What is Fellowship?
1. THE DECLARATION.
We believe that the work of the Lord Jesus Christ is fourfold
(1) His one sacrifice for sins for ever.
(2) His resurrection, as the last Adam. Head and Lord of all.
(3) His ascension to the right hand of God.
(4) His second coming, reign and final triumph, when at the consummation of the ages, as a result of His cross, His resurrection, and His reign, God shall be all in all.
2. SCRIPTURAL GROUNDS
'I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do' (John 17:4).
'After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst ... When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His Head, and gave up the ghost' (John 19:28-30).
'Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do Thy will, O God ... by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once .. . This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God' (Heb. 10:7-12).
'Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God' (Rom. 6:9,10).
'Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin' (Rom. 6:6).
'Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification' (Rom. 4:25).
'He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things' (Eph. 4:10).
' ... henceforth expecting' (Heb. 10:13).
' ... He shall send Jesus Christ ... Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began' (Acts 3:20,21).
'When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory' (Col. 3:4).
3. AN EXAMINATION AND EXPLANATION OF SOME ASPECTS OF THE FINISHED WORK OF CHRIST.
It is the unspeakable joy of the believer that the work of Christ on his behalf is finished. Man had utterly failed, both under the law of conscience and creation (Rom. 1:18-32, 'without excuse'), and as favoured under the law of Moses (Rom. 2:1-29, 'inexcusable').
It is usual in considering the work of Christ to focus attention upon that supreme moment when the Lord Jesus offered Himself without spot to God, the one sacrifice once offered for ever. This we believe to be right, and all that He will ever accomplish both for us, and in the outworking of the purpose of the ages, must take its root at the cross. While yielding to none our emphasis upon the place of the cross and the sacrifice there offered, we believe Scripture would have us remember that all the work of Christ is vital, and every phase complete. No one could lay a charge against the apostle Paul regarding his faithful witness concerning 'Jesus Christ and Him crucified', yet the very epistle that emphasizes the cross contains the following sweeping statement:
' ... if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in you sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished' (1 Cor. 15:17,18).
It is well to remember that a more accurate translation of Romans 4:25 reads:
'Who was delivered BECAUSE OF our offences, and was raised again BECAUSE OF our justification'.
The resurrection of Christ is vital to the purpose of God. As Zion's King He must be raised from the dead.
'I will declare the decree; the LORD hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee' (Psa. 2:7; cf. Acts 13:33).
' .. David ... therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ' (Acts 2:29-31).
As the last Adam, the second Man, Christ must be raised from the dead, to give new life, to open the way to immortality and glory for all 'in Him' (1 Cor. 15:45-58).
As Head of the church, and Head of all things, He must be raised from the dead:
'For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived (lived again), that He might be Lord both of the dead and living' (Rom. 14:9).
'And He is the Head of the body, the church: Who is the Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence' (Col. 1:18).
Even when we have united the death and the resurrection of Christ, we have not exhausted the work which He finished. As we read John 17, we become conscious that one further step beyond resurrection is needful to complete the work.
' ... I have finished the work ... and I come to Thee' (John 17:4,11).
'Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God, and went to God' (John 13:3).
The first message sent to His disciples by the risen Christ was this:
' ... Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ASCEND ... ' (John 20:17).
This ascension is vital not only for the church of the mystery (this question is examined on pages 33 to 38), but for the whole purpose of the ages.
'He ... ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things' (Eph. 4:10).
' ... He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world (age), but also in that which is to come (the coming one): and hath put all things under His feet' (Eph. 1:20-22).
The ascension and the seated Priest speak of a finished work.
' ... every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool' (Heb. 10:11-13).
It is the seated Christ of Whom it is written, 'from henceforth expecting'. He came from God, and He went to God, the Apostle (sent from) and High Priest (went to) of our profession. We would therefore remember His death on the cross, His resurrection, and His ascension as three phases of one mighty work. The present period at the right hand of God is of unspeakable blessing to His saints, for He is able to save to the uttermost, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.
This period is but for a time. The moment will come when He Who is now hidden and veiled, the unseen and absent Christ, shall be manifested in glory. Then the church of the One Body will realize its blessed hope, the manifesting of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:13, Col. 3-:4). He will then be revealed, coming with His mighty angels to execute wrath and judgment upon the anti-Christian world, and to deliver His people, both those who sleep and those who are alive at His coming. He will then set up His throne and reign with the saints whose calling associates them with earthly blessings for the thousand years, generally spoken of as the Millennium.
After the thousand years have expired He will sit upon the great White throne to judge the rest of the dead. This judgment is two-fold. First, a judgment out of 'the books' according to works, and then a judgment out of 'the book of life' deciding destiny. It is quite unscriptural to affirm that all who stand before the great white throne will be cast into the lake of fire. The word 'whosoever' in Revelation 20:15 is misleading, for the Greek here is in the singular number. After speaking of a vast multitude beyond computation, the record continues:
'And IF ANYONE was not found written in the book of life, HE was cast into the lake of fire'.
'The end' is now at hand and commences with the introduction of 'a new heaven and a new earth' (Rev. 21:1). No more sea is to be found here; no more death; no more sorrow; no more curse; the former things have passed away.
We now approach the glorious goal. He Who once hung upon the cross and said, 'It is finished', shall one day sit upon the throne and say, 'It is done' (Rev. 21:6).
'For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (the names in the book of life, and the principle given in Romans 9:6-8). But every man in his own order (so the two resurrections in Rev. 20): Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming. Then cometh the end (i.e., the goal, the object in view, not "the end rank") ... that God may be all in all' (foreshadowed in the tabernacle of God with men, in Revelation 21:3, and going on to the consummation of the age) (1 Cor. 15:21-28).
Before this consummation is reached, Christ must reign until every principality, authority, and power (same words used in Ephesians 1:21), are put down, and until all enemies are placed under His feet, the last being death (which we see cast into the lake of fire and so destroyed for ever - Revelation 20:14). Then when all things are subjected unto Him, the crisis of the age is reached, the supreme moment arrives: the Son, the mighty Victor, the glorious Redeemer, the Head over all, lays the restored kingdom at the feet of the Father, that God once more may be all in all.
Here is the finished work of Christ, blessed fruit of the cursed tree, blessed contrast to the death, sin and revolt brought in by the first man. Here no more shall sin rear its ugly head; no more shall the tempter seduce the children of God; no more shall the curse descend upon the earth. Redemption and resurrection have forged a bond stronger than creation. All things are new, all things are of God. Let us glory, therefore, in the finished work of Christ.
On the cross - 'It is finished'. On the throne - 'It is done'. 'That God may be all in all'.
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