“Always carrying in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor. 4:10).
In our last message we considered the inworking of His life within every son of God. The primary mission for which our Lord Jesus Christ came was to impart divine life to the world. He said: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Joh. 10:10). The bread of life, the tree of life, the water of life, the book of life all depict the manifold qualities and expressions of His life that is now finding its development in the His saints.
However, the partaking of His life demands particiaption in His death. And it is this in-working which causes many today to turn away from full gospel we preach. Many want the miracles, blessings, pleasures, recognition, and all the supplementary benefits, but few wish to identify with His suffering, solitude, rejection and death. But the path to His life is death, for none can lay hold of His life without the inworking of His death.
Many today recognize and celebrate the death of our Lord Jesus on the cross. But, how we need to also partake in the inward operation of His death. Paul declares: “death is working in us” (2 Cor. 4:12). For Paul, the cross was not a wooden artifact in Golgotha. The cross is the byproduct the daily effectual working of His life in us that causes us to deny and surrender our soul. Thus, the commission of the Lord to the one who will come after Him wholeheartedly is to take up his cross daily (Luk. 9:23). Paul understood full well the mystery of His death. He was among the apprehended who were pressing into His life by “being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10). What is it to be conformed to His death? Is it not to go through the same experience of laying down our self-life that our Lord Jesus exemplified?
Every time the Lord prompts you to surrender your ways in obedience to His, you are being conformed to His death and His life is finding preeminence in you. This is what Paul describes as: “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor. 4:10). For “as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were BAPTIZED INTO HIS DEATH” (Rom. 6:3).
Perhaps this is foolishness to the natural mind and to the society we live in. To deny one’s self is indeed death, for it requires that one disowns himself, forget and lose sight of his own interest and self-importance, and refuse and give up his earthly passions and desires. There are some who preach a “death to self” message. This is what Paul calls “self-imposed religion” (Col. 2:23). Those who preach such a message miss one thing. The inworking of His death cannot be initiated and energized by our own motivation and doing. His death working in us is the fruit of His life finding power and dominion within us. The One who brings about the inworking of His death is the Lord Himself.
Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mat. 10:34). There’s no two ways about it, the purpose of a sword is to kill. A number of times in scripture, the sword is mentioned as a weapon of choice in God’s arsenal. In Revelation 6:4, we read of a red horse whose rider was given a great sword – “another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword”. Much has been said about the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”. But it should be clear to all that the rider on the horse is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. If you contrast Matthew 10:34 and Revelation 6:4, you will see that the same Jesus who came not to bring peace upon the EARTH but a sword (Mat. 10:34) is the same Jesus who comes to take peace from the earth with a great sword (Rev. 6:4). Perhaps this is the side of our Lord Jesus few know.
The earth of which Jesus spoke and in which the rider of the horse comes is not the literal or physical earth but bespeaks the realm of the soul. As you read the book of revelation you will recognize that everything that happens with regards to the revelation of Jesus Christ take place in three realms: heaven, earth and the sea. At the individual level, these three signify; the spirt, the soul and the body. Therefore, the effectual working of the sword is designated for those who find their life and existence in the earthly or soulish realm. This relates to those who live out of their natural mind, their soulish emotions and their carnal will. This is the realm which the bible refers to as the “lower life”. For “whoever finds his [lower] life will lose it [the higher life], and whoever loses his [lower] life on My account will find it [the higher life]” (Mat. 10:39 Amp).
Similarly, the sword of which Jesus speaks and which the rider of the horse carries is not a sword of steel. Did He not say to His disciple: “put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Mat. 26:52)? The sword which Christ bears is not intended to bring physical death but real or genuine death – the death of the carnal man. The combined armies of the nations of the world do not possess the power of the sword which our Lord Jesus Christ wields. Thus, Jesus said: “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mat. 10:28). The sword is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17) and its target is the carnal nature who is enmity to God.
The sword is for the purpose of bringing to an end the dominion of the lower life or the soul. The sword of the Spirit which our Lord wields will rob the earth of the counterfeit peace it has fabricated. It is counterfeit for the very fact that, on the earth, the unregenerate soul has been able to live in makeshift harmony apart from union with the Spirit of God. Surely, this superficial peace which man finds in his unregenerate soul must be disrupted by the sword of the Lord. The very fact that this peace can be taken from the earth signifies that it is not the unwavering and unshakeable peace of the Kingdom of God. Thus, the One with the sharp two-edged sword must come to take peace from our earth, to divide that which is of our soul and spirit.
This progressive inworking of the spirit of God in our lives is precisely what is depicted in this scene of the One who comes riding in our earth with a red horse. The symbolism of the book should not be lost to us here. While the horse depicts authority, the color red is the Greek word: purrhos, which means “fire like” and comes from the root ‘pur’ (Greek: fire). Thus, the color red of the horse represents a condition, a manifestation of fire or flame. This portrays the Lord’s coming forth in authority as a Consuming Fire not to destroy, but to purify the earth, to bring to death the carnality which resides there and which is enmity to Him.
This principle of life through death is fundamental in the kingdom of God. If you want to lay hold of the totality of our Lord Jesus Christ, then do not suppose He will not come to you with a sword to take peace from your earth. Seeking His life earnestly will lead you to a place in God of forsaking your life (soul). This was exemplified by the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. He declared: “unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (Luk. 12:24). This He spoke concerning His death. But the principle is also true for every believer who desires to be conformed into His image and to attain to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Dear precious saint, His life will cause you lay down all before Him.
A rich young ruler once came to Jesus and asked “what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus told him: “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matt. 19:21). In other words Jesus was saying to the young ruler: your soul must be crucified if you want Me to be Lord over your life. What did this man go to seek? Was it not the life of God? Notice the life he asked about is the Greek ‘Zoe’ – the God life, the absolute fullness of divine life. But to enter and inherit this life there was a cost – ALL. Every believer, without exception, who is genuinely seeking the kingdom of God, is bound to be confronted with this demand by our Lord. This is the inworking of His death.
Jesus is saying even today: “he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it… be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Mat. 10:38-39; Rev. 2:10). Dear reader of these lines, though it costs much, it’s my prayer that you would glory in being conformed to His death. For there is no greater an honor than to apprehend His life.