ENJOYING AND EXPERIENCING CHRIST TO BECOME THE CHURCH
Now let us go on from Jacob to Israel, the house of Jacob. The house of Jacob first enjoyed Christ as the Passover lamb (Exo. 12; 1 Cor. 5:7). On the day of the Passover, the Israelites put the blood of the lamb on the two side posts and on the lintels (Exo. 12:7), and they ate the flesh of the lamb (v. 8). This signifies that, on the one hand, they enjoyed the redemption of Christ, while on the other hand, they enjoyed Christ as life and the life supply to them. Furthermore, they enjoyed Christ as the unleavened bread (vv. 15-20). Do you realize what God asked them to do after they enjoyed Christ in such a way? God asked them to set up a tabernacle, to build up a house for Him (25:8). The children of Israel enjoyed and experienced Christ in the way of redemption and in the way of life. Immediately after this, God not only commanded but demanded that they set up a tabernacle as His dwelling place among them. Therefore, here again we have Christ and the church.
If you read the book of Exodus once more, you will realize that all the timber, the boards, and the other materials for the tabernacle are types of aspects of Christ enjoyed by the believers to make them materials for the building of the church. What is the tabernacle? The tabernacle is the enlargement, the increase, of Christ as the lamb. If you enjoy the lamb, I enjoy the lamb, and we all enjoy the lamb, eventually this lamb will become the tabernacle through us. The children of Israel could be enlarged into a tabernacle simply because, in type, they experienced and enjoyed Christ and were united with Christ. They received something of Christ, and this very portion of Christ made them materials for the tabernacle. Today we have Christ and we are the church, not by natural goodness or other natural matters, but by the Christ who is experienced by us. We are the church by Christ being experienced by us and making us the material of the church. Just as the lamb became the tabernacle, Christ enjoyed and experienced by us becomes the church.
If you experience and enjoy Christ, there is truly a longing within you for the church life. If you have a good contact with the Lord Jesus in the morning, I am sure you will come to the church meeting in the evening. You have enjoyed Christ, yet you realize that you must be in the church for your living. This is why, in many cases, we should not talk to people about the church. We should simply help them to realize Christ. The more they realize Christ, the more they will long for the church. The lamb will become the tabernacle, Christ will become the church, but He must be experienced and enjoyed by you. First you have the Passover lamb, and then you will have the tabernacle in the wilderness built up as a dwelling place for God. After the tabernacle was raised up, a number of offerings, typifying Christ, were offered to God. We can never separate Christ, typified by the offerings, from the church, typified by the tabernacle. Where the tabernacle is, there are the offerings. Where the church is, there is Christ, and where Christ is, there is the church.
The entire history of the children of Israel in the Old Testament is a history of the tabernacle and of the temple. In principle, these two are the same. At first the tabernacle was the center of the history of Israel, and later on the temple became the center. This shows us that God’s intention is that we experience Christ so that a building may come into existence. This is the central thought of God. The temple came into being through the experience of Christ in type. After the children of Israel were brought into the land of Canaan, after they enjoyed Canaan, and after they experienced all the goodness of Canaan, the temple came forth. Again, Canaan is a type of Christ, and the temple is a type of the church. Just as the temple is the ultimate issue of the experience and enjoyment of the good land, the church is the ultimate issue of the experience and the enjoyment of Christ by the saints. When we enjoy Christ, the church comes out. After the Israelites enjoyed and experienced all the riches, the goodness, of the good land, they built up the temple as the dwelling place for God. This is a picture of the church coming out of Christ, who has been experienced by us.
(The Central Thought of God, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)