Taken from a message preached in early 2016
Luke 1:17, "And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Of course, this is speaking of John the Baptist. There are a few verses that pertain to John, coming with the baptism of repentance. For example: in the book of Acts 13:24, and 19:4:
Act 13:24, "When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel." Act 19:4 "Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." John's message brought conviction and repentance - a turning from the hardness and the indifference of the times. John's message of repentance literally prepared the people that would receive Christ!
A very short ministry, in fact only 18 months, yet it is estimated that John and his disciples baptized 2 million people. Now I can't prove that figure or disprove it, however, it was those who received John's message of repentance that received Christ!
Now to put this into perspective, Christ's first coming was relatively insignificant when compared to the next coming - the second coming. When you consider the state of the Christian church today, it would be an inadequate or insufficient to say the Israel of God (or the church) has gone back into the world - back into Egypt. It is almost as John describes Jerusalem in the book of Revelation as, Sodom and Egypt.
The general consensus of the worldly church is that once forgiven, you're automatically a candidate to be in the bride - all the carnal Christians, babes in Christ, all the outer court segment of Christianity will be a part of the glorious church. This is not what the Scripture teaches! There has to be a tremendous revival of repentance to prepare God's people for what is coming, and to prepare them to be a part of the bridal company.
In our last session, we were looking at the ratio of those in the outer court to those in the holy place; from the floor plan it measures 25 to 1. The outer court basically includes newborn believers - sins forgiven, or those who have not progressed beyond the elementary doctrines. Christ is not coming for immature or carnal Christians. The bride reflects Christ in word and in deed. When you consider the qualifications of the bride, they are very high; not to mention the types of those who resemble the bride: as in the Song of Songs; or in the Proverbs, or in the Psalms; or even going back to the book of Genesis.
In the book of Genesis, Eliezer was given specific qualities to look for in Isaac's bride. Let's consider a few of the qualities that Christ desires to see in His bride, and then we'll comment on a few of them:
* All of the above could merit a sermon! *
As in the parable of the 10 virgins, five did not get into the marriage supper (Matt. 25). The standard for our generation is much higher than for previous generations. Our generation has had the greater light. Saints from other generations may qualify for the first resurrection that did not have the light that we have. In the Acts, we are told that God winked, or glossed over many shortcomings in other ages (Acts 17). This was because they did not have the light. But now God has commanded all men to repent! Noah was perfect in his generation. Perhaps he would not have been perfect in another generation.
There are virtues that are worked out in the outer court. However, in this generation we need to proceed to the holy place in order to be a part of the bride. The five virgins that when into the supper found grace. Numerically, five means grace. In the tabernacle scenario there were two veils in the tabernacle. The first veil went into the holy place, and there were five pillars holding up the veil. The holy place position features those that have overcome; they are strong in the word. Those who are a part of the Second Coming are overcomers - they have been called, chosen and faithful.
Let's consider a few of these virtues that we have listed:
She has prepared herself
Revelation 19:7, "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready." This is not a come-as-you are party. Any bride will go through great pains to present herself in her best. In fact, in one parable, one of the guests is removed because they did not have on the provided garment (Matt 22)!
She is industrious
Proverbs 31:18: Her candle does not go out by night!She is a giver, reaching out to the poor; clothing her house with spiritual garments: Proverbs 31:20, "She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy." Not like the blessed-me-church, where the message is geared to make me feel good - no self sacrifice, or deprivation of self.
She has the fine linen of righteousness
The outworked righteousness as in Revelation 19:8: "And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints."
She is holy
She has the divine nature threaded into her life. Psalm 45:13, "The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold." Gold symbolically speaks of the divine nature. Wrought gold means threaded gold. The divine nature is threaded into her clothing!
She is morally pure
Ephesians 5:27, "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." No spot - morally clean; no blemish - without blame. However, there is an interesting feature here - without wrinkle. That interprets facial wrinkles. Therefore, there has to be a renewing of youth. Those who have had visions of the bride have noted two things: joyfulness and youthfulness. This matches the church in heaven.
Today's worldly church is filled with moral blotches; sexual sins, because the ministry does not uphold the standard on marriage, nor does not condemn immoral acts. And to add to the thought of spots and blemishes, Leviticus chapter 21, mentions 12 blemishes that keep the priest from coming within the first veil - into the holy place.
Leviticus 21:21-23, "No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God. He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy. Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them." There are two veils in the tabernacle, and we have preached on the 12 blemishes before. In the Old Testament, those blemishes were physical; in the New Testament they are spiritual. We are the New Testament priesthood... And I hope we are getting the picture here - to be a part of the bride is a very special privilege. This is not a come-as-you-are party - those who are with Him are called, chosen and faithful! This is the major part of our commission for these days; to prepare people for what is coming; to prepare the church for the wedding!
The true church will be standing at the end - the church that is obedient to His word. The worldly church is built upon the sand - it shall dissolve in the end! (See Matt 7:24-27). When we are saved, we are simply forgiven. We are lacking many qualities that the Lord desires in his bride. Yes, we are changed instantaneously when the Lord comes, but that relates to our natural body. Carnal Christians are not changed into sanctified Christians. Let us allow our Lord to circumcise our hearts afresh and to bring the elements into our lives that will forever change us! Amen! God is very jealous for His Bride.