The Suffering and the Glory

WE ALL realize that the Lord’s people down through the ages have been a people of suffering. This began very early in human experience. It began particularly with Abel, who suffered because of obedience to what he believed was the Lord’s will for him—suffered and died—and it has continued thus all the way down through the ages, and will continue until this aspect of the Lord’s plan is fully completed.

The explanation for this was given in a few words in Genesis, where we are told of the prophecy concerning the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, and told that there would be enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. And this suffering has been a manifestation of this enmity, and will continue until, in keeping with the other aspect of the prophecy, the Lord shall bruise Satan under our feet. And Paul said nearly two thousand years ago that this would be “shortly.”—Gen. 3:15; Rom. 16:20

It is a sort of long “shortly” thus far, but we know that ultimately this prophecy will be fulfilled, starting with the binding of Satan and finally with his destruction. The Scriptures tell us when this will come to an end. In the 25th chapter of Isaiah we are given a picture of the kingdom under the symbol of a mountain, and told, among other wonderful things pertaining to that kingdom, that then shall the Lord of hosts take away the rebuke of his people from off the whole earth.

Of course we realize that the Ancient Worthy class who suffered under the rebuke of Satan is not a part of the seed of the woman. But Satan may not always have known just who this seed might be, so from the very beginning he vented his spite, his hatred, his venom against all those who were favored of the Lord. That is why the Ancient Worthy class, who served the Lord so faithfully, felt the brunt of his enmity—the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.

Official Glory

The glory, of course, will not be realized until, as we have seen, the suffering is completed. The Bible uses this word glory in various aspects. It speaks of the glory of nature—the glory of the celestial (the heavenly), and the glory of the terrestrial (the earthly). Adam was created in the glory of God—the terrestrial glory—and the church will be exalted to celestial glory. But we here use the word glory not in connection with the glory of nature, but rather, the glory of office, which is also outlined in the Word of God, both in respect to Jesus and in respect to his followers.

And this glory of office can be broken down into many facets. But we limit our discussion largely to four of these facets, and they are illustrated for us by the use of certain terms that are descriptive in the promises and prophecies of God of the work of the thousand-year reign of Christ. These four are, first of all the kingdom itself; then there is the making of the New Covenant; then there is the work of judgment; and then there is also another beautiful picture related to this coming glory—the picture of the temple in the plan of God. Jesus, through the Revelator, said to one of the churches, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God.” (Rev. 3:12) So there will be a temple in that arrangement, following the first resurrection. The terms kingdom, covenant, judgment day, and temple service are pictures that convey much to our minds concerning the accomplishment of that glorious future day.

The Kingdom

So with this general introduction, keeping in mind that first there is a suffering and then the glory, let us think of the kingdom. The lesson of the kingdom is brought to our attention beautifully in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” If we stopped there, we would not take in the lesson. “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” When you think of a kingdom, of course you think of a king or ruler, but you also think of subjects. Did you ever stop to consider what that word “subject” really means in this connection? It simply means those who are subject to the king. It means those who have learned to obey the edicts of the ruler. That is the lesson here.

Now, so far as the promises of God are concerned, we are promised that, if faithful, we will live and reign with him. Faithful in what? If we are faithful in suffering with him, we shall reign with him. But in this connection how are we faithful? What constitutes our faithfulness? Have you ever stopped to think that when we offer that beautiful and meaningful prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” it would not go any higher than the ceiling unless we were making every possible effort to sacrifice our own preferences, and everything else, to make sure that the Father’s will was now being done in our own hearts?

Humble Yourselves

This, in a word, suggests our preparation for being a part of the kingdom—being rulers together with Jesus in that kingdom. It means what the Scriptures clearly point out: “Humble yourselves … under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.” (I Pet. 5:6) Notice the connotation here, the couplet of thoughts. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you to rulership in due time. And these words were written by Peter in a context in which he describes the suffering of the cross. In other words, in spite of the suffering; in spite of the fact that we might think that because we are serving the Lord we ought to receive a better portion than we are getting; in spite of all human reasoning as to what this suffering might mean, if we do not humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God it means that his will is not being done in our bodies and therefore we will never have a chance to reign with Christ.

That is the lesson—the lesson of preparation for the kingdom—and it is true that the kingdom will accomplish this subjection for the whole world of mankind, and those who do not humble themselves as subjects to that kingdom will be destroyed from among the people. The Apostle Paul wrote that Christ must reign until all enemies are put under his feet. Notice the association of reigning with putting enemies under his feet—the subjecting of the enemies. That is the thought in our kingdom hope.

The New Covenant

Then there is the glorious hope we have of working with Jesus in making a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, and in reality with all mankind, though some find it difficult to include the thought that the church is a part of the mediator of the New Covenant. But the Scriptures teach definitely that we are ministers of reconciliation—ministers of that covenant. A mediator is one who makes reconciliation, and we are the ministers of reconciliation, so it seems to be a distinction without a difference.

And for this lesson let us turn to II Corinthians 3, beginning with verse 3, “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” Some think this to be a direct reference to the 31st chapter of Jeremiah, but it takes us back farther than that. It takes us back to the time when God wrote his law on tables of stone. That is the comparison made here. And the Old Testament tells us that God gave those tables to Moses in order that he might teach the people. So we could think of those tables of stone as being the epistles of Moses prepared for him especially by the Lord, whereas the Lord through his Holy Spirit is now, and has been throughout the age, writing these epistles of Christ so that we can properly be associated with him in the kingdom.

The next verse says, “And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward.” We are prone at times to seek for other translations, but this is a beautiful illustration of the music of the Kings James Version. “And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward.” It is so plain as to what it means, and yet so poetical and wonderful! And then the next verse: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”

Able Ministers

What is it that Paul is about to tell us that is so wonderful, so high, so grand in all its connotations that we would know, or should know, immediately that we would not be sufficient for this of ourselves? This is what it is: “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament [or covenant]; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” In other words, being able ministers of the covenant is such a big thing that only by God’s arrangement, God’s assurance and his help, can we ever hope to attain to it.

Paul explains that we are able ministers of the New Covenant, not of the letter, but of the spirit. Sometimes we express the right thought and attach the wrong scripture to it, like “having a feast of fat things” at convention. That expression belongs to the feast that the world will have by and by. And again, we think of the timely, loving presentation of the kingdom message with mercy and patience, and we speak of that as a ministry of the spirit.

But that is not what Paul is saying here. Here he is contrasting the ministry of the Old Covenant written on tables of stone with the ministry of the New Covenant written on fleshy tables of the heart. The ministry of the letter killeth, he says. And it did. It promised to give life, depending upon the ability of the Jewish people to keep it, but they could not keep it, so it resulted in death. But the ministry of the New Covenant through these epistles of Christ, with Christ of course the Leader in all of this, will actually give life.

Man Reconciled to God

That is its purpose. Man lost his at-one-ment with God, has been alienated from God—and still is—down through the centuries, and the main purpose of the covenant illustration is to remind us that the world of mankind is to be restored, or reconciled to God—brought back into covenant relationship with him.

“But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away; how shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.”—II Cor. 3:7-10

Much Glory

That is a lot about glory, isn’t it? And then listen to the 12th verse, “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech.” We remember Paul’s timely explanation in Romans: “If we have that which we hope for, why do we then hope for it?” Hope is something that pertains to that which we do not have. And so, after giving us this wonderful discourse on the glory of the administration of the New Covenant, as illustrated by the glory on Moses’ countenance when he came down from the mountain, Paul says “Seeing then that we have such hope.” This our hope. It is a part of what Paul spoke of as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”—Col. 1:27

The remainder of the chapter brings out some interesting points. Going back into the Old Testament records we will find that when Moses was mediating the Old Covenant it was only when he spoke to the people that he had the veil over his face, because they could not steadfastly look upon that glory—he had to hide it. But when he went in to speak to the Lord in this work of mediating, he took the veil off. Now hear what he says, “But we all, with open face [and the translation here should be with unveiled face] beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Where does Paul put you and me in this wonderful picture—out in the camp with the Israelites? No! He puts us with Moses in the presence of God, because that is where he took the veil off. And Paul says, “We with unveiled face beholding [it is only mirrored to us through the Word] as in a glass [mirror] the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory.”

One of the theme songs of the Bible, repeated a number of times in the Old Testament, is found in Exodus 34:6,7. It was recited—by an angel probably—while the second set of tables of stone were having the law of God written on them. It reads: “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”

Now this theme song is, in a sense, an epitome of the whole plan of God. So down through the age the great truths of the Bible have had the effect on those who have been in tune with God of writing his law upon their hearts, preparing them to be the epistles of Christ.

Suffering Involved

But it has involved suffering—much suffering. Paul continues on this same general theme; in fact, he continues at least through the 6th chapter of II Corinthians. And in the 4th chapter he reminds us that the light afflictions which we have are but for a moment, to be followed by the glory. What is this suffering working out for us? A far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory! Notice the contrast in this language—the light afflictions; they are light, are but for a moment, are temporary, but the glory is different; it works out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. And it is eternal—eternal glory—“Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

The Work of Judgment

And then, of course, there is the judgment-day period. Now we turn to the 17th chapter of Acts, where we have that wonderful promise of the judgment day. Paul tells us that “he [God] hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained;” even Jesus Christ, the righteous, and that “he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Isn’t that a wonderful promise? Read that by itself, and you will say, “That satisfies me,” as some have said in the past, “There is enough in the 5th chapter of Matthew to satisfy me.”

From that scripture alone, we would never dream that the church would have any share with Jesus in that future work of judgment, would we, because nothing is said about it there, but other scriptures show that the church will have. Paul says, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (I Cor. 6:2) Yes, we will be co-judges with Jesus!

Remember the lesson Paul makes of this. In the church at Corinth they had a little difficulty. They were haling one another into the civil courts to settle their problems, and Paul said, Brothers, that is all wrong. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” If you are being prepared to judge the world by and by, you will have to learn how to get along among yourselves; learn how to apply and interpret the great principles of righteousness that come from the Word of God and to put them into operation among yourselves instead of going to an outside source. This is just one of the lessons that the Scriptures give us in true Christian development. And it is in preparation for the future work of judgment.

And of course we have that wonderful passage in the 20th chapter of Revelation concerning the work of judgment. The small and the great stand before God, and the books are opened, and every man is judged by the things written in the books. The world will have to learn the will of God. They will have to learn the great principles of divine righteousness and apply them in the day of their probation—in the day of their trial for life—and, if faithful, we hope to be there and to assist in that wonderful arrangement.

The Temple Illustration

Let us now look at the temple arrangement. We have already quoted the scripture in Revelation concerning those who are faithful being made pillars in the temple of God. And in I Corinthians 3:16 the apostle says, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of [the living] God?” That does not mean the temple was complete at that time. The obvious thought is that they were being prepared to be pillars in that temple. But the church, altogether, constitutes that temple, and it is brought to our attention very beautifully by Peter in his first epistle where he says, speaking of the stone which the builders rejected in connection with the typical temple, “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house [obviously the thought here is a spiritual temple because of the use of the word “stones”—it would not be appropriate otherwise], an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”—I Pet. 2:4,5

When that chiseling and polishing is finished—when the church class is complete—then that particular aspect of that future thousand years will fall into place together with everything else. And what will we have? We will have in this glorious arrangement a new temple—Jesus and the church—a meeting place between God and men, a means of access to God whereby men may be reconciled to him, having his law written in their hearts, so that no one will need to say to his neighbor, Know the Lord, for all shall know him, from the least unto the greatest. (Jer. 31:34) All will be reconciled to him, because they have learned to know him, whom to know aright will be life eternal.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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