Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, MO, on 4/27/03
"The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain," says the LORD" (Isa. 65:25, NIV).
All day Monday, I heard, "the beginning of the end," and thought that would be the title for this writing, though I was not sure what He meant by it. The next day, I couldn't remember exactly what He said, and thought perhaps it might have been, "the end of the beginning." Sometimes that which is spoken in eternity gets out of focus in time, but I knew what the title would be when the Spirit reminded me of Isaiah's comment: "declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'" (Isaiah 46:10, RSV). God has always had a plan, and He has always revealed His plan to those whose eyes He has opened and whose ears He has unstopped. That only includes the elect, Paul tells us, using Jacob and Esau, Jacob's twin sons, as a prime example. Before they were born, before they "had done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls," Jacob, the younger was chosen by God's sovereign election, over his older brother Esau. About election, Paul asks, "Is God unjust? Not at all! For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (Rom. 9:11-16, NIV). Here is another clear difference between Religion, which depends on man's effort, and Life in the Spirit, which depends on God's mercy and grace.
Next, Paul uses Pharaoh as another example of election, this time in a negative context. We watched part of "The Ten Commandments," the other night, and I was struck again by the spectacular effort Cecil B. Demille made in capturing this epic saga on film. His knowledge of scripture was faulty, however, or perhaps he thought the truth wouldn't be believed by movie goers, because in the film, Pharaoh blamed his wife for hardening his heart against the children of Israel. In fact, it was GOD who hardened his heart. "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden" (Rom. 9:17-18, NIV). May He open our eyes to see that He always uses the elect for the sake of the nonelect, even as His election of Isaac over Ishamel, will ultimately benefit Ishmael's seed.
Paul went on to show that God shared Himself with "a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Rom. 11:5-6, NIV). He said that what Israel sought to obtain, by works and following after Law, they did not attain, "but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day" (Vs. 7-8). He is not only speaking of the Jews here, but of all whom God has hardened for His own purposes, many of whom sit in the pews of churches across the land. We have often talked about the calling and election of God and the fact that HE chose us. We did NOT choose Him! The Apostle Peter declared, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9, RSV). The One who declared the end from the beginning, is the One who called us "out of darkness into His marvelous light!" That alone removes anything we might wish to boast about in our spiritual walk with Him. Yet, we still hear or read teachings that urge us to seize the power ourselves, do more, believe more, accomplish more. This, of course, is Religion, not Life in the Spirit.
Lenny and I were fellowshipping over breakfast this past week about the tension that exists between what we know to be true in Spirit over against what our eyes can see. These days, we often say to each other, "By His stripes we ARE healed," and yet, the manifestation of this in our flesh has yet to materialize. Does this mean we are crazy? Some would say so, even some Christians, who have shoved all the goodies available to us in Christ today, out into some nebulous future. Their conclusion reminds me of Paul's experience when he was taken to Caesarea, to stand trial for the accusations made against him by the Jews. When he made his case before Festus the Governor and King Agrippa, he spoke of his conversion on the Damascus Road, and declared that this Jesus who appeared to him was the same one that Moses and the Prophets had spoken of, who, "as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles" (Acts 26:23). Festus did not answer the "altar call," but instead, protested, "You are out of your mind, Paul!" he shouted. "Your great learning is driving you insane" (Vs. 24). This is what the world and many Christians think of us as well.
At the other extreme, there are those who insist that God's sons are already manifested in the world today. Spiritually and ultimately, this is absolutely true. Penultimately, however, it has not yet happened in flesh! People still get sick and die; lions still eat lambs rather than straw, poisonous serpents still bite and kill people (Isa. 11:8), and the creation, along with God's children, is still groaning, "for the revealing of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:19). What are we waiting for Paul? It will be worth the wait, he says, for "the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Vs. 21). And how will we know when the wait is over? "and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience" (Vs 23-25). As an aside, Isaiah's prophecy about lions and lambs, asps and babies, desert and roses (Isa. 35:1), belongs to this creation, not to some far off fantasy heaven where the streets are paved with gold and we stroll about in white robes playing harps. The manifestation of the sons of God is beginning right here on planet Earth and it will be concluded in flesh!
Every week, I stand before a room of aging Saints with infirm bodies, some with unsound minds, most with impaired vision and hearing, and now, we have two young men there, whose bodies are twisted and broken and whose minds are diminished by some car accident or other disaster. I tell them, "It is finished" (John 19:30), for that's what Jesus said, and I believe it, but in all flesh, His plan is not fully manifested. Here's the litmus test: if you stand by the deathbed or casket of a beloved friend or family member, and you cannot reach out your hand and say, "Arise. Come forth from the grave," then you know the manifestation of the Sons of God is not complete YET. But what I was feeling when I heard, "The end of the beginning," is that the first and second acts are over; the denouement (the final resolution of a plot or plan), is at hand. The first act was the fall of the first Adam, a living being (I Cor. 15:45), whose sin plunged all men into death and separation from God (Rom. 5:17; I Cor. 16:21; Eph. 2:12). The second act was the incarnation, death and resurrection of the last Adam, a life giving spirit, who brought us near to God again, reconciling us to Him through the blood of the Lamb (Eph. 2:13; II Cor. 5:18-19). The third and final act of God's drama on earth will be the revealing of the sons of God in such a way that "ALL FLESH SHALL SEE IT TOGETHER" (Isa. 40:5). What a glorious day that will be! By the Spirit, we see that this day is dawning. Even now, we are at the beginning of the end!
God uses all sorts of homely examples to teach us His ways. Back in the winter, I saw an ad for a tomato "tree," which promised big succulent, juicy tomatoes, lots of them. We ordered three of these wonder trees, which I soon forgot all about. A week or so ago, we got a package in the mail. Lenny opened it for me with his knife, and looking inside, I said, "It looks like a box of dirt," and so it was. There were three tiny containers full of potting soil, and hopefully, when he feels like repotting them, there will be a tomato seed in each one. I don't know what I was expecting, but certainly not a little container full of dirt. It reminds me that when we look at ourselves and each other, all we see with our natural eyes is "a mud creature," but that is only the package, not its contents.
As always, God arranged that the delivery of the plants, came at the exact time to enhance the spiritual meaning of Jesus' earthy metaphor: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24, RSV). Christ came to earth clothed in flesh, and in time, as the seed, the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham (Gal. 3:8, 16), He arose from the dead as the first fruits of the New Creation. His "second coming" on the Day of Pentecost, brought us the firstfruits of the Spirit, the earnest of our inheritance (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14). The next time He comes in flesh, He will be revealed in His sons, some of whom, like the tomato seed, still sleep in darkness. This coming has already begun but He is not ready to fully reveal it to the creation. After His resurrection, when Mary came to the tomb, He said to her, "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17, RSV). I don't believe He was speaking here of the "visible ascension" which Luke records (Luke 24:49), because later, He invited the disciples to "Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have" (Vs. 38). In that same encounter, after He had showed them His hands and feet, He asked them for something to eat. "They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate it in their presence" (Vs. 43). This was to show them that He was truly human; His resurrection from the dead proved that He was truly divine.
He explained what was going to happen next: "Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:45-49, RSV). This power from on high which turned the world upside down in the first century, seems to be in short supply today. As they stood watching, "he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven" (Luke 24:50-52). Everything about the life of Jesus was foretold by Moses and the prophets. Many times He said, "It is written," or "this is to fulfill all righteousness." God had a plan for His creation before the world were framed, and He always knew how it would unfold.
Most people do not know about His plan, but rely instead on religious superstition, tradition handed down from generation to generation. The so-called "fall" of man was no surprise to God, for Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Satan was only a tool in the hands of the Master Craftsman, bringing about Adam's sin, and Judas' betrayal. None of them really had a choice any more than Pharaoh did, for it is always God who "has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32, RSV). I have quoted that scripture in these writings a great many times, but if you don't get the truth of it, you miss the whole point of the drama. It is NOT the world, the flesh and the devil which plunged us into the abyss of sin and death, but God Himself, for the same reason He hardened Pharaoh's heart. God said to Moses, "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD" (Ex. 14:4, RSV). God hardened Pharaoh's heart and blinded the Jews and others from receiving Jesus so that His name may be proclaimed in all the Earth (Rom. 9:17), and so that He alone gets the glory!
As I was contemplating the three little pots of dirt with our tomato plants, I got a "vision" or mental picture of a church auditorium. I saw a pastor, preaching away behind a lectern, but instead of people in the pews, on each seat was a little pot of dirt. The preacher ranted and raved loudly, beat his fist on the podium, pounded His bible, but all to no avail. The seeds were buried in the dirt, and no amount of lecturing, demanding repentance, laying on of guilt, or quoting scripture could bring them our of their tombs. Only the living water delivered by the Master Gardener, combined with "Son" light can bring those seeds to life.
I saw once more, in yet another way, that this is a "God job" from start to finish, and nothing man can do will speed the process any more than shouting at a rose bud will cause it to blossom before its time. A caterpillar remains in a chrysalis until the voice of God, written in nature, gives it the call to come forth. The pots of dirt are very like a tomb, dark and lifeless, but the Voice of God will call each one forth to bloom and produce bountiful fruit for the Kingdom of heaven on earth, in His time, according to His will!
The beginning is coming to an end, and the end is just beginning. Father, open the blind eyes and unstop the deaf ears to see You as You are and to hear Your call to come forth from the dark places into Your light and glory. Manifest Yourself in Your sons, that we may speak peace to the heathen, and restoration to all Your creation. Let Your glory shine so that all flesh will see it together, and be transformed by it into Your image and likeness. We rejoice that Your counsel shall stand and You will accomplish everything You have purposed to bring forth. Your word will not return unto You void, and we rejoice that nothing will ever again be hurt or destroyed in Your holy mountain. In the Name above all names, we ask it. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850
"Second Hand Religion, Part I"
"Second Hand Religion, Part II"
"Statement of Faith, Second Hand Religion, Part III"
"Risen from the dead, Second Hand Religion, Part IV"
"Anointing the Lord, Second Hand Religion, Part V"
"All things under His power, Second Hand Religion, Part VI"
"The Kingdom Option, Second Hand Religion, VII"
"My Father's House, Second Hand Religion, VIII"
"Connected to the Vine, Second Hand Religion, IX"
"Chosen by God, Second Hand Religion, X"
"Labor Pains, Second Hand Religion, XI"
"Coming Home, Second Hand Religion, XII,
"A New Beginning, Second Hand Religion, XIII"
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 4/25/03,
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/27/08.