Each year at the Feast of Tabernacles, Herbert Armstrong would ask us, "Why are you here?" He undoubtedly found through the years that we need to be almost constantly reminded of this because we seem to so easily lose our vision in the hustle and bustle of daily life. I do not mean that we entirely forget it, but there is no doubt that our vision becomes somewhat blurred and it loses its sharp edges.
Sometimes we grew weary with his repetitious approach to things, but it was biblical, and also there were historical precedence as well as a practical necessity for him doing this.
It is believed Ezra instituted a system of assigned studies and sermon subject material that took three years to run its course and then was endlessly repeated. The system was arranged in such a way so that each year there were certain sections of the Bible that were subject material, especially for certain feasts. I believe Proverbs was assigned to be read during the Days of Unleavened Bread, Ruth at Pentecost, and Ecclesiastes for the Feast of Tabernacles. This was done because of the general themes that appear within those books.
In his Feast of Tabernacles messages, Herbert Armstrong concentrated on the World Tomorrow. But, this is not the Bible's most direct approach in regard to the Feast of Tabernacles. This is not to find fault with what his approach, because it was certainly appropriate, but it still is not what the Bible focuses on, especially in the Old Testament.
Let us begin by turning to Leviticus 23 and we will see, without going into a great deal of detail, what the Bible does show here in the Old Testament.
Leviticus 23:39-44 'Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a Sabbath-rest. And you shall take for yourself on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.'" So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.
The Bible focuses on Tabernacles as being a thanksgiving harvest festival, and at the same time, a reminder that God's people are on a pilgrimage. The two are tied together, because God reminds us each year through the feast that He has indeed provided our needs as we progress on this pilgrimage. We must recognize this—and be thankful.
A pilgrim is a person on the move, but he is not a nomad moved by whim or wandering aimlessly because of forces beyond his control. A pilgrim has a definite, specific goal in mind. Because he is moving toward his destination, he is also perceived (this is within the biblical concept) as being a person with neither a permanent home nor a normal way of producing a living.
The Christian, therefore, should not expect that his life be normal. That is the purpose of the booths, the temporary living places. The emphasis is on gratitude and the harvest, which pictures what God has provided as we move, as we walk along this way.
A major, major portion of what God provided is knowledge of our destiny, the good news of why we were born. Our destiny is not, I repeat, not the Millennium. The Millennium will merely be a visible ramification and effect of our destiny. The Millennium and its tremendous abundance will be the harvest of our labors—the labors we are now being prepared to perform under Jesus Christ when that judgment, the millennial judgment, arrives.
In Ephesians 2, I just want to quote this:
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship [we are God's workmanship as we travel along the way of this pilgrimage] created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared that we should walk in them.
What we are being prepared for is to do a work in the Millennium. But while we are moving along on our pilgrimage, we are working at being prepared so that when that time comes, we are able to perform the works that are going to be required of us during the Millennium.
Israel's pilgrimage in the wilderness prepared them for taking over the land of Canaan. Those who did not live by faith in the wilderness died along the way. Their children though, when they went into the land, they were prepared. So the pilgrimage motif is intended to portray to us that this is a time of preparation. It is during the walk to the Kingdom of God that the changes are being worked in us.
All the activity required to change us during this preparation is why our lives cannot be considered as normal. What we have been given to enable the preparation is not common to mankind. This includes both the knowledge given, and the means of that knowledge's transmission.
Matthew 13:11-13 He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore speak I to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."
We have been given very special knowledge and the power necessary to understand and use that knowledge as we progress upon the walk. Again, let me tie this into the opening of this: the Old Testament looks upon the walk of the children of Israel in the wilderness as their preparation for the Kingdom of God, that is, the land of Canaan. We are on our walk now. We are being prepared and are preparing to be able to do what is going to be required of us once we get into the land.
Our walk is our preparation period and during this time God is creating us in Christ Jesus to be able to perform those things when we get to the Millennium. But we have got to get there first and our pilgrimage has to be accomplished.
We just saw in Matthew 13 that the disciples were given something that others, who heard the same words, could not grasp. They may have understood the words, but they did not grasp the importance of them to them personally.
Matthew 16:16-17 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven."
I Corinthians 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. . .
I Corinthians 2:4 And my speech and my preaching was not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. . .
Do you understand what he is saying there? He is saying that, "When I came to you, I brought to you the message that I miraculously received and I passed it onto you, brethren, with the same miracle that happened to me has happened to you."
I Corinthians 2:5-9 . . . that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rules of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those that love Him."
These things that we have, pertaining to our pilgrimage and the destiny of life, are not things inherent or found by the mind of man simply by human reason. That is what he is leading to.
I Corinthians 2:10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit . . .
So we have knowledge that was miraculously revealed to us because God willed it to be that way. Otherwise we would not be here keeping the Feast of Tabernacles.
I Corinthians 2:10-11 . . . For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so [in like manner] no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.
These things of which we are speaking and are common knowledge to you and me, was hidden in Jesus' day, in Paul's day, and it is still hidden from the minds of the uncalled today.
We went through this with Jacob and Esau in a great deal of detail. Jacob was the elect of God. Esau was not. Esau was just a nice guy. Everybody would have liked him, but he did not see things the same way that Jacob did.
Noah found grace in God's eyes. Nobody else did. Noah saw things through his mind's eye, because God revealed to him the mystery that He was working out and what Noah had to do as a work while he was on his pilgrimage. Thus, he and his family were saved through the Flood.
What we have been given is rare in the annals of the history of all of mankind. It is extremely precious and rare. Mystery, in the biblical sense, indicates a sacred secret into which one must be initiated in order to grasp, appreciate, and therefore make the right use of.
Let us go back to that book that the Jews were supposed to read during the Feast of Tabernacles, Ecclesiastes. Solomon said something very interesting in regard to what we are talking about.
Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on the earth, even though no one sleep day or night, then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.
Ecclesiastes 9:1 For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love or hatred by anything they see before them.
In order to really understand love and hatred, it has to be revealed by God. Love to us has different meanings than the love that the world has and seems to appreciate very highly.
Even though Ecclesiastes ends on an upbeat note, the bulk of the theme is rather depressing because it reveals the frustrated world that is trying, and trying hard, but it cannot make head nor tail out of what is going on.
We are going to take a little bit of a brief trip through the book of Ecclesiastes, because some aspect of this theme crops up from time to time. I cannot help but think that God inspired Solomon to write these things, and Ezra to assign Ecclesiastes for the Feast of Tabernacles, to encourage us each year by reminding us of the immense value and uniqueness of our calling.
Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 What profit has he that works in that wherein he labors? I have seen the travail, which God has given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. He has made every thing beautiful in his time: also he has set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from beginning to the end.
Ecclesiastes 7:25-29 I applied my heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: who so pleases God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her. Behold, this have I found, says the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: which yet my soul seeks, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found. Lo, this only have I found, that God has made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
Why? They do not know what life is for.
Ecclesiastes 9:12 For man also knows not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.
You think they would escape, but they do not know what they are doing.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 As you know not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so you know not the works of God who makes all.
Solomon confirms here, and is what is made very clear later on in the New Testament, that no one can come to the Son except the Father draws him. In other words, the purpose that God is working out is such a mystery, that it cannot be penetrated even by the closest of scrutiny by the most discerning of carnal men.
Most people are going through life with a wistful yearning, trying to understand what is going on. Now I do not mean that this is something that is always with them, but rather a subconscious frustration because life seems to have little direction other than the pursuit of material and secular goals. Nothing, it seems, seems to work out for them.
That is why Solomon added what he did there in Ecclesiastes 3:9-11,that mankind sees the endless and repetitious cycle of events occurring throughout history, and this is mostly unfulfilled yearning to know how events in one's own life are going to work out, where life itself is headed, but the answers are not given them. They just do not know.
Recently, I wakened in the middle of the night thinking about this sermon in reference to John 6:44. Also, I was connecting this with this world's Christian churches. It dawned on me that I had read explanations of John 6:44 in their commentaries, and they understood what it means. By that I mean that they understand technically and they can understand by tearing the words apart, as it were, and yet they mean nothing to them. It does not mean the same things to them as it means to us. It does not affect their lives. In the Biblical sense, they understand technically, but they believe NOT. You can see that because of the way it does not effect their lives. It means little or nothing to these people. In other words, they are not taking advantage of it. I feel certain if they understood, they would take advantage of it.
Just this past sermon I gave on the weekly Sabbath, I went through John 6 in a great deal of detail. Those people heard God in the flesh speaking to them the gospel of the Kingdom of God and what they were to do with their lives. They heard the same words as the apostles heard, but it had an entirely different measure or degree of significance to the apostles than it did to those other people. And what happened to the other people? They left.
Something had been given to the apostles that the others did not have! They were being drawn by God. They had enough of the Spirit of God drawing them that they perceived what Jesus said in an entirely different context. Those people who had not been given what the apostles had been given, saw that only in a literal, material concept. So they left. It was offensive to them. If you ever run across these words in the Bible, understand what it means: "They believed not!" They heard the words, but they did not believe them.
Why are you here? Because you BELIEVE! That is the difference between us and them. The faith is different. We believe and it effects our lives. They hear the words, they put a different twist on them, and they do little or nothing.
You see, what God has provided for us comes in two forms. It is not mere knowledge. It is knowledge plus the spirit of God to draw us to the correct understanding of what He is saying. That is the miraculous element.
He is continuing to provide and that is why you are here. The provision that He is giving to us is less on the material side and greater on the spiritual side by far, so that our faith can continue to increase. If the faith increases, we grow. We have grown as a result of that.
He has commanded this particular feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, to be an annual reflection on where each person's life is headed so that we can be annually reoriented on the major questions of life. We are here to meditate on where we have been, where we are right now, and where we are going with our life. It is not the Millennium. That is just a way stop on the way. It is the next step after this preparation period is over. We live in booths to remind us that we are on a pilgrimage and we are to consider ourselves as strangers and foreigners.
Life is temporary and we are not to be wandering. Our lives are to be purposely led and to head in a certain direction with all of the zeal and the commitment we can muster. This is because we have been shown in such a way by God what the two great alternatives in life are. We are commanded to choose the one. We have chosen to be in alignment with His purpose and be here.
This same God, speaking in His Word in the first person, decrees the fate of nations and of empires. He prophesies specific events that are going to happen and they happen. He also reveals the ultimate destiny of mankind in quite a number of places. This mystery goes far beyond what most have even imagined, even in their wildest dreams about the purpose of life. Yet, once it is revealed, it is so obvious and so powerful in its logic, that one may wonder why he did not understand it all along. It goes far beyond the Millennium. So far, that upon reflection from time to time, one may wonder why it does not stir him more frequently, on a day to day basis.
So a question: Are we, like this world's Christianity, so caught up in the around and the about, that the great destiny of life slips into the background of our life?
This sermon is designed to make sure that we are all on the same page—that we all know where we are headed so we will understand the choices, and why such commitment is needed and why our lives must be devoted to preparing for the next stage of God's purpose.
This purpose begins with perhaps the most fundamental and important spiritual elements—by knowing and knowing that we know that we have not been produced by blind chance. Some of the most intelligent and highly educated men on earth believe in evolution, which operates according to blind chance. Blind chance is a totally fortuitous coming together of just the right elements at just the right time. They not only set off a chain of events that resulted in life beginning, but also set off all the processes that resulted in all the forms of life in a continuous string of fortuitous events—fortuitous comings together.
No, you are here by the purpose and by the will of GOD, from before the foundation of the world! Do you believe that? That is what He says in His Word! He knows the end from the beginning! He has all the steps planned out, from beginning to end. We have been chosen to understand the purpose for which we were created. It was NOT fortuitous chance. You are here by design. You are here to make choices.
There are some who are not here, because in my judgment, they have made some wrong choices along the way. I am not saying that everything is over for them. I am saying they are delaying their progression along the path and that better choices could have been made.
The evolutionary theory says that life is accidental rather than purposeful. It proposes in theory that life, which is far more complicated than a watch or a computer, just happened accidentally. But God's Word establishes a far different foundation, a foundation having a supreme purpose.
John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the Light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
The Bible reveals a purposeful creation made by two personalities who are God. It shows that all life existing in their creation was imparted from their already existing life, but mankind does not understand that life. Here we see in a very simple statement, the law of biogenesis—that life comes from preexisting life. Things do not arise from nothing. They arise from something that was preexisting.
These verses here do not explain the purpose of life. John was laying the foundation for teaching that the life which became flesh was the Light. It signifies and reveals the true shape and the location of things, the giving of direction and imparting to the called, by word and deed, the purpose of that creation. Without light we do not know what things are, where things are, or how to avoid things that are. But when that light begins to shine, then we should find our way to the right place, right?
The answer to that is yes and no, because that light has to be revealed to us personally and individually. Otherwise, we keep running into things and it is as though we are still in darkness, even though it is light.
Genesis 1:26 And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.
Here is the earliest indication from God's Word of the purpose of the creation. It is not hidden. Right from the very beginning, once one understands, "Let us make man in OUR IMAGE!" That is what God is doing. It is so plain, so clear! We are being made in His image and it comes in two stages. First the physical, then the spiritual begins after a person is called, elected of Him, then they begin to understand the spiritual aspect of that creation. That is why it says in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are His workmanship!" You are an act of creation of God in progress.
Our responsibility is to make choices, to use the alternatives we now understand, to choose the right things and aid, as it were, God in the act of the creating that is going on. It is not hidden. Mankind is created in the very image of the Ones doing the work of creating. It implies very strongly in context that we are created after the God kind, not the animal kind, which evolution implies.
This also gives the very first indication of a purposeful creation. We are created to exercise dominion and rule over the rest of the creation. God very quickly moves to establish broad and general parameters intended for the exercising of that dominion. So in chapter 2, in verse 15, it says there:
Genesis 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
Again, we have a simple but far reaching statement of what man is to do with his life. The environment that God gave to mankind was equipped to serve God's purpose, that mankind had to exercise dominion and creativity in embellishing and preserving that environment.
'Dress' implies putting in order and beautifying. 'Keep' implies maintenance in order to preserve from deterioration. Because of this, nature left to itself, is subject to entropy, that is, to disorganization and deterioration. It will deteriorate toward randomness. Again, just the opposite of what evolution implies.
God intends that this principle of labor will serve the purpose of helping prepare mankind for its ultimate destiny. Please (because these statements in the book of Genesis, especially, are so simple and they are so basic), do not overlook them and think of them as applying only to Adam and Eve. These are profound statements in their instruction to us. What God is doing here is establishing the models through which His spiritual purpose will also be accomplished for all of mankind.
Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
After telling them to dress and keep, the very next model established is the family. It will be the basic building block of society and the institution God invented, provided, and promoted as the means through which mankind would come in contact with the majority of his social relationship experiences.
God purposefully arranged that these models would be at the very beginning of His revelations to mankind, so that its reading of these things would hopefully point them in the right path to greater and deeper understanding of His purpose.
We are going to leap ahead in time and go all the way back to the book of Hebrews, chapter 2.
Hebrews 2:5 For unto the angels has He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
Now connect this to the first several chapters of Genesis, because we are leaping all the way ahead to the conclusion—a very clear explanation of God's purpose.
Hebrews 2:6-11 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that you are mindful of him? [This of course was David in the Psalms.] Or the son of man, that you visit him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor, and did set him over the works of your hands: You have put all things in subjection under his feet. [Listen to this:] For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: [one family, the family of God] for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren.
We can leap ahead again. Revelation 5:10 tells us very plainly and clearly that we are going to reign on earth as kings and priests. Both kings and priests possess rulership and authority and dominion. They govern and administer. It is just in different areas of a culture. A king rules and administrates in political areas. A priest is one who administers that teaching in regard to one's relationship with neighbor and with God. One has authority in the political area. The other in regard to relationship areas.
These are our destinies that beautifully matches Genesis 1:26-27 and Psalm 8, where David asks that question, "What is man that you are mindful of him?" Well that is the reason! The reason is that we are going to be in the Kingdom of God, part of that one family, ruling and reigning over everything that God has created! Nothing is withheld, Paul said. Absolutely nothing! And when you look up in the heavens and you see those stars out there twinkling in the distant portions of the universe, you can understand it is an AWESOME thing to realize that this whole thing has been created for God's children to reign and rule over, with Him of course and our elder brother, Jesus Christ.
It is an awesome destiny! Do you think in your wildest dreams that He is going to turn over all of these things to people who have not shown in their lives that they are prepared to rightly control the powers and the knowledge and the wisdom and the love that it is going to take to reign and rightly manage those things? Not on your life!
Everybody in business knows that it is the responsibility of the chief administrating officers to prepare those who are in the jobs underneath them so they can perform their tasks for the good of the corporation. But somehow or another, brethren, people out there in the world look at these scriptures and they come to the conclusion that the only thing that God wants is for you to be there! Human executives can be demanding of their employees, but God does not want anything from us. He just wants us to be there and to look at Him. To be a vision. That is just about all it amounts to. To look on the face of God.
We are going to do things! You are going to have the opportunity to exercise your mind in ways that you cannot even begin to dream about now. With powers that are awesome, but powers that are perfectly controlled because you have learned now to control the powers of your own body physically. You control them with a mind that is guided, inspired, and directed by His love, and the right use will be chosen between alternatives of the use of those powers.
Consider what Paul explained in Romans 4.
Romans 4:13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
The important thing here is that Abraham is going to be heir of the world. He is heir of the world already. Jesus came along and confirmed that promise. Galatians 3:29 tells us that because we are Abraham's seed, we too are heirs according to the promise. We are co-heirs with Jesus Christ and Abraham of all these things.
The Weymouth translation says in Hebrews 2:8, "For in this subjecting of the universe to man." You see what I mean? These people can see these things. They can tear the words apart. They know how to put them together so that they are understandable to us! We do not have the education that they have, but we understand because of what God has done.
Luke 22:29-30 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father has appointed unto Me; that you may eat and drink at my table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Do you think that only applies to them? Did it not say in Revelation 5:10 that you are going to be reigning and ruling with Christ? Of course it does. That applies to you and me as well.
Let us look at Ecclesiastes 2, because it has a little principle there that I think is important to tie to something that I said just a little bit earlier.
Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 Yes, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it to the man that shall be after me. And who knows whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? Yet shall he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have showed myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity.
Everybody knows Solomon was rich. He was powerful. He ran, operated, governed, administered what was then the most powerful nation on the face of the earth. I imagine Solomon gave a great deal of time and energy to that responsibility. Here he is writing for all of his posterity, all who will come after him, including us, and he said he was concerned that everything that he labored so hard to make beautiful—this book tells us how he delved into all kinds of things to make Jerusalem, especially and undoubtedly, a very beautiful city. Maybe there was a great deal of vanity in it. I am sure he took pride in what he did, because it was undoubtedly a majestic site to look upon.
But he wondered, "Is my son going to carry these things on and continue to make them beautiful? Or is the nation going to fall into poverty as a result of the unwise rule of my son?" We know what happened with Rehoboam. I do not know how much time and energy Solomon put into rearing him and showing him the right things. But regardless, whatever it was, Solomon's premonitions came to pass, because Rehoboam was not a wise ruler. The nation divided under Rehoboam. They avoided civil war only because God intervened and stopped civil war, but they still split into two separate nations. It was not a wise and righteous rule, and Solomon's premonitions were right.
People understand that those who are in authority should do something about preparing those who are coming along—everybody but God. "He just wants us in His Kingdom, so He gives grace so we can be saved, but there's no labor required on our part to respond to the teaching that He gives to us so we'll be prepared."
Work does not save us, but the work does prove to God that we are following His instructions.
Luke 19:11 And as they heard these things, He added and spoke a parable, because He was near to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
Luke 19:13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy [or be busy] till I come.
Here is Jesus telling His servants to work! "Occupy, be busy, labor till I come."
Luke 19:15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
Growth is produced from the work of following the commands of God. God wants to see whether we are going to grow and how much we grow.
Luke 19:17 And he said unto him, Well, you good servant: because you have been faithful in a very little, have you authority over ten cities.
Work means that one is faithful in what they have been given. Work consists of making the right choices. The two alternatives—good on the one hand, evil on the other.
Luke 19:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
One of the things that this parable instructs us in is our responsibility as a disciple. That is, that we have to put His gifts to work. We are to embellish and preserve. This is where the dressing and the keeping takes place. It is in the use of the gifts, the powers, the enabling that He gives us by means of His Spirit and the knowledge that He imparts to us in carrying out our responsibilities within the body, within the family, within the community. All of those things are taken into consideration. That is where we embellish and preserve. There is a special commendation to those that He calls faithful, trustworthy, loyal. They are the people who faithfully use what was entrusted to them.
We see interesting terms in relation to God's purpose. Gifts, business (meaning diligent working), gain (meaning growing), faithfulness, reward, and authority all within that same parable. All of these are separate and specific, but yet each one of them is interlocked in the same process—the process of being prepared for dominion in the Kingdom of God. Once we get there, our first labor is going to be the Millennium.
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
How could anything be plainer?
How is this going to be accomplished? We have already given a great deal of information—but we will add this to it.
Matthew 4:4 But man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
Think of that term "live" in terms of that which is eternal. We are alive without the Word of God, so when you see that "live" in that kind of a context, Jesus is primarily getting across to us how we shall live eternally. It is by every Word of God ingested into our minds, assimilated into life, and used!
Now let me give you a brief summary to this point. We see a purposeful creation with mankind given dominion and told to prepare through dressing and keeping, growing and overcoming, using one's gifts and being faithful to the Word of God in order to be part of a far expanded Kingdom of God.
Even as God the Father reigns, so will His sons. Is Jesus reigning? He is the forerunner. We will be reigning as well. There are many details to be accomplished in getting prepared. Let us look quickly at some of these.
II Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.
Growing in grace and the knowledge—a specific, definite article "the." The knowledge of Christ. It is not knowledge about Christ. It is "the" knowledge of Christ. Christ's knowledge in us. And the knowledge about Christ is only a tiny part of the knowledge of Christ. That is what we have to grow into so that we conduct our lives in the same way that Jesus conducts His.
Matthew 5:48 Be you therefore perfect . . .
Perfect here does not mean without flaw. If we can be perfect without flaw, that is all the better. But what it literally means is, "Fit for use." "Become you fit for use." In other words, we have to be prepared. Jesus is saying, "Allow yourself to be prepared for the Kingdom of God." One of the simpler illustrations of "fit for use" is a Philip's screwdriver. It has a different working end on it than a regular straight screwdriver. A Philip's screwdriver is perfectly fit for use on Philip's head screws. Right?
That is what God wants us to be. He wants us to be perfectly fit for use in His Kingdom, ruling and reigning with Christ. We have to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. We have to become fit for use.
I Peter 1:15-18 But as He which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy. And if you call on the Father, who without respect of persons judges according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers.
Becoming holy. Holy has to do with being set apart. Sanctified. It has to do with being whole, a whole person, complete in every way. It has to do with purity of life and not sinning.
In Ephesians 4, in verses 11 and 15, we are to, "Grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Here the emphasis is on growing to emotional maturity—in control of our emotions. Each one of these is connected within the whole of the overall picture of our destiny, yet specifically different when they are isolated.
Now it is entirely possible that your head might be spinning and that you might feel somewhat overwhelmed and oppressed in how little has been accomplished and how much remains yet to be done. Do not fear. Who is running the show? There are plenty of encouraging scriptures that ensure that God is able to bring about everything that He sets His hands to do, He will do!
Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:12-18 Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Do all things without murmuring and disputing: that you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. Yes, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do you joy, and rejoice with me.
I want you to notice in this set of scriptures that we have a part to fulfill in this process. We are not working for salvation to obtain it. We are working to put our deliverance from sin into practical operation. There is a big difference between those two.
The expression, "work out," means (now get this) to express, to manifest, to make evident, to show or reveal something that you already have! Now in that context, what do we already have? You want to talk about somebody who is confident, that what He sets His hand to do He will do. What we already have in that context is salvation. God sees things that are not as though they were! That is how confident He is that He can bring to pass in your life and my life what He wants to accomplish with your life. But He still requires of us that we yield to Him so that these things can be accomplished, and maybe more than we might ever think could be accomplished.
Paul tells these people, "Make evident in your life that you are saved." It is not something in this context that is future. In this context it is already assured!
Let me rearrange the words a little bit. Paul is saying, "Therefore carry your salvation out to its logical conclusion." The salvation that is in the past. Carry your salvation out to its logical conclusion.
I think that it will help if you can just picture the children of Israel standing on the shore of the Red Sea, delivered from Egypt, and yet being pursued by Pharaoh's army. They had been freed from slavery and from certain death. Were they not delivered? Were they not saved? They were no longer bound, as it were, in a jail. Now they needed to do something to manifest the fact that they were no longer bound in jail, with their hands tied behind their backs. They were to do something.
What did God tell them to do? GO FORWARD! "But God, there's the Red Sea in front of us." "I said walk." It is simple enough, is it not? They were to prove to Him that they were delivered! That is what the works are for. They show God that we BELIEVE Him! We are to go forward on the pilgrimage, trusting that when the need arises, He will provide.
He is telling us that our salvation does not depend on the work we do, but what God has done, is doing, and will do. That is where the faith comes in. Do we have faith that He has released us? Do we have faith that He is with us? Do we have faith that He is going to be with us? Paul said, "Prove it! Make the choice! Walk forward. Give evidence that you believe it."
The work does not save us. God does. It just advances His cause and gives evidence. It witnesses to the world and to us that we are making progress on the pilgrimage, getting prepared for the Kingdom of God.
When He told them to go forward, did He divide the Red Sea? Certainly He did. When they walked forward in the wilderness, did He provide them with manna? Of course He did. Did He give them water to energize them physically and refresh them and provide them cleanliness? Of course He did. Did He instruct and guide them with His law through Moses? Of course He did. Did He give them the cloud by day and the fire by night? Of course He did.
In Philippians 2:13, Paul is telling us that even in the work that we do, He gives us the will and the power to do it. Oh we of little faith. That applies to all of us. All we have to do is walk.
We have to get the right perspective on this. We are His workmanship and it is He that enables us to do the good works. One of the major ways that He enables us is by giving us the faith, the hope, and the love to do them if we will just take the steps and go forward. Good works, then, are the fruit of the faith, hope, and love.
You can write down II Corinthians 5:17, where Paul says, "We are a new creation." We are a creation in process. And even as He created Adam and Eve and gave them dominion in which they failed, He has begun a new creation in which the model is Jesus Christ. He is the second Adam. He has already succeeded. We are to follow Him along the same basic path that He went on.
II Corinthians 3:17-18 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, [those of us who are converted] with open face beholding as in a glass [that is seeing a reflection in a mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed [transformed] into the same image from glory [from the glory of man] to glory [to the glory of God], even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
This is the transformation that is daily being effected in the lives of those who have no veil before them and Christ. It has been removed. We have entered into the holiest of all, so that we can see what is behind the veil, into the very presence of God. A Christian is able to reflect as much of Christ's glory as he is able to see. Our vision of Christ's glory comes from God's Word as revealed by His Spirit. Our responsibility in all of this is to humble ourselves to yield to the Word of God, to take steps as meager and as small and as uncertain and as staggering as they might be, to live by every Word of God. Then He does all the rest.
God tells us twice what He is doing very plainly. In Psalm 74:12 where it says, "He is working salvation throughout all of the earth." In John 6:29, here is God's definition of work: "The work of God is that you believe in His Son, Jesus Christ." He is working salvation, deliverance, everywhere throughout all of history. God is delivering mankind from its bondage to this world, to Satan, and the flesh, and ultimately death, and into a world, a kingdom, a life of unending accomplishment, fulfillment, and joy.
II Peter 1:2-4 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as His divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that has called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
The most important thing in these verses in regard to this sermon is this: "His divine power has given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness." He has already given it! The second one is: "You have been made partakers of the divine nature." The power to do what God has chosen us to do is in us already, because He has given us the divine nature.
However, it remains for us to seek and discover what it is that He wants us to do. Some of the things that He wants us to do are very clear and we dare not presume that we are already doing them well enough to satisfy what God wants of us. You can see this in Philippians 3:8-16 where Paul said that he keeps striving and pushing for perfection, not as though he already had it. He was still pushing anyway.
I have a section of this sermon that I am going to conclude on, but it will take just a little bit of a bend here. It is taking this little bit of a bend because when things fell apart in Worldwide, the fact, the truth, the teaching that we are to be God was completely pooh-poohed—that we are to be God as God. But, we are to be God as God. How in the world can you be one with God if you are not the same as He is, not in the way that He describes there in Hebrews 2.
You can write these scriptures down. John 10:30-36 where Jesus told those people, those unconverted Jews, He said, "You are gods." In John 5:18, the Jews recognized that a real son is in fact equal to his father. This is not a question of authority. It is a question of kind.
Is a baby, regardless of the fact that it was just born, any less human than the parents that produced it? No, not at all! It is still just as human as the father and mother. The only difference is in growth, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and love, and those things will come. They will be developed as the child grows and as the parents do their responsibility as parents.
This same process is at work with us. When we inherit the Kingdom of God, we are going to be just as much God as God is God. It is not a matter of authority. We will be God and we will grow, continue to grow to be just like the Father. We will not be half God/half man, anymore than a child born into a human family is half human and half pig.
God gives us these parallels so that we can understand things that seem to be complicated but they are not. That is what I meant at the beginning of the sermon when I said once you understand and the pieces begin to come together, it is so logical that you wonder why in the world you did not understand it from the very beginning. Things in the human life parallel things in God life.
I Corinthians 15:45-47 And so it is written, The first Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit [a life giving spirit]. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.
Do you think he is only talking about Jesus? He is talking about you!
I Corinthians 15:48-50 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly [or spiritual], such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. [We will be transformed to God!] Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit corruption.
Jesus is the forerunner and the pattern. He is the image into which we are being conformed. It is clear then what we are being prepared for. It is to share rule and life with the Forerunner, our elder Brother, Jesus Christ. We will be like Him. He is God. We will be God!
Let us finish in Matthew 6:33, one of the most familiar scriptures in all of the Bible to us.
Matthew 6:33 But seek you first the kingdom of God.
That is our goal, not the Millennium. The Millennium is important to us because this is what we are being prepared for and with the Father and the Son, it is going to be our responsibility to produce those wonderful prophecies that we see in the Word of God—about how life is going to be during the Millennium for those who are still flesh and blood. But it will be our responsibility to be those who are governing and working to create the kind of society, the culture, that we are going to see on earth. A culture that is going to parallel the kind of life that God lives in His heavenly Kingdom.
This is the first order of business for us. Seeking first the Kingdom of God. It is not the Place of Safety. It is not the Millennium or some perceived work of the church. It is truly an awesome purpose for which we are to be prepared.
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