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[THE VOICE OF THE BRIDEGROOM - PART IV ]
[The Friend of the Bridegroom Ministry Today]
In light of all that God is revealing concerning the "making ready" of the Bride, we can see the importance of a "John the Baptist" ministry to act as the "friend of the Bridegroom" and to hear HIS VOICE in this day of preparation, and help bring about a RESTORATION of that which has been lost. When ancient Israel turned away from God, and was under His hand of judgment, His word came through the prophet Jeremiah as follows: "For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the VOICE of the BRIDEGROOM, and the VOICE of the BRIDE" (see Jer. 7:34; 16:9; 25:10). Since the land became desolate and the people carried captive into Babylon, we can see how that it was literally fulfilled that the voice of the Bridegroom and the voice of the Bride CEASED out of the cities of Judah and Jerusalem. However, to us there is a spiritual application. Because of the SPIRITUAL DESOLATION that has come to the church, the voice of the Bridegroom and the voice of the Bride has not been heard in the land as God intended. But NOW is the time for RESTORATION. The Bridegroom (Christ) is beginning to SPEAK as never before since the days of the early church apostles, for He is raising up specially prepared ministries who have heard His voice and are making known His purposes for this time; and in turn a Bride is being prepared who will yet speak with a Word of greater power and authority.
The Lord speaks through Jeremiah of this restoration in chap. 33:7-11. Although this passage had an application to natural Israel (and still does), we must see its application to spiritual Israel or the Church. "And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me. . . And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do to them: there shall be heard in this place. . . the voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for his mercy endures for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I cause to return the captivity, as at the first, says the Lord." The Lord purposes to bring the church completely out of the "Babylonish captivity" of man's systems and ways to a FULL RESTORATION, as at the beginning. And even power and glory beyond that! And in this restoration, the "voice of the bridegroom" (Christ), and the "voice of the bride" (prepared and anointed saints) will come forth as never before.
In Joel 2:15-16 we read these words, "Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts; let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet." Here, we have the work of preparation being done by those who are "lifting up their voices like a trumpet" in Zion (the church).
Isa. 58:1. There is a coming together of those who are hearing what the Spirit is saying in this end time, both of the spiritually mature ones (elders) and also children and babes (in Christ. We are being sanctified (separated) to a fast (of cleansing from the defilements of the world and the religious systems of "Babylon" (Rev. 18:4). Now, because of this preparatory work of the Lord, we can expect Joel 2:16 to be fulfilled by the Bridegroom coming forth in a greater moving of His Spirit ("out of His chamber"), and by the Bride company beginning to come forth in a greater ministry ("out of her closet"). In Mal. 4:2 we see where the Lord is called "the Sun of righteousness" who shall "arise with healing In his wings." Now compare this with Psalm 19:4-6 where we read, "In them (the heavens) has he set a tabernacle for the sun, which is as A BRIDEGROOM coming out of his chamber, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race." Yes, our Bridegroom (Jesus) is coming forth as a "strong man" in greater spiritual power among those being prepared. His "friends" (special messengers) are now hearing and trumpeting His Word. The Bride company is being "sealed" (Rev. 7:3) for a greater ministry In further preparation and anticipation of the day of manifestation which is coming. Although I have pointed out the spiritual application of Joel 2:16 and Psalm 19:5, this is preliminary to the time when the Bridegroom will literally come "out of His chamber" (heaven) and return for His Bride, who will then come "out of her closet" of being "hid with Christ in God" on this earth (Col. 3:3) and be translated out of the earthly into the heavenly to appear with Christ in glory (Col. 3:4).
This brings us back to the "friend of the Bridegroom." As the "marriage of the Lamb" approaches, we can see the importance of this type of end-time ministry to fulfill the pattern given in John 3:22-30. The setting which occasioned John the Baptist's remarks on this subject is seen in verse 26. Reports were brought to John that Jesus and His disciples were baptizing and "all men came to him" (Jesus). In other words, "Jesus is getting a greater following than you!" What an occasion for "ministerial jealousy" to arise in the heart of John! But John knew his place, and had been well prepared by the Spirit of God. John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven." (3:27). John knew that his ministry was to prepare the Bride for the Bridegroom, and for a trusted "friend of the Bridegroom" to seek to usurp the place of the Bridegroom and draw the affections and loyalty of the people to himself was unthinkable. Would to God that all ministries of today were as wise and as well prepared as John! If we want the adulation and affection of people directed toward us—if we want a following so that we can boast about how far-reaching our ministry is, and what great things we are doing—then we are in no position to fulfill that sensitive and delicate ministry of the "friend of the Bridegroom" in this day. John said, "He that has the bride is the Bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which stands and hears him, rejolces greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:29-30).
"He must increase, but I must decrease." How much are these simple, straight-forward, self-effacing words of John akin to that which is spoken of the 144,000 in Rev. 14:5: "And in their mouth was found no guile." In this they are following the Lamb's example (Rev. 14:4) for the apostle Peter says, "For even hereto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." (I Pet. 2:21-22). Likewise did Jesus speak of Nathaniel when He said, "Behold an Israelite Indeed, in whom is no guile!" "Nathaniel" means "gift of God." It is only by the gift of God's grace through Jesus Christ that we can be "Israelites indeed" (in Spirit and Truth), as we read in Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6-8, and be "without guile" in that day when the Bride company shall be "redeemed from (away from) the earth" (Rev. 14:3) into the glories of celestial realms of Christ. The word "Israel" means "ruling with God," and thus the name can only refer, in its true meaning and application, to those spiritual overcomers who will be co-heirs and co-rulers with Christ as "kings and priests" over the earth (Rev. 5:10). Oh how we should long to be Israelites indeed, circumcised completely within (Rom. 2:29), totally pure in heart (Mt. 5:8), without reservation as to our dedication as a "living sacrifice" to God (Rom. 12:1), without compromise in our fidelity to Christ our Bridegroom (Rev. 14:4, 17:14), and so absolutely sincere and honest before God and man that there cannot possible by any guiIe in our mouths. This is the path to Sonship and Brideship!
[Manifest Sonship Still Future]
Yes, the issue of the hour is sonship! For regardless of the particular "role" (or "post" of responsibility) we are chosen to fulfill in the coming Kingdom of our Lord, the Lord's purpose is that we all come (in due time) to manifest sonship. But the issue is just as clearly that of Brideship! For the first of the sons of God to be unveiled (manifested) in celestial glory, will be that group or select "chaste virgin" company which will be received of the Bridegroom at the midnight hour, entering with Him into the marriage, forever to be His heavenly Bride (Mt. 25:10),and to sit with Him on His throne of glory (Rev. 3:21), The ministry of the "friend of the Bridegroom " (special messengers who help prepare the Bride) is not over yet; in fact, such ministry has not yet come into its fulness. Through the extended grace and mercy of God we have yet a time of preparation that we might be ready for the coming day of manifestation. We are in the "dawning" of the era of the manifested sons of God, but that day has not yet arrived when some shall be changed and put on immortality "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last (the 7th—Rev. 10:7) trump" (I Cor. 15:52). There are presumptuous souls in the land who claim they have already arrived: they are already manifested sons of God; and they have already come Into the realm of the "perfect" as mentioned in I Cor. 13:10; and they are now beyond the realm of the "gifts" and "ministries" given to the church (I Cor. 12:7-10, Ephes. 4:11). But such is not true! There are yet many changes that must take place within each of us in this day of preparation, even from spiritual "glory to glory" (II Cor. 3: 18), and we need the gift-ministries and gifts of the Spirit to help bring us "to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephes. 4:11-15).
The word "changed" in II Cor. 3:18 is a translation of the Greek word metamorphoomai, from which we get the English "metamorphosis" (a word which indicates transformation, such as is seen in the changes in a caterpillar until it emerges as a beautiful butterfly). The same Greek word is translated "transfigured" in Mt. 17:2 to describe the change that took place in the body of Jesus on the mountain. The same Greek word is translated "transformed" in Rom. 12:2. Thus we can see that we are now to be transformed within "from glory to glory" until that day when we are ready to "emerge" from the "cocoon" of our terrestrial body into the transfigured glory and beauty of our celestial body (see I Cor. 15:20, Phil. 3:21).
[Discipleship and the Present Process of Regeneration]
Let's take a final look at Rev. 14:4 where the 144,000 are described as those who "follow the Lamb wherever he goes." In Mt. 16:24 we read: "Then said Jesus to his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Jesus was not in this instance giving the formula for salvation (which is a free gift—Rom. 6:23), but rather the requirements for those who aspire to follow Him to the summit of full sonship (co-heirship and co-rulership) in His celestial Kingdom. Notice, He spoke these words to His disciples. A "disciple" is one who has taken on himself the "yoke" (wilI) of Christ, and is being taught (disciplined, tutored) by Him (Mt. 11:29). The path of discipleship is to perfection (that which is complete, full, mature) as we read in Luke 6:40: "The disciple is not above his master (teacher), but every one (disciple) shall be perfected as his master (marginal reading)." See also Mt. 19:21.
Looking again at Mt. 16:24, the three requirements given by Jesus for discipleship are self-denial, taking up our cross (obedience and self sacrifice), and following Him (in His example of complete submission to the Father's will in every aspect of life). To love any person or any thing more than we love the Lord disqualifies us from being His disciples (Mt. 10:37, Lk. 14:26). We must be willing to forsake ALL (that would hinder us in any way from "going on" with Him), Lk. 14:33. We must "hate" our own self-life, being willing to "lose" our soulish (self) life, that we might "find" the spiritual (Christ) life (Mt. 10:39, 16:25). We must "count the cost" of building a "tower" that leads to the heavenly kingdom (Lk. 14:28-30), which is the "prize of the high (or heavenly—Heb. 3:1) calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). We must be willing to settle for conditions of total surrender (peace) lest we find ourselves "fighting" (resisting) God's calling and purpose for us (Lk. 14:31-32).
In Mt. 19:27, Peter asks Jesus this question "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed you, what shall we have therefore?" In quoting Jesus' answer in verse 28, I am going to change the punctuation provided by the translators (which I believe is incorrect) by removing the comma after the word "me" and placing it after the word "regeneration," to make it read like this: "truly I say to you, that you who have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” NOW (this age) is the time of regeneration (or re-creation) in the inner man. As we FOLLOW Him, we are being increasingly regenerated. This Is a MUST if we are to share His throne and rule with Him. Now notice verse 29: "And every one that has forsaken houses, or brethren or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold." Here we have the "hundredfold" ("full corn in the ear"—Mk. 4:20,28) who shall be "harvested" OUT of the lower (earthly) realm and translated into the upper (heavenly) realm to rule with Christ. The thirty and sixty fold (blade and ear) shall remain on the earth. So take heed! If you want to be WITH Christ in His ruling Kingdom, FOLLOW HIM IN THE REGENERATION!!!
[Ed. Note – for further study of the preparatory prophetic ministry to come ahead of the Lord’s return, please consult brother’s Earl booklet Elijah Comes First , which is listed in the end section of the index.]
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