Eternal Fellowship

Fellowship for eternity is a daunting but stimulating prospect for us hopeful mortals - close, familial association with the Father and His Son AND EACH OTHER, on an endless, perfect basis. Surely, when we have experienced that joyful, perfect state for only a little while, our present relationship with Him will seem remote and foreign - and terribly inferior.

The Apostle John, in I John 3:1, 2 comments upon some uncertain aspects of our future state: "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is."

Indications are that even our memory of this present state shall pass away in the glorious circumstance of our future nature and prospects. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:4)

And so, we soberly consider that our eternal fellowship with the Father, His Son, and our brethren has already begun and that it continues - in this fallible, impermanent, imperfect term of our probation, and in these failure-prone bodies - in these humble but chosen vessels in Christ Jesus.

We ask many questions about this profound subject, and plumb the deeper aspects of spiritual revelation for a clearer understanding of our prospects. Each of us meditates with godly anticipation about the kingdom age, which lies immediately before us...that Realm of our Desire, for which we yearn.

Perhaps the apostle expressed the deep "mystery" best when he said, that the Father has not revealed those exquisite things of the kingdom to all men, but he hath revealed them to us by His Spirit - which agency we realize to be HIS WORD of TRUTH, with which we must become intimately acquainted in order to prepare ourselves to enter into the enchanting reality of the future age.

In 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, Paul writes: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."

God speaks in detail to us about His plans for His People, the brothers and sisters of His Son. The Saints shall then enjoy perfect Fellowship with the Father and His Son as they associate with each other, for each shall then have obtained Life without end - and eternal strength and health - and the perfect mind of our King and His Father.

The Final Consolation- Brother Roberts once wrote an interesting and thought provoking scenario of God's immortalized ones arriving, awe-stricken at the Throne of God after having been resurrected and judged worthy to enter the realm of the Kingdom at Jerusalem for the first time.

The Saints who arrive at that blessed place are entering a realm not familiar to them from past experience, but a domain which has been anticipated in great detail during their mortal servitude in Christ. For they have meditated and cogitated upon this blessed day; they have deliberated about it among themselves; they have mulled and ruminated about this glorious day; they have dreamed of it, and have envisioned it in every possible aspect. As a result they have been made subject to its blessings, just as they anticipated!

Their blessing is a direct result of their interest. The Prophet Malachi expresses their intense interest in these familiar words, "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him." (Malachi 3:16-17)

How do they serve Him? To what subject do you think their often speaking was devoted? Was it the politics of the day, or the latest fad in clothing, or the skills of some profane sports figure? Was it the deeds of the "great men" of the earth? Was it to ask who among themselves should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Or was it the nature and fullness of that kingdom? - Its intimately imagined details, its godly makeup, its innate righteousness, its necessary purpose, its constitution of life and happiness and freedom from ill or hurt - and of glory and honor to the Almighty One and His blessed Son? Of course, it was the latter!

That is why the Lord heard and wrote a book of remembrance noting their discussions as to His own spiritual benevolence and material favor. These men and women were appreciative of God's promises and the inheritance He had prepared for them. They showed their appreciation by their very devotion - in thoughts, actions, and in speech.

Much is revealed about the coming eternal reign of righteousness on the earth. Many specific details are revealed, but the broad-brush descriptions are more prevalent. God's word gives us an accurate, summary description of our future habitation in several almost identical passages. Habakkuk 2:14 promises that "...the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." These same promises are paralleled in Numbers 14:21, Isaiah 11:9, Psalm 72, where we are told,

"And blessed be His glorious name forever; and let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and amen!" This is a perfect incubator for the Eternal Fellowship that we hope to enjoy! (See also Psalm 37:9, 11, 22; Ephesians 1:3-10 and Zechariah 14:9.)

Paul's instruction to the Ephesians in chapter one summarizes in itemized terms the glorious future of the earth, and the reason for that destiny. We are told in verse 3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." (Those 'heavenly places' are our present calling and portend the future realm of the kingdom age on earth!) The apostle goes on in the next several verses with his logical and Scriptural argument of progression toward the perfection and wonder that lies ahead for the Believer.

If we read this first chapter of Ephesians we will find a brilliant and succinct summary of salvation and its infallible process (if it be followed faithfully by us) which leads without fail to the condition for which we strive - Eternal Fellowship with our Father and His Son!

It could not be more truly or lovingly expressed than in verse 23. "His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all." We ARE His BODY...if we finish our race with success (subject to His boundless mercy).

The apostle John may have been thinking of the institution of marriage when he penned these words: "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." (I John 3:23, 24)

The ultimate fellowship of the future, just as in the present, is best illustrated by the ideal institution of the marriage of a man with a woman and their subsequent unity - their oneness. The marriage figure is treated in great detail in the Word of God, with the utmost of tenderness and honor by the Almighty. There can be no doubt that a successful marriage is the most perfect metaphor for the Eternal Fellowship to which each of us aspires. Indeed, marriage is profoundly nominated by our Father to illustrate our intensely personal, future relationship with Him.

Several of the remarks of the Apostle Paul illustrate the close parallel of marriage today with the state of the righteous with Christ tomorrow. Ephesians 5 is one of those rich sources of enlightenment. "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord."(Verse 22) It is a sweeping, temporal admonition that requires accommodation of the most intimate kind. The godly woman is to submit her entire will to that of her godly husband. But when she submits her will to him, she is not at hazard of being harmed in any way, but nurtured and cared for in the most intimate of terms. For the esteem moves in both directions: wife to husband - and husband to wife.

That is clearly illustrated in his next words: "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Ecclesia: and he is the Savior of the body." (Verse 23) As Savior of "the body," Christ is clearly concerned for the salvation of all those who are His, those who are His collective Bride. He cares for them intimately.

We need to consider all of Paul's instruction in this chapter even to his conclusion where he states, "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Ecclesia." We cannot help but arrive at a meaningful assessment of the duties of earthly marriage and its purpose relative to the finality of the relationship with Christ, when the two become, essentially ONE! Their purpose and demeanor have merged; their intellects are framed in the same mold; their efforts are expended in the same harmonious directions; their loves are entirely compatible; they eschew evil and choose the good; they serve each other above all others and they are entirely faithful to each other.

The consideration is not limited to the Ecclesia of the New Covenant. We behold the same principles as applied to errant and sinful Israel by her Maker and her Husband in Isaiah 54:4-8. Here we see clearly the limitless grace our Father is willing to exercise upon those whom He loves.

When His Son returns to the earth and brings salvation to Israel, we see illustrated in the prophetic word, His consistency of mind and purpose. "And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them, and they shall be as though I had not cast them off; for I am the Lord their God and will hear them!" (Zechariah 10:6)

His Eternal Fellowship takes hold upon His People Israel, and their first estate is fully restored. At the same time He shall have removed from them their stony hearts, and given them hearts of flesh, that they might truly love Him!

This is surely the remote end of the process of grace and compassion, which the

Lord our God is most able to exercise upon His people. He has given many promises to them pointing forward to the beginning of Israel's close, eternal fellowship with her husband, the Lord God, and her Savior, Messiah ben David.

His faithfulness to them is due to His faithfulness to His Promises, none of which has been forgotten or abrogated! He is filled with love for His people and great tolerance for their weaknesses and imperfections.

It is the same with us, my dear brethren! Unless He is willing to forgive our sins of weakness, and our omissions to do good when we should have, He will have no Helpers for His kingdom. All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God - no matter how hard we tried to succeed in pleasing him. Indeed, he teaches us that when a man (or woman) shall have done all those things which are commanded them, they are still"...unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do." (Luke 17:10)

As sons and daughters of our Father, we have dedicated our lives to Him and His service. We have made a solemn promise to uphold His testimonies, and obey His precepts. As brothers and sisters of His Son, we have made a solemn vow to be His collective Bride in the day of His coming and kingdom.

Today, then, we live our lives as the betrothed of that blessed Son, that Bridegroom whom we expect to appear at any moment. In the ancient East, after the bridegroom had selected his bride to be (actually, after she had been selected for him!) they were said to be betrothed to each other. They became dedicated to their future life together - but they would not enjoy it immediately. The bridegroom would then go away to prepare a proper place for his bride, and would come again for her as soon as adequate preparations had been made.

During this interval, the bride would make sure that her preparation was accomplished. Her trousseau would be perfect. The bride elect concluded any temporal debts or obligations to others. She would further prepare herself by consulting with the women of her family about her future life as wife and mother. Her diet and work schedules would be trimmed to perfection. Her mental state would be sharpened as the day approached.

The hour of the groom's arrival was not foreknown by anyone; he could give her only an approximate estimation of the time of his arrival to take her unto himself. He would come for her as soon as circumstances allowed. The bride and her wedding party diligently waited and watched for his appearing as the days and nights passed. They held their vigil by night with oiled and lighted lamps and other preparations, such as the proper clothing and nutrition. His appearance could come at any time - could even be at midnight, after which all the joyfully expectant party would enter joyfully into the wedding. After the ceremony and the marriage supper they went away to their special abode and became one before the Lord - in a perfect type of Eternal Fellowship.

The process with the brothers and sisters of Christ on the spiritual plane is essentially the same. At our baptism into Christ, we took on His name prospectively. Actual irreversible possession of His name could come only at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

As we wait for our Bridegroom, who has gone away to prepare for us a place and to come again, we do so with oiled and lighted lamps, peering into the surrounding darkness with expectant eyes and hearts, longing for the appearing of the object of our own desire, our Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, watching for the light of His great company of companions (the angels), and straining to hear His footsteps upon the earth.

As we do so, we strive to groom ourselves according to His wishes by pursuing His word and precepts in our daily lives. We strive to make ourselves ready for that great day portrayed by the Apostle John writing in Revelation 21: 9-10 "Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God."

The high symbolism of this scene is overwhelming with symbolic detail and meaning for those even now betrothed to the Lamb who can see in it the results of their love and labor for Him. It is a city that lends splendor to the magnificent Lamb, and fulfills His Purpose.

The City has no temple within its confines, it has no need of the sun or moon to shine in it, and into that blessed realm do the kings of the earth bring their feeble glory and honor. The gates shall not be shut at all by day - and there shall be no night there. No abomination nor lie nor any defiling thing shall enter into the City, but only "they which are written in the Lamb's book of Life." (Revelation 21:27)

The scene is one of completely idyllic permanence - of everlasting bliss and well being within the Tabernacle of our God on the earth. Profitable work shall surely be available for all the members of the collective Wife of the Lamb, for from the first, their duty will be to bring the love and enlightenment of the Lord to all the peoples of the earth - swiftly and with loving concern for their former contemporaries.

What a magnificent prospect for His true Bride! And what unfathomable blessings lie ahead in the infinity of His purpose - that endless tenure of our Eternal Fellowship with Him!

On a more immediate note, I wish to leave you with an assessment of our near-term goal: attainment of Immortality in His coming Kingdom. Consider the questions for our present occupation in the text of Hymn 308:

Shall we behold the Promised Land, Its streams and long down-trodden dust
Delivered from the alien hand, And given to the Just?

Shall we be there with Saints of old, Assembled round the Judgment throne,
When making up the gems of gold The Lord selects His own?

Shall we with pure and strengthened voice Join in that saintly choir to sing
And with immortal power rejoice To praise the chosen King?

We know the end; we know the way And source of life He will endow.
Shall we be with Him in that day? We make the answer now.

Harold E. Lafferty
Hagerstown, MD