THE FAILURE OF THE CHURCH
From the Bible we see that soon after the age of the apostles the local churches as the golden lampstands became desolate, degraded, and fallen (Rev. 2:14-15, 20) and were carried away to the mysterious Great Babylon (Rev. 17:5); this is similar to the Israelites in the Old Testament who were taken captive into Babylon through their degradation and failure. This mysterious Great Babylon is the apostate Roman Catholic Church. According to church history, this period lasted for at least ten centuries from about A.D. 570 to about A.D. 1500 at the time of Luther’s Reformation. This was also the period known in world history as the Dark Ages.
THE RECOVERY OF THE CHURCH
At the time of the Reformation, the church had a recovery. She left the apostate Roman Catholic Church (Rev. 18:4) and gradually returned to the original ground of oneness to have the proper church life (Rev. 3:1, 4, 7-12). This is the Lord’s call for the overcomers in the degraded and desolate church, as recorded in Revelation 2—3. Today we are in the church of the Lord’s recovery. Whether we are in Korea, China, or the West, we have returned to the local ground of oneness and expect to be recovered continuously back to the normal church life, which is a life of inwardly being filled by the Spirit and outwardly living Christ, loving one another, fellowshipping one with another, and fellowshipping with the Triune God.
THE OVERCOMERS IN THE CHURCH AND THE OVERCOMERS AMONG THE OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS BEING EVENTUALLY CONSTITUTED
First, the overcomers in the church and the overcomers among the Old Testament saints are constituted the bride of Christ (Rev. 19:7-9). This bride is the spouse of Christ, sharing with Christ His kingly rule in the coming millennium. Second, these overcomers throughout the ages will constitute the army of Christ at His return who with Christ will defeat Antichrist and his army (Rev. 17:12-14; 19:19-20). Third, they will constitute the New Jerusalem in the millennium. The New Jerusalem will appear in two stages. The first stage will appear in the millennium; the second stage will appear in the new heaven and new earth in eternity. The New Jerusalem in the millennium includes only the overcoming saints throughout the ages; it does not include the saints who fail and must therefore pass through God’s dealing to be further perfected. This is like going to school. Those who fail in the final examination cannot graduate; they must have make-up lessons. Only after they pass through those lessons can they graduate. Therefore, if you are lazy and loose as a Christian today and do not grow in life, you will be considered a failing one when Jesus comes back again. The overcoming saints will reign and rejoice with the Lord in the millennium while you will be there “making up your lessons,” being dealt with and chastised by God until you mature. The New Jerusalem in the millennium, which is constituted of the overcoming saints throughout the ages, will be the manifestation of the kingdom of the heavens. There the overcoming ones will reign with Christ to shepherd the nations (Rev. 3:12; 20:4, 6; 2:26-27).
ALL THE SAINTS IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, ULTIMATELY BECOMING THE NEW JERUSALEM IN THE NEW HEAVEN AND NEW EARTH
After the millennium, there will be a new heaven and new earth. By that time, it will not just be the overcomers who will be there. The church and the Old Testament saints, including all the ones who will have been perfected and will be mature, will all become the New Jerusalem in the new heaven and new earth. Those saints who fail now will also be mature at that time after God’s dealing and perfecting for a thousand years. They will also have a part in the New Jerusalem. This expanded New Jerusalem will be the mutual dwelling place for God and His redeemed people in eternity (Rev. 21:3, 22). On the one hand, she will be God’s tabernacle, His dwelling place. On the other hand, she will be the temple of God, the dwelling place for all those who serve Him. At the same time, this New Jerusalem is the corporate, expanded Christ as the eternal full expression of God. John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh [who is Jesus Christ] and tabernacled among us.” In this miniature tabernacle God lived within and was expressed without. In the new heaven and new earth in eternity, all the saved saints throughout the ages will have been perfected by God. They will be fully mingled with the Triune God to become an expanded tabernacle. This expanded tabernacle will be the mutual dwelling place for God and His redeemed people and will become the full, complete, and ultimate expression of God unto eternity. This is the ultimate completion of God’s economy.
In between the miniature tabernacle of Jesus and the expanded tabernacle of the New Jerusalem is God’s church on earth today. Every local church should be such a tabernacle, filled with God within and expressing God without. Every one of us in the local church should live this life of the tabernacle that God would have a dwelling place on earth and we would also dwell within it. In this way, God will be expressed in every place. Hallelujah! This is God’s economy.
A message given by Brother Witness Lee in Seoul, Korea on November 7, 1988.
(The Economy of God and the Building Up of the Body of Christ, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)