The Testimony and Its Vessel unto the Time of the End
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 2 - Hell's Hatred of the Vessel of Testimony

Having covered the ground in general survey and main outline we are now able to begin to work more closely on the spiritual aspect of those things. We want to come into closer touch with our title in its meaning, that is, "The testimony and its vessel unto the time of the end."

I want to just touch one or two fragments of this book before we go on. Daniel 1:21: "And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus." Try and keep that in mind, for it is a very important statement. Daniel 7:9-11: "I beheld till thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days did sit: his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool: his throne was fiery flames, and the wheels thereof burning fire," etc., 7:13-14,22: "...and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom." 7:18: "But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom..." 7:27: "and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High..." 10:1, 12:13: "But go thou thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and shalt stand in thy lot at the end of the days."

We have been saying that this book reveals that throughout an extended period of this world's history, known as the "Times of the Gentiles," the heavens are in operation in relation to a vessel of the testimony of the Lord, and that inasmuch as the heavens are in operation in that connection, hell is also stirred up and is tremendously active in the same direction.

The Mighty Significance of the Insignificant

Now what we have to see is not only that vessel, but how it fulfills its ministry in relation to the Lord's testimony in this time. And that vessel, we have said, is represented in this book by Daniel and his three companions. There are these two things; the world, under Divine planning, governed by Gentile powers, for the most part hostile to the Lord, antagonistic to the Lord's purposes, but in the midst thereof that which is related to the Lord and His purpose, and joined to the heavens - through which the heavens are ruling in the midst of the kingdoms of men; and what comes out in this book of Daniel very clearly is, that while the Gentile power is operating, and operating strongly, in opposition to God, God is imminent in His instrument and that instrument is really ruling in the midst of the world-powers and bringing in that which speaks of the superior and transcendent government of the heavens. Now that is a very simple statement, but it has bound up with it tremendous things for us and for the people of God.

It is no small thing to see that right there in the heart of the great dominating world system, the organised systems of this world governing the earth, there is a small thing, out of proportion to that system in its natural constitution, which so represents the supremacy of the heavens over the earth that although that world system goes just as far as it can, and the spiritual forces back of it, to bring to an end that apparently small and insignificant thing at its centre, it is said of that, firstly, that it continued unto the reign of Cyrus, King of Persia, continued unto then; then there is seen that testimony right at the end of everything, the last thing when the pageant or the empires has passed, mighty empires rising, having their day, dominating, waning, passing; and they have all come and they have all gone and they have spent themselves to the full, the instrument of that testimony stands at the end of the day: "Thou shalt stand in thy lot at the end of the days." And then withal the kingdom handed to the saints of the Most High and they take the government. That instrument, that vessel, is no insignificant thing; it may appear to be to the natural eye, comparatively from human standpoints it may be a mere nothing, but it is the instrument of heaven's rule and government and it is something which is greater than all the world-powers with all the satanic forces behind them.

Now that is saying immense things, beloved, immense things. Do you catch something of the application of that yourself? Do you realise and recognise that you in all the weakness, the feebleness, the poverty, the insignificance of your own personal life, your own human constitution, your position, if vitally, truly spiritually linked in with God's eternal purpose in and concerning His Son Jesus Christ, chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, called by grace and having responded to that call, a partaker of the heavenly calling, you are moving with God in the Holy Ghost, if that is true of you then you are a part of that vessel through which the government of the heavens is being made manifest in the unseen, and vitally related to the course of this world's history, giving significance to all the happenings of the course of this world; that you are spiritually what Daniel and his three companions were in Babylon. What was that? The vehicle, vessel, instrument, for showing that God and the kingdom of the God of the heavens is a mightier thing than all the force and power of men and devils combined. That is no small calling for you or for me, we are in that, and mark you, that involves this - if my interpretation of the Scripture is right (and there is a great deal more than the book of Daniel with which to support it) - it involves this, that when the Devil has done all that he can do, and men have done all that they can do against us, that testimony which we represent is going to abide to the end and we are going to stand upon the wreck and ruin of all the world empires triumphant in that testimony in Christ, indestructible. Let them kindle the fires seven times, let them starve their lions! Now this is not romancing, this is the meaning of the issue of the testimony in the power of Christ's resurrection. That is the thing you and I are called unto, the power of His resurrection, which is to have its final manifestation in a company who have conquered death, and the authority of death, or in whom the Son of God has conquered death. That is the meaning of the fire and the Son of God in the midst.

Oh, that something of that might just dawn upon you, for we are here today in no small thing. Tremendous things have gathered us here at this time and there is a very great deal of history back of our being here.

Daniel continued unto the first year of king Cyrus. When was that? Open your book of Ezra and how does Ezra begin? "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of Jehovah by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished Jehovah stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia." What did he do? Gave command for the return of the Jews to their land, opened the way and facilitated the return of the remnant, the recovery of the testimony. Daniel continued unto then. He must have been an old man, but that very fact is a declaration which spites hell, for Babylon sought to engulf Daniel.

Hell's Hatred of the Vessel of Testimony

The powers of evil back of Babylon marked Daniel out for destruction. Oh, you can see it. Nebuchadnezzar dreamed a dream, sent for all his wise men to interpret - no one could, impulsively he commanded that they all should be destroyed, and it says: "And they sought Daniel and his companions to be slain." That means Daniel was a marked man by those who had this power in their hands. Why does it say: "And they sought Daniel and his companions to be slain." Well, he was not one of the Chaldean or Babylonian wise men or magicians, but they included him and his friends. They had not asked him if he could interpret the dream, they had not given him a chance, but they sought to kill him. You see the impulsiveness of hell back of that, to get four men who had not been given a chance, to kill them, to sweep them in, to stampede this whole thing in order to get those four men. That is what Herod did; he swept in all the babes in order to get one. That is what Pharaoh did. This is hell's method, just to get one, to engulf the vessel of the testimony.

We know the fiery furnace and the den of lions. We know from this book of the animos in the hearts of men toward these. How they were scheming and designing so that they could entrap them, catch them, get rid of them. How they gloated over the signing of that command by the king which could not be cancelled and had to go through when Daniel was caught. How they gloated over it. "Now we have got him." Well, that is there coming from the spiritual background, but: "Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus." Why is that added just there? Why is that put in? Is that only just a little bit of historic information thrown in for narrative? No, the Holy Spirit is saying something tremendous. Daniel continued. Then when all this is passed, they have done their worst: "and shalt stand in thy lot, at the end of the days." The vessel of the testimony will be there when all else is spent. It continues unto the end; it is indestructible, it is of the nature of the permanence of heaven. It does not mean we may not die, although we may not be executed - but never was a vessel of the testimony more alive than the Apostle Paul today. He was executed. He will stand in his lot at the end.

This is a spiritual principle, a spiritual truth, and the point that I am seeking to get at is this, beloved: there has got to be something in our relationship to heaven and God's specified purpose which makes possible the manifestation of that mighty, devil-conquering life in us. We have got to know the power of His resurrection. That is essential to the vessel of the testimony at the end time, unto the end, to get through to the end: it means that we must be that in which the power of His resurrection is manifested. That is not merely an obligation, that is a privilege. It is a costly privilege, but that is what the Lord needs.

I am always so glad of that correspondence between Paul and his Lord, that when the Lord Jesus came to die He said: "I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment received I from my Father." When the Apostle Paul came to the end he did not say: "Now I am going to be taken hold of and they are going to kill me, and I shall not be able to help myself." He quietly, serenely announced: "The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." There is no surrendering to fate in that. There is no capitulating to the hands of men in that. There is, as it were, a quiet, deliberate walking out in the recognition that the Lord's time had come and not man's. Now there is a correspondence between Paul and his Master, but note, Paul is in representation the vessel of the testimony in this age. The testimony of Jesus was peculiarly placed within that vessel in a representative way. We have often said Paul personally embodied all the special revelation which was entrusted to him, he became a personal sign of that revelation. The truth which was committed to him from heaven had a specific outworking in his own life and experience because he had got to represent the Church in this age in himself as the vessel of its unveiling, and the issue of the Church in this age is the expression in fullness, of the power of Christ's resurrection as triumphant over death in translation, not by the grave but by the air.

"Oh, joy! oh, delight! should we go without dying;
No sickness, no sadness, no dread, and no crying."

We have sung that: that is the prospect for the Church, that is the glorious possibility, no! that is the certainty, as the final issue, but that represents that death is robbed finally of its power, that the power of His resurrection is manifested in eluding the grave and depriving death of its object. That is Enoch. But Paul represented that, and his last utterances are: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection"; yes, true: "and the fellowship of his sufferings," that is Daniel and the others. "The power of his resurrection" not as something just at the beginning of his Christian life and walk, but something at the end. And not as something merely to deliver him with all others in a general resurrection from the grave, but in a specific out-resurrection from among the dead. That is the testimony of the Church, a vessel for that. Paul represented that specific thing for the Church in this age. Daniel continued and Daniel stands in his lot at the end.

Have you grasped the principle that is implied in that? A wonderful thing. But beloved, you and I are called even now - though we may die, we may go by the grave - yet now, at this end time, you and I are called to be a part of that vessel in which the power of His resurrection is manifested, that the murderous plottings of hell are eluded, are overcome, and that the murderer who comes out to destroy before the Lord's purposes are accomplished shall be baffled by the power of His resurrection in us. When we ought to have been dead a dozen times we are still alive. Yes, the Lord wants an adequate vessel for that, not one, two, or three scattered here and there, but an adequate vessel for that; and He is seeking that. In relation to that we are here. You and I must not accept death until the Lord tells us the time has come. If we do, we open the door for the enemy to triumph. (Many of you do not understand that. If you do not, do not worry about it, but ask the Lord to give you the essential thing of what we are saying.)

Now that all comes out of that statement: "Daniel continued." Daniel stands at the end. The vessel is there when all has been done to see that the vessel should not be there. The testimony is there - goes on unto the end. But we have to see something more about such a vessel.

The Nature of the Vessel's Present Ascendancy

We have to see the nature of the ascendancy of that vessel. In this present age it is true that the vessel is called to be in a state of ascendancy, in a place of government, now, a place of dominion if you like, ruling. But its government, its ruling, its dominion in this age is not the same as it will be in the age to come. It is going to rule. There is another sense in which the kingdom will be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, then it will be literal government, literal dominion, it will be recognised and acknowledged, it will be universally manifested, the accepted order. It is not that now, that hardly needs saying; and yet the principle is to be just as true now as it will be then. But the nature of the government now is not literal, but moral. Now I explain what I mean by that by illustrating from this book of Daniel.

Nebuchadnezzar is that head of gold. God had given him a kingdom, the greatest of all those world's kingdoms; every other dominion that followed was a step of deterioration. Silver, brass, iron, clay. A drop in value all the way through; but Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian empire was the most glorious of all empires, and God had given it to him. Daniel and his three companions are in the centre of that, and I ask you, who rules, Nebuchadnezzar or Daniel? When no one could help the king out of his difficulty over his dream and eventually Daniel came in, it says: "Then Daniel answered before the king." Why? Because he had already been before the King of kings. If you follow him in before Nebuchadnezzar you are moving in an atmosphere of dignity, quiet confidence and assurance. From the very first step, as we pointed out before, when Daniel heard that all the wise men were to be destroyed, he confidently announced that there was a God in heaven who revealeth secrets and He would give an answer to the king. There was not any hesitation and saying: "Well, I will ask the Lord and see if He will give an answer." Absolute assurance, absolute confidence, serenity, kept him perfectly steady. He never lost his head. He called his three companions and they prayed, and the Lord revealed the thing to Daniel in the night season. "Daniel answered before the king." It is moral authority, ascendancy, he is governing morally and again and again things were, so to speak, put into his hands. He became the moral ruler of the situation again and again. He ruled even from the den of lions, he was on top, he was on top of the king. The king morally groveled to this man more than once. And those three, where were they morally? Well, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." What is the result of that? Not that they are delivered from the fiery furnace - keep that in mind - not that God comes in and opens a way of escape for them, but the Son of God associates Himself with them in the fire, and the result is that everything goes down before them morally and they come out as kings, they reign morally.

You see the ascendancy is a moral thing in the midst of this world-system, and government from the heavens morally. What is the secret of that ascendancy which, in the sovereignty of the God of the heavens, brings the power into our hands? Go back to the first chapter of the book and you have the secret, the foundation secret: "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king's dainties, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself." It says: "But Daniel purposed in his heart"; it only says that about Daniel, but before you get through the chapter you find the other three are in the same position. It does not say they purposed, but it says Daniel purposed, and it is clear that Daniel's moral lead, moral stand, moral ascendancy, brought his brethren alongside of him in fellowship in that testimony. Now there are two things there. I will mention the second first.

Beloved, you never know what you are going to effect for God in securing others to a position of definite, strong standing for the Lord, by taking a strong, though costly stand yourself. Sometimes you personally have to take a stand alone at great cost, which may involve you in a good deal of suffering. You never know what that is going to mean for the Lord by others being morally brought into a strong place. The Lord needs "Daniels" in this sense; the men and women who will take a personal stand, at any cost, upon what they know to be according to the mind of God. It is not a question, in the first place, of whether others do it or not, or whether others will follow suit or not; it is what God requires, what is according to God. The question is not, What will it cost me? What will others think of it? Will others agree with me? It is, Will the Lord require that? If so, that is the only ground for me to act upon. And acting like that very often means that moral stamina comes into others and the Lord gains by a personal, lonely stand for Him, a mighty increase of reinforcement in His testimony.

Now that may be a word that touches someone who is being faced with a course which is costly, and a price has to be paid, and as far as they know there is not another one who will take that step; but if you do you may discover there are several others whom the Lord will meet if you go on in faithful devotion, if you go on in what you know to be the will of God for you. Daniel purposed he would not defile himself. This brings in a whole new world. Wherein lay the defilement? You read of Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem. You will find he took away the vessels of the House of the Lord and put them into the house of his gods. Nebuchadnezzar had gods, and it was not the Lord. There was another spiritual system back of Babylon. It was not just Babylon, just some earthly system, not just men, it was that spiritual thing back of men and the system of the world-ruler. Yes, something spiritual behind; that comes out so much in this book. Back of Babylon was the prince of this world, the god of this age. He was moving things in Babylon and moving things against Daniel and his companions, because of the testimony and the Lord, the testimony of the God of heaven. That was behind; and Daniel knew that to voluntarily partake of those things from the king's table was to involve himself in the moral and spiritual background of things, and that would be defilement, and that kind of thing would rob him of power with God as well as with men. So he calculatingly and deliberately purposed he would not defile himself, he would not allow any kind of voluntary link between himself and that spiritual system back of this world order.

If only people recognised the things of which they say: "Well, there is no harm in it," the things of this world, even the religious things of this world with which they have voluntary connections, in which they dabble and indulge; if only they recognised that back of those "harmless" things there is the working of a sinister force, to entrap them, to spoil them, to rob them of spiritual power! And you know as well as I do, that any professing child of God who has some compromising thing in their life, something that forms a link, be it ever so small, between them and the spiritual system back of this world, they are robbed of power with God and with men and it is not until that thing is dealt with and thoroughly put away that they have any kind of spiritual or moral ascendancy. Until that thing is repudiated from the heart God cannot come in and communicate Himself to them. No compromise with the Devil through any kind of means or form of his government. I said that introduces a whole new world; now let it open up.

The World Dominion Gathered Up in One Man

Do you notice that in this second chapter the image of Daniel brings all the world-empires from the beginning of the Babylonian empire to the end of the Roman empire and its ten provinces, into the form of one personality, one image, the image of a man? Has the significance of that struck you? All the world-empires, all the "Times of the Gentiles" gathered up in the figure of one man. I ask you if the final issue of this dispensation, of this world-government on the human side, is not going to be gathered up in one personality, the antichrist? There is no doubt about it that the Word of God makes it clear that that principle will be carried out, that the government of this world will be headed up into one personality, the antichrist. There is in Daniel one man, and all is gathered up into the figure of one personality, one corporate body. That is set right over against the Son of Man. The Christ, and the antichrist; they both come out in Daniel.

Now what is the dominion of the Son of man over the antichrist in the Church, the vessel? It is the absolute distinctiveness of that vessel, separation, holiness; its complete break with the whole system of the Evil One at every point, and not allowing one touch of defilement with that system. Have you not in your spiritual experience seen, recognised more than once, that in order to destroy your spiritual power and strength and your moral ascendancy or effectiveness, the enemy in some way or another must make a contact between you and his kingdom? He will put a temptation in your way, he will put a suggestion into your mind, he will make suggestions to you, put thoughts into you. In thousands of different ways he puts out a gangway, and he wants you to cross that gangway, to accept that gangway, a link between you and his system. There is no wrong in temptation, beloved, most believers know what it is to have evil thoughts suggested to their minds. It does not mean they have sinned because an evil thought has been suggested, but at the point where they entertain that, respond to that, allow that, they have sinned and made a link with the enemy, and before long that very link is the means of their undoing, their weakness, breakdown, and not until they get back to the Lord and say: "I allowed that to linger, I added another to it." or in some way the enemy put out, and we took on, and that has been completely dealt with, wiped out by the Blood, we do not get back our position. The rule of the heavens through the instrument in overthrowing the power of evil demands no defilement, no contact.

Oh, sometimes it will come along the line of discouragement, sometimes through depression, doubt; sometimes through an overwhelming sense of weakness, and the enemy strikes a blow and sends a fiery dart of questioning the Lord, His love, His wisdom. We can never exhaust the ways in which it comes, but it is not just the fact that it comes, but the fact that we accept it, we take it on, we allow the enemy to lodge his gangway and we go across; we are undone. Mark you, the principle, the basic principle of spiritual and moral ascendancy, of dominion, of overthrowing the power of the enemy, of having authority over all the power of the Devil is not in our language, our phraseology, is not the volume of our voice, the forcefulness of our effort, our manner, it is the moral purity of our lives; or, in other words, the fact that we give the enemy no ground any where. Oh, how deeply and wonderfully clear that principle is in Daniel, the first chapter. The whole history lies ahead and it is a history of the combat between heaven and hell as fought out here on the earth. The world-rulers of this darkness, the principalities and powers on the one hand, heaven on the other, but the instrument by which the issue is decided is that small thing right in the heart of it, and whether it is the testimony's maintenance in victory and administration of victory, or whether so far as that instrument is concerned it is going to be defeat and the enemy getting the advantage, depends upon whether there is a link between us and the enemy system at any point.

We have a way of saying: "Do not take it on." You understand what I mean. So often a very plausible thing can be offered by the enemy, so often the things seems so true, really above argument, beyond contention. Well, prove all things. Beware! The enemy is out all the time to form a link between you and his dominion. If he gets it the testimony will go. The vessel of the testimony must purpose in its heart that it will not defile itself. And the dainties from the king's table and the wine may speak to us, young men and women especially, of those advantages, advances, facilitations of progress and improvement which the enemy offers under cover of: "Well, do not be too extreme, do not be singular, do not be fanatical; just be perfectly level and balanced, do not be a stickler." Yes, you may have some dainties from the king's table if only you will lower your standard a little in business. But the testimony means that up to the hilt there must be no compromise on moral principles; you may stand to suffer, it may be a den of lions. Ah yes, but stand, and in the end you will stand and the other things will have gone, but you will be there. Heaven is on your side; you may lose for the time being, but heaven is on your side and the kingdoms of this world will pass, but the kingdom of the God of heavens is an everlasting kingdom, and it is a kingdom to be given to you if you will stand. You see where this vessel begins? Just there, "Daniel purposed in his heart."

I would like to say this, just to round that off. It does not mean, beloved, that because you and I take a faithful, obedient, wholehearted, consecrated stand for the Lord, that we are going to be delivered from the lions' den or the fiery furnace, and that the Lord is coming in to smooth our way and cause us to escape such. No, the sovereignty of the heavens does not always work by delivering us out of the trouble. It comes in through the trouble. It is through the trouble that the heavens come in. God gets more by it than by delivering us from it.

May the Lord draw us into His purpose, constitute us a part of that vessel for His testimony, show us how very much is bound up with this conflict in which we are; help us to see why it is that He is dealing with us as He is. It is to bring us to a place where there is nothing in ourselves. He may take up the weak things and by them through them, bring to nought the things that are, and bring us morally to govern, which shall fit us to govern literally later on.

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