Except the Lord Build the House

"Ye...are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief comer stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Eph.2:20‑22) "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it." (Psa.127:1)

God’s house, of which He Himself is Architect and Builder, embraces in its widest sense the entire universe. As all know, however, the universe is a very large place. Indeed, it is so large that our Lord could say that‑ "In my Father’s house are many mansions" (John 14:2)—many lesser houses, or abodes of other created beings. It is, of course, true that our Lord in His pre‑human existence as the Logos was the Father’s agent in the building of all those mansions, but, as declared by the Scriptures, "He that built all things is God." (Heb.3:4)

The Creator, of necessity, must be greater than that which He has created. How utterly impossible, then, must it be for any earthly being to comprehend the Creator Himself, or for the human mind to grasp the immensity of the Creator’s house.

The Psalmist, reflecting upon the amazing grandeur and majesty of the Creator’s handiwork in comparison with human limitations, was prompted to exclaim‑ "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him?" (Psa.8:3‑4)

The prophet of old likewise, in contrasting the infinite greatness of the Creator with the limitations of finite man, declared that "the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance"—altogether too small to be taken into consideration. (Isa.40:15)

God’s House comprises many mansions

No one has seen God at any time and it is a Scriptural truth that no one by searching can find out God. (John 1:18) If God had not chosen, in His great and condescending mercy, to reveal Himself and His plan to fallen humanity, the lot of the human family would indeed have been too terrible to contemplate. They were cut off from Divine favour by sin and death and, in the inspired words of the Psalmist, their prospects for the future would have been no better than those of the beasts that perish. (Psa.49:20)

God, however, has chosen to reveal Himself in Christ, as declared by the Apostle—"the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (John 1:17) With the coming of Jesus, light came into this dark world of sin and death. The light shone into the darkness, but the darkness in the minds of even the Lord’s professed people comprehended it not. (John 1:5) Nevertheless, to the few who did receive the Light bearer, the result was very different. Light came to them along various lines of truth—the Heavenly Father’s own character and His purpose for mankind in general. His purpose in calling from the human family during the present Age an elect class to be the Bride of Christ was also revealed.

However, it was not until our Lord was about to return to the Father that He revealed to His disciples something of the higher occupants of the Creator’s house and of the place which His faithful followers would share with Him in this highly exalted sphere. "In my Father’s house (declared our Lord) are many mansions (dwelling places); if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:2‑3)

This was surely a startling and amazing revelation to make to fallen human beings. The disciples, then being only naturally‑minded men, were incapable of grasping much of its significance, but since that day it has been a comforting assurance to many of the Lord’s true followers in the midst of the various trials and besetments of the narrow way.

Two very important lines of truth emerge from these words of our Lord

  1. that God’s house, or universe, is not just the vast expanse of empty and impenetrable space as it appears to the natural eye looking heavenward
  2.  that, notwithstanding the many mansions to which our Lord here referred, there was not one amongst them all suitable for the eternal home and dwelling place of His Bride—"I go to prepare a place for you."

God’s House is not without occupants

In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle throws much light upon these words of our Lord. He not only confirms the existence of these heavenly mansions and their occupants, but at the same time tells us that every one of them was created by our Lord who was Himself the firstborn of all creation—"He (declared the Apostle) is the likeness of the unseen God, born first, before all the creation—for it was by him that all things were created both in heaven and on earth, both the seen and the unseen, including Thrones, angelic Lords, celestial Powers and Rulers; all things have been created by him and for him." (Col.1:15‑16—Moffatt)

Again, in his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle wrote of the mighty power "exerted in raising Christ from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavenly sphere, above all the angelic Rulers, Authorities, Powers, and Lords, above every Name that is to be named not only in this age but in the age to come." (Eph.1:20‑21—Moffatt)

It is significant that both our Lord and the Apostle refer to the heavenly mansions of God’s house in the plural number. In view of the immeasurable extent of God’s house, one can only conclude that what from the Lord’s standpoint is described as "many" must from the limited outlook of the natural mind be regarded as an incalculably large number, beyond the grasp of human imagination.

A special Mansion for the Bride

Our Lord’s words, however, carry the enquiring mind much further than the thought of the limitless number of heavenly mansions and their invisible occupants. There is the additional implication, supported by various other Scriptures, that as a reward for His faithfulness in carrying out the Father’s will on earth, He was highly honoured and glorified in a mansion far above and in every way superior to every other abode within His Father’s house. (Eph.1:20‑21)

The Apostle, writing under inspiration, used the significant expression "far above" in order to convey to the minds of his readers something of the height and glory of our Lord’s exaltation—"Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." (Eph.1:21)

What this inspired expression "far above" really implies, in human terms, can only be imagined. Comparing Scripture with Scripture does, however, at times help the imagination of our limited minds to understand something of the mind of the Spirit. The Apostle, in his letter to the Hebrews, describes mankind in their earthly mansion as only a "little lower" than the angelic creation—"Thou madest him (man) a little lower than the angels." (Heb.2:7) Reversing the expression, it means that angels are only a "little" higher than human beings, yet, from the standpoint of the human mind, how vastly higher and in every respect superior are the powers of angelic beings, who, invisible as the wind, can come and go unhindered by material obstacles.

This inspired statement that the distance between the human and the angelic mansion is only a "little" degree, should be contrasted with the Apostle’s expression "far above," when describing the height of our Lord’s exaltation above every other mansion in the universe. Such matters are too high even for the soaring mind of the Spirit‑begotten new creature, and it is only possible to accept the truths involved on the basis of faith in what is written in our Father’s Word.

Incomprehensible as this record of our Lord’s exaltation may seem to our limited minds, it is when we consider the implication of the further words of our Lord—"where I am, there ye may be also"—that the imaginative mind is completely baffled. Try to grasp, for a moment, what these parting words of our Lord mean to His faithful followers of this Age. Chosen, not from the noble or wise of the human family but from the weak and ignoble in the eyes of this world, the Lord’s little flock of overcomers are called to a station "far above" the mighty hosts of all the heavenly mansions of God’s house. They are called, indeed, to be partakers of the glory of Christ and to share His throne as the Head of all principality and power in the universe. Called, indeed, to be partakers of the Divine nature which, in itself, implies nothing less than immortality. (2 Pet.1:4.) Truly did the Apostle say—"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Cor.2:9)

Builded together for an habitation of God

The prophets and seers of old, as well as the writers of the New Testament Scriptures, have used many terms to describe the mighty Kingdom in which our Lord was glorified at His ascension into heaven, as a reward for His faithfulness during His earthly ministry. We read of it, for example, as Mount Zion, the Holy City, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and again as the New Jerusalem. All these symbolic terms are derived from the earthly Kingdom of Israel, as it ruled over Palestine from the literal City of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, in the days of the typical Kingdom, was the only place upon earth where God could be enquired of or worshipped. After the deliverance of the nation from Egyptian bondage, however, they for a time wandered from place to place in the wilderness, under the leadership of Moses. During that time, they had neither City nor Temple in which God, as their King, could dwell and be worshipped. Consequently, Moses was instructed by God to build for Him a Tabernacle with an inner chamber in which He would dwell, and accompany them in their journeyings towards the promised Land.

Later, when they came into the Land promised to the Fathers and occupied the city of Jerusalem, it was revealed to them by the Spirit of prophecy that God desired a Temple, or habitation, in which He would rest and thus for ever dwell. (Psa.132:13‑14) During the reign of David, it was revealed to him that while his desire to build the house of the Lord could not be realised, yet he would be permitted to assemble the materials for its construction. The Temple was built by his successor, Solomon.

All the foregoing and, indeed, the entire record of "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning." (Rom.15:4) Much of it is in the nature of types and figures of heavenly things, provided for the instruction of the true Israel of God of this Age. Not least amongst these typical figures was the Temple which, in the days of King Solomon, was built at Jerusalem. With the erection of Solomon’s Temple which provided a permanent resting place for the Ark, within its Holy of Holies, the Tabernacle which previously housed the Ark disappears from the records.

It is the generally accepted view amongst the Lord’s people that the material Temple was a figure of a greater and more important Temple to which reference will be made later; also, that the chief actors in bringing it into being were likewise figures of more exalted and superior actors in the creation of this greater Temple. David, because he was a man of war, was not permitted to build the Temple in Jerusalem and in this respect he is understood to prefigure the church militant during the present Age who, in order faithfully to perform the Father’s will, need daily to wage war against the enemies of the new creature. These enemies—the worldly spirit and downward tendencies of the fallen nature, as well as the Adversary’s cunning devices—must be fought out and overcome by the Lord’s help and guidance to every new creature who would have a place in the great Temple which God has desired as His habitation. (Psa.132: 13)

Solomon, David’s successor upon the throne of Israel, was by way of contrast a man of peace who was endowed with superior wisdom. His reign was peaceable and also noted for the wealth and splendour of its Court. Solomon is therefore regarded as a fitting figure of the church triumphant, in association with her Lord, in the glory and splendour of His mighty but unseen spiritual Kingdom.

Zion will be God’s rest for ever

Despite the innumerable mansions of higher creations which have been built within God’s great House, it would seem that there was still something additional needed in order to satisfy the creative desire of the Divine Architect. The Psalmist indicated that thought when, under inspiration, he wrote concerning Zion—"For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation." (Psa.132:13)

God’s desire in this respect began to take shape when He made known His purpose to divide with the firstborn of all creation "a portion with the great." (Isa.53:12) In fulfilment of this purpose, our Lord, ever willing to anticipate the Father’s will, came into the world to carry out His plan for the redemption of the fallen race. As a reward for faithfully carrying out the Father’s purpose, even to the extent of drinking the cup of shame and suffering and death upon the Cross, God has highly exalted Him to His own right hand of power and given Him a mansion or kingdom in which to dwell, "far above" every other mansion in the universe—the Father’s alone excepted. "A portion with the great," as declared by the prophet, is a very fitting expression to suggest to the mind some idea of the well‑deserved exaltation and wealth of glory bestowed upon the victor for His faithful execution of the Divine Plan. (Isa.53:12)

Our Lord received His Kingdom and entered into His reward when, after His resurrection, He ascended into heaven. (Luke 19:12) In contrast with the earthly Jerusalem, our Lord’s Kingdom, as already noted, is termed in the Scriptures the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. It is of heavenly origin and entirely comprised of spirit beings. It was into this heavenly Kingdom, the New Jerusalem, that our Lord promised to receive His faithful followers when He would descend from heaven at the Second Advent, seated upon the throne of glory in that Kingdom, and accompanied by myriads of His holy angels. (Matt.25:31; Rev.3:21)

God’s Spirit pervades the entire universe and, in this sense, He dwells with the occupants of every mansion of His great house where His will is loyally and faithfully done. It would seem, however, that the ultimate objective of the Creator’s desire for closer and more intimate fellowship will be realised only in Zion—the glorious mansion provided by the Father as His resting place and the eternal home and dwelling place of the highly exalted Bridegroom and His worthy Bride. (Psa.45:9‑14)

The Old Paths No.196
To be continued