THE CALL TO BUILD
"And they shall rebuild the old ruins. They shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the foreigner shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But you shall be named the priests of the Lord; they shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory you shall boast." Isaiah 61:4-6
As servants of the Lord, it is extremely important that we understand why God has put us on this earth. What is God doing today and how do we get involved in it? We hope to answer some of these questions in this article. May we have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
The Old Testament uses shadows and types to explain truth which usually is plainly spoken of in the New Testament. This symbolic language is prophetic of things which will take place in the future. Many of these events have already taken place and are recorded for us in the New Testament. Some others, however, have not yet taken place or perhaps are taking place right now. Of course, we must remember that God sees past, present and future all at once and that He knows what will happen before it actually happens.
In Isaiah chapter 61 we have an example of both of these kinds of prophesies. In verses 1-4 we have a prophetic word concerning the life of Christ and the early Church. Jesus quoted from this passage and announced it's fulfillment as He began His public ministry. This passage simply describes the ministry of Christ while He was on this earth. This same ministry was continued after Christ left the earth through the Church. As we read the history of the early Church in the Book of Acts we can clearly see that same ministry and anointing of Jesus being performed through His disciples. All of the same ministry, power, glory, and way of life that Jesus lived was also lived through His Church by the power of the Holy Spirit! The life of Jesus was now incorporated into a body of people who could continue the work of the Lord on the earth. The book of Acts records the first 60 years of the early Church and we can clearly see the life of Jesus Christ being lived out through His called out assembly (church). This, or course, is the way that God intended for it to be. This is what is described for us in Isaiah 61 verses 1-3.
Now something very strange happens in Isaiah chapter 61. Very abruptly, the subject changes and Isaiah takes us to another place and time. We now find ourselves in the middle of a reconstruction project! He now prophesies of people rebuilding the old ruins, raising up the former desolation, and repairing the ruined cities. What in the world is he talking about? What has this got to do with the life of Christ and His Church? What are these ruins and where did they come from? In order to answer these questions, we need to go back and see what has been in the very heart of God from before eternity.
God has always been in the business of building. He has always wanted to construct something which could contain His Life and express it in a very visible way. After God created Adam, He ceased from His labor and rested on the seventh day. His creating process had ended but Adam needed a companion. God met this need of Adam not by creating but by building a suitable counterpart for him. He took a rib out of Adam's side and built the woman (Eve) from Adam's rib. God's heart desire was to build a container for His very own Life! Adam and Eve never did partake of the Tree of Life and because of sin, were then cut off from that Tree. God's heart desire, however, remained the same.
The next building project that we find in the bible is with Noah and the Ark. The ark was symbolic of what God still wanted which was a container or dwelling place for His Life. Noah was faithful to build this vessel exactly as God had specified even though he was ridiculed and mocked by everyone around him. No one had ever seen an ark before and they all thought that old Noah was completely bonkers! It took Noah 120 years to build the ark but he patiently worked until it was completed. The ark was then used to contain and protect the lives of the only eight righteous people on the face of the earth! All of Noah's patience and hard work finally paid off.
God's next two building projects were without a doubt the greatest symbols or shadows of god's heart; the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon. The Temple was the sequel to the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle (Tent) was the portable, temporary dwelling place for God's presence. The Temple was symbolic of the established, permanent dwelling place of God in His people.
The Tabernacle of Moses was a huge tent which contained the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the tablets of stones on which were written the 10 commandments. God would manifest His presence in the innermost room of this tent which was called the Holy of Holies. The Tabernacle would be taken down and set up again each time the children of Israel would move to a new location during their forty years of wilderness wanderings. After the children of Israel came into their own land, it became apparent that a more permanent structure needed to be erected.
David, the King of Israel felt bad because he lived in a beautiful palace while God only had a flimsy tent. He wanted to build a permanent structure for the Lord. God told him that he could not actually build the Temple because he had been a man of bloodshed but that his son (Solomon) would build it. Though God gave all the blueprints to David, it was actually Solomon who had the Temple built. He built it to the exact specification that God had given David, just like Moses had built the Tabernacle according to the exact instructions which God had given him on the mount. God is always very specific on how He wants things built. After the Temple was completed, the Glory of the Lord filled that place. Solomon's kingdom was blessed and the Jews continued to worship in the Temple for many generations.
After a time, the nation of Israel began to fall away from the Lord. They began to worship idols and turn to the false gods of the heathen nations around them. They began to intermarry with the pagan nation and became more and more rebellious and sinful. They had committed spiritual adultery against their God! For this, God had to judge His people.
In 586 B.C., the armies of Babylon (under King Nebuchadnezzar) invaded and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. The Temple was destroyed and the people of Israel were taken captive by the Babylonians for seventy years. God had judged His people for their rebellion and idolatry. There were a few who were not captured by the Babylonians and remained living among the ruins in Jerusalem. God's Temple was lying in ruins.
After many years, God put it on the heart of three men to rise up out of their defeat and return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. Zerubabbel, Ezra, and Nehemiah were those three men. They wept as they saw the Temple of the Lord lying in ruins and they stepped out of their defeat and despair in order to concern themselves with God's heart desire; the rebuilding of His Temple. They obtained permission from the authorities and put together construction crews to return to Jerusalem and begin rebuilding. God was now in the re-building business!
During this rebuilding project, there was much opposition from the surrounding nations. They did everything they could to try and stop the building. The builders actually had to have a tool in one hand (for building), and a weapon in the other (for warfare). At one point, all building ceased because of the discouragement and complacency of the builders. God sent two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, for the purpose of encouraging the people to resume the project. The building started up once again. Later, the hearts of the people grew cold again and God sent Ezra to bring revival, a return of the people back to God and His rebuilding project. Finally, God sent Nehemiah to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. Nehemiah and Malachi (the prophet) brought the people back to God once again and the nation of Israel never again returned to idolatry up to the time of Christ.
Well, at this point you may be asking, "What does all this have to do with us today?" In a word: EVERYTHING! First, let's take a look at some New Testament scriptures.
"And what agreement has the temple of God will idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be My people." II Corinthians 6:16
"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." I Corinthians 3:16, 17
"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." Ephesians 2:9-22
"You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." I Peter 2:5
The above scriptures make it very clear that we, the Church, are the Temple of the Lord! There is only one problem:
T H E T E M P L E L I E S I N R U I N S !
That's right! Because of self-centeredness, individualism, and worldliness, the temple of God, the Church of Jesus Christ lies in ruins!
SHE HAS LOST HER FORMER POWER AND GLORY!
SHE HAS LOST THE LIFE OF GOD!
SHE HAS LEFT CHRIST OUTSIDE THE DOOR AND KNOCKING! (see Rev. 3:20)
The Church allowed the world system to come in like a flood around the turn of the third century. For 1700 years the Church has been lying in ruins! This is what Isaiah called the desolation of many generations. God's children went after the world with a passion! The Church committed spiritual adultery and went a whoring after the world's riches, philosophies, organization, government, programs, and pagan rituals. The pattern and instructions on how God's spiritual temple was to be built were ignored and replaced with man's ego-centric systems. God allowed the conquering of the Church by the world system just like He allowed the Babylonians to conquer Israel. Though there has always been a remnant, we have basically been in captivity for the last 1700 years! God have mercy on us all!!!
The following is a list of just some of the concepts, ideas, programs, and religious systems which were brought into the Church as a result of her prostitution with the world. None of these things have anything to do with the Church that Jesus built.
There is no evidence anywhere in scripture to show the existence of so call worship services in the early church. They had no pre-programmed order of worship, but rather met together daily under the direct headship of a living, present Lord.
Hiring and Firing of Preachers
This practice is unheard of in the Bible! Today's churches are run like corporations instead of living, breathing organisms.
This was invented in 1840 in America. It brought the world's concepts and systems of education into the Church.
Pulpits and Pews
Here again, the worldly system of education was brought into the Church. The Church is not a classroom or a university! It is a body with all the members functioning!
This is the sin of the Nicolaitans; one group of people within the Church claiming to be "professional ministers or priests" while the rest of us are "laymen!" Are you a professional Christian or an amateur Christian? The early Church knew only a priesthood of all believers!
The Pastoral System
The early Church had no such position in the local assemblies. Those that did have leaders were always in the plural and not in any official capacity or position. Jesus was the actual head of His Church in living reality. Pastors (as they function today) are a Martin Luther carry over of the Roman Catholic priests. The Roman Catholic priests are a Constantine carry over of the pagan priests!
In the early Church, men were trained up in the midst of church life, not sent away to become test tube/classroom leaders!
Say hello to Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato! The concepts of sermons and theology were born out of the influence of Greek philosophy! Paul preached Christ and Him crucified!
It is a historical fact that not one building set up for church meetings has been discovered to have existed before 320 A.D.! This means that the Church had no special buildings for the first two hundred years! Could it just be a coincidence that during this period the Church had the most real fruit?
Also: Steeples, Bells, altars, Mission Boards, Committees, Clerical collars, Titles and labels. Did you ever hear of Paul of Tarsus Ministries, Inc.?
All of these things (plus many more) are not just harmless traditions! These traditions have choked out and nullified the living, active Word of God in our midst. We are left with the temple of Herod (the world) instead of the Temple of Solomon.
". . . making the Word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do." Mark 7:13
T R U L Y,
THE TEMPLE OF GOD LIES IN RUINS!!!
Today, right now, God is calling out His Zerubabbles, Ezras, and Nehemiahs, to rebuild His Temple. My question to you is:
WILL YOU RESPOND TO THE CALL???
This project requires many, many who will be builders of the walls. It is going to take really committed people who are willing to pay the price of self sacrifice in order to see God's program take place. We must wake up and smell the coffee! We must look around us and begin to weep for the Temple of God which lies in ruins. We must put God's House before our own houses!
"Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins? Now therefore says the Lord of hosts: "Consider your ways!" You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes."
Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Consider your ways!" Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified," says the Lord. "You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?" says the Lord of hosts. "Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house."
God needs people who are not afraid to work and fight! This is not a game! It is the most important work on the face of the earth! YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO HAVE GUTS!!! Flaky Christians will never make it. God needs believers who are solid as rock in order that He can build upon them. Are you a living stone or a dead flake? Only the faithful, dependable saints need apply for this job!
How much are you willing to pay for the Kingdom of God on the earth? How much is it worth to you? How much is that pearl of great price? How much is that treasure hidden in the field? The obvious answer is that it will cost you everything that you have! But be of good cheer! Jesus said that whatever we give up for His sake will be multiplied a hundredfold in this life and in the life to come! IT WILL BE WELL WORTH IT!!!
If you decide to become a part of God's rebuilding crew, you need to understand that you will definitely come face to face with opposition. There will be some opposition from the world, but there will be much opposition from the religious system! Remember, we don't wrestle with flesh and blood but rather principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places. Could some of this spiritual wickedness in high places come in the form of those in "high" positions in the organized church? I believe it will. It was the "religious leaders" who came against Jesus and the early church more than anyone else! CONSIDER THE COST! It won't be easy to speak out against the hypocrisy and carnality in the organized church of today.
The best way to begin is the same way that Nehemiah did. FALL DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND ASK GOD TO FORGIVE YOU FOR YOUR OWN INDIFFERENT ATTITUDE! Weep for the sins of the people. Ask God to give you a burden that won't let go of you for His true Temple! Ask Him to forgive you for not caring enough about His Bride. The first step is to get to know Him Who lives within you. He has some things to say to you about this that you have not been hearing. Learn to live by His life and not your own. The House begins to be rebuilt within your own spirit first! TIME IS WASTING. LET'S TAKE UP OUR TOOLS AND OUR WEAPONS AND GET TO WORK REBUILDING HIS HOUSE!!!