When the smoke clears, and the thunderous roar of the crowds and amplified music fades from your ears, you find yourself back in your regular pedestrian life. In the coming days the electrifying experience plays itself over and over again in your mind. You can't wait for the next big Christian event. You can't imagine how you'll be satisfied with a little church service after all that. Why can't we stay together and totally worship and serve the Lord continually?
Then you remember that special maroon-and-creme bus that you saw on the way out of the event. The people were very unusual -- simple, modest, and kind. They have been living together like the church in the Book of Acts1 since the time of the Jesus Movement in the early 1970s. You asked them who they were. A young woman with bright eyes and a pleasant smile answered, "We are the Twelve Tribes." Twelve Tribes? "Yes, the new Israel." You remember reading how the first-century Church identified themselves as the Twelve Tribes of Israel.2 Could this be the restoration of the early church?3 A chill goes up your spine as you consider the possibility that God might actually be gathering His people on the earth once again.4
It's true, the restored Twelve Tribes of Israel are on the earth, calling God's people out of the confusion of Christianity with its unclean worship and compromised gospel.5 If you're satisfied with the worldly expressions of unbridled sensuality and the self-glorifying antics of the Christian "prophets," then read no further. But if something deep in your soul longs for true salvation and a real life of love and unity, then the words on these pages will be like a key that will open the way for you into the Kingdom of God in these last days.
Many these days are operating on the premise that they have already obeyed the gospel and now are going on to some radical service for the Lord. But they don't even realize that they haven't yet gotten to first base. The gospel presents a very high calling to those who are willing to do God's will.6 The opening passage of Paul's letter to the Corinthians reveals the nature of that calling. It is the very purpose of God in sending His Son, which seems to be hidden from the churches of today. In this article we will endeavor to reveal this mystery.
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours. (1 Corinthians 1:2)
Corinth is an actual place in Greece, a physical locality on earth where the life of God once found a home. There was only one church in Corinth at that time. It was actually a community of believers who shared all things in common. This is how all of the "churches" of the first century were.7 There was one community of believers in each place, not different church buildings where people went to meetings once or twice a week.
Paul addresses his letter to the believers in Corinth as those who were being perfected in unity with all those "who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." He was writing to those who had the same Lord as he had. Just a few verses later Paul emphasized this calling:
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
There was a great struggle going on in every place where God had caused His name to dwell. They were struggling to overcome everything that came to divide them, and to maintain their fellowship with the One who gave them the power to live together in peace and unity. To the one church in Ephesus, Paul wrote:
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
This unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace was the evidence presented before the watching world that God really did send His Son, and that He loved them. This fulfilled the prayer of Yahshua8 just before He was crucified. He prayed that all those who believe would have the same oneness as He had with His Father.9 The unity of believers reveals to the world that God is one, as Paul said in the following verses:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Therefore His true believers cannot be divided or denominated. Paul also emphasized this foundation10 in his first letter to Timothy:
Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. (1 Timothy 2:8)
Paul was instructing Timothy about the importance of unity. Apart from all the believers in each established community dwelling together in unity, their prayers couldn't be answered, and God's purpose was held in abeyance. So where does this leave the many denominations that now exist in each township? They couldn't possibly lift hands together without wrath or dissension, not even within one congregation. So can God hear their prayers? Absolutely not, except perhaps the sincere prayer of someone who knows something is not right in his church. For God hears the cries of those needy and humble individuals who truly desire to know and be pleasing to Him.11
So every place that God has caused His name to dwell will be characterized by love and unity.12 The word place in 1 Timothy 2:8 is the very same Greek word translated place in 1 Corinthians 1:2, which means an actual physical locality. Some translations say "everywhere," but this conceals some of the understanding of God's ways and His purpose. For it has never been His way to have His people scattered all over the earth, except as an extreme discipline for disobedience and rebellion.13 God made His heart about this very clear with Moses:
But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. You shall not at all do as we are doing here today -- every man doing whatever is right in his own eyesBut when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you. (Deuteronomy 12:5,8,10,11,13,14)
This was the very thing Yahshua was talking about when He called those who would follow Him to leave their life in the world and serve Him where He is. This is the only gospel that leads men to salvation.
He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. (John 12:25-26)
What does it really mean to be sanctified? Paul describes the believers in every place as "those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus."14 The one who serves Him where He is (in His Body) must not let himself become defiled, or made common. This is what sanctified15 means -- set apart. The Holy Spirit is set apart to do the work of redeeming man and preparing a bride for God's Son.16 To be "sanctified in Christ" means brought out of the world and into a set-apart place in order to be made more and more like Him.
...till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
There is no way that we can become saints (holy ones, pure, complete) unless we are in a set-apart place where we live together and have all things in common. This is where we are kept from the evil one who holds the whole world under his sway.17 This is what it means to be in the world, but not of it. Some might try to justify their independent lives in the world. But the scriptures are clear on what kind of life the early believers lived, which reflected their understanding of Yahshua's18 words.
Today, as in Jerusalem after the day of Pentecost, "all who believe are together and share all things in common."19 Just as grapes live in clusters and have no life apart from being physically connected to the vine, disciples live in communities. This is the hardest thing on earth that you can possibly do, if you are not a believer. If you don't have the Holy Spirit and you do not have God's supernatural love in your heart,20 it is impossible and would be a torture chamber. You won't want to do it; it is neither practical nor feasible.
Thousands of different communities have been started, with people trying to live together, but they can't do it. They are trying and trying to live in community without the Holy Spirit. But it is really impossible apart from being in communion with the one Spirit,21 who causes us to love one another. History has surely proven this.
The lack of that love is tantamount to (the same thing as) the lack of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit's departure from the early communities transformed the nature of the church and subtly brought about a change that lives on to the present day in the divided house of Christianity.22 The evidence of true faith was once living a life of love and sharing in the community.23 But now men place their confidence in holding correct doctrine. Orthodox creeds took the place of love. This poor substitute holds such sway in most people's minds that love is suspect. Sober Christian teachers have warned their flocks against love as being cultish.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
The love John referred to means the direction of one's will. Whatever you give your time and attention to is what you love. Christianity has become just like the world in every way. They are fully immersed in the politics, sports, and entertainment of the world. They fight whatever wars their political leaders tell them to, against both Christians and non-Christians. Yet they claim to be God's people, and that is why their guilt will remain forever and ever unless they come out of the fallen Church.24 For the greatest guilt a person can incur is when his words and actions lead others astray from the path of life.25
So the call in these last days is not to reform or revive the lifeless churches of modern Christianity, but rather to:
Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Revelation 18:3-4)
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
We know that no one in warfare can be involved in civilian affairs. Civilian affairs refers to the life you live in the world, being involved in the affairs of the world's life. Either you're in active duty, or you're a civilian. If you are involved in the affairs of life in the world, you are not a soldier of Yahshua26. You can't just have your fighting gear on and then go work for IBM.
In the army, a soldier joins a body of people who not only function as a unit, but who also take care of his every need and equip him fully to perform at maximum capacity. That is how it must be for disciples in the Body of Christ. We are called to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and He will take care of the rest through our brothers and sisters.27
Yahshua calls all of His disciples into full-time service, not just a few outstanding individuals to serve in special ministry. In fact, the word translated as church28 in the New Testament literally means called-out ones. It is those who are called out of the world into communion with Yahshua, in order to serve Him where He is -- in His set-apart people. They are His Body on the earth who walk in fellowship with Him and one another.
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:9-10)
...among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:6-7)
This is a call to service, full-time employment, walking in the works that were prepared for each one to carry out to build up the Body of Messiah.29 Each one is called into sweet communion with Yahshua to fulfill a special purpose in carrying out the Father's will and meeting the needs of his brothers and sisters who in turn meet his needs. All are cared for and no one is neglected. There are no rich or poor, black or white, slave or free,30 for everyone is vitally important and needed to work together and fight the good fight. In the process of active duty in the Body, each one is purified of everything in his nature that is not like God.31
Unfortunately, Paul saw many forsaking the good fight and taking their life back into their own hands.32 It is only in community where the good fight can be fought. This is the place where the great big enemy of self-life (and everything that stems from it) is being exposed and subdued.33 Selfish ambition (seeking recognition and acknowledgment) and selfishness (providing for their own needs according to their own likings) destroyed the first-century church.34 Pretty soon those who claimed to believe couldn't even live together anymore and had to reduce their common life to a weekly meeting. Before long they were actually fighting against each other and killing each other. The last 1,700 years of history are awash in the blood of Christians slaughtering those they disagreed with. But that's surely not the "good fight" Paul talked about.
Yahshua made it clear that His kingdom would not come by the sword.35 So what spirit would cause those who claim to know God to hate and kill others? Paul warned the church in Corinth in his second letter that they were being led astray to follow another master:
For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. (2 Corinthians 11:2-4)
Those who brought in this other Jesus and different spirit were described a few verses later:
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
So we must beware of those who claim to represent Christ, but do not lead us away from the ways of the world and into a sanctified place where the Holy Spirit can work to purify us. Paul warned that there would be those who would have a form of godliness, but deny the real power of God to dwell together in unity.36 These high-powered preachers spin a powerful web of deception as they seek to make a name for themselves.37 They tickle the ears of their followers by assuring them that they have eternal life, while they justify a life that falls far short of obedience to the gospel the Yahshua preached.
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3)
Those who truly love Yahshua will not be looking for a way out of obeying Him.38 They will seek to glorify Him and not themselves. They will be content to be hidden in Him,39 and spend their whole lives on building up His Body, just like the woman with the alabaster jar.40 She did all that she could with what she had.
We are sanctified by Yahshua's sacrifice on our behalf41 and our response to the good news.42 He has delivered us from the kingdom of darkness (the world)43 and brought us into His kingdom (His community),44 in order to become saints.45 Become indicates transition. We aren't automatically saints (holy ones) when we make a covenant with Him, but we become saints. We become holy as our Master is holy, as our Father is holy. We grow up into the Head in every aspect of our being.
...but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
These verses describe a real life lived by all those who have been sanctified from the world. They experience the loving care of true apostles, prophets, shepherds, and teachers who equip the saints to build the community in love.46 In this environment, those who have been saved out of the world gradually have the world cleansed from their souls in preparation for His return.47
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)
If we don't become saints, and are not purified, then we won't be prepared to meet Him. We will shrink back in shame at His coming.48 But all who have this hope of becoming like Him will purify themselves by receiving His hand in their lives to save them. This is not mystical, but comes through the loving hands of your brothers who have His Spirit. This hope is everything we are living for. We have to live under the power of the Holy Spirit who sets us apart to become saints. We have to be holy as God is holy.49
...just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. (Ephesians 1:4)
Through His great love and mercy He is bringing us to the place of being without blame before Him. This means we are not just forgiven for past sins, but cleansed of all unrighteousness.50 If we are to be holy as He is holy, then this kind of life is imperative and essential. We cannot do it outside of living together. If you don't want to live together, then you are not His holy people. Those who are not His holy people do not have eternal life. If you claim to have eternal life, and you don't have eternal life, then your guilt remains forever.
The very holiness of our Father is passed on to His saints. It is a process of becoming. Our human nature is being redeemed to be like His divine nature, which is characterized by self-sacrificing love. This is tested and proven on a daily basis by how we treat our brothers and sisters. It is the way we talk to one another, the way we see things, how we hear things. It is what we do and how we do it, what we say and how we say it. This reveals His glory in us, which demands the respect of others and binds us together as one.51
Yahshua was the first man in whom divinity and humanity were able to dwell together in peace and harmony. This is how his bride will be in eternity. Our life together exposes everything in us that makes us incompatible with His Holy Spirit. It is so wonderful that we can face these things now and be purified, so that when He comes we will be able to say, as He did, "The ruler of the world has nothing in me."
We have been living this miracle since the time of the Jesus Movement in the early 70s. We have much to learn about our Father's ways, but we know we are on the right course. We are experiencing deep salvation and growing in our love and unity. We also see Christianity growing darker and more like the world. We long for our brothers and sisters to come home to the place our Master said He would prepare for them. Please come and see.
In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)