For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
The Testimony of God
God requires an appropriate testimony in the earth in order to express himself and carry out his purposes.
The testimony of God is the faithful expression of his person, character and will here in the earth. It must be that which He can identify with perfectly, without any possibility of distortion or deformation. In the Old Testament this testimony was associated with three principal elements: the tables of the law, the ark of the convent and the Tabernacle. All these, in accordance with the symbolic nature of the old convent, were elements of eminent physical character and foreshadowed the spiritual realities and the eternal aspect of the new convent.
The Elements of the Testimony
The tables of the law constituted the first element of this testimony. In them God wrote his commandments for Israel, commandments that expressed his nature and divine will faithfully. Thereby, if one Israelite desired to know God, he could come to the tables of the law in order to find the testimony of God about himself.
The second element was the ark of the convent. The complete design of it was delivered to Moses from God: a wooden box of acacia wood, covered with gold inside and out, whose cover also was of wood plated with gold, on which was found two cherubims of pure gold, that looked face to face, whose wings touched at the upper tip. This golden cover was called the Mercy Seat, on it the expiation was effected and from it God spoke with Moses. Also, in the interior of the ark were the tables of the testimony. Like wise, the ark was also called "The Ark of the Testimony", since on it rested the presence of the God of Israel, "that lives between the cherubims". Therefore, God was identified with the tables of the law and with the ark of the convent that contained them.
Finally, God ordered the erection of a tabernacle in which he ark of the testimony was placed. Now then, each one of the details of the tabernacle, their measurements, materials, finery and utensils were designed of God and revealed to Moses in Mount Sinai, with the solemn warning: "See that you make all the things according to the pattern shown to you in the Mount". Nothing was left to the initiative or human improvisation. And, since the ark of the testimony was there, it was also called the "Tabernacle or Tent of the Testimony ". God inhabited it, amid the camp of Israel. The tables, the ark and the tabernacle constituted a single unit which represented the testimony of God in the earth. Therefore, any man that desired to find God, should go to that testimonial unit.
Now then, everything before was a figure of the mystery of Christ and the Church. The tables of the law and the ark of the covenant represented Christ, while the tabernacle was a figure of the church, the true temple of God. Christ is the true testimony of God, then in him God has fully expressed himself as perfect and definite. Who sees Jesus Christ sees God. However, the same as in the old covenant, God has established that his Son could only be found in the interior of the tabernacle, is now the church. As, Christ abides in the heart of all the children of God. They carry the testimony within themselves (1Jn.5: 10), the same as the Tabernacle of Israel in the desert carried within itself the ark of the covenant.
The Conditions for the Testimony
However, there is a profound and important spiritual lesson in the figure of the ark and the tabernacle, and the relationship that existed between them. In strict rigor, the testimony of God was bound unconditionally to the ark and to the tables. For it, they were called simply "The Testimony". The tabernacle, in so much, represented the testimony of God in a conditional and derivative manner, truth symbolized in the persistent divine warning concerning the work of it's construction: "See that you make all the things according to the pattern shown to you in the Mount". In everything there was a fundamental teaching. As the tabernacle or sanctuary was destroyed and reconstructed no fewer than four times during the history of Israel. And this was due to the fidelity of God towards his sanctuary relied on the faithfulness of the people towards God, his word and his covenant, symbolized in the ark and the tables.
In fact, when Israel entered into possession of the promised land, the tabernacle was erected in a city named Shiloh. But, later, due to the disobedience of Israel, it was abandoned by God: "Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies: But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow. For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images. When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel:. So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men" (Sal. 78: 56-60). Shiloh was put to one side and the ark was carried to Jerusalem: "But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel,".(Jer.7: 12). Thereby, in the history of Israel we find that the relationship of God with the tabernacle (that it then would be replaced by the temple) as it always had a conditional character.
On the other hand, God was identified unconditionally with the ark of the testimony (that contained, in its time, the tables), and one could see clearly in the incident with the Philistines, related in the book of Samuel. Due to the apostasy, the Israelis were defeated and the ark of the covenant was taken captive by the Philistines. Nevertheless, although God didn't defend the Israelis, with everything, yet he lent his defense to the ark, demolishing the idol of Dagon and afflicting the Philistines with tumors (1Sm.4-5). As he did identify himself with the ark and who ever touched his testimony, was touched by him, whatever the spiritual state of the nation was (See the example of Uza, in 2Sm. 6: 6-7). There were different sanctuaries but there was just one ark of the covenant in the history of Israel.
We found here, like it has been said, a profound spiritual lesson on the relationship between Christ and the Church. The testimony of God is eternal and unconditionally united to his Son, Jesus Christ, who is the perfect expression of his person, character, word and will. Or, in the words of Hebrews 1:3 KJV: "Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person". He is the eternal and inflexible testimony of God. The church, in so much, is called to be the testimony of God in the earth, but the condition of maintaining faithfulness to the heavenly pattern, is by Jesus Christ.
God requires an appropriate testimony in the earth in order to express himself and carry out His purposes. And this testimony is found where the ark of the testimony rests, in its tabernacle, temple or sanctuary for meeting. And this sanctuary, under the old covenant was a physical material place, the only place where his testimony could be found. But, this is not an optional matter, as God designed and established the sanctuary that would contain his testimony.
However, the old Israelis committed a great mistake in reference to it.. They came to think that the physical presence of the temple was a sufficient guarantee of the support and the presence of God amid them. As, the temple contained the ark of the testimony and the tables of the law. And to them it seemed that the relationship between both was unconditional. But God, persistently entrusted his prophets to warn them of their error.
Then, if they didn't resign their heart to his covenant, the temple then would not be of any use and God would retire his testimony from it: "Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these. Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh" (Jer.7: 3-4,14). And this truly occurred. King Nabucodonosor came and razed the temple completely, since God had already left from amid them.
Starting from that moment, there was not a place on the earth where God could be found neither any with which He could be identified. The ark disappeared and the Scripture keeps a complete silence about its whereabouts, as the testimony of God had been retired from the earth. The temple was in ruins, the ark didn't have a place to rest.
The tabernacle, as a figure of the church, shows us that the essential condition that she could be the expression of God in the earth is her fidelity and permanent conformity "to the pattern that has been shown in the Mount". God has proposed to reveal the fullness of his glory and will through the church, but for this the saints should first resign to the heavenly pattern. And this pattern is found foreshadowed in the ark of the testimony, that speaks to us of the absolute centrality and supremacy of Christ and his words among the believers.
This is, truly, the essential matter for the church. In her there is no place for anything that proceeds of the inventive, creativity or abilities merely human. And neither is there a place for government, direction and strategies of man. It doesn't matter how good, useful and efficient it seems to us. The church is the place where only the voice of the Spirit should be heard and obeyed. All this we have found, once more, in the figure of the tabernacle, as it tells us that once erected: "Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys" (Ex.40: 34-38).
For that reason, Paul the apostle teaches us: "Ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph 2:22).
This explains the failure of the Christendom in manifesting to the world the testimony of God. As, he is not identified with nothing less than Christ. Not even with "the church" if it does not mantain its fidelity in Christ. It don't matter how much we affirm our identity with the "church of Christ" and we lean on our history, teaching and know-how. If our present experience is not rooted totally and absolutely in Christ, under the exclusive direction of his Spirit, we then are in danger of losing our testimony and finish in spiritual ruin. For sure, we will be able to go on with our forms and external activities (the way of the tabernacle of Shiloh), believing that we still are part of the testimony of God, but everything will be in vain, sterile and void.
The Testimony Throughout History
The relationship between Christ and the church is intimate and vital. Truly, like a heavenly reality, she is totally hidden and kept in Christ, beyond all of the ruin and the failure. But as for the expression and historic and visible manifestation of the mystery of God, his testimony has been in ruin most of this present age. Maybe during the first 150 to 200 years of its history there were churches in the earth that expressed the testimony of God faithfully, but then, with the advent of Constantine this testimony fell into ruins because of the mixture of the Christendom with all its natural elements, human and mundane. The simple, familiar and Christ centered local church, that had Christ as its only head, disappeared in order to give way to a complex, organized and hierarchical worldwide church, controlled by a powerful and specialized clerical institution.
However, the seeds of all that deformation were beginning to be sown early on, towards the end of the first century, when the churches began to go away from Christ and his absolute centrality and preeminence. Starting from then, the testimony of God remained restricted to a group of men and faithful women becoming smaller and smaller, that tried to keep the words of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ through indescribable opposition, adversity and suffering, even during the darkest times of Christian history. And through them, and due to their stability and fidelity, the torch never went out completely and at times survived unknown, despised and still pursued by the remainder of the institutional Christendom .
The Remnant of the Testimony
God has always reserved a remnant chosen by grace, to maintain a high testimony, and carry forward his eternal purpose on the earth. This occurred all along in the history of Israel and likewise has also occurred during the history of Christendom until our day. The remnant is not absolutely constituted by a special class, of select Christians but simply of normal believers in accordance with the pattern of the New Testament, in times of chronic abnormality. They simply make the testimony theirs and also take up the task that another has abandoned, and search to live in agreement with the norm revealed in the New Testament for the church, that is to say, according to the celestial. pattern.
But also, for this remnant somber and formidable dangers exist, as the fury of the prince of this world makes them their principal target (Rev..12: 17). Everywhere the adversary attempts to seduce, tempt and oppress this remnant in order to remove them from their testimony and sincere fidelity to Christ. Again and again they will be tempted toward being exclusive, sectarian, full of spiritual pride, superior and different than the rest of their brothers. Time and again the adversary will attempt to infuse into them a secret self complacencia with themselves and their spiritual achievements. And if the adversary is successful, very swiftly they will began to breakaway from Christ in order to center more and more on themselves, their history, their greater understanding of spiritual truth, their special and different teachings, their great leaders and their successes of the past. Then the candle will go out for them, as they separate from Christ, "their church" becomes nothing more than just a human institution, empty of the divine life. It doesn't matter how biblical they seem in their teachings and external forms. This is the lesson we learn from looking at the history of the tabernacle and the temple.
This has been truly the tragic history of all those in the past haveing been raised up by God to maintain the torch of the testimony up high, went into darkness. It is therefore the challenge of the present time for all those that desire to return with their whole heart to the testimony of God to rebuild his church "according to the pattern shown to you in the Mount". The pattern is Christ; this means, his glorious person, in all his centrality and supremacy. We can not, neither should we, ever ignore this fact .We have our defence and victory over Satan as we keep vitally united with Christ, depending on him and from time to time the Holy Spirit with him will teach us to discover our measurement of conformity or unconformity with his person. As the church is no other than Christ himself expressed cooperatively in the earth. Everything that is less that Christ is not part of the church he is building unto the end of the times. Our capacity to understand or forget this decisive fact is found the measurement of our success or failure in maintaining alive the testimony of God in the earth.
Translated by Spanish Publishing Mission