my saints together unto me, those that have made a
covenant with me by sacrifice” Psalm 50:5.
“Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming
of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto
him...” 2 Thess. 2:1.
"Not forsaking our own assembling together, as the
custom of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much
the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh” Hebrews
In all the
above passages there is one common factor: namely, that
an end-time movement and feature is dominant. It must be
remembered that the Psalms themselves represent what
remains when a history of outward things, as to the
general instrumentality, has ended in failure. The
history of Israel in its first great phase closed with
the book of Kings in a calamitous and shameful way.
Weakness, paralysis, declension, reproach, characterized
the instrument in general. But out of that history now so
concluded the Psalms are carried forward, as that which
represents permanent spiritual gain.
pre-eminently a personal, inward spiritual knowledge of
the Lord, gained through experience. That is why they
always reach the heart and never fail to touch experience
at every point. To them the saints have turned in times
of deep experience. They are the ministry of experience
to experience - the only ministry which is permanent. The
end-time instrument will always be that which knows the
Lord in a deep, inward, living way, through a history
fraught with much experience of the heights and depths.
gave to the Chief Musician for the wind instruments and
the stringed instruments touches the highest and deepest
notes of a mortal’s knowledge of God. Worship,
Salvation, Sorrow, Appeal, Victory, Battle, Faith, Hope,
Glory, Instruction, are great themes interwoven with the
mass of matters touched; but the point is that all came
in REAL LIFE - he passed through it all. It is
this, and this alone, which can serve the Lord when what
He first raised up has failed Him as a public instrument.
So the Lord would take pains to secure this, and this may
explain much of the suffering and sorrow through which He
takes His chosen vessels.
form only one of the four books born of the history of
Israel, each of which has its own feature to contribute
to that which represents the permanent work of God, but
especially as relating to an instrument of Divine
reaction. But the Psalms show clearly where God begins
and what in principle is basic to the first and most
abiding work of God.
It does not
need pointing out that, in the other two passages with
which we commenced, the end-time is in view; they
definitely state it. There is a further common feature of
the three, however, which is more particularly the
subject before us. They all definitely refer to GATHERING
TOGETHER as something related to the end-time.
of a religious system, born out of something which the
Lord raised up in the first place, has ended in weakness,
chaos and shame. Therefore, there is to be a re-gathering
to the Lord of His saints.
The Lord is
coming, and there is a gathering to Him.
The Day is
drawing nigh: therefore there is to be a “so much
the more” assembling together.
PARTICIPANTS IN THE GATHERING
deal with the nature of this end-time gathering, we must
have clearly in view those that are concerned in it. The
passage in the Psalm would embrace and include those
referred to in the other two passages.
saints... those that have made a covenant with me by
hardly be remarked that, when all has been said and done
through type, symbol and figure, the covenant means an
entering into what the Lord Jesus has done by His shed
Blood. It is an appreciation and apprehension of Him in
His great work by the Cross. But we need to be reminded
of what that involves as a covenant of God into which we
enter. It is a theme which demands a book to itself. In
order to reduce it to a few lines, let us consider a
concrete instance. We find a conspicuous illustration of
this matter in the life of Abram, as recorded in Genesis,
chapters 15 and 22.
15 we have the basis of a covenant concerning Abram’s
seed. Firstly, there is the comprehensive inclusion of
the offerings which came in later in Leviticus: a heifer,
a goat, a ram, a turtle-dove and a pigeon. These - with
the exception of the birds - were divided in the midst,
and laid one half on this side and the other half on that
side. These were the two sides of the covenant, God’s
and Abram’s. Later we see a flaming torch passing
between the two halves (verse 17).
Now, it is
clear that Abram knew what this all meant. He realised
that it involved him in something. God was saying quite
clearly that He was wholly for Abram, that all that He
was and had was being committed to this covenant. He
would keep nothing back from him, but would, so to speak,
place His very life, honour, name, glory, to the good of
His word to Abram. This was adequately proved in the long
run when He became incarnate in the seed of Abraham for
universal blessing. But there were two sides to the
covenant, and Abram understood this. He also was handing
himself over to God with all that he was and had, to the
very dearest possession, and if need be, to death. That
burning torch - that Fire of the Spirit - sealed the
oneness of the consecration or devotion of each to the
explains chapter 22. By that time Isaac was born and had
grown out of childhood. He had taken his place, and was
to Abraham what a first-born son is to his father in the
East. But he was more, because of the miracle of his
birth and the long-deferred hope. He was everything to
Abraham - more than life itself. All his father’s
hopes, expectations, vindications, promises and Divine
assurances were bound up with him. Accordingly –
“It came to pass after these things, that God did
prove Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham; and he said,
Here am I. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son,
whom thou lovest, even Isaac... and offer him... for a
was concerning the covenant. Did Abram mean his part of
it? Would he stand to it? Did he so utterly believe that
God would be faithful to His part that, no matter what
happened to Isaac, God could be trusted and His promise
would be fulfilled? What a test! But “Abraham
believed God” (Rom. 4:3). His faith in God enabled
him to stand by his part of the covenant, and “he
wavered not” (4:20).
was that, when Isaac had virtually been offered, the Lord
said to him: “Now I know that thou fearest God,
seeing thou hast not withheld thy son thine only son,
from me” (Gen. 22:12).
the Lord came in with His oath: “By myself have
I sworn... because thou hast done this thing, and hast
not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I
will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy
seed as the stars of the heaven...” (verses 16-18).
Do we now
see the meaning of ‘a covenant by sacrifice’?
Then we shall see who it is that will be in this ‘gathering
together’. It will certainly be only those to whom
the Lord is everything, to whom He is all and in all;
those who are all for the Lord without reservation,
without personal interest, without anything less or other
than Himself. Spiritual oneness is only possible on this
word at the end to Abraham was: “Now I know that
thou fearest God”. Malachi’s end-time word was:
“Then they that feared the Lord...” (3:16). The
fear of the Lord is an utter abandonment to Him, at any
cost. It is His will being supreme, claiming and
obtaining the measure of a whole burnt-offering.
NATURE OF THE GATHERING
then, clear as to WHO are concerned - and that
constitutes a test, even as they constitute a testimony -
we are able to look at the nature of the ‘gathering
We are well
aware that there is a widespread doubt as to whether we
are to expect anything in the way of a corporate movement
or testimony at the end. Indeed, it is strongly held by
some that everything at the end is individual - a
conviction that rests, for the most part, upon the use of
the phrase, “If any man...”, in the message to
Laodicea (Rev. 3:20).
hasten to say, then, that we have nothing in mind in the
nature of an organized movement, a sect, a society, or a
this, however, there are some things which need saying
quite definitely on the other side.
of the New Testament never was an organized movement.
Neither was there any organized affiliation of the
companies of believers in various places with one
another. It was a purely spiritual thing, spontaneous in
life, united only by the Holy Spirit in mutual love and
spiritual solicitude. There were other factors that acted
as spiritual links, which we will mention presently.
Further, and still more important, there was the abiding
fact that a ‘Body’ had been brought into being.
This is called ‘The Body of Christ’. You can
divide a society and still it remains, but you cannot
divide a body without destroying the entity.
Are we to
understand from the exponents of the individualistic
interpretation that all the teaching of the Lord, in
nearly all the Scriptures concerning the House of God,
and concerning the Body of Christ in nearly all the
letters of Paul, is now set aside or is only an idea
without any expression on the earth? Are we to blot out
the mass of the New Testament and live our own individual
Christian lives with no emphasis upon working fellowship
with other believers? Surely not. This would be contrary
to all the ways of God in history, and would certainly
spell defeat, for if there is one thing against which the
adversary has set himself it is the fellowship of God’s
people. Ultra-individualism is impossible if the truth of
the ‘One Body’ still stands. What is more, the
Lord’s people are becoming more and more conscious
of their absolute need of fellowship, especially in
prayer. The difficulty of getting through alone in prayer
is becoming greater as we approach the end.
is the nature of this ‘gathering together’?
It is a
gathering to the Lord Himself.
my saints together UNTO ME...”
“Our gathering UNTO HIM...”
past there have been gatherings to men, great preachers,
great teachers, great leaders; or to great institutions
and movements, centres and teachings. This is not now the
Lord’s way. Not that men sought to draw to
themselves, or that the Lord was not reached through
them, but people have a way of making a greatly used
servant of God the object of attraction.
End is Christ, and as we get nearer the end He must take
the place even of instrumentalities and become almost
immediately the only object of appreciation. Our oneness
and fellowship is not in a teaching, a ‘testimony’,
a community or a place, but in a Person, and in Him not
merely doctrinally, but livingly and experimentally. Any
movement truly of God must, as its supreme and
all-inclusive feature, confess that it is the Lord Jesus
alone who is the object of heart adoration and worship:
not things, themes, experiences, but the Lord Jesus
gathering is a gathering together in prayer-fellowship.
One of the last things said in the Epistle which presents
for all time and eternity the true nature of the Church
as the Body of Christ - the Epistle to the Ephesians -
“Praying at all seasons in the Spirit... FOR ALL
THE SAINTS” (Eph. 5:18).
first thing in spiritual gathering together is “holding
fast the Head” (Col. 2:19), or having the Lord Jesus
as the centre, the second thing is prayer-fellowship with
and for all the saints. “Gather my SAINTS
together.” This is geographically impossible of full
realisation, but it is spiritually possible by prayer.
There is no space or time in the realm of prayer. A deep
and travailing concern in prayer for the spiritual
well-being of all the saints has ever marked an end-time
movement of God; not alone for those who were true and
faithful, and had gone all the way with God; but for ALL
the people of God - although such as were more
immediately the objects of Satanic malice, by reason of
their faithfulness, might provoke a special cry to the
What we see
is the Lord having a prayer-instrument in every end-time,
when total destruction threatens that which represents
Him. And the very burden of prayer which He lays upon His
own in every part of the world is His way of uniting. If
we prayed more for all saints we should find many of the
things which divide - and wrongly divide - falling away
and ceasing to do so. Prayer is a wonderfully ‘gathering’
great factor in gathering spiritually is food.
Testament brings before us many an instance of fellowship
by feasting. Indeed, feasts were the nature of the
fellowship, although not the occasion of it.
Testament takes up the spiritual principle, and the Lord
Jesus makes the ‘breaking of bread’ not only
the remembering and proclaiming of His death and Himself,
but the testimony of the ‘one Loaf - one Body’.
The Lord’s Supper is represented as food and
first years of the Church, Christ was ministered to the
saints by the Holy Spirit through ministering servants
who moved from place to place. It was thus that the
saints were brought into fellowship with one another. Not
- let us say again - by an organized affiliation, but by
a ministration of Christ through His Word in the Spirit.
The ministers were “joints of supply” (Eph.
It is all
too obvious a thing to say that today there is a very
real hunger amongst the Lord’s people. They are not
being fed. What so many of them are getting is not ‘bread’.
In every part of the world there are such hungry ones;
one here, another there; a little company in one place,
another in another, and often unknown to each other. The
persistent and perplexing question asked almost
everywhere is: ‘What are we to do? There is no
spiritual food where we are.’
the Lord raise up a ministry to these? We are persuaded
that He will, and that He is now seeking to do so. A
method of gathering together according to Christ will be
that a ministration of Christ is sent forth and the
hungry will be found gathered in spite of everything. For
as there is a dissatisfaction with the religious systems
of the day on the part of so many who want to go on with
the Lord, so there is springing up in the hearts of many
of God’s servants a longing to be free to minister
to the saints irrespective of traditional ties and
There is no
mistaking the fact that this matter of food as a uniting
factor was ministered to the churches through anointed
ministries. In the book of the Acts we see how the
scattered churches were held together largely through the
ministries of servants of God who were qualified to build
the body corporate. They were everywhere recognised,
accepted and honoured, and they were in a very large way
a substitute for organized affiliation, government and
centralisation. As the individual members of Christ form
one corporate Body, so the individual churches were like
corporate members of the whole corporate Body, and there
was great gain to all by corporate ministries passing
has its own perils, but we cannot fail to see the
movement of God at the present day, and it is a gathering
movement - to Himself.
in Hebrews (10:25) specifically has the local assembling
in view. No one can deny that this is the Divine order.
The Lord desires to have in every place a representation
of and a testimony to His House. His will is to have all
such constituted according to Christ. But only the Holy
Spirit can do this constituting. We cannot take a New
Testament mould and pour people and places into it. We
must come into it by the Spirit. This necessitates that
the Holy Spirit have absolute sovereignty, clearness and
right-of-way; and this, in turn, requires that the flesh
be crucified and man be absolutely subject to Christ.
nothing in Scripture to lead us to conclude that this can
never again be. It may be a “day of small things”,
but in the hands of God such days are mightier than all
the great movements of men.