I. THE TWO ASPECTS OF THE CROSS
Although there are numerous aspects of the cross, with relation to prayer there are mainly two aspects. One aspect is signified by the blood that is shed on the altar, and the other is signified by the fire burnt on the altar. When anyone offers a sacrifice at the altar, after it has been accepted by God and consumed by fire there are only two things in front of him. These two things are the blood round about the altar and the coals upon the altar. As the ashes and the coals of fire are mixed together, eventually, what the offerer sees is just the blood and the fire.
The blood and the fire are the two important aspects of the cross in relation to prayer. The ability of a priest to enter the Holy Place to burn incense and pray before God is based on two things. First, that he has brought with him the blood from the offering altar outside and put it on the incense altar. Second, that he has brought with him the fire which has consumed the sacrifice offered on the offering altar outside and has put it on the incense altar to burn the incense. The blood on the incense altar inside and the blood on the offering altar outside are one and the same. The coals of fire on the incense altar inside and the coals of fire on the offering altar outside are also one and the same. In other words, the blood on the incense altar inside is based on the blood on the offering altar outside. The fire on the incense altar inside is based on the fire on the offering altar outside. The blood is for redemption of sins; the fire is for termination. Anything that is put into the fire will be terminated. The most serious damage done to anything is caused by fire. Whenever something passes through fire it is consumed. On the cross the Lord shed His blood for redemption. Through His death He also brought in a great termination. These are the two most important aspects the Lord accomplished on the cross. Every sacrifice that is placed on the offering altar not only sheds blood, but also becomes ashes. The cross results in both redemption and termination. These are the two aspects of the cross.
In the Lord’s redemption, the cross, on the one hand, redeems us, and on the other hand, terminates us. Everyone who prays to God must be one who has been redeemed of the Lord in these two aspects. If one has not been sprinkled by the blood, before God he is just like Cain, who could neither be accepted by God nor pray. Everyone who is acceptable to God and able to pray needs to be sprinkled with the blood. But please remember, one who can go before God to pray not only needs the redemption of the blood; he also needs to be one who has been consumed at the cross. Nadab and Abihu fell dead before God due to a problem concerning the fire, not concerning the blood. Not having been consumed, terminated at the altar, they went before God to pray according to their natural man. Consequently, not only their prayers were not accepted by God, but even they themselves were struck dead by God. Hence, everyone who learns to pray must not only be redeemed by the blood, but he must also be one who has been terminated and has become ashes. His natural life has been completely terminated by the cross.
The two aspects of the cross are really not hard to understand, since the types in the Old Testament are displayed there as clear pictures. We see that no one could enter into the Holy Place to burn incense and pray to God except by the blood and the fire from the outside altar. If anyone were to go into the Holy Place to burn the incense without the fire that has burned the sacrifice on the altar, he would surely meet the same fate as Nadab and Abihu. So, without the blood and the fire, no one could enter into the presence of God. Without the redemption and the termination of the cross, no one can have access to God. A man may be able to pray a great deal before God, but he should not be over-confident that all his prayers are acceptable to God. The story of Nadab and Abihu is an excellent case in point. Never merely consider, “Oh, didn’t we pray before God?” No! You still need to ask, “what about the redemption and termination of the cross?” Unless you are in the experience of these two aspects of the cross, you will have no way to go before God.
In today’s degraded and deviant Christianity, the common concept is that God answers all our prayers. Yes, brothers and sisters, God is a God Who answers prayers. Yet even more often, He is a God who does not answer prayer. Today many often say, “Please pray for me.” This is the slogan of a great number of Christians today. You may see someone coming out of a dance-hall, yet telling you, “Pray for me!” She may be wearing fashionable clothes and be painted with various colors. You may see someone getting ready to attend a Christmas Eve’s party. Upon leaving, she may tell a friend, “Please pray for me.” Do you think God will answer such prayers? Never! Oh, do not be confident that God will answer all our prayers. Many times our prayers before God not only are not answered, but in His eyes may constitute sinning against Him. We have seen how strictly God dealt with the priests when the tabernacle was first set up and the priests went in before God to offer the sacrifice. If God dealt with the church today in the same way, many would not only suffer spiritual death, but even physically die before God.
In the beginnings of various matters, God was very strict in order to underscore the principle as an iron-clad law. At the time of Pentecost, Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit and fell dead before God. That did not mean that thereafter anyone who lied to the Spirit would fall dead. Later many lied yet did not fall dead. However, in God’s sight they had met their death. Nadab and Abihu fell dead because they violated the principles of the cross. To this day, many are still praying in violation of the principle of the cross. Their end is the same. Not only are their prayers not acceptable to God, but they themselves are disapproved of by Him. Their unanswered prayers and God’s disapproval are the same in principle as the suffering of physical death in the Old Testament time. Being against God’s principle, they suffer God’s opposition.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)