Reading: Ezekiel 1:26; Acts 7:55; Heb. 2:5-10; Phil. 2:8-11.
We come to the third and final phase of the matter which has been holding our attention in this series of messages - that which is born from above.
In the first place, we saw the fact that the coming of the Lord Jesus in the form of a man was God's introducing into the creation the Man to whom He would conform man, man as God ultimately intended Him to be when He created man, and that the Lord Jesus supplants and disposes of the first man. And then God takes up the work of making Christ a corporate Man, bringing His children by faith into the full measure of the stature of Christ.
In the second place, we have just taken a glance at that Man to see something of what He is like, the kind of man God has in view. We have not gone very far with that, but I think we have gone far enough to make us aware that He is a very different man from all others, and that conformity to Him does represent a tremendous work.
Now we come to the third and final phase: the Man in the glory. "The heavenly vision" as Paul called it (Acts 26:19), referring to that objective and subjective revelation of Christ which came to him when on his way to Damascus he saw Jesus of Nazareth in heavenly glory and which had a subjective effect to which he referred when he said, "It was the good pleasure of God... to reveal His Son in me" (Gal. 1:15-16). It was not just a vision by the way. It was an inward impress, a mighty inward revelation, not only of the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, but something very much more than that, as we are now going to see.
The Man on the Throne in the Glory
These passages which we have read are just a selection from a number of others like them, bringing into view the Man in the glory, that same Man. Ezekiel said that he was with the captives at the river Chebar, and he saw visions of God (Ezek. 1:1). When he began to describe the visions of God, he headed them right up to this that we have read: "Above the firmament was the likeness of a throne... and upon the likeness of the throne was a likeness as the appearance of a man upon it above." You have to read the whole of Ezekiel's prophecies in the light of that.
I do want to point this out to you, that right there in the revelation of that Man upon the throne one whole comprehensive order of things was being dismissed: Jerusalem, the temple, the whole Jewish system and the whole Jewish nation going away into captivity - passing out. Then, with that Man in full view, as you move to the end of the prophecies Ezekiel sees another Jerusalem, the frame of a city. He is carried away onto a high mountain and shown the frame of a city, and then shown the temple that never had been and never has yet been, and may never be on this earth. That is a very controversial point, but I am not one of those who believe that the whole Jewish system is going to be brought back again and Calvary undone. We will leave that. But there it is, a heavenly thing taking the place of the earthly, and this is all related to the Man in heaven. It corresponds to the letter to the Hebrews, and it corresponds to the book of the Revelation. When you get to the end of Revelation, you have the frame of a city seen from a very high mountain. That in passing.
The Man in the Glory God's Standard
My point is this, that it is the Man in heaven upon the throne who governs all this, because when that heavenly temple was brought into view, there is a man with a measuring rod who says to Ezekiel, 'Follow me, son of man, take note, lay to heart.' And this man took him in and through and round and up and down everywhere, measuring by the measure of a man, and it is a heavenly Man, the measure of heaven, for everything that is presented is undoubtedly a representation in figure of Jesus Christ. The Man on the throne in the glory is God's standard of everything, to which God is going to conform everything, by which God is governing everything. The measure of everything is the measure of that Man in the glory. Everything is determined as to how far it counts with God, how far God can put a number upon it and say, 'It counts'. And it counts with God by how much of Christ is there. That is the vision of God which resolves itself into the vision of the Man governing everything.
How comprehensive that Man is! How meticulously detailed that Man is from God's standpoint! How particular God is when the man comes down and says, "Son of man, mark well, lay to heart, take note!" You are almost wearied to death, your head almost hums as you go with that man trying to get the measurements of it all and seeing what it all means. Why all this? Why do you want the number of almost every inch? Why do you want to say exactly to a detail how much space there is here, or what this measures? Because it is not just something earthly, it is something heavenly, and everything that is heavenly related to the Lord Jesus is of very great significance. It signifies something. It is Christ that governs.
The Effect of Seeing the Man in the Glory
You come to the New Testament, and having seen the Man introduced and the Man perfected, you see the Man exalted and enthroned. Heaven is opened, and the Son of Man is seen standing at the right hand of God. He is there, standing to govern all that happens. It is that heavenly Man that Paul saw, and it was that vision which governed everything.
I said just now that it was not just that Saul of Tarsus, who had regarded Jesus of Nazareth as just a man, an earthly man, an impostor and a pretender, came to see at that time that He was the very glorified Son of God. That was revolutionary, that upheaved and overturned everything for Saul. But what I see as to that vision, which he called the heavenly vision, which comes out in practically all of his letters, especially his teaching letters (I mean as differing from his pastoral letters, but even there it is found), is that Paul saw that Man in the glory was not only the Son of God, but in some mighty, far-reaching way, that applied to him and had something to do with him; he had something to do with that, that it meant something so far as he was concerned and so far as the church was concerned. That is the real heart of the meaning of his phrase - "the church which is His Body" (Eph. 1:22-23). He is God, but He is Man in the glory and there is some link between that Man in the glory, and the church, believers, and himself, Paul. And it seems so clear that when he, in this letter to the Philippians (remembering it is not cut up into chapters and paragraphs, but is one continuous narrative), when he shows us that Man coming from the glory into humiliation, self-emptying, and passing to the cross in utter obedience to the will of His Father, and because of that being given the Name which is above every name: exalted, enthroned, to be the object of worship, to whom every knee in the celestial realm, in the terrestrial realm, and in the diabolical realm shall bow. (Note his language - "In the name of Jesus" (Phil. 2:10) - that is the name of the Man). When Paul has said that, he passes on into what in our arrangement is chapter 3, and he begins to tell us that there were many things which belonged to him as the earthly man which he accounted as being of tremendous value among men - his birth, his race, his position in the nation, but these are nothing, these are rubbish, this is all nonsense, "Veritable refuse because I have seen the Man in the glory" - "that I may gain Christ" (Phil. 3:8).
And then he begins to speak about attaining. He is not already complete, "I am not already perfect, I have not already attained, but leaving those things of the earthly man all behind, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). In some way I am linked with that, I have seen the Man in the glory, it relates to me, it affects me, I have in some way to come there, to attain unto that - not to Deity, not to Godhead, but to the Man glorified". That is the heavenly vision. That is Paul's conception of Christ and the church His Body. You can read that in his other letters.
The Destiny of That Which is from Heaven
Now that brings us surely right to the point: the destiny of that which is from heaven, the heavenly Man, as personally in the case of the Son of Man, so corporately in the case of His Body, the church. The destiny... and the heart of it is not just a glorified humanity, it is the object of it being glorified. That Man there on the throne above in Ezekiel is there to govern everything, to govern the future course of things in relation to the man conception, the man idea, the man thought-intention of God. Everything that was to be governed by the man-principle, the man-standard, is now to be held to God's thought. This down here has failed. The Jerusalem of Ezekiel's time has failed. The nation, the Jews, of Ezekiel's time, have failed lamentably. The whole temple service has failed. God dismisses it; the glory disappears from it and now a heavenly vision of something that does answer to the Man in the glory is brought in in its place. It is a prophecy of what is to be: Christ in the glory is going to govern all the movements to God - not officially, but by reason of His manhood and what that manhood is.
That is the point that I want, if possible, to press upon you. Neither Christ, nor the church called into that great destiny of government for all the ages to come, neither Christ nor the church His body, is to fulfil that vocation officially. It will not be as on this earth. This world government can be put into the hands of almost anybody, qualified or not; very unqualified in many cases, in the place of government but having no right to be there so far as qualification is concerned, just official. This is not so in heaven, not so with God. Government is the government of character, not of office, not of people as people, but of manhood according to God's thought.
Spiritual Quality is Governmental in God's Sight
Why is God so particular? Why is the government for all ages to come bound up with so many cubits; it may be only three cubits, six cubits, eight cubits, twelve cubits (this is Ezekiel), bound up with small measures as well as large measures? It is spiritual quality that is governmental in God's sight. That is where the Jews failed over the Lord Jesus. They could not see how He could be king looking at Him from the standpoints of men. He is a nobody in this world, but He is God's destined Ruler because of what He essentially was and is in nature, in character, and we are called into the fellowship of God's Son. And it is made clear to us that the destiny of the church which is His body, of which we are members if we are in Christ by faith, is that spiritual government of God's universe which means to have and to hold everything according to God's mind.
God's Concern to Produce Spiritual Quality
That is why God is so particular with you and me. The further we go with the Lord, the longer we live and walk with the Lord, the more particular we find the Lord is with us about things. We do not get away with things later as we did earlier. The Lord was dealing with us earlier as with children, suffering much in the early years, but He is not doing that now. He is bringing us to measurement much more carefully and closely because it is that thing that is to rule in His universe for all the ages to come. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Tim. 2:12 AV), because we are, as He, "made perfect through sufferings" (Heb. 2:10). This explains Philippians 3 and Paul's intense concern about things in the light of that heavenly vision. You do not think for a moment that all that concern and passion, agony and travail, is only to get saved. It is not a matter of salvation, not that he is wanting to get to heaven and is afraid he will not get there, but he has seen the significance of the Man in the glory. It is that he has seen that that Man in the glory represents God's idea for this universe in spiritual government. Now he writes his letters, and all his letters are with that in view. They are letters of strong, urgent exhortation and warning to Christians.
The Possibility of Missing the Purpose of Heavenly Birth
In Hebrews he presents the Man in the glory, "We behold Jesus, crowned with glory and honour" (Heb. 2:9). He relates that to Psalm 8, and he relates Psalm 8 to God's thought in the creation of man, "What is man...? Thou makest him to have dominion" (v.4-6), he failed. We see not all things under that man, but "we see Jesus crowned with glory and honour"; man in representation. He speaks of bringing many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10), and then some of the most terrible warnings that the Bible contains are in that letter to the Hebrews, and I do not believe that they relate to salvation, to the possibility of losing eternal life, but they are in relation to this very thing that Paul spoke about in his Philippian letter. And I believe that at least Paul had a very real hand in the writing of the Hebrew letter. He is saying the same thing in another way: you may miss the thing for which you were born from above; you may fail to come to that, you may fall short of that very destiny which is bound up with your having been born from above. Being born from above is not enough.
Oh, you will get to heaven all right if you are born from above, but Paul is concerned about something far more than that. All this warning and exhortation is in relation to the thing for which you are to go to heaven, for which you were born from above, and go back to the place of your birth. You are called, and in God's intention destined, to be a part of this great spiritual, governmental administration of the Body of Christ.
The Heavenly Man a Man of Abundant Resource
There are figures of this in the Old Testament. You can take Isaac if you like. You remember that Isaac is the embodiment of the principle of resurrection. In our previous meditation, we spoke of that chain with all its links, each one of which represented and embodied some particular aspect, feature, constituent, of the heavenly Man. Isaac embodies that Divine principle of resurrection. There are two things that come out in Isaac afterwards. We do not know a great deal about him after the great event on Mount Moriah, but there are two things. It says, "And Isaac sowed in that land, and found in the same year a hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him" (Gen. 26:12). The man of resurrection is the man of abundant, God-given resource. If you stand on this side of the Cross, off the ground of the old man where disillusion, barrenness, failure, disappointment and all that sort of thing reigns under the curse, but on the resurrection side, begotten to a living hope, you are on the ground of spiritual abundance, you have wealth, riches, resources, for the people of God.
Look at the Lord Jesus, the antitype of Isaac: on resurrection ground, off the ground of the old man, He is a Man of wonderful resources always. We pointed out earlier that He was constantly bringing His disciples to the point where they were at the end of their resources, and they had, so to speak, to say, "Well, we can do nothing about it!" So it was with the multitude and the feeding of them; so it was on the lake in the storm. They are at their wits' end, they are at the end of their resources; even as experienced and hardened sailors and fishermen, they are at the end of their resources. The Lord is constantly bringing them to the end of their resources, the resources of the earthly man, in order to show that the heavenly Man had resources altogether beyond their knowledge. He could meet the situation quite simply. They did not know where He got it from. They had to say, "Thou art the Son of God" (Matt. 14:33). This is Man, this is God. The man who lives as Christ did, on the ground of the heavenly Man, is going to be the man to whom God gives resources for others. This is the meaning of Isaac with his hundredfold in the first year.
A Ministry Throughout the Ages of the Ages
What is God trying to do with us? Why is He taking us this way? It is in order to make us people who have something to give, to minister, out of His fulness. And not only in this life. It would be a poor lookout if the measure in which we are able to give in this life, or even to receive, were the end of it all. You may not be very much troubled about the matter of giving. I confess to you, without any boasting, that it is a real problem with me. My trouble is, how can I get to the people of God all that the Lord has given? I see so much, but no opportunity to give, no scope for giving. If that is the end, what a mockery life is! I will be giving a long time after I have left this world. I am only illustrating, I am not talking about myself. When I was in Los Angeles, after one of the meetings a woman who was a strong advocate of Theosophy went up to someone else in the meeting, and said, "You don't tell me that that man got all that in one life!" - arguing that I must have had many incarnations before! I am not directing attention to anything I have, but if it only stays with one life, it is a poor lookout. God is seeking to fill us unto a scope and an opportunity and a need far beyond, not this earthly life and the next incarnation - but unto the ages of the ages. That is the function of His body - wealth.
And then that other thing about Isaac, the digging of the wells which the Philistines had filled up, the re-digging of the wells; the removal of the stuff that the Philistines, the natural man, had put into the wells to block them up. Isaac spent his life opening up those wells for others, and the herdsmen came and quarrelled about them. But Isaac said, "Alright, quarrel if you like! I have no personal interest in this, I am not doing something for myself, you can take the old wells if you like; I am going on digging." It is the resurrection man who is engaged in securing supplies of Life. The figure changes at the end of the book of the Revelation - the river of the water of Life and the tree of Life and then the leaves of the tree for the health of the nations, the water producing that which is for the health of the nations. If the city is the church figuratively speaking, there is something extra to the city which needs looking after. It does not mean there is imminent sin and disease. That is why the word is health, not healing; health, maintaining a state of life, maintaining a state of glory. It is to be ministered to. Nothing will be in stagnation. Perfection does not mean stagnation. "Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end" (Isa. 9:7). I do not know how it is going to be done, but there it is. Life, Life spreading, increasing; ever-growing fulness.
But it is to be ministered through that which is called the city. In other words, it is the church, and you and I have got to learn here by exercise how to get the resources, the water, for ministry. Our real ministry is yet to come. We may deplore the smallness of our ministry here, but God is seeking to do in us that which will make possible a ministry throughout the ages that are to come - a great ministry, where and when "His servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face". That is the vision of the Man, Himself becoming corporate in His members, to be in glory ministering and administering. Paul says: "unto the ages of the ages"; "that in the ages to come He might show (by the church) the exceeding riches of His grace" (Eph. 2:7).
Christ God's Final Standard
You see, the beginning, "Ye must be born from above" (John 3:3), has tremendous potentialities, immense possibilities and far-reaching destiny. That which is born from above is seen at last to be above in governmental function and fulfilment. But remember it all comes back to this: just how far we will let the Spirit of God build Christ into us, build us into Christ, and conform us to His image, deal with us in the light of that Man, make changes, put us through discipline, chastening, and conforming fires. It depends on how much we will let Him do that.
We must remember that what I am here for on this earth, in God's mind, as a Christian, is that Christ should be here and should abound. However much I do, if it does not mean an increase of Christ, however much I may say and profess, however much truth I may know and hold, if my presence does not mean the presence of the Lord Jesus, and that in an increasing and growing way, I have missed the point, I have missed the way, I have missed the meaning. When it is all finished, the measure of the Man in the glory will be put against us, and all will be determined by how far up the measure of Christ we have come. That is heaven's verdict upon a life. Christ is the verdict, Christ is the standard. Oh, then let us give ourselves, not to intensive self-occupation and self-cultivation and all that kind of introspective stuff, but let us give ourselves constantly before God that we shall be found growing in the measure of Christ, that it may be true as heaven and earth and hell look on, that they are discerning and seeing Christ, feeling Christ, and having to say, "He is here, Christ is here!" Will you make that your quest with me?