THE SEVEN STAGES OF MANKIND’S HISTORY
From the spiritual heavenly point of view, human history has seven stages, with the present stage being the last, that is, before the millennium. The first is the primitive stage, from Adam to Abraham. The second is the formation of the kingdom of Israel as God’s kingdom on earth. This stage lasted from Abraham to Solomon. The third stage is the desolation of the kingdom of Israel. The kingdoms of Babylon, Media-Persia, and Greece under Alexander the Great desolated Israel. This was God’s judgment on His degraded people.
The fourth stage is the Roman Empire. It also desolated Israel to some extent, but not as much as the others, at least, not until A.D. 70, when Titus destroyed Jerusalem. Josephus describes how terrible that destruction was. The Roman Empire was prepared and used by God for the accomplishment of redemption and for the spread of the good news around the Mediterranean Sea. In the centuries which followed, however, the Roman Empire brought in the Roman Church, which ruined the gospel and ushered in ten centuries of the Dark Ages.
The fifth stage is the Reformation. It extends from the time of Martin Luther down to the last century. During this stage many new things came in that changed human history. There was the discovery and settlement of the new land. There was the reformation of the so-called Christian Church. Germany was the power used by God during this stage.
The sixth stage is the furtherance of the gospel preaching and the Word of God. This was accomplished by God under the power of Great Britain. Spain was defeated and Britain was used to maintain order on the earth so that the gospel could be preached worldwide and the truth brought to every corner of the globe. Now the Bible has been translated at least in part into most languages. So the Word of God has been spreading to every part of the earth, like the gospel. This is the Lord’s doing.
Is this all? Is this sixth stage the final one? If so, what does the Lord gain? The central vision of the Apostle Paul’s completing ministry has not been adequately touched, nor has the mending ministry of John. Few Christian teachers even know the term, the mending ministry. The inner-life people know a little of Paul’s completing ministry, but what they have touched mainly concerns Christ, His death, and the resurrection. They have not seen much concerning the all-inclusive and all-extensive Christ in Philippians and Colossians. They have little to say of the Body of Christ. As for John’s mending ministry, what is ministered is mostly in a superficial way. Many do not know in a clear way what regeneration is. Today we are in the seventh or final stage, when the Lord would recover the completing ministry of Paul and the mending ministry of John.
THE NEED FOR THE FINAL STAGE
Furthermore, we need to realize at least five main aspects concerning the church. First of all, it is a gathering or assembly of the saints. In the last century the Brethren saw this and gave up the denominations, organizations, chapels, and cathedrals to come back to the Bible to meet in the name of the Lord Jesus. They have recovered the aspect of the church as an assembly. This, however, is still too shallow.
The church is also the Body of Christ, the new man, the lampstand, and the bride. Not many teachers have touched these four aspects adequately. Until these four aspects of the church are realized, both Paul’s completing ministry and John’s mending ministry cannot be fulfilled; thus, the Lord has still not accomplished His purpose and has no way to come back.
God’s purpose is not completed by gospel preaching, Bible teaching, and scriptural meetings alone. Without the nineteen books of Paul and John, there is no completion. Although Christians today have these nineteen books, they don’t pay much attention to these two ministries.
Many may refer to Paul’s books, but few stress the completing ministry. What is Paul’s completing ministry? It is the mystery of God, which is Christ, and the mystery of Christ, which is the church. Most Bible readers have studied Paul’s Epistles and have seen these terms (Col. 2:2; Eph. 3:4), but they probably do not have much understanding of what they mean.
John’s mending ministry presents the church as a lampstand (Rev. 1:11-12). Christians today speak little concerning this aspect of the church. The lampstand portrays the church as the embodiment of the Triune God. Its golden nature signifies the Father as the source. Its shape signifies the Son as the embodiment of the Father. The seven lamps shining speak of the seven Spirits as the expression of the Triune God. The church as the lampstand, then, is the Triune God embodied and expressed in His redeemed people.
We have given many messages concerning these two ministries of Paul and John. As we have studied Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, what an all-inclusive and all-extensive Christ we have seen as the mystery of God! Many messages have been given on the church as the Body of Christ, the new man, the lampstand, and the bride.
Since 1969 by His mercy we have had many messages on the book of Revelation. We have had a thorough study of this book in every aspect. We have especially emphasized the seven Spirits, the lampstand, the testimony of Jesus, the eating of the tree of life, the building up of pillars in the temple of God, the promise of partaking of the tree of life, and the call to drink of the living water. As you can see from the notes in the Recovery Version, we have not neglected the ten horns and the other matters of prophecy either, although we did concentrate on the life side, the spiritual side.
(The World Situation and God's Move, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)