new earth. That is what Paul means by "the wrath to come". It is not just eternal hell, but wrath against principalities and powers and men in alliance. It is the wrath to come. The apostle says that we have been saved from the wrath to come. The article is used there, "the wrath", something specific.
What is the point about this? In the first place it is that the redemption that is in Christ Jesus having already had its commencement in us, in our renewed spirits, is the assurance of a redeemed cosmos. The whole cosmos is centred in redeemed man for its redemption. Now go back to the letter to the Romans chapter 8: "The creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption". When? It groans waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. The creation is centred in man, and its redemption is centred in redeemed man, so that our redemption, which we are now knowing in our own spirits, is the certainty of a redeemed creation.
The next thing, of course, is that you and I have to live in the power of that redemption in our spirits for our souls and for our bodies, and by that redemption, that new life in our spirits brings our souls into subjection, overcomes them, governs them, and also stands for quickening for our bodies as is needed for the purpose of God from time to time. This is our inheritance in Christ.
May the Lord make His word a help to us.