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Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Gathering of Israel; the Imperial City of God

 Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, 
and let the dry [ land ] appear.
Genesis 1:9

For you have not come to the mountain that  may be touched and that burned with fire.......................
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn....................................to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,  
to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant...............................
Hebrews 12:18-24a 

Jesus comforted His disciples, in Matthew 24:31, promising that He would 'send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.' This gathering, as we shall see, was not a 'gathering', as we are used to thinking of it, as a collection of objects or people together, in a physical sense, though Jesus used this terminology when He promised that 'where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them' ( Matthew 18:20 ). Rather, this gathering was and is a spiritual one, a 'gathering' of the people of God through the ages, into the Body of His Son!

 The City of God as opposed to the city of man is not a matter of one geographical City or Kingdom in competition with another; it is one religious and militant lifestyle set in opposition to another. The City of God, though typified under the Old Covenant in the city of David ( 'Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, [ is ] Mount Zion [ on ] the sides of the north, the city of the great King' ) was not to be just one certain city, but would become 'a kingdom which shall never be destroyed', 'and it shall stand forever' ( Daniel 2 ), because it is based on the Rock that is the Christ ( I Corinthians 10:4 )! This Kingdom has been established 'on the top of the mountains' ( Isaiah 2:2 ), metaphorically speaking, and in opposition to the idolatry of man, in the highest places in their hearts, wherever they might be gathered, universally!

In a previous article, we saw how the scattering of Israel from the Land ( of Promise ) was for a greater Purpose, and that Purpose, which had been Yahweh's purpose all along, was to spread His Kingdom, His true religion, to the four corners of the earth, and not just in one geographic area. The Scattering of His people, then, was not primarily for their sin, though there is no doubt that was in view ( 'your iniquities have separated you from your God' ( Isaiah 59:2 ); Yahweh's Purpose in scattering His people was to Gather them, not into one certain geographic area, as Israel under that first covenant, but to expand beyond the borders of the Land to set up a Kingdom without borders, a City without walls ( Ezekiel 38:11 ). This, as Jesus later proclaimed ( Luke 17:20 & 21 ), this Kingdom was not to be like a kingdom of man, that one could set his eyes on, but rather, this Kingdom would be one that would overwhelm the hearts, minds and actions of its inhabitants. In other words, this Kingdom would be qualitative rather than quantitative!


A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones.
Ecclesiastes 3:5a

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood,  
to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 
I Peter 2:5

The words of the Preacher, in Ecclesiastes 3, have been immortalized, not only in Scripture, but in a famous ( more or less ) song by The Byrds, but I wander if many people think about their prophetic quality. Solomon was prophesying of a time to come when the people of God would be scattered afar for the purpose of being gathered into a greater and more glorious Kingdom! The 'building stones' of Israel were 'cast away' from the physical ( Promised ) Land that they might be gathered ( together ) in Spirit, and be built into 'a spiritual house,', a spiritual City, if you will, 'the great city, the holy[h] Jerusalem' which John saw descending out of heaven ( Revelation 21:10 ), a City which the writer to the Hebrews had noted earlier, 'the heavenly Jerusalem', 'the spirits of just men made perfect'.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the word 'gather' as meaning;
1: to bring together : collect, gather a crowd; gathered firewood;
2 a : pick, harvest; gather flowers;
   b : to pick up or amass as if by harvesting; gathering ideas for the project;
   c : to scoop up or take up from a resting place; gathered the child up in his arms; 
 
This is a good definition of the term, and as you can see, it employs some biblical terminology and ideology, but rather than applying to physicality, as in 'to scoop up or take up from a resting place', the people of God are being gathered, in the spiritual sense, TO their resting place, in Christ!


He prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 
and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
John 11:51c & 52 

That in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.
Ephesians 1:10 

When the Gospel writers spoke of Yahweh gathering His people together in one ( pictured by marriage-Genesis 2:24 ( Ephesians 5:31 ), it was not a physical gathering, as we are used to thinking of, but rather a spiritual gathering, a gathering of the hearts, minds and actions of men ( and women ) into one unified Body, His imperial Kingdom, in Christ! 

As the people of God continue to be gathered by the Spirit of God, and become one in heart, mind and action, let us forever be reminded that unity does not mean uniformity; we are all part of the same Body, but we are all different parts of that Body, we all have different functions, different gifts!

In Christ Jesus,
Charles Haddon Shank

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