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“There standeth one among you whom you know not.”—(John 1:26)
How difficult a thing it seems, to believe spiritual things; that is to say things belonging or pertaining to spiritual beings or conditions. Our experiences as men—earthly beings—are so constant that our ideas are apt to be entirely from that standpoint, while only those who are separated from the earth by their hopes and ambitions, and who are continuously making spiritual things their study, are able at all to appreciate them and to rightly divide truth and discriminate between earthly and spiritual things.
How few there are who know that there is a natural (or human) body and there is a spiritual body; their only idea of organization is drawn from their daily experiences; they never saw any person whose body was not flesh and bones and blood and therefore they do not believe that there could be a being differently constructed. This is human reason unguided by the Spirit and consequently it frequently finds itself in direct conflict with the “Sword of the Spirit—the word of God.”—(Eph. 6:17.) For instance, they can tell you they say, just exactly what they will be like in the future—that is just like what they now are except free from present weaknesses and ailments; and they know too just what Jesus will be like; they say he will be just as he was when crucified, the same wounds in hands, feet, brow, etc., for they insist that it is “This same Jesus,” who shall come and reign. Now, we do not blame those who cannot see spiritual things for looking at and imagining everything on the earthly plane, for we know (The Spirit declares it—1 Cor. 2:14.) “The natural (human) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God—(they are foolishness unto him,) neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.” But to those who have a spiritual eye to see and a spiritual ear to hear we would say: Paul teaches such that there will be a complete change from natural (human) to spiritual conditions on the part of that “little flock” to whom it is the Father’s good pleasure to give the kingdom which “flesh and blood cannot inherit.”—(1 Cor. 15:50.) So great a change we repeat, that “it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” The spirit-begotten Apostle knew of the human nature and human body, and if we were to be changed to the perfection of humanity he well knew how to so express it, but knowing all this he positively asserts that after the change it will be a spiritual and not a natural body, and that “it doth not yet appear what” a spiritual body is or what may be all of its powers—but “we shall be like Him.” It follows then that Jesus will be different from what he was also, so different that Paul intimates that though he (and he only—1 Cor. 15:8) had seen him after his change he could not describe him, and we could not understand what our change will be, or what his was, until changed and made “like unto Christ’s glorious body.”
“Who says that the body with nail prints in the hands and feet was Christ’s glorious body? Certainly there is no one who has his senses exercised in spiritual things who cannot see that “the body of flesh”—”the likeness of men”—”the form of a servant” was not His glorious body, but the one taken in order that “He … might taste death for every man.”
If then, Jesus took a human nature and form that “as by man came death, by man also might come the resurrection of the dead,” (1 Cor. 15:21) and if we are told that he has now another nature and spiritual form, shall we not recognize two—first the natural (human) afterward the spiritual? It was the man (anointed Jesus) who died for our sins; but he is a man no longer; he is now a spiritual being. He as a man was “obedient unto death even the death of the cross. Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted him” (Phil. 2:9) and his is no longer the human nature and form, but the Divine. He is now a “glorious body”—the express image of the Father’s person—of the invisible God,” “whom no man hath seen nor can see.” Paul as one born (resurrected) before the time was granted a glimpse of the glorified Jesus, which destroyed his natural sight.—(1 Cor. 15:8.) Can we doubt as to the time when Jesus received these forms? Was not the natural born of a woman, and after thirty years of growth in wisdom, stature, etc., did not the human reach its perfection? Did he not immediately (when thirty years of age) consecrate that human nature a sacrifice for the world? Was it not accepted of God, and did not the Father testify to the acceptance of that sacrifice by anointing and filling the man with His Spirit? Was not that anointing the begetting of the man Jesus to the Divine spiritual nature? Were not the three and one-half years of his ministry, years of the crucifying of the flesh or (perfect) human will of Jesus? Did he not finish the sacrifice at the cross? Was he not raised from the dead the third day? Was not that called his birth—”The first-born—from the dead”—”First-born among many brethren,” etc.? Was that said to be a birth of the flesh or of the Spirit? If then He is said to have been born of the Spirit, how say some among you that he was still flesh—human—does not the Word record that “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit“? John 3:6. Was he not sown a natural body”—”raised a spiritual body”?
If then Jesus is and has been since his resurrection a spiritual body, why should we look for him to be a fleshly body at his second coming? Do you know of any place in holy writ where it says he will be changed so as to become again a human, earthly, fleshly body? Is it not foolish for those who have been somewhat enlightened by the Word of God to expect that Jesus will come in the flesh—to be seen of the earthly eye?
Have any ever seen spiritual beings—God, or Angels, or Devils—with the human eye (except as a miracle has occurred which specially revealed them as recorded in Scriptures)? Did any astronomer sweeping the sky by day or by night with powerful telescope ever see those (angels) whom Paul declares are ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation”—or did they ever see Him who is called “the Devil”—the “Prince of this world”—”the Prince of the powers of the air?” Who hath seen such spiritual beings by human eyes without a miracle? If there be none why should any look for the Lord who at his resurrection became “a life-giving Spirit” to be thus visible to mortals?
But does some one object—Did not the Angels say, “This same Jesus shall come? Yes, we answer as frequently before; yes, it will be so; but was it the Jesus born of Mary, or the Jesus born of the Spirit, a spiritual body, a quickening spirit, of which the Angel spoke? You answer that it was he who was raised by the power of the Father to the perfection of spiritual being; and we answer yes, this same (spiritual) Jesus shall so come in like manner as he went away—unknown to the world who were eating, drinking, planting, and building and knew not.
So we believe he has come again, not a man but a Spirit, not a man’s form of flesh—but a Spirit’s form—a spiritual body. Now none can see him present but those who have spiritual eye-sight and are looking. Some who are thus looking can now see him—the eyes of their understanding being enlightened by the light shining from the more sure word of prophecy: Such walk by faith and not by sight, and may well endure “as seeing him that is invisible” to humanity.
Our mission—those who see the present one—is to declare Him to the nominal church—the ripe wheat of which, we expect will hear and recognize, while others will in this respect be blind. Our position is much like that of John the Baptist at the first advent of Jesus when he came in the flesh to “Israel after the flesh.” John introduced him—announced him as the “Lamb of God” who would take away the sin of the world. So we announce him now to the Spiritual Israel as the Lord of life and King of Glory.
When addressed by the leading men of the fleshly house as to his business and his right to preach outside the pale of the Jewish church, he declares it to be his special work to bear witness to the light and the truth of the presence of Jesus the Lord’s anointed. So too when we are asked for our reasons, they are these: that the King has come and is calling for the joint-heirs and they must needs be made aware of his presence. Now as then it is true, that “There standeth one among you whom you know not.” Behold, see, but “look not at the things that are seen but at the things that are not seen; for the things that are seen (by the natural eye) are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”—(2 Cor. 4:18.)
Though you cannot see the “reaper” you can see his work going on around you in the nominal church—the wheat and the tares—the real and the imitation must be and now are being separated, that in due time the wheat may “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father”—which flesh and blood cannot inherit.
This recognition of the Lord’s presence we understand to be the sanctifying and essential truth necessary to the perfecting of the saints now living, and the ability to perceive it, the test of spiritual sight now, even as at the first advent: Then, the test was not whether the Jewish church believed the Prophets—that the Messiah should come sometime, nor whether they believed that that coming would be soon, for we read that “All men were in expectation” of His coming; but the test to them was, would they believe in His presence, in a way they had not expected Him to come. So now the test is similar—not who believes Jesus is coming—but who can see Him to be present; and only those possessed of spiritual sight can see Him. “There standeth one among you (in your midst) whom you know not.”
— July And August, 1881 —