The Church's Position and Power in the Heavenlies

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - The Objective and Subjective Side of the Cross

Reading: Rom. 6:1-14; Eph. 2:1-7; Col. 2:8-15.

We will first of all return to our basic passage in Revelation 12, the central phrase, "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their life even unto death."

For the sake of those who have not been with us in the earlier gatherings of this conference, it is necessary for me to just say one word in order to help you to see what it is that we have in view at this time. We have been taken up with this company as presented to us in Revelation 12, as the overcomer company at the end time, called in verse 5, a son, a man-child. We have noticed (and it is an important point, that is why we reiterate it) that the word "son" there is the Greek word which is never in the New Testament applied to the Lord Jesus, and that this phrase "a man-child" in verse 11 is referred to as "they", clearly indicating that it is not an individual, but a company, and that this company of overcomers is, in the face of the rampant dragon, raptured to the throne. And with that rapture there is heard a great voice in heaven saying, "Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the jurisdiction of His Christ for the accuser of our brethren is cast down". So that great things hang upon this event of the rapture to the throne of this man-child company of overcomers.

This is the end time, we have noticed, because Revelation 11 brings us to the seventh trumpet, the end of that phase of things, and from this point onward there is a change of events and conditions both in heaven and on earth. In heaven "there is no more place found" it says here, for the devil and his angels, and that is a big change. In earth, immediately this dragon, cast down, gives his power to the beast and to the false prophet (two sides of the antichrist, civil and religious) and there develop upon this earth those final terrible things of a great tribulation. Now, that is the ground we have been looking at during this conference.

Those who have been here all the time need patience to hear it reiterated, but we must draw in all the others as far as possible, to see what is in view: that the Lord is seeking to have, because He must have, such a company; because that company represents for Him in itself the supreme object which is in view from eternity, that is, a company in union with His Son, the Lord Jesus as the Great Overcomer, in the throne of power and authority, having literally, experimentally overcome the whole power of satan and his angels. The Lord's original thought was to have man in union with His Son reigning, administrating in this universe for Him. We were "chosen in Christ before the world was" for this purpose.

The very thing in the mind of God in creating man was that man should be His administrative instrument in the universe, and to reign with Christ is an eternal thought of God, for He purposed all things in and for His Son, that His Son in all things might have the pre-eminence, but He chose us in Him that we might, in union with Him, share the administration. Now, the Word of God bears that out amply, and you perhaps have no need that we should follow it out in the Word. It is a statement made which you may verify for yourselves.

Now to that purpose and object of God from eternity. There has been this persistent resistance of another will in the universe which rose in revolt against the purpose of God, revolted against God's determination, and sought to secure for itself that place of government, of authority, jurisdiction, and of worship saying, "I will ascend into heaven, I will set my throne above the clouds, above the Most High, I will be equal with the Most High" - a distinct setting against God's will and of the out-working of that rebellion. That withstanding, is that with which we are familiar in this earth; this awful state of things which has continued all these thousands of years, but God is going to have His end, He must have it, and it is seen realised in a representative company in this Revelation 12. This company of overcomers secures God's end for Him and stands there as the very occasion for heaven to break out this loud voice, "Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ; wherefore rejoice O heavens...".

You see, heaven at last comes into the joy of the Divine achievement, but the instrument of it is this overcomer company who overcome on the ground of what the Lord Jesus has done by His Blood. That is the background of this whole thing. The thing for us, of course, of practical account is: are we in that? Are we a part of that? And the Lord would call us to be a part of that instrument, of that company. That is the issue for the saints at this present time.

As we pointed out this morning, we are moving into the shadow period of the great tribulation, the manifestation of antichrist. If that be true - and it would not be difficult to show in this world the very clear evidences of the imminent manifestation of the antichrist, the beast and the false prophet - if that be true, then the conflict of the ages has begun in the spiritual experience of many of the Lord's children, a great and terrific conflict with one thing as its issue: ascendency over all the power of the enemy. That is the thing in view, and we have been trying to point out how very real that is in spiritual experience, that by every conceivable means, either deception, or by pressure, or by any one or more of a great number of methods, the enemy is trying to put God's people out of the fight, to get them out of a fighting position, to accept something less, or to give up, to be turned aside or to be ensnared into something else, but this great issue. Now I do not want to continue along that line too long because I am anxious to get to the course that we have been following today. This is the background of things, the setting of things, and we have taken up what we have called: the pathway of the overcomer to the throne.

This morning we spoke about the will of God as primary, as basic, as before everything else, as a great issue in the matter of the overcomer's life, the will of God being wrought into the very constitution of the believer so that God has His will as a principle within us; not as merely a mental-assent, or an attitude, but something wrought in us in that way, in that depth of reality that we will stand under all circumstances and conditions with God. If it is only a mental acceptance and attitude taken, circumstances may make us change our attitude and draw back; but if the thing has been wrought into us through the fires, we come to the place where nothing can move us, where we are with God for everything. Now, none of us have come there yet - I do not think I am saying anything unfairly in saying that - I do not think any of us would like to say we had come there yet, we should be afraid of the test that might come half an hour hence. But the Lord is seeking to bring us to the place where we stand with Him no matter what the test may be, to get us to the place of absolute ascendency over that other will that is against Him.

This afternoon we took one other thing, the matter of being strengthened with might by His Spirit into the inner man, the inward strength of spirit on the part of the believer. But this evening I am going back to somewhat more elementary and familiar things. Coming back, let us just remind ourselves again of the terms of this phrase, "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their life even unto death".

Now we will consider some more of the content of that threefold statement of the basis and means of this overcoming and reaching the throne. "Because of the blood of the Lamb", that is on the ground of all that Calvary means. First of all, they had come to a spiritual recognition of the meaning of the cross of the Lord Jesus; they had seen what that cross meant and contained. Then, "the word of their testimony" implies that they stood in with that and declared themselves as bound up with that. And then, "they loved not their lives even unto the death" means that they accepted what came on the ground of their position, as the consequence of the position they had taken up in relation to that cross. They accepted it. It cost something, it cost everything, it involved them in what it cost the Lord Jesus to a very large measure - His life, not with the same atoning effects, that is another matter, but it brought them into fellowship with Him in having to put to the account of their testimony everything; even life itself. And that was the proof that for them Calvary was not merely a doctrine, but a reality; and you have to follow through to that if your testimony is going to be made effective.

If you are going to be an overcomer you do not accent the doctrine of the cross, you put your life to the account of it, and you are tested out on it and you are proved by what you suffer in that testimony, that this is no mere doctrine or teaching with you, but a living reality for which you are prepared to let go everything. Then the cross; that is what is here. Do we want to see the cross as one ground or overcoming as the pathway to the throne? We have got to see the cross from two standpoints, two aspects of the cross, and this is where most of us are on such familiar ground, but we have got to begin this pathway, and this is where we begin, and these are the beginnings.

We have read some passages, firstly from Romans 6, and then from Ephesians and Colossians. These passages respectively, Romans on the one hand, Ephesians and Colossians on the other, represent the two aspects of the cross. Romans links us with the Red Sea; the Passover and the Red Sea in Exodus 12 and onwards. Ephesians and Colossians links us with the Jordan in Joshua. They are not the same. If you read certain phrases from Romans 6 and then from Ephesians 2 and Colossians 2 in sequence, you would say these are similar and relate to the same thing. They do nothing of the kind, they are two systems of doctrine and do not relate to the same thing. One relates to the Red Sea, the other to Jordan; and respectively therefore, they deal with different matters.

Now, I do not want to get merely to technique; this is of practical value to you and me as being the pathway to the throne, for the overcomer. We, in order to be overcomers, to reach the throne, have first of all to recognise, accept and stand in the good of Romans 6 and Exodus 12; the blood of the Lamb on the objective side. I am rather afraid that a good many of the Lord's children have gone over too quickly to the subjective side. They have accented the subjective teaching of the cross before they have thoroughly established the objective side. And putting that out of order and out of time, a very great deal of confusion has followed, so that you find a lot of people who know all about the subjective side, our union with Christ in death, who are still without the basic peace and rest in Christ. And this is a terrible position to be in because subjective teaching is far ahead of objective teaching and ought to get us far ahead of objective teaching, but when you find people who are so far ahead, and yet without the real rest in Christ, there is something wrong about that. They are monstrosities, they are not normal; yes, they are abnormalities. So we want to put this right.

When you get into a position like that, the enemy can do anything and he can make a horrible mess of things. Before all spiritual intelligences that is a contradiction and a denial, things are not true - you are talking about having been united with Him in His death and in His resurrection, and being seated with Him in the heavenlies, and then you are without basic rest and assurance. That is a contradiction of position altogether, and a denial, and the testimony is in weakness and you have no power, and your teaching about identification counts for nothing.

Teaching about identification, in order to be effective, must have at least behind it an absolute rest and assurance in the Lord, a settled position in the matter of our salvation. So we have to get to Romans before Ephesians and Colossians, and Exodus 12 before Joshua. The blood of the Lamb in Exodus 12 and in Romans is to do with the objective side of things. That is what is done by the Lord for us. You see, the great issue, the final issue of Exodus 12 when it was headed right up to its practical outworking is this, "Stand still and see the salvation." You are not in this actively, you have no part in this battle, you stand still and see. Now, that is where the practical outworking of the shedding of the blood came, so far as the enemy was concerned. It was something that had been done for them which had a wonderful virtue and power to give them deliverance and freedom, in which they personally had no active part other than the appropriation of faith.

I think we all want to get a little more settled in that foundation, rooted in that blessed truth. This blood redemption in Exodus 12 related firstly to sin, primarily to sin; one might say all-inclusively to sin. It was the sin question that was being settled. If Pharaoh and Egypt lost their power over the Lord's people it was because the sin question was dealt with in the Lord's people. Judgment comes on a basis of sin, and judgment did not fall upon them because the sin question had been typically dealt with in the blood of the Lamb. The position was this: that they lived because there had been a death, a slaying; and because someone representatively or typically had died for them, they lived. In Egypt there had not been a death, therefore there would be death. If you have not had a death you will die, if you have had death: live. True, the lamb had died, many thousands of lambs in Israel, but always called one lamb, "it" and that all-inclusive Lamb had received death on their behalf, therefore death had no more power over them, but it was the sin question that was dealt with. Initially the blood of the Lamb deals with sin. It is the whole holiness question that is in view, holiness and righteousness.

The cross, as represented by Jordan, by Ephesians, and Colossians, does not deal with the sin question as such; it deals with the flesh question. You never take the blood for the flesh. Never in the Bible does the blood come upon the flesh. You never appropriate the covering of the blood for the flesh. God never covers up the flesh; He destroys it. The blood deals with sin, the cross deals with the man. What is in view basically is the sin question and until you and I have got the sin question settled, we cannot go on to the place of victory. You notice that Revelation 12 is this, "The accuser of our brethren is cast down" - verse 10 - and the accuser loses his place. It is a great thing to be raised right out of and above the accuser, out of the place of accusation, to triumph right over accusation, and yet is it not true that multitudes of the Lord's people are beaten and harnessed by accusation? The one thing the enemy never tires of trying to do is to lodge in us some sense of condemnation, to get us down under a sense of sin - to accept it, to allow it to get in. And when that is in, we have lost every bit of spiritual strength and fighting force; we are out of the battle. Oh, that we knew our weapons. Oh, that we were more ever present minded with our one basic objective weapon, "The blood of Jesus Christ God's Son, keeps on cleansing from all sin" if we walk in the light. The abiding efficacy of that Blood delivers us from accusation.

Let me say again, this rapture of the overcomer company is not something done mechanically at a given moment, it is the issue of a spiritual process, it is the final step in a spiritual journey where we have learned to overcome, and we have opportunity for it, to know how to overcome in this one thing: that we appropriate the virtue of the precious blood of the Lord Jesus against the accuser. We make mistakes, we are not without fault, "If any man say that he hath no sin he deceives himself" but "if we confess our sins He is just and faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" . We make mistakes, we are guilty of failures, yes, and it is just when we make that mistake, that slip, that failure that the accuser rushes in to bring us down under a weight of condemnation and hold us under it. And we give up, we flop, and we go about with faces having no longer the joy and peace of the Lord upon them and everybody knows something has gone wrong with us, and our testimony is upset.

Now, we are not to make light of our failures and ignore them and make out as though they were nothing, but we can immediately go to the Lord with them in repentance, in confession, and in confessing be assured and take for granted that He is faithful and just to forgive. Count upon the faithfulness of God to forgive and cleanse in the abiding efficacy of the precious blood, and the ground of accusation is removed. And, having done that properly, and recognising the sinfulness of sin, and taking our lesson to heart, and not making light of these things, nevertheless we can rise up and in faith take it that God has forgiven and that ground has been removed. And we can turn back on the enemy with our testimony again, "He is faithful and just to forgive"; that is taking ascendency, that is overcoming because of the blood of the Lamb, that is settling the sin question and robbing the enemy of his ground and therefore of his power. And it is all in what the Lord has done for us in shedding His blood. He settled the sin question. We could never do that. It takes a sinless One to deal with the sin question. He did it.

Now, have we got that far with all our teaching, with all our knowledge of truth, with all our identification information, have we got that far? Is that settled? Is the objective side of things a settled matter - the sin question? If it is not, we cannot get further. No, we cannot get further. But there is further to go, much further. We are able to move on to Ephesians and Colossians, or on to Joshua, to Jordan when once that is settled, but not before.

It is what the Lord has done for us in which we have no part actively other than the appropriation of faith. That is a good part, the appropriation of faith, but the virtue of it all is something done independently of us, for us, towards which we stand in the attitude of standing still and seeing. That brings us to a certain position that brings us to God. The blood of the lamb in Egypt had as its primary intention the bringing of a people out to the Lord, not out to the wilderness. The wilderness was not part of the plan of the Lord, but an exigency, a necessity by reason of circumstances, a necessary evil. It was not just getting them out from Egypt, or out from Pharaoh. Pharaoh, Egypt and the wilderness were not the primary factors, but God, that He should have them out to Himself, that having them wholly out to Himself by the precious blood He might be able to bring them into the object He had in view after bringing them out. "He brought them out that He might bring them in." He did not bring them out that He might put them forty years in the wilderness; that had to be because of them. He brought them out that He might bring them in. He had to bring them out to Himself first to be His people, separated unto God.

Now the blood is intended to make us God's property. We are purchased with the precious blood, and when He gets us on that ground He is able to take His next steps, and so we for a moment see the other aspect of the cross at Jordan, with Ephesians and Colossians. Here it is no longer a matter of sin. You are supposed to have dealt with the sin question in an Ephesian position because you have come to the heavenlies, and you never get to the heavenlies if the sin question is not settled. In the heavenly aspect of things everything is perfect in the matter of redemption. If you take up the Scriptures of the New Testament which have to do with the heavenly side of things such as Ephesians, and the letter to the Hebrews particularly, you will find that from that heavenly standpoint everything is now perfect and complete in the matter of redemption; I mean in the matter of salvation. When you get into the Romans position you have come out of the heavenlies onto the earthlies in the matter of redemption, and there you have human responsibility and human weakness, but when you get into the heavenlies, you are in the place of eternal counsels and everything there is finished, complete. Get into the Hebrew letter with that very thought and the whole point of the letter is to lift you out of the earthly types into the heavenly realities. You find there, "He has perfected forever". The whole thing is finished.

Now, that is in the matter of redemption, so that when you come to Joshua in type in Ephesians and Colossians, spiritually you have come to the place where the matter of redemption in the realm of sin, salvation, and atonement, is complete. But now there is something else in view when that position is apprehended by faith, and you take your place in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. In that realm it is a question not of salvation, but of vocation. Exodus was not a question of vocation; it was a question of salvation. Joshua was a question of vocation. Romans is a question of salvation, Ephesians of vocation, where it is the blood applied for a triumphant vocation.

One of the most popular hymns, "There is power in the blood", begins with the question of sin: "Would you be free from your burden of sin? There is power in the blood..." etc. that is Exodus and Romans. But the last verse is: "Would you do service for Jesus your King"; that is Joshua and Ephesians. It is the blood, now for heavenly vocation. There are other factors that get into the way of spiritual service, which is spiritual warfare. What are those factors? The natural man, ourselves. It is not a question of sin, but ourselves now. Sin and self are two different things as to doctrine. We know they are bound up together, but God views them separately in this way. The sin question dealt with objectively and the sin question subjectively; Colossians - "Circumcision of Christ, the putting away of the body of the flesh". This is not dealing with sin as a principle, but the man. Here you come to Jordan where it is not now what is done for you in the blood, but what you are baptised into personally, and what is done in you. You go down into this thing in identification in order that, not sin being put away, but self being put away, there is a clear ground for God to have the pre-eminence in work and in warfare.

I do not know whether we have learned as we ought, that the weakness of our spiritual warfare is in ourselves, in our flesh. We introduce forces and elements of the natural man into spiritual things - our own energies, wisdom and weaknesses. We bring in the natural man in some way or other into the work of the Lord and we find the enemy can knock us over. Get the flesh into spiritual conflict and see what a mess the enemy will make. Get the flesh ruled out, all that ground set aside by the cross, get that circumcising knife of the cross cutting in between the natural and the spiritual and separate that thing, so that it is the Lord and only the Lord and not ourselves, and you have something over which death and hell has no power. And in order to bring us to the place of a hundred percent victory, the Lord has to cut away flesh, and when we are speaking of "flesh" we are not speaking of dross, sensuality and wickedness, we are talking of man who is flesh and man by nature. And man by nature is set aside by the cross of the Lord Jesus, and a new man comes in with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Not the old man raised, it is another man that is raised that stands on that heavenly side. That is Jordan.

You see, if we are going to overcome, it is firstly on the ground of the virtue of the blood in dealing with the whole sin question for us and settling it before God. God has what He wants: a state of holiness through that blood, appropriated by faith; the ground of accusation settled by a strong taking hold of all the virtue of that precious blood to satisfy God for us in the matter of righteousness, in the matter of holiness. In settling that ground of antagonism and conflict, sin in principle is settled; but then seeing we are not only called to be saved, but called into something which is a heavenly vocation in fellowship with God in order that not only by Christ initially, but wrought out in the church which is His Body, the heavens should be stripped of Satan and his angels. That is a vocation, that the church with Christ is going to occupy the heavens which are now occupied by Satan and his angels. He is the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that rules, works, energises the children of disobedience, but he is going to be put out of that place. And there is going to be "no more place found for him in heaven" because that place has been secured for the overcomers, for the saints in union with Christ who has overcome, and the man-child is caught up to the throne and there is fulfilled, "Him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne even as I also overcame and am set down with My Father in His throne", fulfilled in this overcomer company. That is vocation. It is something for God, something which is satisfying the eternal desire and intention of God. It is something more than being saved, to be brought into such a relationship with the Lord Himself for realising the thing which has been in His heart for all eternity.

Are you content just to be saved? Enjoying the advantages of being saved from hell and death? That is selfish. We are saved unto something and we are saved unto no less than this: that we should be God's instrument for realising for Him, or His realising through us, that thing that has been in His heart which prompted Him to create man; the motive of His designing the creation of this world. To satisfy God... that is His inheritance in the saints. God coming to His own. That is vocation. We can only fulfill that vocation in virtue of the precious blood, on the ground of our testimony to all that Calvary means and by our linking with the position that we take in relation to the cross, every interest that we have, even life itself, and the laying down of our souls, our soul life.

Now I will not go further. I trust that we shall see something. If we have seen it before, that we shall see it again even more clearly, as to what overcoming because of the blood of the Lamb means. I trust that we may see what God is after regarding the word of our testimony, what He has called us unto; to see the pathway to the throne for the overcomer is by the way of the blood and the cross. And may I suggest to you, do not take it as a formula, phraseology or like something you would use as a chemist might make up a prescription. No, yet I suggest it to you as something of great value - that it is not enough for us to appeal to or appropriate the virtue of the precious blood for all things; it is essential that we recognise the full victory of Calvary. You may not be able to follow that. The blood shed and sprinkled deals with the sin question, the matter of sin and holiness as dealing with the accuser, but Calvary's victory reaches out to deal with ourselves, the flesh, as taking away other ground in the matter of service from the enemy. If you do not understand it, it is important to see that you stand, not only in the full virtue of the blood of the Lord Jesus, but in the full victory of Calvary. Not only the sin question, but also the self question is dealt with and that is something tremendous. Now, I have said that, but ask the Lord for light about it if you do not quite see it.

We will leave it, and may the Lord just bring His own word to our hearts with the power, with the issue, with the result that we come to a place of victory, of overcoming, and that this does mean something to the Lord, that we have looked these great realities in the face. And if it should result in some who have been harassed, worried, pursued, haunted by accusation, condemnation, coming to a settled rest in God, peace in faith's appropriation of all that the blood speaks of, the satisfied heart of God in the matter of sin and righteousness; if we could enter into that as has given us a good foundational ground, we can go further where this natural man or woman is set aside, that God the Spirit is everything; everything is of the Lord and nothing out from ourselves. If we could come nearer to that, it is a tremendous measure of progress towards the Lord getting His final triumph. It is coming to the place where we love not our soul life even unto the death and when we attain unto that in the full, we are in the throne, we are in the place of reigning, we have gained ascendency over all the power of the enemy. He has "no more place".

We have some way to go yet, but the Lord's Word can be a means for His energising of us to overcome. Him that overcomes... may we be such for His Name's sake.

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