Saturday, January 19, 2019

FROM THE CANDLESTICK TO THE THRONE 147

FROM THE CANDLESTICK TO THE THRONE
(A study in Book of Revelation Part 147) by J. Preston Eby.

THE WOMAN IN THE WILDERNESS (continued)

“And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood” (Rev. 12:15).

In this scene of John’s vision the woman fled into the wilderness. At least she began to flee from the serpent who was pursuing her, but soon realized that there was no way that she could outrun the serpent. As she cried out to the Lord, two wings of a great eagle were given her and she flew away to the place in the wilderness prepared for her by God. When the serpent saw that he could not pursue the woman into the wilderness, he stood at the border of the desert and cast out of his mouth a stream of water after the woman, that she might be carried away with the flood. His attempt was not to destroy the woman while she was in the wilderness. He was not trying to drown her with the flood. Our text reveals that his purpose was in reality very different. He knew that he could not approach the woman in the security of her isolation in the desert. He could not touch her! She was “hidden” from the face of the serpent. She must remain there. He must leave her alone. Hence, his only option at getting to her was to cast a stream of water after her, that she might be borne up by that flood and carried out of the wilderness. “And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.” That is his purpose! He does not mean to drown her, but he means to lift her up from her isolation, carry her away to a different place, not the place where the Spirit has placed her and the sons of God are nourishing her, but to remove her from God’s dealing with her in her wilderness experience, and thus carry her back into the world from which she fled.

Understood in that sense, the message of the vision becomes crystal clear. The serpent realizes that under the sovereign hand of God’s dealings, in the isolation of her separation unto Him, he cannot do anything against her. And therefore he makes the attempt to get the woman out of her unique union with God in the spirit, and draw her back under the influence of the world and the flesh. He tries to sweep the woman-church into the spirit of the world, back under the powers of the carnal mind, human reasoning, natural understanding, and the ways, means, and methods of the flesh. As with Job of old, he seeks to remove God’s hedge from around her, attack her life, deplete her strength, and bring her under the dominion of the religious spirit of the world. Then he is certain that no more “sons” will be born of her, and that she will not be able to go on to fulfill her destiny as the glorious city of God. Clearly you may see this attempt!

There is startling drama in the figure which represents the dragon casting out of his mouth a river of water which becomes a flood. To paint a natural picture of this would be meaningless. The “flood” is a symbol, just as the woman and the wilderness are symbols. The flood comes out of the serpents “mouth,” signifying that it is not at all a flood of literal water, but rather a flood of words! The nature of the serpent reveals the character of the words that stream from his mouth, for he is a liar and the father of lies. The flood that the serpent cast out is, among other things, deceit, accusation, and carnal reasoning. He wants to swallow up the spiritual life and reality within the woman by this horrible flood; he believes the truth will not be able to withstand the flood of lies!

All of us who lived through World War II know something of enemy propaganda. Enemy agents deliberately circulate lies in time of war to destroy the morale of the troops and discourage the people at home. These lies are plausible and clever, and deceive many. But good intelligence is often able to trace these deceptions to their source and reveal them for what they are. Following World War II we passed through the long era of the Cold War. Cold War techniques on the part of both East and West, of secrecy, snooping, and misinformation, used against foreign governments and foreign populations, became tools even of domestic politics, a means to harass critics, build support for questionable policies, or cover up weaknesses and blunders. But the cleverest and most plausible propaganda the world has ever known emanates not from Berlin, or Moscow, or Al Queda, or any other political entity, but from the seat of the father of lies, the carnal mind of man! There has never been a time when so many “words” are available through the many channels as today. The world is flooded with a deluge of words which express the thoughts of man’s mind, each carrying a definite “spirit.” And one particular “river of lies” which sweeps multitudes up and carries them away is the flood of religious propaganda — the many “winds of doctrine,” a flood tide of false doctrine, traditions, commandments of men, carnal-minded interpretations, lying prophets, lying signs and wonders, false apostles, religious hucksters and racketeering televangelists, that would so engulf the woman it would carry her away from her pure walk in the spirit and in the truth.

The flood not only flows from the pulpit, from books, tapes, and television screens, but the source of the flood is the carnal mind within each of us! Words originate in thoughts. A stream of thoughts, a stream of words, worldly words, words of carnal wisdom, words of human ignorance, words of deceiving spirits, words of condemnation and accusation. “Who do you think you are? Look at you! Out here in the wilderness, isolated, encased in silence, waiting on the Lord. You’re not going anywhere! You’re not accomplishing anything! You don’t really amount to anything! You thought you were so high and mighty there, clothed with the sun and a crown of twelve stars upon your head. Ah-ha! And now you are trapped in this desolation, separated from everybody and everything, while creation goes to hell. Just who do you think you are, anyway!” Oh, yes! Can we not see that the “flood” is the same river of accusation that the dragon made against “the brethren” who have now overcome it all by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony! It should be clear to every prayerful heart that this flood from the serpent’s mouth is indeed a flood of the very same accusations the dragon brought against the manchild in the very highest realm of the spirit! Now cast into the earth he continues his work of “accusing the brethren” as he spouts forth his flood of lies, deceits, and accusations against the woman who brought forth the manchild!

THE EARTH HELPS THE WOMAN
“And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth” (Rev. 12:16).

The imagery here is quite a common sight in the deserts of the Middle East, in the rainy seasons. The rolling waters of a flash flood rush on in their open channels and then suddenly disappear into subterraneous passages, through which they often gush into the open again somewhere beyond. To the observer, the earth appears as though she had opened her mouth and swallowed up the floods.

As Israel fled from Egypt, Pharaoh sent his army after them but they were drowned in the Red Sea. As they stood on the banks of the sea, Israel looked back and saw their old masters dead, their bodies floating up upon the shore. With what joy did they sing the song of the Lord with Moses, “The horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea…Thou stretchedst out Thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.” Here is the first example in scripture of the earth helping God’s called and chosen people by “swallowing up” the flood that was threatening them!

Later, in their wilderness journey, Korah and his company rebelled before the Lord. This was not an armed rebellion, there were no swords or spears raised. It was rather a rebellion of debate and argument — a rebellion of words! Their stout words were raised against Moses, God’s chosen leader raised up for Israel’s deliverance and direction. Korah caused an uproar in the camp when he reasoned in his mind that all the Lord’s people were equal before God and therefore he was just as holy as Moses and Aaron, and just as capable to speak the word of God and know the mind of the Lord. He accused Moses and Aaron of exalting themselves above the congregation of Israel, all of whom were holy, separated unto God, and should share in the decision making. Korah was, it seems, the first Congregationalist! But the Lord was not pleased with this uprising against the authority of His chosen leaders. Moses spoke unto the congregation of Israel, saying, “Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of my own mind. If these men die the common death of all men…then the Lord hath not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord. And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up” (Num. 16:28-32). The earth not only swallowed the men, but their words, and those whose hearts were thinking such words!

But what does it mean that the “earth” helped the woman by swallowing up the flood of words? This is certainly a truth having different levels of application. Individually, the earth signifies the soul, the primary faculty of which is the mind. Is not the greatest battle right within our minds? The serpent sends forth his falsities, his lies, his distortions, his perversions of truth, his arguments, and his accusations and these speak to us in our mind. And it is also within our mind that we are enlightened and taught by the spirit of truth! As we put on the mind of Christ we are given the understanding of the truth as it is in Jesus. Paul refers to this as the “renewing of our mind.” The “earth” is still the soul, but now at last something happens in the soul that is able to save the woman. The quickened soul is raised up into union with the spirit as a mighty defense, so that the mind of the spirit becomes the understanding of the soul. Someone says, “But truth is not understood with the mind, it is understood only by the spirit.” No, it is understood first by the spirit. Then, just as a husband may explain something to his wife until she comprehends it, so does the spirit impart to the soul the understanding of the Lord, until that which is truth in the spirit becomes rationally understood in the mind.

You see, my beloved, when the Lord shined forth into my life the revelation of reconciliation, sonship, and the kingdom of God, it was revealed in my spirit — by the Spirit of the Lord! I first saw the truth by the sovereign, quickening revelation of the Spirit. I did not understand these things theologically or scripturally. I could not have exegeted them or proved them out of the scriptures. And a thousand objections flooded in, clamoring in opposition. And brethren used all their proof-texts to convince me of my error. Ah, the serpent’s flood! Yet I knew it to be truth within myself, whether I could explain it or not. But as I searched the scriptures to see “whether these things be so” the Lord began to quicken and teach my understanding out of the scriptures until eventually I could see that these were in all reality the cardinal truths which threaded their way all through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. The truth became so real, so substantial, so established in mind and heart from the word of God, until the un-truths I had been taught all my life in the religious systems of man were seen clearly for the fallacies, myths, superstitions, folklore and fairy tales they truly were! The lies of religion fall to nothing before the understanding of the spirit-enlightened mind. Thus, the “earth,” the “mind” or the “soul,” helps the woman by swallowing up the serpent’s flood! Yea, the spiritual mind casts out of its memory the empty words which stream so convincingly and so violently out of the serpent’s mouth!

It is this union of the soul with the spirit that is presented to us in our text. The soul has become so enlightened by, and one with, the spirit that none of the rush of “waters” out of the deceiver’s “mouth” are able to contaminate, harm, move, or carry away the woman from “her place.” They enter, but cannot wash her away! They simply disappear, swallowed up by the understanding of the spiritual mind, never to be seen — embraced or manifested — again! This is one aspect of that “salvation of the soul” of which the writer to the Hebrews referred when he wrote, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe unto the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39). To which the apostle James adds this testimony, “…receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Then Peter says, “…yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (I Pet. 1:9).

THE REMNANT OF HER SEED
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17).

Armed with the understanding of the beautiful truths clustering around John’s vision of the woman in the wilderness, it is not difficult to understand the last verse of this chapter, where we read that the dragon, being enraged with the woman and yet realizing his impotency to destroy her, goes to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and bear the testimony of the Lord Jesus. We would expect him to be angry with the earth, which had helped the woman. And since he was, indeed, angry at the woman, we would accordingly expect to hear of other plots and plans against her. Instead, because he saw that the woman was obviously safe, by a transfer of emotions, he “went to make war with the remnant of her seed.” He is out to overcome anything he can, even those who are the least threat to him! At first sight we may think that this is a somewhat strange expression. Is the manchild who was born of her not the sum total of her seed, or offspring? And how, then, must we conceive of this idea that the devil, after he has been cast out of heaven by the overcoming sons of God, then turns on the mother that bare them; and after being soundly defeated in all his efforts to destroy the woman, can still turn to other children she has borne — the rest of her seed? Who are these “other children”?

This is not difficult to understand, however. During our journey into God there are varying degrees of growth, experience, fellowship, and relationship with the Lord. “In a great house,” like the kingdom of God, “there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and earth” (II Tim. 2:20). The kingdom is indeed a great house, in which are many vessels, varying in quality, capacity, purpose, rank, and order. Jesus said it this way, “Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 8:11). Paul stated this truth yet another way. “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are but one body: so also is Christ. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole body were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members everyone of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him” (I Cor. 12:12,14-18).

The scriptures and our own experience both give ample evidence that there are degrees in the spiritual walk. The fruit of God that men bear in their lives are, Jesus taught us, some thirty fold, some sixty fold, and some a hundred fold. Paul spoke of those he had fed with milk because they were babes. John wrote his epistle to three classes of believers: little children, who are the new born in Christ, and all who fail to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord; young men, who are those who have grown up and become strong in many ways, yet lack experience; and old men, who are the fully matured sons of God. These are not permanent states, but merely stages of growth and development. “Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing” (James 1:4). “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). We see the same variety of levels of attainment in the Old Testament economy. Moses was above the other prophets (Num. 12:5,8). Only the tribe of Levi were priests. The birthright was given to Ephraim and Manasseh. The scepter was given to the tribe of Judah. David classified his mighty men according to their attainment (II Sam. 23). All men shall be made alive in Christ, writes Paul, yet not all at the same time nor raised into the same degree of glory, but “each in his own order or rank” (I Cor. 15:23).

Nearly three-quarters of a century ago Seeley Kinne shared the vision given to a brother David Lee Floyd who wrote: “I stood upon a large stadium, that had been erected to face a large gradual sloping hill. The hill sloped downward toward the stadium. Thousands of Spirit-filled Christians were seated upon the hillside, and they faced the stadium. They were grouped in many orders. They were also in many shades of color. I do not mean races or nationalities. Some were very white, some very dark. There were many varieties of shades between black and white. These thousands of Spirit-filled believers were gathered and seated in their various ranks. They were waiting for the Lord to give them the Last Great Message, for the preparation to set up the kingdom of God among men. I was seated in the stadium not knowing what I was going to do more than to just view the thousands of God’s people, seated in their various ranks upon the hillside. I studied their faces. I was fully aware that the Holy Spirit was opening my eyes and my understanding to discern the many ranks of His people. As I have stated above, every group or rank was of a different shade or color. The highest order was the whitest; and the lowest the darkest. Everyone was in rank according to the light of God abiding within them. This had nothing at all to do with their race or nationality. Everyone was located according to their individual rank in the Spirit. I was in deep meditation concerning their various degrees of experience” — end quote. There is a little more to brother Floyd’s experience concerning the judgment of God among his people, but the point of the vision is that there are many different spiritual levels and companies of the Lord’s people, even among those who are pressing forward into God!

In the great house of our Father’s kingdom there are different degrees of experience and various heights of attainment. In the book of Revelation we see in the progressive unveiling of Jesus Christ within His people a number of different companies or spiritual planes to which men attain in Christ — there is one outstanding company called overcomers, or kings and priests, or the manchild, or the 144,000, or the sons of God; another called the woman, or the bride, or the New Jerusalem; another called the church, or the candlesticks; and then there are the remnant: witnesses, martyrs, messengers, harpers, the great multitude, etc. These companies all correspond to the ranks of believers as set forth in the vision quoted above. These are all a variety of redeemed people who walk with God in varying degrees of light and glory, different depths of intimacy, and diverse orders of calling and experience. Some are very near to the heart of God, while others dwell and serve in the outer courts of His presence. Some are queens, virgins, and concubines; others are counselors, judges, priests and kings; some are soldiers and warriors of varied ranks; still others are servants, guests, and couriers.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will impress upon all who read these lines the great truth that the end of the matter is not any or all of these various companies and ranks. These are merely the blueprint of our progression into God! In that glorious end where God is All-in-all there are no companies or ranks. In the end there is no Outer Court. In the end there is no Holy Place. In the end there is no Holiest of all. At the conclusion of God’s great plan of the ages there is no Passover, Pentecost, or Tabernacles; no First Day, Second Day, or Third Day. In the great consummation of all things there are no servants, no bride, and there are no sons as separate from other orders. In the end there is only GOD ALL IN ALL! It means that God is all, and furthermore He is All, that is in His Fullness, within everyone everywhere! God all in all reveals the blessed fact that every creature will move through the progression from realm to realm, until each is filled with all the fullness of God. Anything short of that is not God as ALL — IN ALL! All may not move in this Day, just as all have not moved in other Days, but God has a great, tremendous, glorious plan of the ages, and all creation will move forward! Isn’t it wonderful!

You see, my beloved, it’s just like a school — it is the great school of God! The purpose of a school is not the school itself. The purpose of a school is the progression through the grades so that you finally graduate. Everybody who enters the school is supposed to graduate! So we are not to glory that we are in the first grade, the seventh grade, or the twelfth grade. We are not to cling to our status as a junior, sophomore, or senior. It is wonderful to be a senior, but if you remain a senior you will never graduate! To be senior is not the goal. The beauty of all the grades is that each in turn accomplishes its purpose, bringing everyone to the same, final state of accomplishment and attainment. Everyone walks across the stage and receives his or her diploma and goes out into the world a finished product in the fullness of God. Hallelujah!

That’s how it is in the kingdom of God! Today we view believers as being nominal Christians, born again Christians, Spirit-filled Christians, deeper life Christians, brideship Christians, sons of God, or some other classification. We equate their standing in God with whether they are in the Outer Court, the Holy Place, or the Most Holy Place. But those are merely broad-swept pictures of their spiritual state of growth and development, their progression into God. Each is just a temporary arrangement, a grade to pass through, and all creation will pass through the grades either now or in the age and the ages to come! When every man who has ever lived, or ever shall live, has received his diploma and walks off the cosmic stage of spiritual graduation — God will be ALL IN ALL! There will be a sign posted on the door of the school of God’s great redemptive and restorative purposes — “Closed.” When everybody graduates, you don’t need the school anymore!

Some of us have been in school for a long, long time and have moved through many levels of God’s teaching. We have been passing from grade to grade, from experience to experience, from discipline to discipline, from realm to realm, from dimension to dimension in God. We have passed through the Tabernacle with all its furnishings and compartments. We have partaken of the Lord’s Feasts one after another and He has now brought us to the Feast of Tabernacles. We have arrived at the threshold of the Third Day. We have stepped into the Most Holy Place. He has ushered us into the throne room within the City which has the glory of God. We have been passing through the grades, and all creation will pass through the same grades. God has plenty of time. His plan is the plan of the ages. Consider how many ages the Lord’s people have passed through since the day Adam and Eve were driven from Eden! God’s progressive purpose began ages ago, and will extend into vast ages yet unborn. In one sense each of us is a microcosm within the macrocosm. There are ages within us. I lived a Pentecostal age, and it ended. I lived out a Latter Rain age, and it ended. I lived out an Anglo-Israel age, and that ended too. I lived out an Apocalyptic age, and God took that heaven and rolled it up within myself. Everyone of us has lived ages within ourselves, according to God’s plan of the ages. All creation will come the same way, not necessarily with identical ages, but they will grow experientially into God from glory to glory, and God has plenty of time! God has brought us from Abraham to the Manchild in our brief lifetime, for the ages are within us.

Now in our text we come to a company of God’s people identified as “the remnant of her seed.” Who is “the remnant of her seed”? The word “remnant” literally means remaining ones — other, which remain, residue, the rest. The term is employed six times in the Revelation. In every place where this word is used in the Revelation, it refers to the remaining number of a class previously mentioned, but not exhausted; and according to Greek scholars it can be extended to any class beyond them. The simplest understanding is that “the remnant of her seed” refers to all true people of God who are not either seated with the manchild upon the throne or with the woman in the wilderness. The espoused bride of Christ is not all of God’s true people; the manifest sons of God are not all of God’s true people. There are many who know the Lord, love the Lord, worship the Lord, and seek to please and walk with Him in the Spirit. Yet they have not been drawn into that deep, close, personal intimacy with Christ that characterizes brideship, nor are they actively being sons unto the Father.

This is plainly borne out by the two explanatory phrases that follow. Who are the remnant of her seed? They are those who “keep the commandments of God.” The commandments of God are not the ten commandments given through Moses! That is what many people think. Nor are they the other laws, statutes, and judgments set forth under the Old Covenant. Those only had respect to the externals of human life, and even then no human could “keep” them. In fifteen hundred years of Israel’s history not one single person ever fully and perfectly obeyed and fulfilled all the law! And Paul said that any man of the New Covenant who lives “under the law” is fallen from grace! Ah, “the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ!” Can we not see by this the law is not the truth? It is a natural figure of the truth, but it is not the reality! The reality comes not from Moses, but by God’s Christ! Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” The living words of Jesus Christ, who is Himself The Word of God — there you will find the “commandments of God”!

How can we be certain that the “commandments of God” are not the Old Testament laws, including the ten commandments? Let us see what the New Testament has to say about the commandments of God! John, the writer of the Revelation, also says in his third epistle, “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” (I Jn. 3:23-24). No man can ever dwell in God and God in him by keeping the ten commandments! Now let us notice further what the scriptures have to say about God’s commandments.

“For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say…and I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak” (Jn. 12:49-50).

“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (Jn. 13:34). Under Moses, the command was to love God with all the heart, with all the soul, with all the mind, and with all the strength. But man was impotent to fulfill this order because of his sin, weakness, and limitation. What man could not do, Jesus Christ came and did completely; and now, instead of man being invited to love God, as the law of Moses demanded, man is asked to believe on His Son, the one who did love God as the law demanded. Instead of man being asked to love God now, he is invited to behold how much God loves him through Christ! “We love Him, because He first loved us.” God does not ask man now to give Him his heart. But He does ask him to believe on Christ who is the revelation of the heart of God toward man, and when this is done man receives a new heart and love will flow out through the heart and life of man, not so much toward the “neighbor,” but toward the “brethren.” The commandments of God under the New Covenant are believe, and then love! That’s it!

“This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12).

“Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth” (I Jn. 2:7-8).

“And this commandment we have from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (I Jn. 4:21).

“I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth (Christ), as we have received a commandment from the Father. And this is love, that we walk after His commandments. This is the commandment. That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, He hath both the Father and the Son” (II Jn. 4,6,9).

“If ye love me, keep my commandments. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him” (Jn. 14:15,21).

“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” (Jn. 15:10).

“If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are THE COMMANDMENTS of the Lord” (I Cor. 14:37).

Again, we ask who are the rest of her seed? First they are true people of God for they “keep the commandments of God,” which commandments we can see are, under the New Covenant, the living words of God’s Christ! Second, they are those who “have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” The word for “testimony” is maturia, and has the significance of record, report, witness, and evidence. What is this evidence of Jesus? There are two verses which make the answer to this question plain, and though the word “witness” is used in one verse, and the word “record” is used in the other, in both cases we have our word “testimony,” maturia, or evidence. Let us read these verses. “He that believeth on (Greek: into) the Son of God, hath the witness (evidence) in himself” ((I Jn. 5:10). “And this is the record (maturia — witness, evidence), that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son, hath life” (I Jn. 5:11-12). Ah, the testimony, witness, and evidence of Jesus Christ is THE LIVING REALITY OF THE CHRIST WITHIN! We have this testimony, this witness, this evidence within ourselves, John says, and the evidence is the indwelling life of the Son!

The “rest of her seed” are then the spiritual people of God, made up of all who believe on Christ, and love the brethren! God has many dear children who are not part of the sonship company, the manchild, nor part of the brideship company, the woman in the wilderness. These are a company living on a lower plane than the woman herself, just as the woman in the wilderness is living on a lower plane than the manchild in the throne. They are the ones with whom the dragon now is exceeding wroth, and against whom he is carrying out his great war! Can you not see the mystery? Who today upon earth is in a constant battle with the devil? Who is it that testifies, “The old devil has been after me all week!” Who is it that says, “The devil made me do it!” I heard of a little girl who was told that the devil caused her to bite her little brother. She said, “Maybe so, but it was my own idea about hitting him in the head!” At least she was honest. Who is it that believes the devil is “on their case” and “out to get them”? Who is it that finds their greatest struggle day by day to be with the temptations and onslaughts of the devil? Who is it that believes that God is trying to do this and that, but the old devil is always hindering and somehow getting the upper hand? Who are those that are, if we judge by their words, more devil conscious than they are God conscious! Who are they? Not the woman in the wilderness, for she is “hid from the face of the serpent.” Not the manchild upon the throne, for he sits in the highest heaven in a realm from which the great dragon has been thrown down!

Gary Sigler once put it so succinctly when he wrote, “Do you know that the devil is a Pentecostal? You tell me what other realm you can get into today and hear so much about the devil! I have been in more Pentecostal meetings and heard more about the devil than I ever heard about God. For a long time I managed the Tree of Life Christian Bookstore in Eugene, Oregon, and the largest selling category of books that we had were books on demons and witchcraft and devils. What it was, was books trying to teach you how to deal with the devil. I’d be a fool to tell you the devil isn’t real, because he’s running rampant in Pentecost! But I’m telling you there is a higher realm, and in that realm there is no devil. Remember the words of Jesus, ‘The evil one comes, but he has nothing in me.’ The only place the devil can be real to you is that place he has in you. If he has no place in you, then the devil doesn’t bother you anymore.”

Yet, it is not only the Pentecostals, but nearly all evangelical Christians with one accord attribute to the devil almost omnipotent powers. The common perception would be that Satan is like God — omnipresent, everywhere in the world. They see the devil or demons behind every bush, around every bend, lurking, waiting for the slightest opportunity to pounce on them and cause them to sin, to miss God, to rob them of their victory, deceive them, or otherwise derail their walk in God. But it is true that the Pentecostals and Charismatics are more obsessed with the devil and demons than most, for they are the ones who believe they have power to cast out demons. There is indeed such a thing as demon possession. To deny this would be to wickedly repudiate the ministry of the Lord Jesus and His apostles. I do not believe, however, that most of what is called demon possession today is really demon possession at all. For the most part it is merely the works of the flesh. If you have ever seen real demon possession you know that it is far different than what the so-called “deliverance ministry” is calling possession today. They call such fleshly activities as fear, lust, rejection, anger, cursing, lying, criticism, gossip, sexual fantasies, masturbation, adultery, incest, harlotry, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, gluttony, hatred, envy, and a hundred more — demons! There is no place in the New Testament where the saints of God are exhorted to get “deliverance” from such demons! I tell you, my beloved, it’s not in the Book! Rather we are exhorted to “Put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9), to “Mortify the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13), and to “Mortify your members which are upon the earth (of the earth realm)” (Col. 3:5), and “Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). Read all these passages, and many more, and it is plain to see that the works of the flesh are exactly and precisely the very things the deliverance preachers are calling — DEVILS! And the solution the Holy Ghost gives is not in “casting them out” but in mortifying them, or putting them to death by walking in the Spirit!

All kinds of unscriptural methods and techniques are used by the deliverance preachers in their casting out of devils. Often the “possessed” are exhorted to “cooperate” for their deliverance. They are told to breathe a certain way, or not to breathe. They are instructed to cough or yawn to aid the demons in leaving. Some claim that the most common manifestation of a demon’s departure is coughing — the very one manifestation that is never mentioned in scripture! The exorcists generally use great physical exertion, raising the voice, shouting and screaming at the devils, repeating the name of Jesus again and again, as if such physical demonstrativeness and the very volume of the verbal command could add something to its authority! Let me tell you something, my beloved. The Spirit of God needs not to lift up its voice — the authority of the kingdom of God is legal, judicial, and governmental authority. A judge does not shout his sentence at a criminal, the tone of his voice could add nothing whatever to the authority by which he speaks. The authority is vested in his office — not in his physical demonstrativeness. With a simple phone call and a bare whisper the President of the United States can send all the might of our military into action against an enemy. He has the authority, therefore it works. Hours of shouting, sweating, pleading, rebuking, barking the same command again and again would only call into question his sanity!

That is definitely NOT how the firstborn Son of God cast out devils! When Jesus demonstrated the power of the kingdom He spoke with absolute authority. While following the Master through the Gospels a marvelous revelation is unveiled. Not once did Satan or evil spirits persistently resist Him. They challenged and questioned Him, but they did not carry on a prolonged battle. Not one of His deliverances was progressive with some deliverance this session and a little more the next time. Not once did He scream at devils; not once did He groan over them; not once did He use tongues or any other spiritual gift to overcome them; with a word He commanded, and at once they obeyed! They recognized His ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY! When Jesus spoke a word to the devils He had no need to “create an atmosphere” with prayers, singing, praise, scripture reading, or sentimental background music — HE HIMSELF WAS THE ATMOSPHERE! THIS IS MANIFEST SONSHIP!

Now what is the difference between sonship ministry and the way the church world today deals with the devil and demons? Just this. The sons of God have cast the dragon out of the heavens where they dwell! He has no more place in them. They are not personally concerned with him. And the woman who brings forth the manchild is free from his molestations, for she is safe in her wilderness, “hid from the face of the serpent.” Yet the devil is in a great battle today! And that battle rages in the church realm! It should not be difficult to ascertain just who the people of God are today who constitute “the remnant of her seed,” for are they not the ones who are engaged in conflict with the dragon? They are the ones with whom the devil is now exceedingly wroth, and against whom he is carrying out his great war. He has turned his efforts against the remaining ones of her seed, those who are truly born from above, but who are not yet overcomers, they are yet in the “earth-realm,” and are subject to the enemy’s attacks. The warfare is not in the heavenlies, but in the earth. And this remnant of her seed is fervently fighting the battle, though they are ill prepared for it. They are indeed a rag-tag army and not very professional. Their weapons are wrong, obsolete, and inadequate. Their methods of warfare are defective, incorrect, and misguided. Their results are less than desirable. Yet they fight on! The vision does not reveal how long the battle lasts or what the final outcome is. Later visions do shed more light, and we will come to that in time, as the Lord wills, but this is where the matter rests at the time of the woman’s isolation in the wilderness.

To be continued…

FROM THE CANDLESTICK TO THE THRONE 146

FROM THE CANDLESTICK TO THE THRONE
(A study in Book of Revelation Part 146) by J. Preston Eby.

THE WOMAN IN THE WILDERNESS
(continued)
“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God…and to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place” (Rev. 12:6,14).

I would again draw your attention to the fact that the woman flees into “the wilderness,” the well-known one, spoken of from the book of Exodus all the way through to the book of Revelation. The great types of the wilderness experience are first met in Moses who for forty years lived in the desert, under the big sky, where his brash points were worn down by the immensities around him: the star-studded sky at night; the empty, echoing canyons; the days of seeming unending silence, broken only by the howling winds and blowing, choking, blinding dust. Deserts diminish a person. Surrounded by lifeless rocks and sand, beaten by howling winds that make skin leathery, a person learns his or her true measure. Deserts purge, purify, prepare. They downsize, humble, empty, break. For forty years (for God is not rushed) the desert did its carving, chiseling, sculpting work on the gifted but proud and impetuous young man Moses. Then, finally, he is ready for…the fire! And it comes! The strange bush flames up like a dried-out old Christmas tree on fire…and just keeps on burning and burning. Moses is captivated. He leaves the sheep, forgets his work, stops his routine, steps out of the ordinary…and gazes. He does not know it yet, but here is a symbol of the next forty years of his life: he will be like this bush, filled with the fire of God, so fully, so constantly, that he will never burn out. And he didn’t. Forty years later, when he died at age 120, “his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone” (Deut. 34:7). Desert, fire. Desert, fire. That’s the pattern of the pilgrimage. God empties us; then fills us with His fire. That’s the way of the wilderness!

As God through the fire-consumed Moses delivered His people from the fury of Pharaoh in Egypt by bringing them into that very same wilderness, so also now He brings His woman-church into the wilderness to escape the rage of the dragon-spirit. But the difference is that in Israel’s case it was a natural, physical wilderness into which they were led, whereas in this case the figure is employed to signify something spiritual. The wilderness signifies a place of safety and liberation; and it is to such a sanctuary that the woman is taken to be protected and sustained by God. In the literal and natural sense of the word the wilderness is a place in the world, but not of the world. It is a place in the midst of the world, yet it is absolutely separated from the life of the world. The key word here is separation. This depicts a people as described by our Lord who are “in the world, but not of the world.” A people separate in every respect from the life, spirit, and ways of the world. In the wilderness they are not only separated from the world, but are indeed separated unto God!

In our text the wilderness is called “her place” — a place belonging to her which God has specially prepared for her. As we have already pointed out the types of this spiritual experience are found in the desert to which Moses fled for safety from the wrath of Pharaoh; to which Israel fled from the tyranny and rage of the Egyptians; to which Elijah betook himself for refuge from the wrath of the bloody Jezebel; to which the faithful Jews retreated from the persecutions of the Syrian kings in the Maccabean times. Having served as a place of shelter for God’s faithful ones on so many occasions, it may well be called “her place” — the one locality out of all places on earth specially prepared and consecrated as a place in the world but not of the world, a separated place where the Lord’s people find refuge from the fury of the adversary, to experience in solitude those unique dealings of God which humble, empty, break, purge, purify, and prepare them for His further and higher purposes. “Her place” is thus spiritually a state of being and a dealing of God appointed and ordained for her growth and development in the spirit. She is “nourished” there, indicating that provision is made for her to be not only sustained, but strengthened and enabled to grow and increase. Aren’t you glad!

Some in our day have missed the spiritual import of this wonderful scene and have sought for some supposed physical “safe area” to flee to in the day of trouble. We have known many precious ones who fearing nuclear war, Y2K, the tyranny of a one-world government, the great tribulation, the beast, or some other imagined calamity have searched for a place of safety. There is a group just north of us in New Mexico who came here many years ago from California. They believed that fearful disasters were to befall the state of California. Their prophet told them that they were the woman who was to flee to the wilderness, and a particular area of New Mexico was the wilderness. They have certainly been prospering there for nearly fifty years, but their visions have so far not been fulfilled.

We know some who went to remote wilderness areas of South America, Canada, Alaska, etc. Many have now come home. I visited one such wilderness farm in 1970 on the Cacataw River in the jungles of Columbia, South America. It no longer exists. In fact, the drug-lords have taken over that area of Columbia and one cannot even travel there anymore! One couple we knew had found a “place of safety” in a certain mountainous area of the state of Arkansas. But before they could get moved there a missile blew up in its silo right in the middle of their “safe area”! They never have gone. I prophesy that many who carnalize and literalize this precious “wilderness message” and run to what they believe are safe areas shall experience that of which the prophet Amos spoke when he prophesied that it would be “as if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him” (Amos 5:19).

Certainly God can speak to people to locate in a particular area for whatever purpose, but the only “safe place” is IN THE SPIRIT, not a geographical location. David put it this way: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, HE IS MY REFUGE AND FORTRESS: my God, in Him will I trust. Surely HE shall deliver thee…He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust…thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; BUT IT SHALL NOT COME NIGH THEE. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. BECAUSE thou has made the LORD, WHICH IS MY REFUGE, even the most High, THY HABITATION” (Ps. 91:1-9). Ah — there is safety indeed! Yes, my beloved, there is “her place” which God has prepared for her, a place in the spirit, a place of separation unto God, where the protection, nourishing, and sovereign dealings of God accomplish their wonderful work!

NOURISHED IN THE WILDERNESS
“…she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days…and to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly…into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time” (Rev. 12:6,14).

It is in the wilderness that we need to be fed. The idea is that of a miraculous feeding, and the past is prophecy of the future. It was there that God supernaturally sent the manna to feed the fugitive millions of Israel. Elijah was miraculously fed by an angel, and received a meal from heaven, in the strength of which he went forty days, in his flight to this “mount of God.” It was in the desert place, where the multitudes followed Jesus, that He multiplied the loaves and fishes and fed five thousand faint people. In the seasons of blessing there is abundance, but in the wilderness food and water are not available and must be in some way supplied. Before entering the wilderness you readily partook of the abundance of spiritual food — of gifts, and ministries, and movings of the Spirit. But in the wilderness the Lord separates you from even that! The feeding of the woman here, indicates the depth of her straits, and her utter helplessness in any resources of her own. She is in great need, and no amount of activity on her part can supply her with sustenance. Yet, one doesn’t need to spend a long time in the wilderness if he truly understands and appropriates what is provided for him there. Oh, yes, provision is made in the wilderness! Israel’s experience in the wilderness is the blessed type. In the wilderness He “set a table before them.” If you can truly understand that the Rock smitten in the wilderness (Ex. 17:1-6) is Christ in your spirit, you will soon receive the vision and strength that will deliver you out of your wilderness! If you can somehow see by revelation that the Branch cast into the bitter waters of Marah (Ex. 15:23-25) is a picture of the Christ within, then by forsaking all other means you will cast the spirit of Christ into your bitter experience and by the overflowing of His grace and love be enabled to get rid of the bitterness of your carnal thinking and fleshly emotions — then you will receive faith to arise and depart out of the wilderness! When you can catch the vision by the Spirit that the Manna (Ex.16;14-22) is not just “What is it?” but that Christ Himself within you is the true bread that has come down from heaven, then, dear one, you will be quickened to arise, hasten, and leave the wilderness behind! If you are in a wilderness, Christ as life is what you must feed upon in order to get out of your wilderness! Those who fail to feed upon Christ as life, the only food provided in the wilderness, can never get out of it; like Israel of old they continue to go around and around in the desolation of the same dry desert, making the same mistakes, struggling with the same old problems, weaknesses, and limitations again and again, dedicating and rededicating, getting revived from time to time, but never fully gaining the mastery, overcoming, maturing and being made perfect. And in the end they perish in their wilderness!

I have been encouraged and edified by the following words from the pen of Art Groesbeck. “There is a place in God that is to the exclusion of all else; a place where there is no struggle; a place of entering into rest. The Lord brings us to this place by way of the wilderness where He humbles us and tries us that we might see what’s in our hearts. ‘And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or not. And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live’ (Deut. 8:2-3).

“It was also said of Israel, ‘I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown’ (Jer. 2:2). God takes His called out ones first to a place of separation; a place of preparation, if you will; a place of processing where we forget everything the Egyptian, and the type it represents, has taught us; a place of temptation where we learn to depend totally upon the Lord our God. And we learn not to tempt Him by saying, ‘Is the Lord God among us, or not?’ (Ex. 17:7). It is a wilderness, a ‘no man’s land’ in that no man can survive there, only God can sustain life in this place! Man will have to die there, because no natural seed can grow in this environment. It is a place not sown. It is a place of the supernatural only, a place of no longer looking to the natural or carnal realm of reason. The temptation that must be overcome is to do so. It is a place where God’s higher thoughts and higher ways must prevail. It is the beginning of the laying aside of every sin that so easily besets us that we might run this race with patience. It is the place of growing in grace, and in the knowledge of HIM. It is the place of entering into His kingdom.

“This place is desolate, in that it must be a place not sown, a place where the seeds of man’s carnal reasoning and man’s ways which have gotten him much recognition in the flesh, will not prosper. It is a desolate wilderness, but through kingdom principles sown by God, it blossoms like the rose. The only thing that grows there is that which comes from heaven, even the Word of God. Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. This principle was seen in the manna rained from heaven. Notice — it did not come up from the earth, which was desolate, which even if it were able to produce bread, could only sustain temporarily. But the Word of God sustains life eternally! Bread speaks of the earth-realm, the realm of man — what we have so long preserved as life, but the ends thereof are death.

“God has to remove us from our familiar surroundings, all that we have come to know life to be, even as He did starting with Abraham. Abraham was removed from the land that he was familiar with, and from his kin from whom he had taken counsel all his life, to a place that God would show him — a place apart where God would become his counselor, his sustainer, and his reward, based upon God’s promise and not on Abraham’s merit. Moses experienced the same thing in that when he realized his calling to deliver his brothers from the hand of Pharaoh, his attempt at doing so ended in failure. He first had to be removed to the backside of the desert for a time of emptying out of all that he had become in Egypt. We, too, must experience a separation, a wilderness experience, an emptying out of all that we are, that we might be filled with all that He is. We must experience that time of testing even as our Lord was driven into the wilderness and tempted of the devil forty days. Remember His words to Peter, ‘…for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men’ (Mat. 16:23). So Satan tempts us to think even as we have learned as man to think, not in some way that is unfamiliar to us at all.

“God is taking us in a way we have never gone before! This why we must learn the way of life in the wilderness. Life in a place where life is not possible without God being the source. The way we have known, the way of man, was a way whereby we established ourselves; the effect being pride and self-exaltation, envy and strife, works of the flesh, all the result of not knowing God as our source through the subtle deception of the evil one. The key reason for our removal to the wilderness and its desolation is that we might see how we relate to it. This aspect of the wilderness and how it pertains to us individually, is that we and the wilderness must become one. We must become barren in order to become fruitful! I have heard it said, and know it to be true, that Abraham’s greatest asset was Sarah’s barren womb and their inability to bring forth life. So, any fruitfulness out of their dry ground had to be the result of the promise of God and Abraham’s belief in the God who promised. You see, a woman being barren was considered to be a curse from God. Woman is a type of the earth, the place where the seed is sown. God cursed the earth in Adam, ‘thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee,’ and to the woman, ‘in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children,’ — more thorns and thistles! When the Spirit of the Father planted that heavenly seed in Mary, He brought forth life out of death. She saw the impossibility of it in that she said, ‘How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?’ (Lk. 1:34). This could have nothing to do with man; it must be a virgin birth! The best Mary could do is to say, ‘be it unto me according to thy word’ (Lk. 1:38). The best we can do is to say, ‘be it unto me according to Thy word,’ and know that the ability to bring forth life out of our barren wasteland is not of man, but of GOD. To God be the glory!

“When I was a boy growing up, I remember the phrase — God helps those who help themselves. It sounded reasonable to me in my unregenerate state, but I have found that scripture knows nothing of it. As a matter of fact, more rightly put, God helps those who can’t help themselves — but only when they have come to realize it and cry out to Him. Surely there is a no man’s land and it is a people established by God in God, to the praise of the glory of His grace. ‘The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose’ (Isa. 35:1)” — end quote.

I mentioned earlier the manna which was the Lord’s provision for the nourishment of His people in the wilderness. There is no doubt that the manna perfectly pre-figures the nourishment provided for the woman in the wilderness! When the people of Israel first saw the manna they asked what it was — that strange substance lying on the early morning ground. Moses told them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat…gather of it, every man of you, as much as he can eat; you shall take an Omer apiece, according to the number of persons whom each of you has in his tent.” It is described in the book of Exodus as “a fine, flake-like thing, fine as hoar-frost.” Significant is the fact that during the period the children of Israel subsisted on manna they were to eat their daily allotment the same day, and eat of it fully, for if anyone would not eat all of it, or if he attempted to hoard his surplus, it decomposed with supernatural rapidity. Only enough for the day, gathered morning by morning, was the divine order. It was natural for some of them to want to put away a little for the coming days, but God arranged it in such a way that it could not be done — the manna spoiled and bred worms within hours. The only exception was on the sixth day — on that day they could gather twice as much for both the sixth day and the Sabbath, tomorrow’s bread today, and it kept fresh through both days.

As in the natural, so in the spiritual! The supply of yesterday will not do for today, anymore than yesterday’s dinner will suffice us for today’s work. You cannot live on yesterday’s revelation, for it was strength only for that day. You cannot live on the memory of past spiritual experiences. You cannot live on the lingering aroma of blessed fellowship you had with the Lord in days gone by. You cannot live on the recollection of mercies and miracles received in previous moves of God. For every day you need fresh grace and a new dimension of glory! The manna of old only held good for one day. It had to be gathered fresh every morning. The manna of one day grew corrupt and worthless before the next. And we wonder why the glory of yesterday’s visitation has faded! We are disturbed because the move of God of yesterday has been polluted in the hands of men! Yesterday’s visitations of the Spirit are a stench in our nostrils today. Already (in such a short time!) they have become a weariness to our spirit. They have been taken over by the flesh and it pains me to say it, but one and all have settled into stagnation and death. None has pressed on to GO ALL THE WAY WITH GOD. Oh, they still go through the motions of yesterday’s visitation, but the so-called gifts of the Spirit they tout are most often a pitiful sham. People are ‘slain in the Spirit’ through psychological inducement and mass hypnosis, and sometimes even pushed. Worship has become soulish and mechanical, people having “learned” to sing the song of the Lord after the song has ended. The prophesyings bear the distinctive sound of a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Numerous groups have been brought under the domination of false apostles, while others have fallen victim to a sectarian spirit — “We, and we alone, are the body of Christ; we, our group, are the sons of God; we are the manchild company; we are the kings and priests after the Order of Melchizedek; our movement is the select of the elect that will bring in the kingdom and rule the nations with a rod of iron.” There was a great move of the Spirit beginning in 1948 called “Latter Rain”. Its days were like heaven on earth, its glory unspeakable, its power earth-shattering. Within a few years the rain ended, yet to this day there are people out there “dancing in the rain,” not having noticed that the clouds have dispersed, the sun is burning, and the rain is over. They go through the motions, but the glory has departed. The memory is sweet, but the body is dead, lifeless, empty. All the great moves of God of bygone generations are become the swaggering harlot, a cesspool of corruption. All the filthiness of the Babylonian church system is but the worm-ridden manna given by God for another time, preserved by man unto today. The worms are obvious to all who can see by the Spirit!

Well did brother Carl Schwing write: “Allow me to write freely and I would speak gently and lovingly…my brethren, if your soul still feeds upon the ‘left-over manna’…finding nourishment in the past message…you fall short of your calling and cannot see afar off. You are pressing backward rather than pressing on…and you are still following man rather than the Lamb. All that we hope for, hunger for, and moan for is found in sonship, and sonship comes forth from the Father…sonship is the very image of the Father…and who but He has the words of life? I do not write of tomorrow or someday…I write of today…for it is today that the Father walks among us…sonship is part of God’s Now…we are being born by Him, from Him and for Him…this miraculous delivery is in the process. He is offering us ‘eternal life’…alas, some shall be offended…others will turn and walk no more…but there are the ‘faithful few’ who will know that He alone speaks life-giving words.”

You see, my beloved, every day you need a new gift of grace, a deeper dealing of God, a fresh word from the throne, a further revelation of the Spirit, a greater dimension of life. The manna is only good for one day — for one step in your forward journey into God. You must get it fresh every day! This is the prayer for you and me, for all who treasure the beautiful hope of sonship — “Give us this day our daily bread.” GIVE! Yes, this is a gift. You cannot buy the bread of life. Its price has never been quoted in the markets. No money can purchase reality. God never sells. God is a King, He gives. Buy? No, you cannot buy. You may buy books and sermons and papers and tapes and CD’s from preachers who haven’t learned the ways of the kingdom. You may even buy a “prophecy” or a “blessing” from the false prophets who peddle them in return for your offering. But you cannot buy the Word of Life!

Can you buy pardon? Can you buy peace? Can you buy righteousness? Can you buy sonship? Can you buy the mind of Christ? Can you buy the image of God? Can you buy the kingdom? No, you cannot buy; but what you cannot buy God will give. Listen, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Listen again, “Everyone that thirsteth, let him come and take of the water of life freely.” Listen yet again, “The gift of God is eternal life.” Giving! This is royal giving. And so it is said of this woman in the wilderness, “she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her…her place, where she is nourished…” The expressions “that they should feed her” and “she is nourished” denote her passiveness. No amount of self-activity would supply her with food in the desert. She “is fed” as food is procured for a child, not by it. A number of actions on her behalf cluster around this woman. “Her child was caught up.” “Two wings of a great eagle were given her.” “That they should feed her.” “Where she is fed.” Oh, yes, this is God’s provision in the wilderness! What assurance and expectation this inspires within our hearts!

Someone may ask, “Why dwell on the woman being nourished in the wilderness — we are not the woman, we are the manchild, and the manchild has already been birthed and caught up unto God and to His throne at the time when the woman is fed in the wilderness!” True, but never forget, dear one, that the woman is simply coming by the same route that the manchild has already come. The one hundred and forty-four thousand, who are also the manchild, are the “firstfruits” unto God and the Lamb! We have already traced the revelation of God’s dealings with His firstfruit company all the way from chapter one through chapter twelve of the Revelation. Those who follow are required to walk the same route as those who go ahead! And just as the woman has her wilderness experience and is fed, nourished in the wilderness, so the firstborn Son of God had His wilderness experience and was fed, nourished in His wilderness! As soon as Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness was accomplished we read, “Then the devil leaveth Him, and, behold, messengers came and ministered unto Him” (Mat. 4:11). Jesus had just said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that is proceeding out of the mouth of God.” And now, the messengers of God — the living word of His Father — came unto Him and nourished Him in His wilderness experience! Therefore, the experience of the woman in the wilderness is instructive for everyone who has received the call to sonship, for we all must tread the same pathway, every man in his own rank!

THREE AND A HALF YEARS
“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days…and to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent” (Rev. 12:6,14).

The measure of time here indicated requires no lengthy explanation. We meet it again and again, expressed in different terms, throughout the book of Revelation. It is clear from the context that the twelve hundred and sixty days mentioned in verse six is the same time period as a time, times, and half a time in verse fourteen. It should not be difficult to understand, then, that both terms indicate three and one half symbolic years. One symbolic year, plus two symbolic years, plus half a symbolic year. One symbolic year is calculated to be three hundred and sixty days according to the Hebrew calendar, thus three and a half symbolic years equal twelve hundred and sixty days. This is obviously the same period as the forty-two months of the testimony of the two witnesses in chapter eleven. For, taking a symbolic month to contain thirty days, as in the Hebrew calendar, forty-two months would again give us twelve hundred and sixty days, a time, times, and half a time, or three and a half symbolic years. It is always the same length of time stated in different terms and figures. The thing to keep in mind is that the Revelation is a spiritual book, therefore all these indications of time signify, not a literal time-period, but a spiritual reality! That is the mystery

The significance lies in it always being three and a half, that is, half of seven. Seven is the complete, perfect number denoting fullness! Three and a half, then, shows a broken, limited period or work, that which can never endure forever, but must be cut off and come to an end. All the numbers in the Revelation are symbolic. They cannot be fitted into the framework of world history or outward world events, past or future. The spiritual interpretation of this great book must be maintained at all costs, for the writings of those who apply its prophecies to outward world events either past, present, or future, are strewn with the carcasses of confident predictions which now are fit for only the ash-heap of history.

If not a measurable period of chronological time, then what does the figure of three and a half years signify? We have already mentioned that in actual time it is one-half of seven years. Thus we are dealing with an indefinite period of time, in each case known only to God and not intended to be measured by man. It is my deep conviction that these strange time figures in the Revelation in each case indicate THE BROKEN SEVEN. That which is a positive seven denotes divine completeness, fullness, and perfection. Included in these are the seven golden candlesticks, seven angels, seven spirits of God, seven lamps of fire before the throne, seven seals, seven eyes and seven horns of the Lamb, seven trumpets, and the seven thunders. But that which is a positive seven also denotes that which is eternal — that which has no end and will never pass away! It is significant to note that all of the “halves” of seven are associated either with dark and sinister works and operations, or with that which is limited, failing, partial, and destined to come to an end and pass away! The message is just this — anything in the book of Revelation that lasts for forty-two months, twelve hundred and sixty days, a time, times, and half a time, or three and a half years is not God’s perfect order, nor God’s eternal order…it will not endure, will not last forever, is not a permanent state, but, when God is through with that stage or that state it will come to an end and pass away! Thank God, the wilderness is not a permanent condition, not a unending experience, nor the ultimate consummation of God’s purpose in His woman! Wonderful that the Lord prepares this place for the woman in her hour of need, protects her there, and nourishes her, bringing her into a new and higher place in Him. But that is merely preparation for her next step forward into God! He will take her, as He is now taking His sons, step by step and stage by stage, from glory to glory, from realm to realm, until she is seen coming down out of a heavenly realm adorned as a bride prepared for her husband, having the glory of God, and the life of God, and the word of God, and the dominion of God — enlightening the whole earth, bringing salvation to all nations, quickening and transforming all things. That order, precious friend of mine, WILL LAST FOREVER! It is indeed wonderful!

How we rejoice and sing hallelujahs that the wilderness is ordained of God for the woman-church, but it is not his ultimate order for her and it has its end. The time of her confinement and secret dealing of God will end after three and a half symbolic years, when the wilderness experience has accomplished it full work in her. The day will surely come when she will “come up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved” (S. of S. 8:5).

Her beloved, upon whom she leans, is described by the Shulamite in these words, “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please. Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?” (S. of S. 3:5-6). Ray Prinzing has commented upon this verse: “TILL HE PLEASE — and what is His pleasure now? To bring forth a company out of the wilderness! Ah, how well we know about the wilderness, with its dry, barren areas; or with its tangled underbrush which hems us in from all sides; or with its wild and unknown expanses filled with wild beasts and terrifying noises. The purpose for this is found in Deuteronomy 8:2,5-6. ‘And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee…in the wilderness, to humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no. Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee. Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways, and to fear Him.’

“‘And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face…and I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: and I will purge out from among you the rebels (or, the rebellious)…’ (Eze. 20:35,37-38). There is so much in the heart of God’s children that was rebellious, though we were not always aware of it. We have rebelled against the circumstances which He ordered for our path, and we rebelled against His will which crossed our will — until He led us through the wilderness, and there we were taught to yield all to Him, and find in Him our hope, our rest, our glorious peace. We even read that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, and dwelt there for forty days and nights, tested and tried; but we also read that ‘Jesus returned IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT…’ (Lk. 4:14). Truly He came up out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchants!

“And now we read of a company that comes up out of the wilderness leaning upon their beloved. These are one in Him, share His nature, and come forth in HIS FULLNESS. This company, too, comes up out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed…a sweet smelling savor…a life that has been touched with the bitter experiences, the crushings, and now HIS DIVINE FRAGRANCE shall permeate the whole. With myrrh, a very bitter gum resin used for perfume, and also for part of the ‘anointing oil,’ and in the embalming process. Our bitter experiences in the wilderness will bring out the sweet fragrance of His nature, and remove the stench of our own self-righteousness. And they also become a part of the rich anointing upon us. And not only is the flesh, with its self-life put to death, it is also embalmed with the fragrance of myrrh and no one has to endure the offence. And frankincense — which, among its other uses, was also for sacrificial fumigation. Placed on every sacrifice it counteracted the smell of burning flesh. Though it has been painful, and we weren’t always easy to live with, nor at the moment a sweet smelling savor in our processing, when the work is finished, there will be no lingering odors of the flesh, it will be the sweetness of His life alone that pervades the atmosphere, praise God. THIS IS THE COMPANY WHICH HE IS PLEASED TO BRING UP OUT OF THE WILDERNESS.

“In His pleasure He came to us leaping upon the mountains, judgment was there, correction unto righteousness. And in His pleasure He will lead His many-membered-son-company up out of the wilderness to radiate His life. Then in His pleasure the sons return to the wilderness to bring out the woman — the bride, leaning on her beloved. This is all beautifully borne out also in Revelation 12, where the woman, after giving birth to the manchild, flees into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God. There the manchild company feeds her, and when the days of her purification are ended, she also comes forth leaning upon her beloved. How marvelous are His ways, and the purpose in which He delights, as He pleases!” — end quote.

To be continued…

FROM THE CANDLESTICK TO THE THRONE 145

FROM THE CANDLESTICK TO THE THRONE
(A study in Book of Revelation Part 145) by J. Preston Eby.

THE WOMAN IN THE WILDERNESS
“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God…and to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place…” (Rev. 12:6,14).

This passage calls to our mind that it was “when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth” that he turned to “persecute the woman which brought forth the manchild.” These words refer to the battle that was fought in heaven, the battle between the dragon and the overcoming sons of God, a spiritual battle in which Satan is cast down out of the heavens of the spirit where the manchild dwells, cast into the “earth” — the soul realm of each of us individually, and the soulical religious realm of the corporate woman, the church. In its individual application, the Spirit is catching us up in part — in our spirit — and that part of us is made to overcome, casting out the serpent. The serpent then goes after the earthy part of us, our soul, which is the woman within us, with its mind, will, emotions, and desires, and the soul enters into a “wilderness experience.” Individually the “manchild” is the spirit within us which is seated with Christ in the heavenly places, whereas the “woman” is the soul. Corporately, the “manchild” is the body of the sons of God which make up the “man,” the bridegroom company. The “woman” is the virgin-church, the bride of Christ.

While the woman had been seen in heaven from a spiritual standpoint, she is now seen on earth, that is, in her position as the church in the world. Here our text begins, and it speaks of the tremendous conflict between the woman-church in her earthly sojourn, and the great red dragon-spirit.

The dragon now comes down to earth. He has failed in every respect thus far! He failed to prevent the birth of the manchild, and he failed to devour it when it was born. He also failed in the war which he fought with the sons of God, and failed to retain any place in the heavens of the spirit-realm where they are seated upon the throne. And because of this absolute failure, and because he also realizes that he cannot continue to fight indefinitely and that his time henceforth is short, he is filled with raging fury, spitefulness, and desperation. And thus he comes down to the earth for the purpose of persecuting the woman who brought forth the manchild!

The woman continues to function as the church on earth, though greatly diminished and weakened by the birth and removal of the manchild. This is clearly revealed by the vision John saw; for when the manchild is brought forth, separated from her, and caught up unto God and to His throne, the beloved seer still beholds her on earth, fleeing into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God for her, and where someone comes to her assistance and nourishes her for a thousand two hundred and sixty days. The cause of her flight was not at first disclosed. It is mentioned in verse six, but then the narrative is interrupted to relate the “war in heaven,” and the casting down of the dragon-spirit. That being told, the account returns, in verse thirteen, to the woman, to reveal what happens to her following the birth and enthronement of the manchild. She is seen in her earthly walk, and the dragon comes down to that earthly place, defeated in the heavens of the spirit, to take his vengeance out on her!

THE DRAGON PURSUES THE WOMAN
“And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he pursued the woman which brought forth the manchild” (Rev. 12:13).

The dragon appears to pause a moment, as though stunned by his fall. Then assessing his predicament, determining his former position to be incapable of recovery, he rises and takes off after the woman. The King James Bible says that he “persecuted the woman,” but the word should be “pursued.” The Greek word has more than one shade of meaning, sometimes meaning to persecute and other times denoting to follow or pursue, which also is a form of persecution, just as the Pharaoh and his armies pursued the children of Israel as they fled from Egypt into the wilderness. The Greek word here translated “persecuted” is rendered as “follow,” “press toward,” and “ensue,” in the sense of “pursue” in the following verses, among a number of others: “Go not after them, nor follow them” (Lk. 17:23). “The Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness” (Rom. 9:30). “Israel, which followed after the law” (Rom. 9:31). “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace” (Rom. 14:19). “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts” (I Cor. 14:1). “I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I also am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12). “I press toward the mark for the prize” (Phil3:14). “Let him seek peace, and ensue it” (I Pet. 3:11). The woman in this case fled and the dragon pursued her. But his pursuing of her was in the “earth” before she went to her place in the wilderness, for in her prepared place in the wilderness he could not touch her!

I am persuaded that the woman is still of great value in the purposes of God, even after she brings forth the manchild, else why would the dragon pursue her so fiercely even after her child is born? The devil is not a deranged fool. He is certainly a fool, but he is not a mad fool that has no rhyme nor reason to his actions. Being a religious spirit, he does not do things that have nothing to do with the plan and purposes of God. You may depend on it, if the woman after she has brought forth the manchild was of no account any more, the devil would not trouble himself about her! He knows full well that this little woman is destined to become the glorious bride of Christ. Of her it shall ultimately be said, “Let us be glad and rejoice… for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7).

Just as Eve was the wife of the first man Adam, so is the virgin-church the wife of the last Adam. When in the distant mists of Eden the Creator presented Eve to Adam, He gave both Adam and his wife joint dominion over all things. “God created man in His own image…male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26-28). My reader will observe the use of the word “them” in this passage. God is blessing “them,” and giving “them” JOINTLY THE PLACE OF UNIVERSAL GOVERNMENT. All the inferior orders of creation were set under their JOINT DOMINION. Eve received all her blessings in Adam: in him, too, she got her dignity and position and power. Universal dominion was not given to Adam alone; it was not said, “Let him have dominion,” but “Let them have dominion.” There was no other creature so near to Adam as Eve, because no other creature was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. What affection Eve had for Adam! What nearness she enjoyed! What intimacy of communion! What full participation in his thoughts! What shared responsibility over all things! In all his dignity, in all his glory, wisdom, and power, she was entirely ONE. He did not rule over her, but with her. He was Lord of the whole creation, and she was ONE WITH HIM! They were the king and queen of the universe!

Prefigured by Adam and Eve in Eden, this is the perfect man, man in the image of God, male and female, Christ and His bride, given joint dominion over all things. The bride of Christ is the New Jerusalem, having the glory of God. The throne of God and the Lamb is in it and the glory of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. All that dwell upon the earth shall walk in its light and enter through its gates. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and honor into it. Then shall the whole earth be filled with the glory and the knowledge of the Lord! Christ and His bride, Jesus with all the holy sons of God in union with the glorious bride-city, shall enlighten all the world with truth, give all men to drink of the water of the river of life, and deliver the whole creation from the bondage of corruption. It is indeed wonderful!

This glorious destiny which the woman has explains the dragon’s interest in her. He has but one purpose and he lives but from one principle. It is the purpose and principle of opposition against all that pertains to God. This principle he never denies. The dragon was created with this nature to be the adversary, and God is God because there is an opposite, an adversary, an opponent, and God will be God to you, dear one, when you have encountered the adversary in all his works and overcome him there! And here we have God’s perfect wisdom in the formation of the human race and in bringing forth a convenient opposite, the wrong one, the evil one, THROUGH WHOM HE WOULD BRING BOTH HIS VAST FAMILY OF SONS AND HIS GLORIOUS BRIDE TO MATURITY AND PERFECTION. “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). “For it became Him…in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10). “And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou hast turned back again, strengthen thy brethren” (Lk. 22:31-32).

If you are of no account to the coming of God’s kingdom and are in no way related to the glory of God, the adversary does not trouble his head about you! It is only when he perceives that you are a called and chosen one of God that he begins his action against you. That is his nature! That is his purpose! Thus it is with both the sons of God and the woman! The very fact that the dragon in fury indeed turns against the woman, to pursue and persecute her, reveals the great fact that she is still of great importance to the kingdom of God and the fulfillment of His purposes.

Why is the woman represented as being on earth and fleeing into the wilderness? It seems so very strange! Wasn’t she the glorious sun-clad woman who birthed the mighty manchild? Ah, yes, but in spite of her child she is not the manchild! Just as Mary was not Jesus, so the woman is not the son. Just as Jesus was resurrected and caught up to heaven, while Mary remained a woman in mortal flesh, so the manchild is caught up unto God and to His throne, whereas the woman that bore him finds herself in a great and terrible wilderness condition. Since the dragon-spirit cannot get at the sons of God who have overcome him and cast him out, he now turns on the woman which brought forth the manchild. Let the fact be imprinted indelibly upon our minds — once the great dragon is cast out of our heavens he is not able to persecute the manchild. When the accuser is cast down, whether out of our heavens or out of our earth, he can no more do anything TO us in that realm. Not that he does nothing AGAINST us, but his activity has no effect upon us!

TWO WINGS OF AN EAGLE
“And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place…” (Rev. 12:14).

Now we are told that the woman receives the wings of a great eagle and that with them she flies into the wilderness. The idea is clear. The dragon is pursuing her in the earth. But in her weakened condition after having given birth to the manchild, she cannot outrun the dragon. If she turns to do battle with him, she cannot stand in the fray. And therefore there is but one place of escape, and that is the wilderness. There the dragon cannot live, for there is nothing for him to feed on. There is nothing there for the woman to feed on either, but her only hope is to flee thither. There she is nourished in a miraculous way, and there she is hid from the face of the serpent. And at the same time, she has not the strength to run into the wilderness, but the loving care of our Father at all times and in every circumstance is revealed in the fact that the woman was given two strong wings of a great eagle and was able to soar through the air, with two great wings outspread, like an eagle hastening to his wilderness home, lifted up into the strength of God, thus escaping the snare of the fowler. The serpent pursues her up to the very edge of the desert, but cannot follow farther. And therefore in his rage he casts a great stream of water after her, not to drown her, but to carry her away out of the wilderness, so that he may approach her. But the earth opens up her mouth and swallows up the stream, which is in keeping with the idea of the arid desert, where streams often vanish suddenly into the sand. And finally, the dragon, seeing that also now his efforts are vain and that all his attempts to destroy the woman are futile, turns to her other children, the “remnant of her seed,” in order that at any rate he may destroy them. Thus is the symbolism.

“Eagles’ wings” are first presented to us as the way Israel achieved freedom from the pursuing armies of Pharaoh — all the way from slavery in Egypt to security in the land of promise, from death to life, from helplessness to the heart of God. It was not fearless fighting and brilliant military maneuvering that delivered Israel from the hosts of Pharaoh and brought them into the solitude of the wilderness. Actually, it was not by their own efforts at all! It was what God did for them — He carried them on “eagles’ wings.” Three months out of the land of Egypt when Israel had established their camp in the wilderness of Sinai, Moses went up the mountain into the presence of God and the Lord said to him, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto myself” (Ex. 19:4). Borne by wings is the apt symbol of God’s gracious deliverance! But why on eagles’ wings? The eagle is admired and applauded for its exploits. It is the jet plane of the bird family! It soars the highest, goes the fastest, and is superior to all other birds in this respect. These features are noted on the pages of the holy scriptures. Concerning God’s care for Israel He said, “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him” (Deut. 32:11-12). “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles” (Isa. 40:31).

Therefore the wings of the eagle are given as the symbol of our God in the spirit. By the strength of its great wings it is able to soar to the heights and perform unusual feats. Thus the eagle is set before us as being a symbol of God’s gracious intervention in our lives, whereby He gives us eagles’ wings, so that in our hour of weakness and testing sovereignly the strength of the Spirit is raised up in us and we are able to “mount up with wings as an eagle!” God, the indwelling spirit, is the eagle! And it is significant to note that the expression “two wings of a great eagle” is not altogether correct. In the Greek text it is not “a” great eagle, indefinitely, but “the” great eagle — signifying in type the species of eagle which has the most powerful or masterly flight. Surely it is divine power that is referred to in these words! It is the power of the Christ within! Oh, yes, my brother, my sister, matters not the seeming hopelessness of the situation or the circumstance — the wings of the great eagle are right there within you ready to be unfurled as you wait upon the Lord to renew your strength! And it is not a one-time experience, for the phrase “that she might fly” is in the present tense, the form of the Greek construction indicating that “she may continuously fly” or “repeatedly fly.” As my friend Jonathan Mitchell has pointed out, when God births something new in us, this pattern will always be followed, and we will need to fly into the wilderness away from the serpent’s face. The wings are always there — our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble! (Ps. 46:1). Aren’t you glad!

Some have suggested that the two wings of the great eagle are the wings of prayer and praise by which we soar into the presence of God, into the heavens of the spirit. And that may well be — but beyond that I see these wings as a dimension of power released right out of the realm of spirit. It is a power that lifts us within ourselves above all earthly bondage, restriction, and limitation, enabling us to move forward into the purposes of God. It is a divine transportation that carries us from one place in God to another from the face of all that would hinder and thwart us!

THE WILDERNESS
“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God…and to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place” (Rev. 12:6,14).

As God delivered His people from the fury of the Pharaoh in Egypt by bringing them into the wilderness, so also now He brings His virgin-church into the wilderness to escape the rage of the dragon-spirit. But the difference is that in Israel’s case it was a natural, physical wilderness into which they were led, whereas in this case the figure is employed to signify something spiritual. The question follows: what is the meaning of the wilderness into which He enables our individual soul and, corporately, the woman-church to fly in order that she might escape the vengeance of the devil?

It has been said that the wilderness is here used to depict the want and deprivation which the people of God must suffer in the world. They are the despised of the world, they must suffer all kinds of persecutions and indignities in the world. And therefore the world is a real wilderness to them. And, of course, this is true in itself. But it is not the meaning of our text. For, in the first place, the woman is driven into the wilderness after the birth of the manchild and his exaltation to the throne. And it cannot be said that being subjected to trials and testings and troubles of all kinds is peculiar to the woman who brings forth the manchild. A long list of witnesses in chapter eleven of the book of Hebrews could tell you of them! The early church likewise, and blessed saints throughout the ages, have suffered want, deprivation, persecution, and afflictions. In the second place, it is difficult to see how such troubles could possibly be a means of hiding from the face of the devil, so that he could not attack. Yet “escaping from the devil” is evidently the purpose of it all! The woman received these wings to fly into the wilderness in order to be hid from the face of the serpent, and so be safe. And, in the third place, the wilderness is a place prepared for her by God, where she does not suffer want or deprivation, for she is supernaturally nourished, cared for, and protected for the length of her stay there. Therefore, this cannot be the meaning of the term “wilderness” in our present passage!

John’s “wilderness” comes from a different strain of biblical imagery, the typological use of Israel’s flight from Egypt into the wilderness; it was a place of safety and liberation; and it is to such a sanctuary that the woman is taken to be protected and sustained by God. I would draw your reverent attention to the fact that the woman flees into “the wilderness,” the well-known one, spoken of from the book of Exodus all the way through the book of Revelation. Herein she is distinguished from the great whore. The Great Harlot of chapter seventeen is seen by John in “a wilderness,” or “a wilderness in spirit,” as we should most probably connect the words. Our woman’s flight is into the wilderness, signifying the spiritual condition into which many of the Lord’s people have fled to escape the fury of the adversary.! This was the place of safety for Moses, after Pharaoh was angry and designed to slay him. Hither fled Israel from the face of the Egyptian king. To this refuge did Elijah betake himself from the threats of Jezebel. And Jesus Himself retreated thither after John the Baptist was slain, and near to it He dwelt after His life was sought by the priests and rulers at Jerusalem.

Well did Ray Prinzing write, “Do remember, these things are given in a figurative sense, it does not mean that every Christian is transported to some desert place, nor hidden in a retreat, but this is a new and different dealing of God, deeper than the church has known before. ‘The Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart’ (Deut. 8:2). When this testing and purification are complete, He will ‘present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing’ (Eph. 5:27). How we have longed for, prayed for this to be a reality, and, thank God, He knows just the time and process to bring it to pass.”

In the literal and natural sense of the word the wilderness, or desert, is a place in the world, but not of the world. It may be right in the midst of the world, yet it is absolutely separated from the life of the world. I have been in stark deserts in Israel and Egypt, and elsewhere, where not a blade of grass grows, and no man lives. There are no houses, no cities, no oasis, no movement of any kind except for the howling winds and blowing sands. It is a place in the midst of the world, yet separated from the world. If one is in the wilderness, he is separated from the life of the world. This bespeaks a people as described by our Lord who are “in the world, but not of the world.” A people separate in every respect from the life, nature, and ways of the world. They have nothing in common with the world’s spirit and institutions or with the religious activities and systems of man. These exist, indeed, in the world. They are neighbors, co-workers, relatives, and friends of those who daily function in the world-system, but they exist and function as a separate community from the world. They live right in the midst of the world, work on the same jobs, shop in the same stores, drive on the same streets, attend the same schools, yet they are spiritually separated from that life, and live their lives from the principles of the kingdom of God and the spirit of Christ.

This virgin-church is a separate institution in the world. She has her own King. She does not recognize any other lordship. No institution of man has any power over her. She has her own laws, and they are the laws of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. She does not mingle with the politics of the world. She has no armies. She does not fight with the sword. She does not live by the world’s standards and values. She does not think like the world thinks, or act as the world acts. She lives in separation, in another world, in the very midst of the world! Even as the children of Israel in the desert lived in separation from the world-power in Egypt and other nations round about, and even as they received their own laws from their own King in the wilderness, so also the woman-church is in the wilderness with regard to the world and its power and its life. She fights her own battles, which are spiritual battles, and does her own work, which is spiritual work. She lives her own lifestyle, which is a heavenly lifestyle, and walks her own walk in the kingdom of heaven. She is separate from the life of the world. She has received a God-prepared place in the wilderness! Oh, the wonder of it!

Although the wilderness is specifically the place of separation and safety from the world and its ways, as well as from the Babylon church system of man, and her ways, this is not to say that there is no specific and special dealing of God in the wilderness. Every order God leads His people into is uniquely designed to contribute to their growth, development, and perfection in Christ! Again I will quote from the words of brother Ray Prinzing, for he expressed it so well when he wrote, “Oftentimes our processings are as a LED THROUGH THE WILDERNESS type of walking, yet with the assurance that He is doing the LEADING, and that because of His day by day guidance we need not stumble. The outward aspect of the wilderness is like unto a desert with its howling winds and barren existence…no smooth pathway, but a going on in faith step by step, receiving that daily supply of manna divinely provided, and drinking of that Rock which follows us even unto the ends of the earth. Then with joy we sing, ‘My Lord knows the way through the wilderness, and all I have to do is follow. — Strength for today is mine all the way, and all that I need for tomorrow . . .’ He leads, why need we fear? Furthermore, it is written, ‘perfect love casteth out all fear,’ and we know that HE IS PERFECT LOVE, therefore the more He dwells within us by His Spirit, the more we are KEPT IN PEACE.

“Darkness may obscure our vision, but we do not stumble, and though many things seem as obstacles in our way, placed there for our OVERCOMING, still we shall not falter. Why? Because He leads, and ‘He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: He that keepeth thee will not slumber’ (Ps. 121:3). We ask for bread, He does not give us a stone. We ask for fish, He does not give us a serpent. No one needs to fear about stumbling in this wilderness when they have put their trust in Him to guide, He leads THROUGH the wilderness! It is essential that we go through these processings, for they work in us much of His purpose, and we would not seek to escape His dealings, but we can go through without worry, fear, or inner turmoil. ‘Unto Him that is able to keep you from falling (Greek, from stumbling), and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy’ (Jude 24)” — end quote.

Over past months and years a number of anointed voices have come in printed form across my desk which also bear eloquent testimony to this significant truth, and I will quote the words of a few of them for the edification of those who read these lines. A precious brother, Charles Haun, wrote: “‘And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai: and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran…and the people pitched in the wilderness of Paran’ (Ex. 10:12; 12:16). It is beautiful. It is a wonderful place, this spiritual wilderness called Paran! The wilderness of Paran is ‘glory’ or ‘beauty,’ according to the meaning of the Hebrew word. To see the wilderness in such gratifying terms, one must first become aware of God’s intentions in bringing a person into the wilderness. Once a believer comes to this awareness, he can then begin to understand why and how glory and beauty are in the Wilderness of Paran.

“The wilderness is God’s workshop. He has designed it for us. He brings us to it, ‘even every one who is called by my name, whom I have created for my glory’ (Isa. 43:7). We are brought there to see His glory, to relate to it, to learn from it, and most importantly, to be conformed to His image. We would prefer that God does all His work on us in green grass and beside still waters. Although these and other lovely and pleasant places are part of our spiritual experience, certain types of work are not accomplished in us, except in the wilderness. The wilderness is a part of our development. It is necessary for our growth. It is God’s method of opening our vision to Himself and to His provisions for us. It is that which the Lord uses to bring spiritual enrichment into our lives. It is a method that God uses to develop our faith and trust in Him. The wilderness is an essential part of the Christian life, whether we like it or not!

“When I entered Bible School as a first-year student, the Lord was like a bright light to me. His presence was so near and intense that I could neither eat nor sleep on a regular schedule. I loved the light. But after several weeks of this, it all lifted, and I found myself in total darkness, and dryness. I was in the wilderness. I was impressed. I was terrified. I learned darkness and dryness. More importantly, I learned many things which can be learned only in such circumstances. I learned that God is faithful to me, even in dryness. I learned that He could be my light, even in darkness. But the greatest event spanning those two years in the wilderness was the treasure I gleaned for myself. I came out with a complete trust in God. So complete that it defies description. So complete that I would expect no one to believe its extent. This treasure of perfect trust was worth the two years of darkness and dryness.

“The wilderness was the place of opportunity. Here, from the Wilderness of Paran, the children of Israel could have moved into greater opportunities. The possibility of taking the Promised Land was theirs! God Himself actually initiated the conquest of Canaan at this time from this place, as seen in Numbers 13:3. ‘And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were the heads of the children of Israel.’ (These men were the spies sent to spy out the land in preparation for its conquest). The wilderness may not be seen by some people as being a launching pad into an orbit of spiritual reality and living. But the wilderness is that, and more! It is a place of opportunity. The children of Israel were brought into the Wilderness of Paran for the specific and express purpose of going farther, to possess the Promised Land! There are two areas of blessing as related to the wilderness. One area is the blessings that are within the wilderness. The other area is the opportunity for blessings based upon the wilderness itself. The Promised Land was the opportunity for blessings based upon how the children of Israel responded to God in the wilderness.

“God’s direction can be seen and somewhat understood as the Israelites first approach the Wilderness of Paran (Num. 10:12). ‘And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.’ This was not their choice, rather it was God’s choice; it was God’s direction for them. The Israelites simply followed the cloud, stopping where it stopped, moving when the cloud moved. Here, the cloud stopped in the Wilderness of Paran. The first lesson to be learned is to follow the cloud. The believer must learn to follow what he knows to be the direction of God. Don‘t be afraid of the wilderness! Times in the wilderness will become the only occasions when God imparts certain divine meanings and rich revelations to us. The wilderness will be the place of our greatest progressions in God. There are certain things which God can bring to us only in the wilderness, as we properly relate to His glory in the wilderness.

“The second lesson to be learned is that we are not to complain and question God as we follow. ‘Why did the cloud stop here? Doesn’t God know that there is no water here?’ ‘Why does God lead us into the wilderness? To kill us because there are no graves in Egypt?’ The children of Israel followed the cloud to green grass. The name of the place was Hazeroth. The stem of this Hebrew word means ‘green,’ ‘grass,’ ‘leeks,’ ‘enclosure.’ This Hazeroth must have been a luscious place! The
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia refers to it as ‘the best pastures.’ This would have been most pleasing to those camping there! When we go camping, we don’t like to camp in the desert, or in a wilderness. We like to camp in an oasis; we like to camp where there is much green grass and a stream with fish. How long are we allowed to camp in the green grass beside the still waters? Not very long. We must follow the cloud. It soon moves from Hazeroth, as recorded in Numbers 12:16. ‘And afterward, the people removed from Hazeroth and pitched in the wilderness of Paran.’ The green grass of Hazeroth is desired by all, but it does not fully and totally meet man’s spiritual needs. The leadership directly under Moses failed in the green grass, for it was there that ‘the anger of the Lord was kindled against them (Aaron and Miriam); and He departed…’ (Num. 12:9).

“What is seen, or not seen, in the wilderness depends upon our point of view. Our point of view is the direction in which we habitually look. ‘And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud’ (Ex. 16:10). The gaze of the Israelites had just been on the meat which they did not have, but desired to have. Only when they looked toward the wilderness did they see the glory of God! The glory of God was not in the meat which they desired. The reason why many believers, upon many different occasions, miss seeing the glory of God is that they are looking toward that which they desire. They are looking toward Canaan Land, when they should be looking toward the wilderness. If the glory of God is appearing in the wilderness, and we want to look longingly and constantly at the Promised Land, we may see the Promised Land, but we will not see the glory of God. When the glory of God has come to the wilderness, it is time to give the wilderness our attention.

“Although many are brought to the wilderness to see the glory of God, not all see it. The direction of our vision at any particular time in our life will determine what we will see. It will also determine what we are not seeing of that which God wants to show us. We will miss seeing His goodness if we constantly gaze at unfulfilled desires and long for the comforts of the flesh. Let us lay aside our fleshly desires and follow our Maker without complaining and without questioning. As we accomplish these things we will see more clearly the intentions and purposes that God has for us” — end quote.

Another brother, Bruce Caisse, has shared the following. “‘Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar…Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness’ (Lk. 3:1-2). Annas and Caiaphas should have received, in the temple, the word of the Lord. However, the Lord bypassed them and spoke, in the wilderness, to John. The Lord, unable to find a channel that could hear His voice, used the wilderness to prepare a voice through whom He could announce the first appearing of the Messiah. Why did the Lord choose the wilderness? We often think of the wilderness as a place where people go through a time of difficulty. It is usually thought of as being a place where the ‘presence’ of the Lord cannot be felt, or where the ‘rain’ of the Holy Spirit does not fall. It is considered to be a place of dryness and barrenness, both naturally and spiritually.

“Yet, from time to time the Lord brings us into a wilderness experience. The wilderness should not be thought of as a barren place. It becomes a wonderful place when we begin to understand all that the Lord can accomplish within us during this time. What is the wilderness? It can be defined in one word: Separation. Here, the Lord is able to deal with us concerning all of the ambitions and drives that are within us. In the barrenness of the wilderness, He is able to take initiative in our lives and separate us unto Himself. When we view the wilderness as a place of separation unto the Lord, we will see that it has great value and purpose. Consider the children of Israel as they were led out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and into the wilderness. There were different levels of separation in this journey. The most obvious one is the Red Sea. God opened the way through the Sea. As they reached the other side, the waters closed up upon the Egyptians. There were no more bricks to be made! Now, they were to abide under the cloud of glory by day and the pillar of fire by night!

“However, they began to murmur. This was to have been a time of preparation, being made ready to possess the land that was before them. The pulls of Egypt had been left behind and they were closed in with the Lord Himself. This is the purpose of the wilderness. Israel failed, however, to understand this. ‘Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt’ (Hosea 2:14-15). The Lord is portraying Himself as a husband whose wife has been unfaithful. She has been distracted by the pull of things that steal her affections from Jehovah. Yet, the Lord seeks to restore her and separate her unto Himself. ‘And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the Lord’ (Hosea 2:13). This is expressive of the experience many of us go through, even after we know the Lord. We are pulled in other directions. The Lord’s cure for this is expressed in verse fourteen, ‘Therefore, behold, I will allure her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.’ The word ‘comfortably’ means ‘heart.’ The Lord is saying, ‘I will speak my heart to her.’ He removed the distractions by taking her away from Egypt, which speaks of the pulls of the world. The purpose of the Lord in the wilderness is to separate us from ‘things’ and cause us to know Him and His voice personally and intimately. The preparation of John the Baptist in the wilderness is a type of what the Lord is seeking to do within us during this present time of transition.

“The Song of Solomon speaks prophetically of the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of His beloved bride, the church. The question is asked, ‘Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?’ (S. of S. 8:5). This ‘leaning’ speaks of a dependence and trust that had been developed during a wilderness experience. Again, we see the purpose of the wilderness. It provides an atmosphere in which we have no choice except to get close to Him. Here, He is able to begin sharing His heart with us! If we are leaning upon Him, we can get no closer. John the beloved leaned and laid his head on the breast of Jesus. Here, he heard His heartbeat. Jesus could whisper to John because of this intimacy that had developed.

“Why is it that the word of the Lord came to John, and not to Annas and Caiaphas? It was because John the Baptist gave himself to a period of separation. He heard the voice of the Lord alluring him into the wilderness and responded to this time of separation. He left all that he might be alone with God. John began to hear the heartbeat of God as the Lord began to speak His heart to him. ‘I will allure her and speak my heart unto her.’ We do not know how long this took, or all that was required of John. But, he was willing to give himself to the Lord. Why did not the priesthood hear from the Lord? A verse in Jeremiah gives us some understanding of this. ‘For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.’

“The spiritual leaders of that day were drinking from broken cisterns. Somewhere, they forsook the Lord and broke communion with Him. The rain had fallen at one time upon the house of Israel and they were still drinking from that cistern which only spoke of a former day. They were not ready to hear a present word concerning the appearing of the Lamb of God. We cannot rest in a past visitation, or word from the Lord! There must be that continual listening for a present word from the Lord. There must be a present receiving from the Fountain of Living Waters! Only then will we be qualified to minister the word of the Lord. When the Lord begins to rain His blessing upon us, we hold up our cup until it is filled. If we remain satisfied with this, then five years later we will still be saying, ‘I received this cup of water from the Lord, would you like a drink?’ Five year old water does not taste at all good! However, if we cultivate a link with the Fountain of Living Water, we will have water that will be fresh each day.

“John was allured into the wilderness, where God spoke His heart to him. What was the result of this processing that took place in the wilderness? ‘And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias’ (Jn. 1:19-23). John could have said that he came in ‘the spirit of Elijah.’ Jesus said of him that he was Elijah that should come. However, in hearing the heart cry of the Lord, John found that his identity had been consumed. He lost himself in the burden of the Lord. Psalm 69 tells us, ‘For the zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.’ While John was alone in the wilderness, the spark that quickened his heart concerning the burden of God’s heart grew and grew until it consumed him and he became simply the ‘voice of one.’ John said, ‘I heard Him alluring me into the wilderness and I went. The Lord birthed within my heart the cry of His heart and it consumed everything that was within me. I have become the expression of the voice that you have not heard for hundreds of years. He was still crying and I went out and listened.’

“The Lord desires to bring each one of us to the place where we will be able to hear this cry. We can be content with, or so busy with the program within the temple, that we do not hear His alluring call into the wilderness. Annas and Caiaphas knew the written word of God, but did not hear the voice of the Lord. John the Baptist probably did not know the written word of God as well as they, but he allowed the Lord to separate him unto Himself so he would be able to hear the very heartbeat of God. The Lord is calling out a people who are willing to be separated unto Him! The wilderness is not a physical place; rather it is an attitude of heart. ‘He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken’ (Isa. 53:8). There is a challenge here. Are you willing to be one who is ‘cut off’’ from the land of the living — separated unto Him in the wilderness that you might become one to declare His generation? The Lord is looking for a company of ‘John the Baptists.’ He is not looking for ability, rather He is looking for availability. Each one of us can be a part of this corporate body that is being prepared to express the Word of the Lord in our day!” — end quote.

Another has penned these challenging words. “The story of the Hebrews’ journey out of Egyptian bondage is a wonderful illustration of spiritual development. The Bible tells us that Moses spent forty years exiled in the desert, tending sheep, before leading the children of Israel out of slavery. That might not appear to be the best training for a great leader! Yet during those years, he was growing spiritually. As his understanding of God developed, he overcame personal doubts about his ability to follow divine direction. Eventually, he led the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. Yet they, too, spent forty years in the wilderness before making it to the Promised Land! It wouldn’t have required that long to travel the few hundred miles between Egypt and Palestine. But in reading the Bible one gets the impression that the real journey involved spiritual progress, not physical distance. What a mental distance between thinking and living as slaves, and thinking and living as the Spirit-led people of God! In the wilderness the children of Israel were learning the difference. It wasn’t at once that they understood God’s Voice — or saw what it meant to obey Him. Ignorance, immaturity, and fear held the people back. They made mistakes, took ‘detours,’ and had to retrace some steps. Still, they recovered and kept going.

“Although their route wasn’t as direct as it might have been, spiritual progress was going on. Their experiences were teaching them what it means to have only one God, to trust Him, and to have their lives corrected and governed by Him. They were learning lessons they needed to learn! Did it take forty years? It seems that spiritual maturing, not time, was the issue. And that’s of particular interest to us when — individually or collectively — we’re going through a ‘wilderness’ time. In the midst of the pressures, strippings, and purgings, have we ever wondered, ‘How long is this going to take? Is there a faster way?’ When we go back through the accounts of the Bible, we see that spiritual progress doesn’t allow for skipping steps we need to take or avoiding the spiritual lessons we need to learn. There is a right path and a way for us to stay safe in it, going in the right direction” — end quote.

 Steve Wilbur adds these insights. “THE WILDERNESS — Did you shudder when this title caught your eye? Was the surface of your consciousness ruffled by this disturbing question: ‘Will God take me into the wilderness?’ The wilderness! A word calculated to inspire fearsome awe without further qualifiers. Yet Moses qualifies it with the terms ‘great’ and ‘terrible’ (Deut. 1:19). The word occurs over three hundred times in scripture. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, let us explore something of the meaning of the wilderness.

“First, it is unfriendly. It is selective, working to favor some things, yet militating against others. God’s man finds that in the desert some things die while other personal qualities are accentuated. The wilderness is unfriendly to the carnal, the personal, the worldly, but constructive to the development of those eternal qualities the Lord is seeking. The desert is the place of specially adapted life. The Lord desires to cultivate what man disdains or neglects to cultivate — the spiritual life. This calls for a hearing ear. It means you delve so deeply into the wilderness that you hear no other voice speaking, but the voice of the Lord. This was so with Moses, who finally turned aside at the burning bush.

“We next notice that the wilderness is dry. There is no evident blessing or revival. In Numbers chapter twenty, the children of Israel demonstrated against Moses and Aaron. Verses three through five tell us they reproached Moses and accused him of bringing the Lord’s congregation into the wilderness to die of thirst. They describe their environment as evil, saying, ‘It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates, neither is there any water to drink.’

“We learn also that the wilderness is uninhabited. God deals with His people both corporately and individually in the wilderness experience. The Bible abounds with examples of a single person being brought face to face with God. Consider His dealings with Enoch (Gen. 5:22). ‘Enoch walked with God’ (alone). Abraham’s separated walk involved numerous encounters with his God. Consider Joseph’s specifically tailored trials; Elijah’s crying out in the wilderness, ‘I, even I only, am left’ (I Kings 19:10). Jeremiah’s agonizing, ‘I sat alone because of Thy hand’ (Jer. 15:17). ‘And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day’ (Gen. 32:24). And finally, Matthew 14:23 declares of Jesus, ‘He was alone there.’ The wilderness is a place where very special things happen! The people of God tumbled helter-skelter out of Egypt, but the wilderness brought them into divine order. They became an organized army that marched in ranks into Canaan. Psalm 103:7 tells us that God made His ways known to Moses. His ways are ordered ways.

“The wilderness is also the place where the power of simple instruments is revealed. In Exodus 4:2 the Lord asks Moses, ‘What is that in thine hand?’ And Moses replies, ‘A rod.’ The unique power of Moses would forever after be associated with a common shepherd’s staff. When Samson was assaulted by the Philistines, the Word says, ‘they shouted against him.’ But Samson found a jawbone of an ass, and with it, he slew a thousand men. This instrument, found often enough in the wilderness, was at the same time both common and powerful. What a contrast between God’s ways and man’s ways! Man’s method of salvation is by costly and complicated machinery — salvation by mechanics. God’s means of salvation is by vital energy — salvation by dynamics. Here the simplest of instruments suffice.

“Finally, the wilderness is the place of drastic reduction. To reduce is to convert to simpler form. For example, Acts 7:22 describes Moses before he was forty years of age, as being, ‘learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and mighty in words and in deeds.’ Forty years later, we find him at eighty years of age confessing, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent…but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue’ (Ex. 4:10). It is to this man Moses, so reduced that he asked sincerely, ‘Who am I?’ (Ex. 3:11), that the mighty ‘I AM’ reveals Himself. Moses’ excess baggage — cultural, intellectual, social — had been dropped during his forty-year journey through the wilderness! How far will God reduce us? We could conjecture that when Moses approached the burning bush that day, he had his garment, his rod, and his shoes. Not much. Yet one third of even that had to be set aside before he could draw near to God! ‘Put off thy shoes.’ The prophet Amos graphically depicts God’s people reduced to bare necessities. Nothing is left but two legs and a piece of an ear — just enough to HEAR A WORD AND WALK IN IT! (Amos 3:12).

“If our guided tour through the wilderness has had its proper effect, a transformation of consciousness should have taken place. Although at first we had instinctively recoiled from it, as though it were ominously threatening to our sense of self-preservation, we will now really embrace the wilderness as a great friend and servant. We will have the inner sense that only when the Lord Jesus gets what He wants from our lives will life finally stabilize. Thus we know that those who emerge from God’s wilderness are indeed the thoroughly processed members of which the unblemished Body is composed. Their coming into view provoked the astonished exclamation, ‘Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved’ (S. of S. 8:5) — end quote.

In closing I would share these confirmatory words from the pen of David Minor. “Many men have been sent to the desert. This is a place that every one of us would like to avoid if we could. We find it unpleasant when God cuts across our path and says, ‘I want you to go to the desert.’ Every life that God uses has this desert experience! The desert experience is an absolute necessity in the lives of God’s people. He does not choose to perfect His vessels in the city, but rather in the desert place. You can tell when a person is in the desert because you hear him say, ‘I feel so dry. I don’t feel any life. I don’t understand what is happening to me.’

“We are so interested in ministry and in multitudes! We want to be going. God is saying to you, ‘Son (or Daughter), I want you to come aside. I want to draw you away from the crowd. I want to separate you. I want to get you out here alone under the stars in a solitary place where I can talk to you. I want to give you a message. I want to burn a word into your soul. I want to get down into your innermost being. I want to do a work in your heart..’ The solitary place is a place we don’t want to be! We cry, ‘But I don’t like the solitary place. I like people around me. I like people to know what I’m going through. I like people to sympathize with me. I like people to understand me. I like companionship.’ But God says, ‘I’m bringing you to the desert place because I want to meet you there.’

“I want to talk about this desert. Thank God there are streams of water. Thank God there are mountains. But in the life of every man and woman of God there is an appointment with destiny. Everyone who comes forth with a burning message, every prophet that comes before the face of a nation, is a person that God has led to a solitary place; it’s a desert place — a lonely place — a place of midnight darkness — a place where there is no moisture, and where God speaks and deals and shapes and fashions and forms. Then God sends that man or woman from that desert with life-giving water. If you’re coming to God’s people with signs, wonders, and miracles, and you’re going to carry a rod that brings deliverance, you must meet a burning bush in God’s desert place. Don’t think that someone is going to call you out of a congregation, lay hands on you, and impart a ministry to you that is going to bring men and women out of the prison-houses. Don’t think that you’re going to attend Bible School and somebody will hand you a diploma that will qualify you to deliver creation. If you’re going to bring people out of the bondage of Egypt, you’re going to meet God at the backside of the desert! God will take away the pleasures. He will take away the comforts. He will take away the things that you’ve trusted in and He will drive you from men to a solitary place where it’s you and God. There you will meet Him on the backside of the desert of human experience. Every prophet has his desert.

“Then you can say, ‘God, I understand now why everything is as it is. I understand now why You’ve let these things happen and You didn’t send any rain into the desert place of loneliness, heartache, despair, rejection, privation and misunderstanding. It was You that brought me there! I didn’t understand at first.’ I questioned, ‘Why? What does God have against me? What have I done? Where have I failed God? Why hasn’t God opened the door? Why am I in this situation?’ You’re there because God is preparing a man or woman to take the message of His everlasting love and unfailing grace to humanity. He’s going to sustain you. You’re going to embrace this desert experience. You’re going to thank God for it! The sweetest hour you’re ever going to know is where God comes down in that desert place and a burning bush appears in that lonely, solitary place. When you’re homesick and weary, then suddenly the angel of God comes and you cry, ‘Bethel! It’s Bethel, the house of God! I thank God for this lonely, windswept mountain.’ Then God will lead you out of the desert place to touch men and women with the power of mighty supernatural deliverance!” — end quote.

To be continued…