The Coming of the Lord

By Lloyd Ellefson

Greetings in the name of the Lord. Today we want to discuss the subject of Christ's coming to us. The coming of the Messiah, the Anointed One, was predicted in the Old Testament, and people looked forward to His coming. Yet when He came, they did not recognize Him, for He came in a form and name which was unfamiliar to them. They didn't realize that He was coming as a man called Jesus; nor did they expect Him to do the things He did. They also must have expected Him to do things which He did not do. The fact that they did not recognize Him, shows that their idea of the Messiah did not coincide with the true Messiah. They did not have a true image of the Messiah, the Anointed One, so they were looking for someone to fit that image. They believed their false idea of what He would be like, as well as the time of His coming.

Messiah means ANOINTING, and Jesus received the anointing at His baptism in the Jordan River. That marked the fulfillment of the prophesied anointing, but the people only saw Jesus manifested as a man. In spite of all the miracles Jesus performed, Israel would not receive Him, nor believe in Him. They thought they could do away with Him by crucifying Him physically, but after three days He was resurrected. He prophesied that He was returning to the Father and would come again. Most people believe that He will return to the Mount of Olives in the same physical form He had when He was on earth. So the Jews are still waiting for the return of their Messiah, and the church is waiting for the return of their Messiah, Jesus Christ.

"So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." (Heb. 9:28) Christ is returning to gather the heirs of salvation (His sheep) in order to bring them to the Father. I believe this will be a spiritual ingathering into the Christ; He has come in the Holy Spirit.

He is not coming again to deal with sin; He has finished His work in dealing with sin! He is appearing again without sin. However, as people look at sinful man and all the evil in the world, they believe that Jesus Christ is coming back to deal with sin; they think He must soon come back to put everything in order. A physical return of the Lord to take care of the sin problem would pose many difficulties. For example, how could we recognize Him, and who would be able to go to see Him? The average person can't even get near the Pope when he travels. How much more difficult it would be for everyone to see Christ if He actually came in the flesh! However this is not going to happen. Those who are still looking for the physical advent of the Messiah (Jesus), will miss Him, for the Messiah cannot be seen - He is the Anointing. Jesus was the Christ, but that was not His name. It is just a statement of His nature; Jesus is Jehovah's salvation, the Anointed One, that is Jesus the Christ.

Various Greek words which do NOT mean COMING, are translated as COMING in the King James and other translations. The Greek word PAROUSIA, though often mistranslated as COMING, means PRESENCE, a being alongside. It means He is there. It does not refer to the physical return of our ascended Lord. It is a PRESENCE, not a COMING. Some references where the word PAROUSIA has been mistranslated are: Matt. 24:3,27,37,39; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1,8,9; James 5:7,8; 2 Peter 1:26; 3:4,12; 1 Jn. 2:28.

Then we have the Greek word APOCALYPSE which means the UNVEILING or REVEALING. PAROUSIA and APOCALYPSE are the words that are used in referring to the presence of Jesus Christ and to His appearance or unveiling. He is manifested or made visible as being present.

We know that God is omnipresent (present everywhere). Jesus Christ is the image of the Father, and the Father is manifested in Christ, the Son of God. It was the Son who took on flesh. The Son of God obviously has the same nature as the Father; therefore He is also omnipresent. Since He is omnipresent, the only way God can come to you and me is through a recognition, realization, or revelation. This is the way He comes into our consciousness. He does not have a form, and neither does Christ. Yet for us to understand Him, He sometimes presents Himself in a form. It is understood by all, that everybody, regardless of geographical location, can pray to Jesus Christ at any time - for He is always present in spirit. He is omnipresent, and comes to us in the Spirit. It is impossible to be present physically in Africa, China and the United States at the same time. But in the spirit He is always present as a spiritual presence! That is why so many of these verses say PRESENCE of Christ; that is how we find Him, recognize and receive Him, for that is who He is. Since the disciples saw Jesus Christ go up, many think He is sitting in the heavens physically. The Word was made flesh, and flesh can be seen. That which can be seen is temporal. The visible body of Jesus Christ, whether it was seen before or after the resurrection, was temporal.

The verses in Matt. 24:3,27,37,39 talk about the sign of the PRESENCE of the Son of Man - NOT His COMING as stated in many translations. Jesus came as a man. God is not a man, neither is He the Son of Man. Jesus called Himself the Son of Man many times. He said the Son of Man came down from heaven, so He was a man in heaven. The Son of Man was given into the hands of men; the Son of Man was crucified; the Son of Man was buried; the Son of Man is coming again. In our passing from death to life or from Adam to Christ, our identification is with Christ, the new or spiritual image of God - the Son of Man. It says, "For the presence of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah." (v.37)

The following are some verses where the Greek word PAROUSIA, meaning PRESENCE, has been mistranslated as COMING. 1 Cor. 15:23-24, "As in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's in His presence." COMING is a mistranslation. This also applies to 1 Thess. 2:19 where Paul asks, "Who is our joy or our crown of exultation? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His presence?" Furthermore, He is going to establish your "hearts unblamable in holiness... in the presence of our Lord Jesus with all His saints." (3:13) "We, the living, who are surviving to the presence of the Lord." (4:15 Concordant) And in 5:23 it says that we may be kept blameless in the presence of our Lord.

The presence of the Lord comes differently to every person. When He came to Israel physically, the rest of the world did not see, know, nor understand Him, because He could not be everywhere at the same time. That is why it was expedient for Him to go away, for unless He went away, the Spirit could not come and take the things that belong to Him and show them to us. The presence of the Lord comes to different people at different times and seasons. Many people of the past have experienced the presence of the Lord, and many are now experiencing the presence of the Lord.

However we must not minimize the fact that this IS the Lord - this is CHRIST HIMSELF COME IN THE SPIRIT. Actually He is the Spirit of the Son of God whom God sent. When we receive His Spirit we cry "Abba, Father". This shows our identification with Christ, for we too have God as our Father. If we want to live with Christ, we have to live where He lives - in the heavenlies. This is where He was before He came to this earth.

We may wonder what kind of a body Jesus had before He came to this earth. Did He have a spiritual body and then put on a physical body? It tells us that God sent His Son into the world and that He was made of a woman. The Word became flesh. The firstborn of God was His Word, His Son, His Seed. He took on the form of a man; then He was anointed with the Spirit and showed that He was redeemed from the flesh, from the earth, from carnality, from evil, so that He might bring people into a new creation of God. This is not what most people are looking for. They want Christ to come back to perfect what is in this creation.

2 Thess. 2:1, "Now we request you brethren, with regard to the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering to Him." We are gathered into the presence of the Spirit of our Lord. It is the presence of the Christ in you and me that joins us together! That constitutes the body; people alone do not constitute the body of Christ. In James 5:7-8 it says, "Be patient, then, brethren, till the presence of the Lord...for the presence of the Lord is near." (Concordant) That was said almost two thousand years ago. In 2 Peter 1:16 it says, "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ..." Then in 2 Peter 3:3-4 "... in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His presence? For since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." These passages contain the word PRESENCE - not COMING. You can mark that in the margin of your Bible if your translation reads COMING.

In 1 John 2:28 it says, "And now, little children, remain in Him, that, if He should be manifested, we should be having boldness and not be put to shame by Him in His presence." (Concordant) Many have the same idea about the coming of Christ as they do about the coming of the antichrist. They think he will come suddenly as an individual to rule this world. However, the antichrist is a corporate man. It says that the antichrist will be revealed - not born. The man of sin or lawlessness is in existence now, but he has to be revealed. (2 Thess. 2:3,6,8) The antichrist is the Adam man, because he is the one who opposed God and Christ. The natural man in the Jewish nation opposed Christ; when he opposed Christ he opposed God. But the natural man could not be antichrist until Christ was manifested; before that he could not know whom to oppose. A lie works in opposition to the truth; we have to have truth before we can have the lie, so the lie always comes after truth.

"For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way." (2 Thess. 2:7) I understand that to be the law written on every man's heart, and it keeps man from going berserk. Continuing on in v. 8, "And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming." The lawless one will be revealed; he will be unveiled because he is hidden in a lie. The Lord will slay or consume him with the breath of His mouth and destroy him with the brightness of His coming. The breath or spirit of His mouth is our confession - the testimony that comes from Him. "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony..." (Rev. 12:11) He will be destroyed by the brightness of the coming of the Lord; the brightness is His light. It opens the eyes of our understanding that we might be enlightened and know who God is and who satan is.

"That is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders." (2 Thess. 2:9) The one who comes after the working of satan is Adam. Adam's lie has infected all of mankind and has ruled man ever since day one. When Jesus came as the truth, He was opposed by the lie. The lie caused man to believe that his own idea of himself and of God was correct. He believed he could be like God, and as God in disobedience to God. For every man that does not subject himself to the true God, thinks he is a god in his own right. He operates in that because that is the delusion that satan has given him.

We are either slaves of God, or slaves of satan. There is nothing in between. If you seek to save your soul, your ego (your I, your selfhood, your realization, your me) - if you seek to save that sense of being, you are going to lose it in one way or another. If you can submit it to Christ, He will take you up in His life. If you don't, you will lose it anyway, for its destruction will destroy you.

"The one whose presence is in accord with the activity of satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish." So wickedness or unrighteousness is a deception in them that perish. This deception works in people as a spirit "because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." (v.10) Because of this God gave them a strong delusion.

There is a big difference between a true revelation which brings spiritual understanding, and natural understanding which spiritualizes the Bible. Natural man, in his deception, believes that the conclusion he reaches after he has read the Bible, causes him to be spiritual. He accuses people who have had spiritual revelation, of spiritualizing the Bible; he would rather literalize it. I don't think we should do either. Personally I am against spiritualizing - for it is only for the natural man. He cannot think of things spiritually, so he spiritualizes them in his own mind. However, when the Holy Spirit unveils truth to us, we don't spiritualize it; we begin to understand the spiritual dimension. This is what we grow in.

In Matt. 16:13 Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They answered, "Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." Then Jesus asked for their opinion. "`But who do you say that I am?' And Simon Peter answered and said, `Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus answered and said, `Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven'." Isn't it wonderful that Peter got a revelation that Jesus is the Christ?! But what did that do for him? How long did it last? After Jesus Christ was arrested and Peter was questioned about knowing Him, he actually denied the Lord and swore that he did not know Him. He had really heard from God, but he had only received it in his natural comprehension, and that did not change him - neither does it change us. Only after the Holy Spirit was poured out, did Peter come into a true realization of who the Christ really is. Revelation is important because it causes us to truly see.

This was not the only time Peter acted according to human reasoning. In Gal. 2 Paul narrates the following incident. James, who was in charge of the church in Jerusalem, sent some men down to Galatia where Peter and Paul were ministering. While in the company of these men from Jerusalem, Peter was ashamed to sit down and eat with the Gentiles, so he withdrew from them. Paul reprimanded him because of his hypocrisy. I think it was after this that Peter really got an anointing and wrote his letters. If it was possible for Peter to err, it is also possible for us! And we don't want that to happen! Natural man relies on human wisdom because he doesn't have anything else to rely on.

In the Old Testament, Solomon is a type of natural wisdom. God told David that his son Solomon would build the temple David had envisioned. In preparation, David gathered all kinds of necessary things. After David's death, God asked Solomon what he wanted the most, and Solomon said he wanted a heart of understanding. So God gave him wisdom. While he had a lot of natural wisdom, his wisdom did not cause him to be obedient to God. He became very materialistic. He had lots of gold, chariots, copper mines, 300 concubines and 700 wives; he also built houses for them to worship idols. God became angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord - in spite of all his wisdom. Why? Solomon only had natural wisdom, and in that natural wisdom he displeased God by disobeying Him. Therefore God said that He would take the kingdom away from Solomon and leave him with only one tribe - for the sake of Jerusalem which God had chosen for Himself. But because of his father David, God would not take it away from him but from his son. So the kingdom was was taken from Solomon's son - all because of the inadequacy of the wisdom of Solomon.

Solomon had earthly wisdom which was good for many things, but he did not have the revelation that comes in Jesus Christ. This is beyond natural wisdom, beyond human conception. Through the Spirit, God reveals things that have never entered the heart of man. (1 Cor. 2:9-10) God reveals what man cannot comprehend in the natural, and He does this by His Spirit. "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, for they are spiritually appraised." (v. 14) The correct translation speaks about the SOULISH man - and the natural man is soulish. This soulish man is Adam! The soulish man cannot receive the things of the Spirit because the things of the Spirit are meaningless or foolishness to him. The natural Adamic man has no foundation for the acceptance of spiritual realities. So the spiritual realization of the scriptures isn't very important to the soulish person. Adam, the first man, became a living soul (soulish); he was earthy, for he was from the earth. (1 Cor. 15:45,47).

Eph. 5:6-8 says, "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light." Light is understanding, and it is the light or understanding from the Lord. Natural man cannot receive it, because it comes by the Spirit.

Unless we have learned to hear the voice of the Spirit, and know that the Spirit opens our understanding of the scriptures, it will be hard to distinguish between that which is of the Spirit and that which is of human reasoning. That is why people drift back and forth. If we are not walking in the Spirit or in the light, we are drawn back into darkness - the darkness of our natural mind.

"For you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light." (vv.8-13) Everything is manifested or made visible by light; this means the manifestation of God, Christ, ourselves, heaven, earth, life, death and righteousness occurs by light - by Jesus Christ who is the light of the world. His illumination, the Spirit of Christ, brings us into a new level of consciousness. Christ is the Messiah, the anointing; He is our teacher.

At one time the law was our teacher. It taught us something about ourselves; it taught us that our righteousness could never attain to God's righteousness. Now we have a new teacher called the Holy Spirit. He is our anointing and He teaches us all things. Hearing Him, causes us to hear and understand things that are beyond our natural concepts. People ridiculed Jesus because of His higher understanding, asking Him who He thought He was, and by what authority He did miracles. The same kind of ridicule is taking place today. "But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also." (Gal. 4:29) Those who are living according to natural conceptions (born of the flesh) will persecute those who have spiritual understanding (born of the Spirit). The conceptions of flesh are an Ishmael, and they persecute the spiritual Isaac!

"For this reason it says, `Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Eph. 5:13) This light of course is understanding. Many are waiting to be raised from the dead, aren't they? Yet twice in Rom. 6 Paul says, "Present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead." How can we do this if we don't believe that we have been made alive, that we have been raised from the dead? We have been made alive! Yet a lot of people say, "Since I'm not like I should be, I can't present myself to the Lord like that - and if you claim to do that, you're a hypocrite." However, the scriptures say that we are to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus! This is the truth we are to walk in!

Jesus said, "A little while, and you will no longer behold Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me...after a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me". (John 16:16;14:19) Jesus was going away and then coming back; they would see Him, but the world would not see Him anymore, nor would they perceive Him. It was important that He go away, for as a human individual, He could not do what the Spirit can.

The world would no longer see Him. The world represents the natural man. He can't see Christ. The only way we can see Him is through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that if He did not go away they would not get the Comforter. If Jesus does not disappear as an earthy, fleshly, visible individual in our understanding of Him, then we are not receiving the Holy Spirit's teaching. As long as we keep Jesus Christ in this natural mind, we will have trouble receiving and operating in the Holy Spirit. The world can only see visible forms, and since He no longer is in a visible form, the world cannot see Him. Should He come back in a visible, physical form to be seen by man, it would not be His true being, because He said, "The world won't see Me." So instead of appearing in a physical form, He is doing the opposite. He is taking us back into the Father spiritually - into the Spirit and His realization.

It is important that we identify with being a spiritual person - one who is not conceived nor seen by the natural. This understanding comes to us in a spiritual realization. Jesus compared being born of the Spirit to the wind which cannot be seen. They can only see the result of it, but not the wind itself. So He said the world would not know Him, and it won't know us either.

Col. 3:1, "If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." If we are seated at the right hand of God, we're seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenlies. If we have been raised with Christ, and we are seated in the heavenlies, how did we get there if we didn't get there through death and resurrection? Flesh and blood cannot enter that realm. Something had to die to bring a release from flesh and blood, for resurrection cannot take place where there has not first been a death. We have to be convinced that the old man, the old nature, the old ideas spell death for us, otherwise some part of them will adhere to us and keep us from ascending into Christ. If we are seated with Him in the heavenlies, something has happened to us. We have been crucified with Christ and have been raised up with Him!

"Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth." (v.2) Understanding the meaning of that is important. Christ is seated at the right hand of God. A mental and visual conception of Jesus the man with long flowing hair sitting up there in His robe at the right hand of God, is very misleading. How can we visualize where the right hand of God is, when God said, "Heaven and earth cannot contain Me"? How can Jesus sit at the right hand of God who is omnipresent? Where would His right hand be? This cannot be taken literally or naturally, for this is a holy and spiritual realization. God is omnipresent and so is Christ. God's right hand denotes His authority.

Our mind and affections are not to be set on earthly things. Why not? The earth as we see it, is not to be redeemed. Our affection is not to be focussed on having an easy life - having everything nice, being healthy, having wealth, having an end to wars and bugs and everything we don't like. Having our affection on things above means it is not on earthy things. Our affection then would be like Christ's. His mind was set on being in fellowship with the Father and in obedience to Him. He said that He came from the Father into the world, and He was leaving the world and going back to the Father. His desire was to be with the Father and to return to the glory He had with Him! He did not take glory from men! He said He was preparing a place for us in His Father's house. Jesus came to redeem us - that is to bring us back to the Father - the Father's house. So where is the Father's house? Where does He live when heaven and earth cannot contain Him? The Father's house is the place where we consciously dwell with Christ in the presence of God.

"You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (v.3) But how can your life be hidden with Christ in God if your affection is on the things of this earth, and you call that your life? Actually you don't have any life that isn't God's life, because there is only one life, and all life is a manifestation of that life. Our wrong identification with our flesh, the earth, and creation has to die so we can be hidden with Christ in God. Our identification has to be with the Creator. If we try to save our soul (some translations say LIFE, but SOUL is the correct translation of the Greek word), we will lose it. If we don't give it up, it will be taken away from us.

"When Christ who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." (v.4) To whom will He appear? "He shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." (Heb. 9:28) How will He be revealed? He will appear to us by revelation, by an unveiling, by a realization. Then we shall also appear with Him in glory! Indirectly He is saying that He is coming to take us to the Father, for the glory is with Him. In John 17 Jesus was not praying for the world, for He did not come to redeem the world nor to fix it up. He prayed for His own - and they are not of the world. He came back to take us to the Father!

These things that are of the earth must be put away. This life that we express in the flesh is not a manifestation of the life that is hidden with Christ in God. The enlightenment of Christ is hidden within us, and it gives us faith and a spiritual realization or understanding. It is ours to believe, confess and live by! This excludes the belief that Christ has to come down out of heaven physically. We are talking about that which is hidden in the secret place of the Most High.

After Jesus had really scolded the Pharisees and the scribes in Matt. 23, He said, "O Jerusalem, often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!" (v.37) This Jerusalem is the old covenant. It does not say that its house will BECOME desolate, but it is LEFT desolate, because that house of bondage, that old Jerusalem and her laws, bondages and legalism, IS desolate of the presence of God! Nothing is left in that temple!

"For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, `Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'" (v.38) We have always taken it for granted that only Jesus came in the name of the Lord. Don't we also come in the name of the Lord? We certainly do not come in our own name! Christ is expressing Himself through His body today. When we see and understand that Christ is manifesting Himself in those who are testifying of Him, we will be able to say, "Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord". We will be blessed when we come in the name of the Lord, for we will be expressing Christ!

In 1 Cor. 15:4-8 Paul talks about the various people to whom the Lord appeared after He was raised from the dead. He repeatedly said, "He appeared." For Him to appear to natural man, He would have to take on a form which was not the reality of His being, because the things that we see are temporal. The expression of Jesus Christ on the earth (the manifestation of Him through this physical body) was temporal and it went away. Now He has come back in reality, in His true essence in the Spirit. A lot of people don't want the spiritual; they want the physical, for it seems like reality to them.

It says Jesus Christ was seen by Cephas, by the 12, by the 500 who saw Him at the same time, by James, and then by all the apostles. Paul then adds, "last of all He appeared to me." When He appeared to Paul, He didn't appear as a person, but as a great light from heaven shining around him. He heard a voice speaking to him. The men traveling with Him heard the voice but didn't understand what was said. That is the appearing that came to Paul. I believe that it is a testimony of what is happening now.

Now let's look at Luke 24:36-37, "And while they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst. But they were startled and frightened and thought they were seeing a spirit." Why did they think they were seeing a spirit? He was revealing Himself to them, yet they were not quite sure it was He. This happened to others as well. The disciples on the road to Emmaus didn't recognize Him either. And Mary thought He was a gardener. When Jesus revealed Himself to people during the 40 days after His resurrection, He could only be seen while He made His appearance. He had died physically, and He was now appearing to them to prove that He was the same Jesus who had died.

"And He said to them, `Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have'." (vv.38-39) That which is spirit is in the unseen realm. So if Jesus, the Son of God, was appearing to them in a spiritual body, He would not have a form they could see. He would have a body that could not be seen - a spiritual place of living or a spiritual realm of dwelling that man could not see.

"And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, He said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" (vv. 40-41) They still didn't believe! Wow! But of course people today would be different - or would they?! Would they instantly believe it was He, and that He would now take care of the whole sin problem? But had He not already done that, and they hadn't believed? Their unbelief was the real problem!

"And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish; and He took it and ate it in their sight. Now He said to them, `These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled'. Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures." (vv.42-45) Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets! The minds of the disciples had to be opened to understand! No matter how well they knew Jesus Christ and how much they had heard about Him, they did not really understand what the scriptures were saying. This is true today as well. Studying and learning about the scriptures is not enough; our minds have to be opened to understand!

Now we move to Acts chapter 1. This is one of the more difficult passages to understand - even the spiritual man has difficulty with it. At the time Jesus Christ conversed with the disciples, the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out, so they did not have the ability to understand the unseen; they did not understand the difference that the Holy Spirit would make in their lives. The things relating to Christ's ascension are more readily understood from a natural perspective than from a spiritual one. Faith is the evidence, the substance of things not seen.

"And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." (Acts 1:9) Remember now, that He was appearing to them - not in a spiritual body, but in a visible one. It was important for them to know who He was, and to know that what they saw with their natural eyes was not the true essence of Christ's being. They received the promise that they would be His witnesses after they had received the Holy Spirit. Then He ascended, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.

"And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men" (not angels) "in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, `Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven'." (vv. 10-11) After the cloud had taken Him out of their sight, two men informed them that this same Jesus would come in just the same way He went up. How did He go? He went up visibly and then a cloud received Him out of their sight. This is not to be understood in the natural sense, for if it were, He would have to return on a cloudy day because He is to come out of the clouds. On a sunny day His coming would not be expected. Actually the men wanted the disciples to understand that what is seen with the natural eyes is not spiritual.

Before Christ ascended, He had already descended into the lower parts of the earth. "Now this expression, `He ascended', what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?" (Eph. 4:9) I don't think Paul meant that Jesus Christ had gone down into a geographical, physical hell somewhere in the midst of terra firma. He had descended into the earthy realization that was in the Adamic man. He had already come down and identified with sin. Then He became a sin-offering and was crucified. O the depth of that descent into man's earthy realization! His estrangement from God became evident when He cried, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" After His baptism in the Spirit at the Jordan River, Jesus always addressed God as Father, but on the cross He called Him God! While living under the law, He did not confess who He was, but after His baptism He declared, "I am the truth...I am the good shepherd...I am the life, I am the resurrection... before Abraham came into being, I AM." Jesus has left us with the realization that had come to Him - that we might be as He is!

We want to remember that Jesus Christ was not crucified alone - we were crucified together with Him! He was not buried alone - we were buried in baptism into His death! He was not raised alone - we were raised together with Him! He is not coming back alone - for when He appears, we will appear together with Him! Jesus Christ did none of these things alone. He did everything in unity with us - doing it for us, with us or as us. He accomplished all these things for our sake - not for His.

Is Christ coming down again as a man? No, He has finished His work, as He said when He was on the cross. He has finished the work God sent Him to do in the flesh here on this earth. He doesn't have to come back as an individual again - He gave up His individuality to receive a corporate many-membered body. So what is He doing now? Right now, He is ascending us with Him. Since we have been crucified with Him, we have also died with Him. If we have been buried with Him, we also need to ascend with Him. I think that His purpose in coming back is to ascend us with Him; He is ascending into a cloud of witnesses. These are not rain clouds, but clouds of witnesses.

Jesus said that if He would be exalted from the earth, He would draw all men to Himself. His crucifixion was part of His exaltation from the earth. But for Christ to be properly exalted, He has to be taken out of our earthy conception of Him as an individual. Most people think that a spiritual body compares with a physical body. Once this earthy conception of Him has been done away with, we begin to see Him as He is! We'll see the Father! Jesus Christ has already come down and finished the work of regeneration; He has dealt with sin and has crucified the old man. So I believe we are now ascending with Him. Right now you and I are in the process of being raised into a cloud of witnesses, as predicted in the scriptures. When the heavens are opened to us, spiritually speaking, it means we are loosed from our earthy sense of being - and the new Jerusalem (the new covenant) is coming down to us.

1 Thess. 4:13-14: "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you do not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus." When He rose again, He brought them with Him. "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming" (PRESENCE is the right translation) "of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep." (v.15) What did Paul mean by "we which are alive"? Was he talking about having the life of Christ, or was he talking about having physical life here on earth? Why did he say "we" - "we which are alive and remain until the presence of the Lord?" In Christ's eyes, sleep and death are used to denote the same state, because He did not seem to recognize death. Let's look at Lazarus, for example. After Lazarus had died, Jesus said, "He sleeps." The disciples thought it would do him good if he slept. In the natural, we would have called him dead.

"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first." (v. 16) Who is the Lord Himself? Does this refer to the Son of God who was hidden or veiled by the fleshly form of an individual, who lived under the law for 30 years, was anointed, and then began to preach the kingdom of God? People only saw the physical Jesus, not His true life which was hidden with God, even though He manifested the invisible Spirit of God! The Son of God cannot be restrained, curbed, fettered nor killed. This can only apply to the physical form. Although the physical form was crucified, the Son of God was not done away with, neither was the anointing which has now been passed on to us. That is why we become the anointed or the Lord's Christ.

"The Lord Himself shall descend with a shout." He's descending with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel, and with the spiritual trumpet of God (not of man). These are not in the visible realm. "And the dead in Christ shall rise first." This does not refer to those who are in the graves, but to those who are dead in Christ. Who are the dead in Christ? Those who are in their sins cannot be dead in Christ. In Christ we are dead TO sin. Jesus Christ died TO sin. His death is the exact opposite of man's death, for man dies FROM or BECAUSE of sin. Jesus did not die because of any sin He had committed - for He never sinned. So the dead in Christ are those who have accepted death to the Adamic man - the death to self (the "I", the "Me", the carnal identity). The dead in Christ shall rise first. That is the first resurrection then, isn't it? So we are in the first resurrection.

"Then we who are alive and remain" (Paul repeats from v.15) "shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." (v. 17) If we have heard the voice of the Son of God we live, and will be caught up into this cloud of witnesses. He is coming in the same way in which He went, and we are ascending with Him. Just as we identified with His death, burial and resurrection, we also identify with His ascension!

We want to remember that the Holy Spirit is not another God coming to us. Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit does not speak out of Himself. He said, "It is the Father who dwells in Me who does the works." So the Father was in Christ, wasn't He? He said, "The Father and I are one...the Father who dwells in Me...My Father and I will come and make our abode with him." How could the Father and Jesus Christ, who are omnipresent, and cannot be contained by heaven and earth, get into a mansion or house of any description or into any form? That would be impossible! We have to be released from these earthy concepts.

The Christ comes to us in the reality or essence of His being. Jesus came down to this earth, took on flesh and the form of a servant. He demonstrated temporal things, but He spoke spiritual things. When He was crucified, no man understood Him and no man stood with Him. Before His ascension, He instructed His disciples to tarry in Jerusalem to receive the power of the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses. Therefore the power is in the Holy Spirit. We have to be in resurrection before we can be witnesses of resurrection. We have to understand immortality, be partakers of the fruits, and minister an endless life to fulfill Melchisedek's ministry. In Jesus Christ we received a new priest who was not after the order of the Levites, but out of Judah. He gave us a new law - the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus!

This law is a spiritual one and does not refer to temporal, earthy things. For example, even though God said He loves the world, the world He loves is not the world system, for it is the antichrist system. We are being saved out of this world system. The world God loves must be a spiritual one, for it also says we are not to love the world and the things that are in the world. If we love the world, we are enemies of God! We have to distinguish between the two. For this we need spiritual realization.

In 1 Tim. 6:16, it says that Jesus Christ alone has immortality. He lives in a light that is inaccessible to man. No man can perceive it - that is by his own reasoning or understanding. Jesus Christ lives in immortality with the Father in this light which is inaccessible to man. Folks, if we are in Christ, we are not locked up in a physical body. Christ releases us to a realization of spiritual things. His presence is the coming of the Lord to us. His presence can only come to us through realization, because He is present everywhere at all times. The greatest thing that can happen to us is to become one with the Father and have His understanding! It's the presence of God that does everything! Once His presence is here, everything is taken care of. People who do not recognize the presence of God in the situation they are in become more evil.

Eph. 4:8-9 says, "Therefore it says, `When He ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men'. (Now this expression, `He ascended,' what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?...)" So Christ first descended; He has come down, met the darkness, the sin, the evil and the rebellion of earthy man. After He ascended He gave gifts to men. When He is lifted up, He draws men unto Himself. In His ascension we are joined to the wonderful things Christ has done for us; He does not need to come back and repeat His earthly pilgrimage. Becoming one with the Father through the testimony of Christ who is our life, is the fulfillment of being caught up with Him. It is we who are being caught up with Him! Amen.

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