25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? Lk. 24:26
Notice that Jesus tells His disciples here that all the Old Testament spoke of His sufferings. All. Not one prophet did not speak about the sufferings of Christ.
More importantly, though, notice how Christ’s sufferings are tied up with the glory to come. In other words, for Christ to enter into His glory, the door that He had to pass through was sufferings!
It is incredible how carnal – how un-spiritual – the church today has become. We have no vision of the eternal glory. Less so is our perception of the road we need to take to arrive at that goal.
Nowadays, the church is full of prophets and other ministers who prophesy about what God’s people are going to enjoy once they believe on Christ. I remember, many years ago, I went to a lunch-time fellowship in the city and I heard one of the most famous preachers of that time saying, “God is about to give you that Mercedes Benz that you have been praying for!”
And the hall was packed full of God’s people.
In retrospect, now, I cannot understand the logic of that statement. A Mercedes Benz! What does a Mercedes Benz have to do with the Kingdom of God?
That’s how far today’s ‘prophets’ have gone from hearing from God.
But with the Old Testaments prophets, the singular message they heard from God was the sufferings of Christ. They did not hear any other message. They did not hear the message of prosperity.
In the New Testament, God brought the message of Christ’s sufferings closer to His people, beginning with His apostles. God always begins with the apostles. He reveals His message to them, then He applies that message to their lives. The Apostle Paul received a singular revelation of the sufferings of Christ for the church. When he went to the Corinthians, therefore, he says, “1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2:1-2
In effect, Paul was saying he received the same revelation of the sufferings of Christ that the Old Testament prophets received.
After He gave him this revelation, God brought this revelation to work first in Paul’s life. In Acts 20:22-23, the Apostle Paul, speaking to the Ephesian elders, says, “22 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: 23 Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.”
The Holy Spirit did not witness that Paul would suffer in a few cities. No. The Holy Spirit witnessed to Paul that he would suffer in every city. Every city! And so this most faithful of God’s servants walked about with a thorn in his flesh all his life.
That is the spirit that we need to catch. Failure to do so will find us out of league with Christ. We are all aware that after our initial confession of Christ into our hearts, life goes on. What many of us do not realize is that this life that goes on must of necessity be an identification with Christ in the Spirit, in His sufferings and death – towards the goal of eternal glory. In other words, the life that we now live in Christ is a lost life in the natural. It is not a life where we simply rejoice because God has “put food on my table”. The latter – which is all too common today – is too simplistic an interpretation of the Christian life. It is too basic! Ultimately, it is a carnal understanding of the Christian life that we have been called to. Significantly, it is an interpretation that is bound to keep us spiritual “babes” forever. And there is no sadder place for Christ to find one of His children when He comes back!
In today’s tech world there is something called “upgrading”. People are always upgrading from one app to the next.
In the Spirit, too, we need to upgrade. For, since Christ was to be a true Son of God, the Old Testament prophets did not see Him in the Spirit receiving childish things like Mercedes Benzes. On the contrary, they foresaw Him suffering and dying in the flesh. They saw Him in His perfect “upgraded” status. This is the core of spiritual maturity.
Let us pray to God to reveal to us the singular gospel that He revealed to the Apostle Paul, “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Then, and only then can we be sure we are on the right track – the road to the eternal glory.
[Below: In a village deep in rural Singida, a young girl poses for a photograph]