The Throne of God and of the Lamb

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - The Church and the Lamb

"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; her light was like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal" (Rev. 21:9-11).

We were thinking, in our previous meditation, about the kingdom in relation to the Lamb; that is, the victory of the Lord expressed in a life full and triumphant in His creation and that in virtue of what is signified by the title 'The Lamb'. In this meditation, my constraint is to say a word concerning the church and the Lamb. "I will show thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb". Simple again in foundation matters, but of the utmost importance, is this matter of the church, the church here called the bride, the wife of the Lamb, and the holy city Jerusalem.

We have been repeatedly emphasising that what comes into view here in Revelation 21 and 22 represents that end and object which God has ever had before Him and toward which He has ever been, and is ever now, working. And what we must really see with the eyes of our hearts not again as truth, not as something of objective interest, but as something which concerns us very deeply in relation to God's thought, God's will, for us - is that, when God reaches His end, when God really does come to possess that for which He has been working all through the ages, that is presented to us in the symbolic terms: the holy city, new Jerusalem, the bride, the Lamb's wife. Without spending many words on it, what that amounts to is this: what God is aiming at is a corporate life of His people presented in a term, a designation so intimate and so utter in its oneness, in itself, and in its relationship to Him as a wife, a bride. This is something more than a number of Christians, something more than so many people saved. This is not just a number of saved people coming together as a congregation; it is something very much deeper than that.

You may take a chain, for example a watch-chain. Well, in a sense it is a whole, and it may be very good, it may be gold, of real value, but its relationship is that of separate links interlinked with one another. You can take one of those links out and put another in its place without destroying the chain in any way. But that is not the church. If you were to take the stem of a living flower and cut a piece out of it, you have done something more than in taking a link out of a chain. You have cut right across the life, you have severed the very arteries of that organism. You cannot put something back in the place of that cut-out section and make that a living whole again. The church, the bride, the Lamb's wife, is not like the chain - so many Christians linked together. It is an organic whole, sharing, partaking of one organic Life, the Life of the Lamb Himself. The bride is the Lamb's wife because she partakes of His very Life. She is constituted out of His very being, as was Eve from Adam.

God is very true to His laws and principles. It would have been quite easy for Him to have made another separate being as He made Adam and handed that separate being over to Adam, and said, 'Here is a companion for you!' But no, in the presentation of Divine truth, Eve, the wife, must be a part of him, taken right out from him, sharing his very life and substance as man.

That is the end to which God is working, and what we said about the Kingdom in our previous meditation, is true about the church. The Kingdom is a mighty victory. It is a reigning in life resultant from a mighty triumph of the Lamb over death. And all that we see in this book of Revelation of the uprising of the enemy's forces of iniquity, of Satan fully arrayed to hinder that new creation, is true of the church because the City is, after all, only the representation of the whole. It represents God's thought for the whole. The church is representative of the whole thought of God, and it is against the church that the gates of Hades are bent upon prevailing. The very first reference to the church by the Lord Jesus in the New Testament, suggests warfare: "I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it". Blessed be God, in the Lamb that has proven to be true, for, as the Head of the church, He comes to His church at the beginning of the book of the Revelation, and says, "I am He that liveth: and I became dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades." He has stormed the citadel of death, the great adversary of the church, and taken the authority from the devil, the keys being a symbol of that authority.

The Lamb's Nature in the Church

But now, what is true in Him as the Head of the church, the Bridegroom, has to be true in the members, in the bride, in the wife. There has to be a coming into the good of that mighty victory of the Lamb on the part of the church, and that victory is especially related to corporate life - remember that! The existence of the bride, the wife of the Lamb, the heavenly Jerusalem, the City at last having the glory of God, characterised by all these Divine features, is a mighty triumph. What is it a triumph over? It is over the power, malice and persistent effort of the enemy to divide the Lord's people. If the enemy can get the corporate life of the people of God upset and destroyed, he has defeated God's end concerning the church. That is why he has never ceased to work to that end. Now God is working with all His heart to get His people to understand and to live according to the law of corporate organic life, the oneness of Life in expression, and that Life in its highest expression is love.

Notice that those two things go together in the City, which is the Lamb's wife. The symbolism is very beautiful. It says in Revelation 21 that the street of the City was pure gold. There is only one street in the new Jerusalem, only one way, only one thoroughfare. It is pure gold. In chapter 22 it says - "in the midst of the street, the river of water of Life". What is the gold? Oh, it is the love of God; it is the Divine nature. God is love. It is the love of God made perfect in us. The simile is changed by Paul. He speaks about the Body building itself up in love. John uses the figure of a City. A different figure, but the same principle - something constituted by love. And in the midst of it, the river of the water of Life, and on either side the tree of Life. Life and love - the central, basic features of the bride, the wife of the Lamb, the city, the church.

God has that before Him - not to have so many saved people, even like a chain, linked on to one another by some external method. There are many things that join Christians together externally. There are such things as what are called 'Fellowships'! The Lord have mercy upon all the 'Fellowships' which are only external, that only have to do with outside things, a place, or a teaching. There are many things which bring Christians together and form them into a kind of chain, but that is not it. That is not adequate. No, it is inward, it is an organic Life, and God is not satisfied in having just so many Christians as individuals, saved people, even if they are linked together by something here on this earth. The Lord wants to see among His people an expression of the one Life working itself out in love, in true fellowship. That is God's end, God's aim. But remember, that is the thing upon which the dragon, the serpent, Satan, the devil, is all the time focusing for its undoing.

Now, let us see the significance of the term "the bride", the wife of the Lamb. You see the Lamb slain, you see the Lamb making war, you see the Lamb overcoming, you see the Lamb victorious in the throne. What is all this work of the Lamb unto? Why slain? Why making war? Why overcoming? It is to get this oneness. The great work of Satan is division, is schism, is strife, is war, conflict, setting elements against each other, disruption, anarchy, chaos, discord. All these things are Satan's work. Wars come from him, strife comes from him. The history of the church on earth is a painful story - the history of Satan's work in that direction.

Unity in the Church

The Lamb means all that Calvary stands for, all that the giving of Himself in sacrifice and death means. Yes, everything that is seen in the Lamb as slain, with His blood shed, is directed towards this end: the bride, the Lamb's wife, a corporate existence of the Christ that He should not have a lonely existence, but a corporate existence. The figure is true again for Adam. "It is not good that man should be alone", said the Lord, and you remember the word is that Adam was a figure of Him that was to come, and when you come to the antitype, the Christ, it is as though the Father said, "It is not good that Man should be alone". 'Let us make Him a wife, a bride, that He might have a corporate existence', and heaven is never represented as being more jubilant than on that day when, filled with song, it says, "Let us rejoice and be exceeding glad (excellent gladness)... for the marriage of the Lamb is come". Incidentally, that is why you cannot read the book of the Revelation chronologically. For you have the Lamb's wife as not yet married in the last part of the book. Then, much earlier, you have the marriage of the Lamb. That is only by the way, but the point is that it cost all that Calvary means to get this oneness. Calvary is the price of the corporate life, and this corporate life will be the result of that mighty work of the Cross and that mighty victory which was accomplished there by the Lamb.

I do want this to come to you as a message from the Lord, really to your hearts; not as a further bit of teaching, but a real message. Oh, let us always remember that anything that makes for division, schism, conflict, discord, or isolation, is contrary to Calvary, is contrary to the Lamb, and contrary to what God has in view. Let us remember that. We cannot isolate ourselves; we cannot ignore or overlook the laws of the Body of Christ. We cannot refuse to come into line with the principles of corporate existence without working against God and against Christ.

If you or I do something other than come right into line with the corporate law of the Body of Christ in every form of its expression, we are working against God's end and we are making nothing of the blood of the Lamb; we are setting it at naught. Let this govern you, let it come as a real interrogation to our hearts: is there any way in which I am not recognising the truth, the reality, of corporate life, the Body of Christ? Am I a law to myself? Am I taking my own way? Am I following my own judgment? Am I setting at naught the judgment of the saints? Am I refusing to recognise that the Lord speaks in His church? Oh, the ways in which corporate life works! How many they are! But if, in any way, you and I violate that law, then this end towards which God is working, upon which He has set His heart, is being worked against by us; and this, which is the fruit of Calvary, which is the cherished thing of the Lamb, is being set at naught in that measure.

It is a very solemn word, but it is a very important, very necessary word. I feel the Lord just wants us to recognise that, because this thing is so subtle. It is not always a definite, deliberate open violation of the laws of corporate life. Sometimes it just creeps in under the guise of - oh! all sorts of things which seem to be 'good'. Let us look at the effect of it and test everything by its effect. Is this working against our oneness of life and our love? If so, let us label it: 'Here is Satan as an angel of light!'

The laying on of hands is our testimony to the great and glorious fact that the Body is one. This oneness is the fruit of the Cross. Baptism and the water of baptism is a type of Calvary, death, burial and resurrection. What follows? Ever and always the church is the next thing. So, after the testimony to the death, burial and resurrection, the triumph of the Lord Jesus over that whole old creation in its disruption and its corruption, then the new creation comes in, the church which is His Body, which is just the opposite of that old creation. Here there is no disruption, no discord. Here no strife, no chaos, no anarchy, no lawlessness.

You say that is not true to history. Yet it is true in the spiritual realm! The Body is one in the spiritual realm. Christ is undivided in Himself. We are one, all one in Christ Jesus. We are standing for that testimony, and when we testify to the oneness of the Body, we are testifying to the victory of Calvary.

Let this come to your heart as a fresh appeal made by the Lamb. "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it... that He might present the church to Himself a glorious church (having the glory of God), not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing" (Eph. 5:25-27). That is the church. May the Lord give us grace to stand and to fight for the bride, the corporate organic Life expressed even here on this earth. May it be so!

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