The Kingdom of God
Like the twelve spies that Moses sent to spy out the Promised Land, I believe that the original twelve Apostles, sent of Christ, the prophet like unto Moses, brought back the abundant fruit of God's promised Kingdom. However, just as Israel's Exodus generation failed to enter into the Promised Land and perished in the wilderness, so successive generations of Christians, though at times victorious in their wanderings and having experienced successive reformations or revivals, have indeed failed to enter into the promised rest of God found in possessing the Kingdom of God; a Kingdom, incidentally, that Jesus said was the Father's pleasure to give to His people, and is a present-tense-reality, and not just a future hope.
Just as a generation arose in the Wilderness that did indeed go in and possess the land under the leadership of Yehoshua, so we believe that we are a part of that generation that will see the Kingdom of God established on Earth as it is in Heaven. We believe that we are that chosen generation that will enter into the rest of God and experience not only the restoration of all that's been lost to a church in exile since Peter spoke of the end time restoration of all things (Acts 3:21), and then healed sick folk with his shadow, but I believe that we will actually inherit in full possession what the original twelve only tasted as "first-fruits" of the Kingdom of God (Rom. 8:23).
The great protestant reformation that lifted a new and heavenly people out of the dead, liturgical and irrelevant religion of Roman Catholicism was possibly the greatest spiritual shift in the history of the church. Orthodox Christianity stumbled and fell into empty and powerless ritual under the head of Papal rule while its feet stuck fast, rooted in the soil of true and experiential Christianity. The fallen and failed gave way to the new, and a spiritual babe grew and rose to its feet as the light bearing people of God in a world that groaned for the revelation of the sons of God. This was our greatest shift, until now!
I believe that the organized church that rose to prominence and has been light and salt for centuries has lost its savor. I believe that she, like the church at Rome, has left her first love and is corrupted with the mixture of worldliness, hidden sin, and with much Christianized ritual little more relevant or powerful than that of her predecessor. In short, the organized church as we have known it is doomed to perish in the wilderness, and God is raising up a new generation of sons that will at last go in and possess the land.
God has been bringing us, and others like us, out of the fallen and failed in order to establish the true, and this has been a work and will be a work of God's grace alone by His Spirit, and by nothing of our own strivings or abilities. Though we are grateful for and we build upon that which God restored to us through them, we see the failure of the established religious church as clearly as Luther and the other reformers saw the failure in their day. However, we don't just see the negative. As we have turned from Babylon, which is fallen, we are beginning to see the New Jerusalem, the Holy City descending from God out of heaven. We see the Kingdom of God coming on Earth as it is in Heaven, and we are beginning to see the new wineskin that will hold the bounty of the Promised Land that the original twelve obtained as a token of what would come at the end of the age. I believe that we are at the threshold of the last and greatest reformation.
Coming Out of Babylon
I believe we are right now in a prophetic hour that is a mirror of Ezra's day, in which the Lord stirred up the hearts of His people to return from captivity in Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem. Many of us are hearing or feeling the same call of God today to return and rebuild. God is going to restore to us all that has been lost. He is going to restore and is restoring true "New Testament Christianity".
I believe that many who have heard this call have come out of religious church structures in search of something more substantial and relational. However, because Babylonian ways are so ingrained in our psyche, some of us, in seeking to build, have only begun to rebuild that which we have left. Some of us, perhaps having found the Ark of His Presence that the institutional church has long lived without, have sought to return the ark to His people by building a "new cart". Since that is all we have ever seen, and it "worked" for them, we rebuild after the model of human ingenuity, rather than seeking out the "due order." This only brings death. That's why many who have come out of the institutional church in order to "have God", have simply rebuilt an institution or an organization after the former, and low, the vision of building a habitation for God fades in the sad reality of just "having church".
The Lord has been "deprogramming" us, and I believe He is beginning to give us a pattern for the new wineskin - the form that will hold the substance of the Kingdom of God that is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Concerning the pattern for the new wineskin, some of what He has revealed to us is experiential, and so we know it by living it, albeit imperfectly, some we have seen lived out in others farther along than ourselves, and some is made up of ideals for which we reach in faith.
The New Wineskin
Mat. 9:16, 17 NKJV No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.
Acts 3:21 records Peter speaking of the end time restoration of all things. We believe we are in the hour of restoration, and yet, we know that the Father will not risk that "new wine" by pouring it into an old, dry, rigid, inflexible wineskin. The former would be lost and the latter only destroyed. We need a new wineskin. However, just because something is new and different, doesn't make it the new wineskin about which Jesus spoke.
Many who have been called out of the old, have sought to return the ark of God's presence to His people by building a new cart: something new, yet after the pattern of the religious church organization - a vehicle of human ingenuity and expediency (hence the wheels). In his day, David got two strong oxen to pull the cart (oxen speaking of ministry). In our day, the people look to leaders to yoke themselves to the organization and pull the cart that is hoped will restore the presence of God to the people, when all the while God's principles state that the priests are to bear the weight of the responsibility themselves on their own shoulders. Expecting spiritual leaders to do for us what God never intended for them to do, and be to us what God never intended them to be, has consistently caused them to stumble, and has brought death to many a church, ministry, family and marriage. The presence of God is lost and the minister is burnt-out from taking a yoke that is not His yoke, and from bearing a heavy burden, instead of His burden that's light.
When David finally stopped and sought God's "due order," (1 Chron. 15:12,13) he found that God long ago established that the priests were to bear the ark of God on their shoulders (Num. 7:9). "And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep" (2 Sam. 6:13). Six is the number of man, so six paces speaks of the walk of man, and we see here a type of the sacrificial walk that becomes God's sanctioned method for restoring the presence of God, the Ark of the Covenant, to God's people. The new wineskin that God seeks to establish today is a walk where our everyday lives are worship unto God as we (all of us, as priests of God) lay down our lives for our brethren practically and concretely in an expression of love.
However, the main point of this passage is that the priests carried the Ark of God upon their shoulders. What sits on your shoulders? Your head does. So, as a "kingdom of priests," Christ is to be the "head of every man," (1Cor. 11:3) directing and speaking to and through each of us individually, and therefore corporately, and not through some hierarchy where the connection to Christ as head is the privilege of the "special few." Christ is to be the Head of His body, the church, by being the "Head of every man," rather than some man or group of men directing the whole thing, like Uzzah and Ahio (2 Sam. 6:3). That is the essence of the new covenant that is the new wineskin - a royal priesthood (Ex. 19:6, 1Pet. 2:9, Rev. 1:6, 5:10) where all know God and relate to and receive direction from Jesus Christ directly (Jer. 31:34) and where all are accountable to Christ directly (Rom. 14:12, 1Pet. 4:5).
What will the wineskin look like? It will look like a people who are one with one another because they are one with Christ through His indwelling Spirit, and who love one another as Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us. It will look like a large family whose lives are so interwoven that perhaps even many of their possessions are community property. It will look like a people whose lives are their worship, and wherever they gather, whether at home or cathedral, whether to cook or to pray, whether to work or to worship, whether by two or three or three thousand, it will be said of them, "Truly, God is in their midst."