The eighth cycle deals with the saints in the court of God as a new Priesthood. Unlike the disobedient sons of Aaron, and the idolatrous priests of Baal, those with the Spirit of Christ are able to discern between the true fire which indwells them and the “strange fire” which possesses, deceives and motivates those in the world.
The third cycle of the second half of the epistle brings us to an exhortation for Christians to engage in spiritual warfare. Whereas Old Covenant Israel engaged in a battle against flesh and blood, Covenant history has moved “architecturally” from the Bronze Altar (the earthly country) to the Incense Altar (the heavenly country), from sons of Abraham to sons of God. Our swords are prophetic tongues of fire, and in Christ we possess the judicial wisdom of Solomon whose words exposed the thoughts and intents of the heart (1 Kings 3:16-28; Hebrews 4:12). Indeed, the ministry of the Apostles was also that of discerning between two women, two Israels, the redeemed bride and the idolatrous, murderous harlot “Jezebel” who drank the blood of the prophets (Revelation 17:6).
not every spirit believe, (Delegation/Division)
but test the spirits, (Presentation/Ascension)
whether of God they are, (Purification/Testing)
because many false prophets (Transformation/Maturity)
have gone out (Vindication/Conquest)
into the world. (Representation/Glorification)
- Jesus predicted that there would be many false prophets “ministering” during the final days of the Old Covenant. It was similar to the situation before the destruction of the Temple of Solomon, when false prophets proclaimed that there would be peace rather than judgment. Hard hearts crave soft words, but the words of the Apostles were sharp and true.
- Those who are indwelt by the Spirit of God can see beyond the carnal “face” of things to their spiritual source. Thus, this exhortation as the third cycle, and words “test the spirits” in the third line of this stanza, are positioned at Ascension, which corresponds to the Table of the Bread of the Face..
|By this you know||TRANSCENDENCE||the Spirit of God:|
in the flesh having come
of God is
and any spirit
that does not confess
in the flesh has come
of God is not
|And this is that||ETHICS||of the antichrist,|
|which you heard||OATH/SANCTIONS||that is coming,|
|and now in the world||SUCCESSION||is already.|
- The “Exodus” stanza follows the pattern of the Ten Commandments, but what is fascinating is that the twin Hierarchy step is allowed its own fractal expansion. Even more fascinating is that this step runs the Covenant pattern backwards. The reason for this is that discernment is the act of tracing effects back to their first cause. In this case, the priestly column (on the left) discerns the origin of a confession of the incarnation as the true God, and the kingly column (on the right) reveals a lying spirit behind the denial of the incarnation.
- Of course, in context, the challenge for these Christians was the claim of non-Christians Jews who maintained that they were still in Covenant with God. Things are different for us today, where denial of the incarnation is not a practical litmus test. For instance, during the Reformation, that test was salvation by grace alone. Today it might be acceptance of same sex marriage, which the Holy Spirit would never bless. But although Church history has moved on, the principle of spiritual discernment remains the same.1Note that some sincere believers are simply deceived by their leaders, and their reception of the testimony of a more mature Christian will reveal what spirit they are of. That too is a work of the Spirit.
- This cycle is fivefold, and thus “Mosaic.” The Ethics section is not expanded into the triune office, yet the apostle reveals that true kingdom is contained within faithful priesthood. “Great” and “mighty” are references to kinghood, and the kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21), a royal cup hidden in a sack of priestly grain (Genesis 44:12-17).
- John moves from the “you” of the saints to the “they” of the Judaizers and their lying testimony. The position of this statement in the “Numbers” stanza alludes to King Balak and his prophet-for-hire Balaam, who caused Israel to commit adultery with idolaters. Balaam and his institutionalized lie, the “false prophet,” are major characters in the Revelation. Elijah also faced false prophets who were on the payroll of the palace. A modern equivalent might be scientists and journalists who willingly “report” falsehoods in order to stay on the establishment’s gravy train. But Oath/Sanctions also corresponds to Vindication (in the sevenfold pattern) where the false Oaths are exposed in judgment by God (Sanctions).
- It is no coincidence that the “speaking” appears at the center of the stanza. This is where the serpentine claim of godhood usually appears.
We of God are. (Initiation)
The one knowing God, (Delegation)
listens to us. (Presentation/Priesthood)
By this we know the spirit of truth (Vindication)
and the spirit of falsehood. (Representation)
- Succession is the culmination of the Covenant in history as a process of maturity. It ends with Man as God’s legal representative, as elohim bearing the sword on God’s behalf. In this sense, Noah was the first judge, a man authorised to take human life as a minister of divine judgment. In the fivefold “Mosaic” structure, this end was the prophetic testimony of Moses to a new Israel before he died.
- In baptism, the saints are not only invested for holy war as Jesus was, they are authorised to call down divine judgment upon those who set themselves up against the Son of God and usurp His authority over the nations. This role of the baptised as elders in the court of God requires spiritual discernment, and John highlights that task in the final stanza.
- I believe that much teaching on apostasy misses the fact that exhortations against sin, and even excommunication, are tools of discernment. One who is truly born of God, even though having fallen into sin, will eventually repent, because he cannot help but listen to the voice within. Those who react with anger to the preaching of the Gospel are those who feel the words most keenly, cutting around the flesh of their uncircumcised hearts. Strangely, it is sometimes those who do not react at all who are in the most danger.
- It is interesting that “the one knowing God” corresponds to the cutting of circumcision, the “setting apart” from the world, and the knowledge of the spirit of truth corresponds to baptism, the authority to bear the sword which does the cutting.
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|1.||↑||Note that some sincere believers are simply deceived by their leaders, and their reception of the testimony of a more mature Christian will reveal what spirit they are of. That too is a work of the Spirit.|