by T. Austin-Sparks
"And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were laden with the seven last plagues; and he spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God; her light was like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal" (Rev. 21:9-11).
"And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein; and His servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face; and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall be night no more; and they need no light of lamp, neither light of sun; for the Lord God shall give them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 22:1-5).
"One of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath overcome to open the book and the seven seals thereof. And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth" (Rev. 5:5-6).
God's Purpose - the Reign of Incorruptible Life
In our previous meditations we have seen that part of the Word which brings into view that towards which God has been working from the beginning. Such a state as is represented there of life and fulness was ever God's thought for His creation; incorruptible Life reigning throughout His universe. That is what God has as the object of all His activities, but inasmuch as there has come in, through sin, death and corruption, a fight has been set up. The realisation of God's thought has been, and is still, a matter of terrific and continuous conflict and spiritual warfare, and it is in that realm that we have introduced all that is bound up with this term, this name for the Lord Jesus - the Lamb, and the blood of the Lamb.
The passage we have read in Revelation 5 is fundamental to everything. What is set forth there is the basis upon which God proceeds to the reaching of His end, the attainment of that glorious state brought out in chapters 21 and 22. That state, with all that it means, is the kingdom of God realised through the Lamb of God. Its realisation is the greatest victory that this world or this universe has ever seen. It is the victory of the Lamb. But we need to see a little more clearly and definitely what that means.
You know that the gospel by Matthew is the gospel of the King and the Kingdom. The message of the Kingdom begins, but as soon as the King is introduced and the message of the Kingdom goes forth, another kingdom rises up in opposition. The end of the introduction of the King and the message of the Kingdom is the King crucified and apparently the Kingdom silenced. But the book of the Revelation gives us another side to that altogether, and shows us that the death of the King on the cross and this opposing of the gospel of the Kingdom did not mean defeat or disaster; it was the most glorious victory. The Lamb did overcome and then in virtue of that mighty single-handed victory of the Lamb, the church is brought in. Immediately triumphant over death and hell, Satan, and the world, the Lamb is caught up to the throne; the church is projected. Its mission begins, and like its nature, its mission takes its rise from the victory of the Lamb. Its testimony is that it also is to come to the throne where the Lamb is, to overcome because of the blood of the Lamb and the word of its testimony.
Now, the point is this, that the realisation of the Kingdom, this glorious state which is most surely coming because it is already secured in the Lamb in the throne (He is in the throne, He is not coming to the throne, He is there now), the realisation of that universal condition for the creation is marked by the application of the meaning of that Cross in every realm. For our purpose now, the first realm of the application of the Cross - that is, the significance of the Lamb, the blood of the Lamb - is to the church. The church, we have said, takes its rise out of the victory of the Lamb. The church starts on its way with its testimony. The Lamb has overcome and the church meets all the forces of antagonism in this universe on the ground of the victory through the blood of the Lamb, but that is not something which is just objective to the church. That is, it is not something outside, to be looked at, to be observed, to be taken account of, to be believed in as something somewhere, perhaps in heaven, forming the creed of the church, the statement of doctrine to which the church subscribes. No, it is nothing like that. It is something which has to have its immediate working right in the very centre of the life of every member of the Body of Christ, which is His church. My feeling is that there is a fresh need for us to get to our foundations. There are still many of the Lord's people for whom the foundations have not been really laid, and I am convinced that we need to get back to the foundation because it is the secret of victory. I do not mean that the foundations of your faith in the Lord Jesus are not laid, but there is something that we have to see which constitutes our foundations, which is something very much more than the average Christian recognises and understands.
So, while it is a wonderful thing to talk about the Kingdom, the coming Kingdom which we are going to inherit; to pray 'Thy kingdom come', to have a great mental conception of the Kingdom and the coming day of the Kingdom - the Lord Jesus said, "The kingdom is within you". It starts there, and we have got to know what the Kingdom within us means in order to be quite assured of inheriting the Kingdom presently. The Kingdom within us is the establishment of a mighty victory. Have you seen the significance of those words in the familiar twelfth chapter of this book? "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon; and the dragon warred and his angels; and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him. And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night" (Rev. 12:7-10).
Now is come the kingdom; now is come the authority of God's Christ. Matthew, the gospel of the Kingdom, closes with this - "All authority is given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore...". "Now is come the authority of God's Christ; now is come the kingdom". When? When the church enters into that victory, when the Lord's people come into the good of what is true in the case of the Lamb. Here in Revelation 12, the Man-child, that representative company, is seen caught up to the throne. Now is come the Kingdom! The Kingdom is not realised just by the Lamb being in the throne. The Kingdom is realised by the church also being in the throne. It is then that the Kingdom in fulness is come, and that is why the gospel of the Kingdom was entrusted to the church, but that gospel of the Kingdom, as we have seen, immediately sets up terrific warfare.
The Conflict Against the Kingdom of Incorruptible Life
But what is the nature of this warfare? It may be general spiritual pressure and conflict, and we know much about that. It may be persecution and suffering from the outside, (and the church has known much of that), but when you open the book of the Revelation, you find that the risen Lord is dealing with the church as represented here on the earth, and the effect of His coming to the church (as here represented in the seven churches) is to challenge concerning that which means defeat for the church and victory for Satan. When you ask what is it that reverses victory, what is it that gives Satan his power to overcome, what is it that means that the church, the Lord's people, are defeated in any one case or any number of cases, when you ask those questions, you have got to look inside, not outside.
Remember that Satan has absolutely no power over the people of God only in so far as they give him that power; that is, only in so far as there is that in them which is of Satan himself, and that is exactly where the application of the Cross has to be made, and, in a word, it is this. We are not going to get very far towards the realisation of all God's fulness of purpose now as well as hereafter, we are not going to come into the place of power, victory, Life, glory, and effectiveness or spiritual fulness until a basic thing has been done, a foundational thing, that is that the Cross of the Lord Jesus has to be planted right at the very heart of our old nature, the old creation, and all that that means. It is going to take us a whole lifetime to discover what that means.
You and I do not know what the old creation means, only in some things, but right on to the end of our lives, under the eye that is as a flame of fire, we shall be making further discoveries of what the old creation is. But, although we can never know it all at once, although the discovery will take us all our lives, there has to be a real definite crisis, a crisis of the Cross in which we do not only accept something that we believe about the Cross and are taught about the Cross as teaching, but in which there is something done in us which represents the snapping, the breaking in two, of the very backbone of the old creation.
The Old Creation Destroyed by the Cross
You know what a broken limb means, don't you? Well, if you really have got a broken limb, what can you do? You have no power over it, no control over it. Whatever you may want to do with it, you cannot do it. You have lost all power to direct it, to govern it, to use it. The power has gone. Now apply that to the backbone, to the spinal column, upon which your whole frame depends, your whole man - a fractured spine! What can you do in any part with that? It is broken. That does not mean that all your bones are broken. You discover that you still have a lot of whole bones, but the mainstay is broken, the main strength is dealt with and you know that right at the very centre of your being something has happened. Although there may be many bones yet to be broken (and the Lord is going to break all our bones; He is going to fracture every bone of that old creation and make it helpless and incapable of functioning), God has laid His finger upon the central strength of our old creation life and touched it.
The one thing by which we know that He has done that is that there is a realm in which we cannot move; there is a realm we dare not touch; there is a resource upon which we dare not draw; there are ways which we dare not take; there is a life which we dare not, if we could, live. We cannot. It is like Jacob's thigh. The Lord touched the sinew of the thigh of Jacob in the hour of his strength, in the hour of his self-assurance. It was only the finger of God, not the mighty power of God; just a touch, but it was enough. Jews, from that day to this, if they are orthodox, never eat of that portion. It has come under the forbidding of God. The thigh is a symbol of strength, natural strength, old creation strength. God has put His finger upon it, and Jacob, from that day to the day of his death, went leaning on a staff, and we are told that, on the day of his death when he blessed his sons, he blessed them leaning on the top of his staff. Here is a man who is lame to his deathbed because God touched his thigh, his strength.
And that is the old creation - it is Jacob. By nature we are all Jacobs. The Cross means that the strength of our natural life has been touched. Oh, I do not say the strength of sin! While I mean that, if I were to say that, you would begin to think of sins. Oh yes, it is sin and it is sins, but inclusively and comprehensively, it is us, ourselves. It is using our own natural powers in Divine things.
You see, you come to this foundation passage and you have that presented in the symbolism so vividly. Here is a book of judgment, the judgment of all the nations, sealed with seven seals. That book has to be opened, the nations have to be judged, but who is worthy to open that book? Who has the right, who is morally worthy to judge the nations? And the seer says that he wept much because no one was found worthy to open the book, to deal with all this state of things in the universe, this corruption, this iniquity, this sin, this wickedness. Oh, get the force of that! God is not going to deal with things because He is sovereign God. No, the dealing with sin and iniquity demands a moral condition and it is a question of who is worthy to do it; who is morally in the position to say to every man in the creation, "Now then, come to judgment!" "I wept much because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look thereon; and one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath overcome to open the book and the seven seals thereof" (Rev. 5:4,5).
The seer heard those words - "The Lion that is of the tribe of Judah!" This is power! This is might! This is force! This is greatness! This is majesty! Verse 6: "And I turned and I saw..." - can I believe my eyes? A Lion of the tribe of Judah? "And I saw... a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain"!
The Lord Jesus - the Overcomer
This deliberate change in imagery by the Spirit of God is for one purpose, one object. What is the secret of power, what is the nature of power, what is the resource by which to overcome? What is it that is to be our Life, our overcoming Life, our triumphant Life, our Life of glory and fulness? Feeling like a lion, approaching everything like a lion? No, it is knowing the meaning of the Cross as to the destruction of all natural strength and resource, and the Lord Jesus Himself being in us the Overcomer. Believe me, you and I will never be overcomers. The Lord Jesus is the only Overcomer and all the rest will overcome because He, the Overcomer, is within them.
That means that if the Lord Jesus is really to be in us and in the church what He is here set forth as being, the same thing has to happen in us. He emptied Himself, became obedient unto death, yea, the death of the Cross, and while you and I will never have that which He had of which to empty ourselves, nevertheless there has to be a very real emptying, an emptying of all self-strength, of all self-will, of all self-esteem, of all self-interest, of all self-desire, of all self-reasoning.
Self, the sum total of the old creation, is Satan's strength, and where Satan finds in you or in me this self, he is the victor. For Satan to be defeated and cast down and the Kingdom to come within, self has to be broken - the very backbone of self. Oh, the many other limbs of self will be touched as we go on, but there has to be this breaking of the backbone of self. I want to ask you, not, "Are you saved?" not, "Do you believe in the Lord Jesus? Do you know your sins forgiven? Do you know your acceptance with God?" No, we may all be rejoicing in that, but there is something infinitely more in the purpose of God than just to have us saved from sin and hell and to have our sins forgiven. There is another great purpose. It is the Kingdom. You and I have not yet learned what it means - the Kingdom. "They shall reign for ever and ever."
What is the kingdom? Let us pause a moment. In the letter to the Ephesians we are distinctly and clearly shown that over and around this present earth in the space between the earth and the upper heavens, spiritual forces of evil have their habitation, that this whole world is divided up by them into principalities and sections governed by a prince of evil under whom there are sub-princes and then innumerable hosts of evil spirits. Paul puts it, "principalities and powers, world rulers of this darkness, spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies". That is the kingdom of Satan around this world, and no one will question the reality of that, in view of what is going on in this world. Oh, it is a very real thing, the spiritual background of what is taking place on the earth. It is not just evil, wicked men doing as they please. There is a power behind it.
You cannot explain the rise to power of certain men and a world domination by their word on merely natural grounds. It is phenomenal and supernatural. It is the spirit and power of Antichrist, and we are seeing it sweeping down in confederation from the north, according to the Word of God. It is Satan-motived, generated and maintained, and the most extraordinary, unexpected, unlikely things happen. All the wit and wisdom of all the statesmen in the world is as naught. No, there is a cunning and iniquity behind this which comes from hell itself. That is the kingdom of Satan. It rules in the kingdom of ungodly men in an old creation world. The day is coming when another kingdom is to be set up to rule in that same world. It is rule, not just being saved, not just belonging to the Lord. It is having the Kingdom, the place of government, coming to the throne. Interpret that spiritually: it is spiritual dominion; that is the kingdom.
The Lamb's Nature
Now then, to reach that intention and thought of God, it is by way of the Lamb, and the Lamb is just a contradiction of all natural strength. Now, the Lion - what do you expect when you talk about lions? Something terrific, ferocious, mighty, that demonstrates power. Oh yes, that is the natural way of looking at things, but God's thought is this: that God's Lion is the Lamb, and that as though it had been slain! It is victory by the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and His death was our death. His death was your death. His death was my death. It is not only that Jesus died for you and for me. Remember that the Word teaches so clearly that He died for us, on our behalf, but also that He died as us. When He died, in God's thought we died. We must never move away from this or take it for granted, however much we know it.
There has to be in us that work of the Cross which really has broken all the strength of our natural life, so that using our natural life in spiritual things cannot be. We know it. If we essay to do it, we know the Spirit puts His veto on that. We know it is death; we have a bad time and have to ask the Lord sooner or later to forgive that and to cleanse. We have touched an old realm which lies behind the Cross and God says, "No!"
Have you had that break, that real break, at the centre of your being? Do you know what I am talking about? If you do not, I ask you to have dealings with the Lord on this matter. The enemy will continue to make his mess of things, he will be strutting about holding his own everywhere until this is done. Every one of us must know that veto of God which is represented by the Cross of the Lord Jesus which says to the life of nature: "No, never!"
The Spirit of God brings that up every time we begin to argue according to our own ideas, every time we begin to project our own desires and manipulate things to have them as we want them. We seek to project our wills to get things, to have things, to direct things, to govern things. It is death and we know it. Oh, these things are very real! We know what death is spiritually. This is the education of the people of God to know in this inward way what is under the ban of God.
It is that crisis, it is that breaking, that snapping of the very centre of our natural life, our old creation, which makes it possible for the Lord to bring us right on to all His will. It is from then that we know the meaning of an opened heaven. It was when the Lamb of God went down into Jordan and the waters of baptism, and there in type declared His going to the Cross and dying and rising again. It was then that the heavens were opened and the Spirit lighted upon Him, and everything so far as the Kingdom of God was concerned commenced then. He was already through in Spirit to the heavenlies.
When we are baptised, we are saying, "I accept all that the Cross of the Lord Jesus means from God's standpoint so far as I am concerned, and I understand that to mean: 'I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I', no longer what I want, what I like, what I dislike. It is now Christ, and my attitude, my spirit, my demeanour, is the lamb... yielding to the will of God." "He was led as a lamb to the slaughter", but do you think it was men who made Him the Lamb? Do you think that He was a Lamb to Satan? Oh, not at all! He was the Lion to Satan; He was the Lamb of God. What does that mean? Yieldedness to the will of God. Oh, there was no hammer, nails or Roman soldiers powerful enough to put Him on the Cross. It was the will of God that put Him on the cross. No Roman legions could have put Christ on the cross. Never! "Thinkest thou that I cannot beseech My Father, and He shall even now send Me more than twelve legions of angels?" When you remember what one angel did to the army of Sennacherib, you can imagine what twelve legions could do! There is no power in this universe capable of putting Jesus Christ on the cross, only that of the will of God; that is the Lamb - yielded to the will of God.
May the Lord bring His Word to our hearts in a new way. Come right back there and recognise the foundation of everything: the foundation of the Throne and the Kingdom, is the Lamb.