Life-Study of Numbersby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we will consider the matter of the children of Israel encamping in array.
In Numbers 2 we see that the children of Israel encamped in array. To put something in array is to set out something in a beautiful arrangement for a display. All the tribes encamped in array were in a beautiful order. In this array were the twelve tribes, the three families of the sons of Levi, and an extraordinary group including Moses, Aaron, and the sons of Aaron, the priests.
The children of Israel encamping in array typifies God's redeemed people being consummated in the New Jerusalem. According to our observation and the outward appearance of the situation of the church today, there does not seem to be any encamping in array. In the Catholic church, the state churches, the denominations, and the independent groups, there is much confusion. In all these there are real believers, who are God's chosen ones. However, among the real ones, there are many tares, many false believers, as revealed in the parable in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Of course, God's formed army does not include the tares; only the genuine believers in Christ throughout the generations are counted. All these believers, after being saved, sanctified, renewed, transformed, and conformed to the image of Christ, will be glorified. In this glorification will be seen the reality of the New Jerusalem as the consummation of God's work, in His New Testament economy, of the new creation in the old creation.
God will spend four dispensations to work His new creation out of the old creation. Eventually, God's work of the new creation will consummate in one entitythe New Jerusalem. There we will see God's redeemed people camping in array. Today, however, the situation among the children of God is a mess that causes us to mourn and weep. But we believe that out of this weeping there will be a jubilee. First, there will be a jubilee on a smaller scale during the millennium. Then there will be a jubilee on a full scale for eternity in the new heaven and new earth.
The entire Bible of sixty-six books shows us one thingGod's economy. God's economy is, first, to work out the old creation. Then out of the old creation, God uses four dispensations to bring forth the new creation. Today, this new creation consummates in the church; in the millennium it will consummate in the New Jerusalem on a smaller scale; and in the new heaven and new earth it will consummate in the New Jerusalem on a full scale. The consummation of the picture of God's economy revealed in the Bible is the New Jerusalem.
When God shows us a picture, He does not care for all the negative things. He cares only for what He sees. In Matthew 13 there are negative thingsthe tares, the leaven, and the big treeamong the precious things. God in His economy does not care for these but for the wheat (the plant life), which will be transformed in nature to become gold, pearls, and precious stones (minerals). All these precious things will consummate in the New Jerusalem. In the New Jerusalem we will not see tares, leaven, or the big tree; instead, we will see gold, pearls, and precious stones.
We must admit that, at present, we still have some leaven and some of the element of the big tree. To have the element of the big tree is to desire to be great and have a nice facade. We confess that leaven and the element of the big tree are with us, even within us. Nevertheless, we may have the joyous assurance that we also have gold, pearls, and precious stones and that these are growing and increasing. We may have such an assurance concerning ourselves and also concerning the church. When we look at our church and our work, we may be grieved by the damage caused by the messy situation among us. Matthew 13 shows us that this is unavoidable. One day we will go from Matthew 13 all the way to Revelation 21 and 22, where we see the New Jerusalem constituted of gold, pearls, and precious stones.
In the present church life the elders may have more headaches than joy. However, they should not cast the church aside but should go on until they get out of Matthew 13 and reach the New Jerusalem.
First, we will reach the New Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom, which will still be in the old creation but will be in a revived dispensation. If we are faithful to the Lord in this life, we will be there in the millennial kingdom to participate in the New Jerusalem before the new heaven and new earth. However, if we are defeated, God will deal with us quite severely for a thousand years. The New Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom (Rev. 3:12) will be a prize only to the overcoming saints, whereas the New Jerusalem in the new heaven and new earth will be the common portion of all the redeemed for eternity. In the new heaven and new earth all God's redeemed people will be perfected and completed. Thus, for eternity in the New Jerusalem there will be no dust but rather gold, pearls, and precious stones.
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