Brothers of a Heavenly Glory

1)This term is used in an inclusive way throughout the paper.

by Dr. John Yates

Introduction

God is building a temple2)1 Cor 3:16; Eph 2:22; 1 Pet 2:5 across the world made up of believers, and in the End the earth itself will be one great house of God filled with his presence.3)“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” [Hab 2:14]; “v10 he…showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, v11 having the glory of God,” [Rev 21:10-11]. The angels witness that the earth is filled with God’s glory now4)““Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”” [Isa 6:3] and at various times this hidden glory is revealed to believers.(As in the ministry transforming encounter of D.L. Moody, “The room seemed ablaze with God.”5)As in the ministry transforming encounter of D.L. Moody, “The room seemed ablaze with God.” Since glory is by definition “the manifestation of a nature”, God’s highest purpose is always that his glory be seen. The purpose of this article is to testify to the relationship between Jesus’ love for us, our love for each other, and the glory God desires to reveal in our midst. The way to the experience of divine glory is found in the very earthiness of Jesus’ human relationships with his followers as friends and brothers.

Jesus love for Friends as Brothers

Jesus’ love for his friends contains a promise of sacrifice and revelation:

v13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. v14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. v15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:13-15).

The purpose of Jesus two – fold promise is “to bring many sons to glory” (Heb 2:10), into the relationship he has with the Father from eternity.6)“Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”[John 17:5][. This can only be achieved through his sacrifice as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Suffering is how Jesus glorifies the Father7)“v27 Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. v28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” [John 12:27-28]. and is himself glorified.8)“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”” [Luke 24:26]. By suffering for the disciples Christ imparts to them his own oneness with God.9)The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” [John 17:22]. When the church operates in this sort of friendship of sacrificial love it is essentially one because it is enveloped in the heavenly cloud of glory that surrounds Christ. This is imparted to us by the victorious Lord.

After his resurrection Jesus begins to relate to his disciples in a new way, “Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”” (Matt 28:10). “Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17).

Amazingly, by grace, God is our Father in the same way that he is the Father of the God – man Jesus.10)God is not analogically [similarly], but homologically [of the same order] our Father as he is of the humanity of Christ.v11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are of the same family. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, v12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation (i.e. the heavenly and earthly church) I will sing your praise.” (Heb 2:11-12). Since it is shame that always silences testimony, a revelation of Jesus’ open identification with us as his brothers is what breaks our silence, both about him and about his glory we see in one another. This is at the core of the message to the church in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia: The Way of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia means “brotherly love” and the church in that city (Rev 3) is a type of what God wants amongst us. He is calling for the love of friends perfectly exemplified in Jesus. The church at Philadelphia is small, weak (3:8) and oppressed (3:10), but faithful (3:10) “I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (3:8). Therefore it receives some glorious promises.

These promises made to Jesus’ friends in the church embrace two vital dimensions of relationship, adoration in heaven and witness on earth. The first promise relates to “an open door”: “‘‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” (Rev 3:8). The door gives entry into the heavenly city and temple of God.11)“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” [Rev 3:12]. In the Spirit, faithful believers are admitted into the heavenly sanctuary.12)“v1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” v2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.” [Rev 4:1-2]  The outworking of the open door into the heavenly sanctuary, is that in unity with those who have preceded us,13)“we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” [Heb 12:1] we give witness to an unbelieving world (Rev 3:9).14)Revelation is written with this purpose in mind [Rev 1:2, 5; Rev 2:13; Rev 3:14; Rev 6:9; Rev 11:3; Rev 15:5 – witness; Rev 1:2, 9; Rev 11:7; Rev 12:11, 17; Rev 19:10; Rev 20:4 – testimony]. Compare this with Paul’s vocabulary of an open door for the word, [1 Cor 16:9;2 Cor 2:12; Col 4:3].

The second of Jesus promises to the church in Philadelphia flows on from the unlocking of the sanctuary of salvation15)“‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” [Rev 3:7]. “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.” (Rev 3:12) . This indicates that the heavenly sanctuary surrounds the earthly church. To be a pillar and be named with the name of Jesus, “I will write on him …my own new name.” (Rev 3:12),16)See also Rev 13:6, “ his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.”; Eph 2:6; Col 3:1. is to be in union with Jesus who himself is the eternal Temple of God.17)“I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” [Rev 21:22]

This continuous presence of Christ manifests itself in the perpetual adoration of Jesus that unites heaven and earth. “I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice,Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:9-10).

A Community of Friends

Jesus has one communion of friends and brothers in heaven and on earth, as such the promises to the Philadelphians apply to us. He is willing to give us his presence and show us all that he is doing. We become especially aware of our union with the community of the saints and Christ in heaven through prayer and praise. The church on earth shares with the saints in heaven in their unceasing worship of the Lamb. ““To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev 5:13; cf. Rev 7:10; Rev 14:1 -3; Rev 15:3).

The corresponding action on earth is, “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph 5:18-19). As we tell each other who we are in Jesus, God’s wisdom concerning the victory of Christ is manifested to the principalities and powers (Eph 3:10) and we are empowered to witness in the world. The purpose of friends is to help each other see the glory the Father has imparted to each of us through Christ. In our oneness with the exalted heavenly Lord we are given to see the fullness of his ascension gifts18)“when he ascended on high …he gave gifts to me” [Eph 4:8]. in each other and are moved in the Spirit to encourage each other to fulfill our call in Christ.

In Revelation, “the prayers of the saints” are presented by angelic beings before the presence of God in heaven (Rev 5:8; Rev 8:3-4). These saints include both the earthly (Rev 13:7, 10; Rev 14:12; Rev 20:9) and the heavenly witnesses to Jesus (Rev 6: 9-10). In agreement with the intercession of Jesus in heaven (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25), the prayers of the heavenly and earthly children of God mingle before his throne and are answered in the affirmative as they are enveloped in the cloud of glory, “and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power,” (Rev 15:8). (Compare Isa 6:4; Acts 4:31.)

Angels assist the heavenly and earthly church gathered about Christ to honour him with constant witness.19)“I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.”” [Rev 19:10]. Such spirits facilitate the earthly church’s participation in the heavenly assembly, “v22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, v23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb 12:22-23). These supernatural realities evoke in us a holy awareness of God, “v28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, v29 for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:28-29). This sense of holy awe at a gracious presence is a sign of the true worship of God.20)See examples in the life of Abraham [Gen 15:12], Jacob [Gen 28:17], Isaiah [Isa 6:5] and John 1:17.

True Mates bear Testimony to Jesus in all things

The ultimate goal of God is that all people witness the surpassing beauty of Christ in all things, “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph 1:9;10). Testimony to the surpassing beauty of Christ in all things may be provoked by an awareness of his heavenly glory, but it can only be released on earth via relational death and resurrection.

Australians are often like the third servant in the parable of the talents, they do not return to God his blessings:21)A particularly acute problem in the booming economy of WA at the moment.vs24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.vs26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?… v28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.” (Matthew 25:24;26; 28) 

Why didn’t his two fellow servants help him with his talent, as “mates” should? Why are there so many gifted people living on the streets, and so many Australians stuck in addictions, poverty, oppression, hopelessness and despair? It is because their fellow citizens see them only as fellow servants and not in the light of the power of the life of Christ to make “brothers”. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Rom 8:29).

The failure of the church in Australia to be fully fruitful in witness can be traced back to an inability of friends who are brothers in Christ to release each other in love. This empowering others comes only as we commune with him in adoration/prayer so that we are moved to release our brothers in love into the greatness of Christ we sense we all share. In touch with heavenly things, our self–centred attitude is transformed. Whatever the cost (sacrifice), we will assist our brothers and friends, as far as we are able, through the gifts of Christ, to see what the Father is doing in their lives (revelation). By such a mutual empowerment in the gifts of Christ the kingdom of God comes with power, and praise is multiplied amongst Christ’s disciples (see the pattern of  Luke 10).

Advance Australia There

In laying down our lives for our brethren a memorial is offered to Christ’s sacrificial friendship and the his temple, the people of God, is built up amongst us. For Australians, this is intimately connected in the purposes of God with our own history of sacrifice. The most important building in Australia, our High Temple and most sacred place, is definitely the War Memorial in Canberra. It, more than anywhere else, defines the national identity in a way that draws out a sense of the holy – of the “good mate” who gives his all that others might live.

The ANZAC suffering is, in the sovereign purposes of God (Eph 1:11), a divinely ordained gift to lead us to Christ. Even if weakly perceived, ANZAC stands as a testimony to the cross and the message that God has not forgotten us. God’s remembering us in this way must be revealed as the glory of the cross – love before it can be received. The place of this revelation is in the heaven born sacrificial community of friends and brothers, “the best of mates”, the church.

Conclusion

The important thing about gifts is that they are meant to bring God glory, since they reflect the beauty of Christ they are meant to be noticed. As friends on earth are filled with the sacrificial love of the Lamb who gave himself that the Father may have many sons in glory (Heb 2:10), they too enter into the glory cloud of God that surrounds Christ and are assisted by ministering angels (Heb 1:14).

God is working to establish a constant communion of heavenly and earthly friends via the adoration of Jesus and mutual recognition of gifts. As he increasingly does this, the power of heavenly love will break our hearts free from any containment of personal history or institutional life. Our Father will do this so that in every place – in offices, schools, homes, street corners, sports clubs, pubs, factories, shops… there will be pillars of adoration, prayer and witness filling “all things” with Christ.

References   [ + ]

1. This term is used in an inclusive way throughout the paper.
2. 1 Cor 3:16; Eph 2:22; 1 Pet 2:5
3. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” [Hab 2:14]; “v10 he…showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, v11 having the glory of God,” [Rev 21:10-11].
4. ““Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”” [Isa 6:3]
5. As in the ministry transforming encounter of D.L. Moody, “The room seemed ablaze with God.”
6. “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”[John 17:5][.
7. “v27 Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. v28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” [John 12:27-28].
8. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”” [Luke 24:26].
9. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” [John 17:22].
10. God is not analogically [similarly], but homologically [of the same order] our Father as he is of the humanity of Christ.
11. “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” [Rev 3:12].
12. “v1 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” v2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.” [Rev 4:1-2] 
13. “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” [Heb 12:1]
14. Revelation is written with this purpose in mind [Rev 1:2, 5; Rev 2:13; Rev 3:14; Rev 6:9; Rev 11:3; Rev 15:5 – witness; Rev 1:2, 9; Rev 11:7; Rev 12:11, 17; Rev 19:10; Rev 20:4 – testimony]. Compare this with Paul’s vocabulary of an open door for the word, [1 Cor 16:9;2 Cor 2:12; Col 4:3].
15. “‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” [Rev 3:7].
16. See also Rev 13:6, “ his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.”; Eph 2:6; Col 3:1.
17. “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” [Rev 21:22]
18. “when he ascended on high …he gave gifts to me” [Eph 4:8].
19. “I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.”” [Rev 19:10].
20. See examples in the life of Abraham [Gen 15:12], Jacob [Gen 28:17], Isaiah [Isa 6:5] and John 1:17.
21. A particularly acute problem in the booming economy of WA at the moment.

John Yates

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *