I have been going through a time of stripping, loneliness and isolation again and have been asking God, “WHY?” I came across this writing by T. Austin-Sparks that seems to explain why. I know that many of you will be able to relate.
Christ has Gathered up Everything and Transferred it into Heaven
by T. Austin-Sparks
The next thing (and for the moment the last thing, but not by any means least in importance) is this: that Christ has gathered up everything and has removed it, transferred it, to heaven. God’s thought is centred in Christ in heaven, and God’s resources are centred in Christ in heaven. That means that the Lord’s people in this dispensation are essentially a heavenly people, and that means that it is quite impossible to attain unto God’s thought or to know God’s resources in Christ until we are a heavenly people. If in any way (and we are speaking to the Lord’s people now, and speaking of the life which we would call the Christian life), or in any measure we are earthbound, it will be in that measure impossible to attain unto God’s thought, and to know God’s resources. God only takes responsibility to supply and to carry on that which is essentially heavenly, and in the measure in which a thing is heavenly, and only in that measure (but surely in that measure), God takes responsibility for it. If it is in any way linked with this world, becoming a part of this world system, related to this earth, it has got to take responsibility for itself to carry its own weight, to find its own resources, to see its own way through.
Now we come back to what we stated earlier. In the end everything is going to be sovereignly tested by those heavenly realities. Where are we today? One of the tests that is being applied today is: How far can that which claims to be of the Lord go on in fulness, in life, triumphantly, without any kind of dependence upon this? How far can the thing go on in famine, in drought, in depression, in all conditions into which this world moves, so that its resources are no longer available? Can it go on mightily, strongly, as though it mattered not what the world does; where God’s work, God’s interests pursue their way in a glorious independence? God is going to place that issue. One of the tests at the end will have to be: How much is this of heaven and how much is this of earth and of man? How much in all this has been man’s? Yes, it may have been endeavour for God, but it may not have been a work straight out of heaven by God. There is all the difference between those things. How far has this been a great deal of busy activity for the Lord, and how far has this been the direct activity of the Holy Spirit from the Lord? There is a big difference between those two, and the test is going to be to be applied severely.
Christ now is in heaven, and when Christ returned to heaven, He transferred the basis of operations to heaven; He transferred all the resources to heaven; He transferred all the the knowledge of God to heaven. And the Lord’s people through this dispensation have to get their knowledge from heaven, their resources from heaven, all their government from heaven. Since the Lord returned it has never been centred and seated in this world.
We can only know Christ after the Spirit, so that Christ for us in this dispensation is spiritual in the sense that all that we know of Him or can have to do with Him can only be in the Spirit. “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him in this way no longer.” (2 Cor. 5:16). He is known after the Spirit.
Our resources are spiritual. The weapons of our warfare are spiritual. Everything has got to come to us from above. The one great effort of the enemy, which is again and again successful through this dispensation, has been to bring the things of God down to the attachment with this world, attachment to this earth, to make them something here.
Now we come back to the New Testament, and you only need to read John to see how unattached everything is, how everything is lifted clean out of this world, and everything is bound up with the fact that Christ is in heaven, and that the Lord’s people are here but not here, here but not known, in the world but not of it; a mystery people in this world so far as the world is concerned… unrecognised, unknown. And yet by that very means and for that very reason, the most potent force that this universe knows: the spiritual, hidden, secret people of God in this earth.
To take hold of Christianity and mould it, and shape it, and systematise it, and crystallise it, and make it some mighty Movement here; with its roots here, with all its associations such as man can see, appreciate and approve; to register itself upon the ordinary consciousness of this world as being something; all of that is contrary to the Word of God and is contrary to spiritual life and spiritual power. Christ is in heaven, and we are lifted out, translated, seated together with Him in the heavenlies. Our present purpose in this world is testimony only, by which others will be taken out of the nations, a people for His name.
Perhaps one of the things which you and I and the Lord’s people everywhere need to recognise more than anything else at an end time is the fact of our heavenliness. There is going to be a testing of everything which bears the Lord’s name by the law of the beginning governing the end. In the beginning they were a heavenly people, with everything for them in heaven, in Christ, and being drawn from Christ in heaven. All their government, direction, resource came from Him and was in Him as in heaven. The Lord comes back again and again to test things by that beginning, and in the end the test is going to be applied very stringently. We are going to see the outward form of things, which is earthly, man-made, man-constituted, an imitation or a representation of spiritual things, breaking down, shaking at its very foundations. All the organisations of our work are going to be shattered. In the nations all that framework will be broken up. That which alone will be left will be the people themselves, and they will probably be scattered. Then the test will be as to how much of this is Christ here. If there has been dependence upon orders, churches, systems, even meetings and conferences, the many things which in themselves are looked to as the means of support of the Christian life, when they are gone, broken, the question will be, How much of Christ is here? What is the measure of Christ, the heavenly Christ?
You see how that was the crisis for the disciples. They had three years with Him, but there was an outward detachment, an outward dependence, a physical, sentient association. In those days they could say some very bold things, they could make great confessions and professions, they could declare themselves as to Him, Who He was, what they thought of Him, what they believed concerning Him, what they would do for Him. Then He was taken from them, and what was left? No Christ, no life, nothing to live for, everything gone! When the life of senses ceased, the outward order came to an end, they had nothing left, they were in despair, their faith was shattered.
There is much of that today. We do not know how much there is until the break comes, until we are no longer able to do anything for the Lord, until we are no longer able even to pray and read the Word of God, and carry on the usual devotional exercises, until we are no longer able to meet with the Lord’s people. Multitudes of the Lord’s people are coming there now. Over wide stretches of the earth the people of God are being driven, scattered, having everything outward taken. The question is: Why does the Lord allow it? Why is it so, if the Lord is wise, and almighty, and gracious? It is to discover how much the Heavenly Christ is to His people, and how much they depend upon the earthly order of things, even the Christian order.
“That which was from the beginning… Little children, it is the last hour… the one who does the will of God lives for ever“. Do you see the link? If at the end, at the last hour, it is as it was from the beginning, then it will abide for ever, but if it has become something else, it will go. This whole question of heavenly relationship with the Lord is a tremendously searching one, the fact that Christ has transferred everything to heaven and that nothing less than a life in heavenly union with Him will stand the test at any time.
We will ask the Lord that He will take this – if it really is the truth – and search us. It may be that some of us will find comfort, because we shall see this is exactly what the Lord is doing with us. Why isolation? Why the testings? Why the loneliness in spiritual life? To save us from things unto Himself, even Christian things, so that God’s end that Christ may be all and in all shall be reached; not things, but Christ; not Christianity, but Christ; not Christian work, but Christ.