EXPLORING THE FOURTH
DIMENSION - Parts one to five
By John Aldworth
Published August 24 2013
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. That He would grant you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height; And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God
“Love lift us up where we belong” the pop song pleads. And, indeed, we all feel a deep longing to break the chains that bind, take wing and soar to greater heights. Yet to be honest, life for most of us is a flame that quickly flickers out; hope dies, leaving our barely glimpsed destiny unfulfilled.
We all know this is not how it was meant to be. Not for us, nor for our world, nor for our future. We all should be more than we are; we should succeed where we often fail. Yet we let ourselves down by our own shortcomings then blame the capricious dealings of an unfair, evil world.
It’s as though we are fenced in one hand and tied down with invisible strings on the other. And physically it is true that we are locked in a three-dimensional existence when part of us longs to go beyond, to experience far more. The same can be said for most people’s spiritual experience.
For many so-called believers, for example, spirituality is a cycle of small advances but major setbacks from which they often do not break free, despite prayer and frequent church attendance. Often their hoped-for big breakthrough never happens.
For unbelievers it’s worse. Strive as they will the “happy life” eludes most of them; often existence is cut short or maimed by personal disaster. And, despite all the psycho babble, pseudo spiritual gimmicks and short cuts offered by organised Christendom and pagan religion alike, the death ratio remains 100 per cent. Furthermore, no one except the Lord Jesus Christ has come back from the dead to say otherwise. Mankind seems trapped in a too small, trouble prone existence. As Job 5:7 puts it, “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward”.
But could it be that there is a Fourth Dimension we should be experiencing, that we were originally created to live in, but that now, in our fallen state, we don’t even know about? Spiritually there most certainly is such a dimension that has been lost, for according to Rom. 3:23 “… all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. And as we shall see shortly the glory of God is indeed a whole other dimension of reality both spiritual and tangible in its effect.
So, is there another realm of tangible existence that man was created to inhabit but has missed out on because of the fall? I believe that there is and that truly it is just as real a part of the universe as the ground we walk on and the sun, moon and stars that we see. And no, it is not just what most people think of as heaven because this other dimension is something that can be experienced while we are still on earth. The even better news for the world is that, after keeping this further dimension a secret throughout the ages, in fact “since the world began”, God is now in showing it to his saints and indeed wants all men to know about it (Eph. 3:9, Col. 1:26).
However, it is important to understand that this hitherto un-glimpsed dimension of reality only comes courtesy of the dispensation of the mystery and the grace of God given by the Lord Jesus Christ to the Apostle Paul “for you Gentiles” (Eph. 3:1-3). Only those willing to set aside earlier understandings in the light of this new “present truth” that God has revealed through Paul will grasp it.
The truth of the Fourth Dimension is multi-faceted but as a starting point consider the glory of God. It is true that the glory of God is the glory of who He is. It is also a matter of glory that He has never sinned and that his judgements are always right and true.
However, and very importantly, the glory of God is also the place where He lives. The realm “far above all heavens” (Eph. 4:10), where Christ Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, is in itself is “glory”. Indeed it is the ultimate “glory”. What’s more the Bible declares that it is a definite, dimensional location (Eph. 3:18).
This is so because God Himself is “the Father of glory” (Eph. 1:17) and his Son is “the Lord of glory” (Jas. 2:1). It was to this glory that God the Son was received up at his ascension (1 Tim. 3:16). And right now for us who truly trust Christ it is from “his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19) that the Father supplies our need.
Furthermore, if we are in God’s high and heavenly calling (Phil. 3:14), then one day soon we will appear with Christ in this same glory (Col. 3:3-4). Already we have been translated into the kingdom of his dear Son (Col. 1:13) which in itself is “glory”, and have Paul’s promise that: “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (again Phil. 4:19).
Granted, it is not easy for earth bound humans to see the glory of God, still less to recognise it as the Fourth Dimension, a new habitat beyond the earth on which we live, one in which “… we can live and move and have our being” (Acts 17: 28). We need to be changed at our very core to even glimpse it, which is why in Eph. 3:14-19, as set out above, Paul prays for us Gentiles that …
... the Father would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.
The purpose of such strengthening (see verses 17 and 18) is that Christ might dwell in our hearts by faith and that we might …
... comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, length, depth and height.
We are not told here in Eph. 3:17-18 what it is that these four dimensions actually measure but we are told that the further purpose of the “inner strengthening” is that we should “know the love of Christ which passeth all understanding” and that we should be “filled with all the fullness of God”.
What a wonderful prospect, that we should be filled with all the fullness of God. For the present, however, our life (and future glory) is “hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). This is why it is vital to have the Lord’s hidden life and glory dwelling deep within us. It should be welling up within us as a secret ready to burst forth when the time of “his appearing” arrives. If the hope of his glory indwells us we will experience more and more of his love in everyday life as we wait.
Part of the Lord’s love for us is that there will open up to us a new depth of spiritual experience in trusting Him. Progressively the “fullness” will open our eyes to see the Fourth Dimension of true reality which in Eph. 3:17 is described as “height”.
Later in this series we will study more of what the Fourth Dimension is and seek to explain what it and the other dimensions of Eph. 3:18 measure and describe as revealed in the Bible. For now, however, let us look at what the world, science and education consider the Fourth Dimension to be. According to the OracleQuest online website:
Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity proposes the universe we live in includes 4 dimensions, the first three being what we know as space, and the fourth being space-time, which is a dimension where time and space are inextricably linked. . Thus, "time" is dependent on space.
Well, Einstein may have thought that the fourth dimension is time-space but that is not the Bible’s view. The word of God declares there are four linear (meaning measurable) dimensions, not three, and that the Fourth Dimension is “height”. Thus, to the consternation of those trusting in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Eph. 3:18 speaks of breadth, length, depth and height. Importantly, these biblical dimensions do not include time, much less the time-space continuum imagined by the theorist.
Evidently time is not cited as a dimension in scripture because God’s word sees time as a temporary, not permanent phenomenon. In sharp contrast “science falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20) insists that the “time-space continuum” is a long lasting reality enduring in their view for billions of years. Of course this would deny the truth of Rev. 10:6 where an angel solemnly swears “… there shall be time no longer”.
When that angelic pronouncement takes effect, as indeed it will one day, then time will be up and the long succession of ages created and dispensed by God at his pleasure will be over. Right now, however, it is true that for each believer on earth that “my times are in thine (i.e. God’s) hands” (Ps. 31:15) and that “in his times He (our Lord Jesus Christ) shall shew (Himself) who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of Lords”(1 Tim. 6:14-15).
Accordingly, we now wait for the Lord’s “appearing in his times”, which comprise, first the Day of Christ (Phil. 1:6, 10 and 2:16) then secondly the Day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:2 and Rev. 1:10).
Meanwhile in our present life there is the Fourth Dimension for us to explore in both its spiritual effect within us and in its mind-boggling heavenly spatial reality. That it is indeed a heavenly dimension of reality is clear from Eph. 1:3 where we are assured that the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places”.
Here there is an obvious correlation between “heavenly places” and “height”. Just as in the earthly plane we can explore length, breadth and depth but need wings or a spacecraft to explore height, so in the spiritual realm we can only soar aloft by “seeking those things which are above where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God”(Col. 3:1-2).
Thus we must set “our affection on things above, not on things on the earth”. This means leaving behind the “earthly things” Jesus Christ spoke of to the Jews in his earthly ministry (John 3:12) and setting our affection on the “heavenly things” that He now reveals through the prison epistle writings of Paul. In a nutshell the truth contained therein is indeed spiritual “height”.
Against this it is a measure of the limited nature of man’s earth-bound thinking that he compresses depth and height into the third dimension and calls it “depth”. For example, the online FreeDictionary defines the third dimension as “the depth or thickness of an object or space”.
If such three-dimensional thinking were applied to the Bible then no difference could be seen, for example, between the “bottomless pit” and the “heavenlies” or “heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6) where Christ sits in glory “far above all heavens”. Evidently, however, God sees a huge difference between these two realms of experience and He calls it “height”.
He also has a very different understanding of time to man’s, dividing it into “time past” and “but now” for Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-13), for example. In “time past” Gentiles were “... without Christ ... having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ”.
And if we believe what scripture actually says, instead of reading our own understanding into it, we will see that it is in the very important dispensational change outlined in the paragraph above that the Fourth Dimension is introduced. You see, to God “height” truly is a whole other dimension, one that He says that hitherto has been unknown in human experience (Eph. 3:5 and 9).
Accordingly, it is in what scripture calls the “mystery” (Eph. 3:1-4), that this hitherto secret realm of spiritual (and future tangible, liveable) experience is opened up to the believer’s eyes. Its disclosure brings into view a huge new expanse for human habitation that is “far above the heavens” (Eph. 4:10). So breathtakingly large is this new domain and so infinite is the extent of the deathless life and spiritual joy that believers will experience in it, it’s no wonder God deems it a Fourth Dimension. And again, please note, it is not “heaven” as such that it is in view. This sphere of being is “far above all heavens”.
Importantly this Fourth Dimension is also very wide; it is something God wants the whole world to see. Indeed in the soon coming Day of Christ it will change the whole world. Now glimpsed only by selected saints whom God has specially called to see it, the “mystery” actually entails the future appearing and potential presence of Christ to and in each and every person on earth. Thus Col. 1:27 speaking of saints says:
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you the hope of glory.
And in Eph. 3:9 the Apostle Paul explains how that:
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.
Written from his prison in Rome, Paul’s epistles have been published throughout the world making known to those who will read and believe them both the glory and the fellowship of the mystery, “which is Christ in you the hope of glory” Yet tragically both the world and Christendom continue to largely ignore this new dimension of truth as they have for the last 1900 years.
So just when will “all men” come to see “the fellowship of the mystery”? When will the world experience the “height” of Christ’s love for man, which “passeth knowledge”? And when will the teeming masses of mankind be “filled with the fullness of God”? (Eph. 3:19). Answer: Very soon because the next thing on God’s agenda is Christ’s appearing in what Paul calls “the day of Christ” when the Christ Jesus our Lord will shine forth from heaven as the world’s Saviour and indeed “the blessed and only Potentate” (1 Tim. 6:15). He will also “judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1).
Careful Bible study will show that the Fourth Dimension is part and parcel of both “the mystery” and “the unsearchable riches of Christ” and that it is also a new dimension in grace and power that can begin to be experienced by the believer here and now.
It is in fact “the hope of glory”, that is the hidden life of Christ which will be manifested at his appearing in the Day of Christ but which can be encountered in the here and now as a spiritual reality in the heart and minds of believers to whom God reveals it.
So powerful is this unveiling within the human heart of the life, power and glory of Christ that it can only be called a whole new dimension in the believer’s life. As yet hidden in God in heaven (Col. 3:3-4), at least as far as the world is concerned, it is now “made manifest to his saints” on earth. Laying hold of it opens up on an unending inexhaustible supply of riches.
To be continued
EXPLORING THE FOURTH
DIMENSION - Part Two
The role of the imagination
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. That He would grant you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height; And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.
There has to be a reason for God leaving an unfinished clause in Eph. 3:18. The verse speaks of being able to “comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth and length and depth and height …” but does not say what these measurements describe.
Most preachers say that these dimensions are those of Christ’s love. However, according to the Bible, the Lord’s love is so boundless that nothing, either in this world or the next, can “separate from us the love of God which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:39).
Actually Eph. 3:14-19 deals with three things that can only be achieved by believers being “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (vs. 16-17. They are …
- “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, length depth and height”
- “To know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge”.
- “That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God”.
This study deals with the first of these, which is the ability through Christ’s indwelling to comprehend how God measures things, a concept foreign to normal human understanding. But first we should pray asking the Lord to strengthen us with his might in our inner man.
Then, through his grace and the imparted strength of his indwelling spiritual understanding, we can perhaps grasp what the Lord is teaching us on this subject through his appointed apostle of the mystery, Paul. Of course this will involve further Bible study. But just as importantly it will require the use of imagination by our now renewed mind.
Now the word imagination gets a bad press among Christians. They fear those using it will resort to fantasies and depart from the faith and, indeed, many have. But they did so, I would suggest, without having “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16), still less his strengthening “with might in the inner man”.
In reality the questions is not whether we use our imagination or not; we all do. It is how we use it, whether for better understanding God and his word or to indulge our own desires and wishful thinking.
Now to understand Eph. 3:18 something more than ordinary understanding is definitely required. This because God has deliberately left out of the text what it is that the dimensions of “breadth and length and depth and height” describe. Could it be that God intends us to use our imagination to fill the gap? And would that also be the case in Gen. 3:22 where the Lord leaves the sentence unfinished?
And the Lord God said, Behold man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever … Therefore the Lord sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken.
What would have been the consequence of man eating of the tree of life after the fall? Only our imagination informed by the Lord can tell us. I believe it would have resulted in mankind plunging ever deeper into sin and living for ever – to God an utterly repugnant prospect.
Sadly our God-given imagination like every other human faculty has been plunged into darkness by sin. According to Rom. 1:21 men even when they knew God, glorified him not as God neither were thankful “… became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened”.
What then is our imagination? If we are saved and called into the “one body” then it is the ability to know that which we receive when we are renewed, or made anew, in the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, revealed in Paul’s latter epistles as the Creator of “the new man”.
However, apart from God and unredeemed by the blood of Christ the human imagination is fleshly, carnal, dark and thoroughly evil. It is part of the old man to be put off. It is powerfully bad; so powerful that three times God has felt compelled to step in to restrain it. The three occasions are set out in the following verses:
Gen. 1:22-24: And now , lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live for ever … So He drove out the man and placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.
Gen. 6:5-7: And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth…
Gen. 11:4-8: And they said to one another, Go to let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heave: and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad on the face of the whole earth. And the Lord said, Behold the people is one and they all have on language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
Way back in the garden Eden God had to prevent fallen man from using his imagination to take and eat of the tree of life and live for ever. Then, by the time of Noah’s flood man’s darkened imagination had developed to become “only evil continually”. And, ignoring the great lessons of the flood to heed God and obey his word, Noah’s descendants imagined that they could make a name for themselves by building a city and tower that would reach the heavens quite apart from the Almighty.
So powerful was fallen man’s imagination that unless God confused mankind’s language and scattered them across the earth nothing would have restrained them from what they imagined to do.
The extent to which fallen man’s imagination can be a powerhouse of evil even in the House of God is found in Ezekiel chapter eight. Here evil imagination penetrates the inner sanctum of God’s temple on earth, ultimately causing the Shekinah glory of God’s presence to depart from it (Ezek. 10:18).
In Ezek. 8:7-12 the Lord tells the prophet to dig in a hole in the wall of the temple. He uncovers a door. Then…
He said unto me, Go in and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. So I went in and saw and behold every form of creeping things and abominable beasts and all the idols of the house of Israel pourtrayed upon the wall round about.
And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand and a thick cloud of incense went up.
Then said He unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth
Ezekiel sees all this “in the visions of God” (Ezek. 8:3). While sitting with the elders of Judah in his house the spirit lifted him up and brought him to Jerusalem’s inner northern gate “where was the seat (pedestal) of the image (statue) of jealous, which provoketh to jealousy”. This image, note the word, was that of Astarte the pagan fertility goddess, or “Asheera”, the “queen of heaven” referred to in Jer. 44: 17, 25.
From the context it is clear that the Lord shows Ezekiel a picture of what is going on in the imaginations of Israel’s ruling Sanhedrin, the “seventy ancients”. To a man they are worshipping images of the very beasts and creeping things God had commanded them not to make images of or to bow down to.
Speaking of these “ancients, the Jamieson, Fausset Brown in their respected commentary astutely observe: “The ‘chambers of their imagery’ are their own perverse imaginations, answering to the priest’s chambers in the vision upon the walls of which the idolatrous images were portrayed”.
Fallen man’s imagination then is a dark power that not only runs “this present evil world” but can also pollute the mind of those called to be believers. But can the sanctified imagination of a saved believer ever be a power for good? Can it bring him closer to God? Can it lay hold on the deeper truth and purposes of the Father in this “the dispensation of the grace of God”? Can it be the key to unlocking the “mystery” Paul writes of in Eph. 3:3 and Col. 1:27?
Yes it can. Indeed, as pointed out in the first study of this series on Exploring the Fourth Dimension”, as those called to be members of the “one body” (Col. 3:15) we must use our imagination to understand what the four linear measurements mentioned in Eph. 3:18 describe.
And we who are risen with Christ must direct our gaze beyond “earthly things” (Col. 3:19) beyond the skies towards “heavenly things”. In fact we must “look for the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body …” (Col. 3:20-21).
There is much more to say about the power of the imagination and its connection to the Fourth Dimension, which is that of height as opposed to depth. However, that will await a later study in this series.
For now let us look at Col. 3:9-10 where the Apostle Paul, at the Lord’s direction, offers instruction on how we in the mystery calling can exercise a Christ-led and holy imagination:
Lie not to one another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds. And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.
If we be “risen with Christ” (Col. 3:1), the apostle argues, then we have “put off” the old man and his corrupted imagination, which today is still only “evil continually”, just as it was back in Genesis 6:5-7.
Importantly, we have also “put on” the “new man” which is so renewed in his ability to know, see and perceive the heavenly things of God that he does so as the “image of Him who created him”.
That means in turn that the new man created by the Lord actually has and can use the very imagination of the Creator God Himself, Christ Jesus the Lord. He can see as God sees. So, if God sees four dimensions not three and height as well as depth, so will his “new man”.
Clearly imagination stems from the word image. Man and woman were originally made in the image of God and as such they had imagination, God’s imagination. That is, they could imagine, which means to think thoughts (see Rom. 2:15 where the same Greek word for imagination, logismos, is translated as thoughts) just as God does, albeit in their case on an earthly, not heavenly, plane.
Then they fell in sin and “…became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:21). “Vain” means empty, empty of God that is, in that “when they knew God they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful”. That error took place in the garden of Eden, where instead of heeding God, Eve listened to the serpent. And instead of hearkening to the voice of God, as he should have, her husband Adam “hearkened to the voice” of his wife (Gen. 3:17).
Please note the role imagination plays in both creation and the fall. In Gen. 1:3 God says, or imagines if you will, “Let there be light and there was light”. And God saw the light, that it was good”. Like a sculptor, an engineer or an artist God first imagines and then speaks out loud the thing that He will create. Then He stands back as it were to view what He has created and declares it to be good. In doing all of this I would suggest the Lord God necessarily uses his divine imagination.
But Eve, although made in the image of God, did not reflect or represent her Creator as she should have when she saw or imagined “that the tree was good for food” (Gen. 3:6). And Adam did not use his faculty of knowing as God knows, seeing as God sees, and thinking as God does, when he ate the fruit Eve gave him.
The tragic result was that both the man and his wife had “their eyes opened” (Gen. 3:7) and saw or imagined that they were naked.
That was then. But what is now? Well, in the dispensation of the grace of God and the mystery, members of the “one body” have been made a new creature in Christ. That is, as Col. 3:10 clearly states they have been recreated in the image of the Creator who created them. Consequently in putting on the “new man” they have both the mind and imagination of Christ.
It is important realise that all the references in Colossians are to the new, not old, creation and that the image they are created in is that of the New Creator, so to speak, not that of the maker of Adam of Eve.
As 2 Cor. 5:17 says: “Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Old things are passed away. Behold (with your imagination, that is) all things are become new”.
Therefore the image of the new man in believers who know that they are risen with Christ is a new and very different image to that in which Adam and Eve were created. It is the image of the new creation not the old. Consequently those who have “put on the new man” have the mind and imagination of the Lord as He now is in glory, not a restored version of the divine image and imagination Adam and Eve forfeited back in Eden. The image we are created in now is heavenly; the one Adam was made in was, so to speak, earthy.
As 1 Cor. 15:47-49 states: “The first man is of the earth: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have born the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly”.
To be continued
EXPLORING THE FOURTH
DIMENSION - Part Three
On having the imagination of Christ
Eph. 3:16-18: That He would grant you according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and Height…
Col. 3:10 …Seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.
Most of us have little problem with the first three dimensions of Eph. 3:18. We understand that God is long suffering, that Christ’s arms were stretched wide in death to save all who will believe and that He is able to save from the deepest depth those that turn unto Him.
But understanding the fourth dimension of height in God is another story. It refers to a higher realm, far above the earthly limitations of our present experience. Indeed with our natural understanding we cannot expect to understand it.
And this is why in Eph. 3:20 Paul points us higher, saying:
Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.
This verse teaches that the Father’s power working in us can do “exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think”. But does scripture explain what this amazing ability of God is? Yes, it does when it describes the process by which the Lord God first created man and again how He recreates us in his own image in the new creation.
Because the Creator’s own image is clearly the template, focus and blueprint for both man’s first and second creation then the word imagination is the only appropriate one to describe the process by which God makes us like unto Himself. Accordingly Col. 1:15 says that "his dear Son" is:
...the image of the invisble God, the firstborn of very creature.
This verse does not teach that Christ was the first created being, as the Jehovah's Witnesses wrongly hold. Rather it teaches that Christ is the divine matrix for all those in Christ who have become "a new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17).
In this creation process God “imagines” and thereby creates man to be like Himself. We see God doing that in Gen. 1:26-27:
And God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air, and over all the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.
Of all God’s creatures only man is created in the image of God. The rest of creation is created in the image of God’s idea of what they should be, not in the image of God Himself.
However, like the rest of creation, man is indeed a created being. And God has graciously explained the out workings of creation. “Let us…” explains that it begins with a desire in the heart and mind of God to create something that did not exist before, in this case, man. This I believe indicates the process of divine imagination. Having thus given form and image to that which He has purposed, God then speaks it into being by saying it out loud, for example, “Let there be light”. Of course, that which He speaks is that which He has already formed and shaped in his imagination. And the product of his imagination, like God Himself, is always good. Thus in Gen 1:4 we are told” And God saw the light that it was good…”
Adam, as made in the image of God before the fall, clearly had this same divine ability to imagine and then speak things into being, albeit to a lesser extent. We see him begin to exercise his God-given power of dominion and imagination over the rest of creation in Gen. 2:19:
And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
Adam here uses his imagination to imagine a name for each beast and, since name is put for the nature, in so doing defines its function and characteristics by its name. There can be no doubt God intended man to use his created ability to imagine and in turn create as a positive force for good. After the fall, however, man’s imagination became “only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
Today man still uses his imagination and knowledge largely for evil. “Science falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20), for example, is dedicated to imagining reality without God. So are education, economics, politics and society. In art and literature, television and film the imagination focuses on evil, violence, illicit sex and disaster. Indeed it is impossible to imagine a novel about good people successfully doing good things succeeding as a best seller.
But it is in religion that man’s warped imagination has really gone into overdrive. Every possible form of corrupted worship of false gods, idols, beasts, birds and creeping things has been imagined and brought into being by man. And all in defiance of God’s clear command to worship Him and Him alone. Christendom itself has turned simple faith in the Saviour’s death for our sin into various blasphemous rituals, from water baptism to the mass and the laying on of hands; all of them things that men perform seeking to save themselves or each other.
So what is man anyway, you might ask? Well, in one sense he is a little creator, made in the image of the Creator, the Lord God of Genesis Chapter One. Or rather he was because that image became warped, marred by a savage twist downward into a depth God had not intended man to go.
Nevertheless despite the fall, the power to imagine remained in man. He could and can imagine and bring into being new technology that ranges from the computer to nuclear weapons. He can imagine whole new religions. Islam, that creed of hate and slaughter, sprang from the imagination of the Prophet Mohammed, for example.
Yes, occasionally man’s imagination does work for good. Much of medicine and truly useful inventions like the washing machine, refrigerator and the flush toilet bear witness to that. But in each of our hearts, as we know too well, our imagination has an evil bent. It will drag our thoughts downward to things that shouldn’t be thought about, let alone mentioned, the minute we stop focussing on the Lord and his word.
From these thoughts two big questions arise. Firstly, does man still have a real imagination and through it can he still create at least to some extent. The answer to that is, yes. Secondly, can the full power of man’s God-given ability to imagine as God does be restored in such a way that it only does good, and always serves God’s purposes. And, thankfully, the answer to that question is also, yes.
But how is this to come about? The answer lies in the revelation of the mystery through the Apostle Paul. Here there is not only a new creation but, most importantly, there is the creation of a new way of knowing in the redeemed man. However, for this new knowledge to work in us we need the Father to strengthen us “with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16).
Then we must come to believe that through the grace of God (via Col. 2:12, for example) we have been made to “put on” the “new man”, which itself is but another description of the “inner man”.
When we come by faith to realise this in our own experience, we find that this “new man” is very different from ourselves. He doesn’t think like us, he believes far more than we do, he is full of grace and truth. He knows the love of Christ in truth and his knowledge has been “renewed in the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:10). He is in fact created in the very image of Christ Himself.
Clearly we need to know more about this “new” and “inner” man and the following scriptures help to fill out the picture:
2 Cor. 5:17-18: Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things have passed way; behold all things have become new; and all things are of God who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.
Gal. 6:15: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
Eph. 2:15: Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace.
Eph. 3:16: That He would grant you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.
Eph. 4:24: And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Col. 3:10: And have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created him.
Wow, what a contrast! This new man, this inner man, is created in righteousness and true holiness to be, in this respect, just like God Himself. What’s more he is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created him, meaning that through the process of imagination (being remade in the image of Christ who is God) he now knows as God knows.
If it seems presumptuous to think that we could know as God knows, remember that the purpose of being able to do so is that we should be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). It would be impossible to be filled with God without knowing as He knows. Remember also that this “knowing” is achieved through the process of imagination. It is in fact the process by which we “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).
As explained earlier, among other things imagination is needed to grasp the Eph. 3:18 fourth dimension of height. And a grasp of this is necessary if we are to understand the full expanse of reality as it really is, which is of course how God sees and knows it. Again, and very importantly, it is not our carnal imagination that will achieve this. It must be the imagination that comes from being strengthened with might in the inner man by the Spirit of the Father, according to his riches in glory.
I believe that in Eph. 3:16 the thing Paul prays the Father will impart to us is his own ability to by faith imagine, know and then see created something within us that is totally outside and beyond our natural experience. This is confirmed by Eph. 3:20 where we are told that God is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us”.
When we compare scripture with scripture in the context we find that this power working within us is the same power which Eph. 3:16 describes as our being “strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man”. The purpose of this is threefold:
1) that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, in order that
2) we may “comprehend” the four dimensions (of the inner man, that is) and …
3) That we may know the love of Christ in full measure and be filled with the fullness of God.
Since God’s power working with us is able to do “above all we can ask or think” then the means by which it operates in us is of necessity above and beyond what we can grasp by our thinking, or indeed praying, which is why the Father had Paul pray for us in the first place. It would seem he couldn’t trust us to do the praying in this matter.
Furthermore, since the new man, or inner man, is created in the image of Him that created him (Col. 3:10) the only process by which we can realise that which God has done in us must be by imagination. Accordingly, it is only by imagination that can we grasp the dimensions of reality as God knows and sees them.
This imagination then is a faculty or ability which is found only in the “new man” of the “new creation”. As Col. 3:10 beautifully puts it:
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created Him.
Now, often the dictionary is a good guide to understanding what the Bible actually says. And, according to Collins Dictionary, image means variously:
1) A mental picture of an object.
2) A representation in three dimensions of a person or object.
3) An object set up for worship; a statue.
4) An effigy.
5) A likeness;
6) A similitude.
7) An idol.
The Bible uses the word image in all of these meanings. What’s more Collins Dictionary addresses the theme of our study when it states that:
“An image is “a representation in three dimensions of a person or object”.
So now we begin to understand what God is saying in Eph. 3:18 when we compare it with Col. 3:10. In Eph. 3:18, through the indwelling of Christ, we have the four dimensions, length, breadth, depth and height that Paul prays that we may be able to “comprehend”. In Col. 3:10 we are told we “have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created him.”
Put the two together in the light of the Collins Dictionary definition of “image”- that it is a dimensional representation of an object or person – and it becomes clear that the Eph. 3:18 dimensions actually delineate the “new man” that we are told we have already put on by being baptised into Christ’s resurrection through “faith of the operation of God” (Col. 2:12).
In other words, it is only through the inner voice and presence of Christ Himself and by the procession of his imagination, not ours, that we can learn the length, or full extent, of the new person or “new man” that God has caused us to become. In fact the very process of imagination itself has such length that it will both progressively “conform” us to his image during our lifetime here on earth and also ensure we remain so conformed throughout eternity.
To better understand this let us trace the progressive revelation of truth using the word “conform” as found in Scripture. In Rom. 8:29 the Acts period believers were told that:
For whom He did foreknow He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.
They were also told in Rom. 12:1-2 that they should present their bodies as “a living sacrifice”. They should not be “not conformed to this world”, the apostle insisted, but “be (ye) transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God”.
Note that here the will of God is expressed in three dimensions, the good, the acceptable and the perfect. Why, you might ask, is there no fourth expression or dimension of the divine will mentioned here or anywhere else in Paul’s pre-prison epistles? Answer: because at this time the fourth dimension, “height”, had yet to be revealed as part of the mystery Christ made known to Paul the prisoner (Eph. 3:1-4).
As to its breadth the “new man”created in the image of Christ (who is Himself the New Creator) is seen to be wide enough to take in every single person in the world. All they have to do is to receive Christ Jesus as their Saviour and Lord and believe that already God has made them part of this new creation for it to become operative in their lives. .
Talking of breadth, of course, raises the question of just who God has called to be members of this new mystery body of Christ, “the church which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:21-22). Some believe it is only a specially chosen few. Actually it is everybody, because the Apostle Paul was clearly commissioned to: “Make all men see the fellowship of the mystery which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Sadly most of mankind spurn the revelation of the “new man” and its wonderful dimensions as they do the offer of salvation that precedes it.
So what then is the depth of this “new man”? Answer: He goes as deep as Christ Himself has gone to save from mankind “from the guttermost to the uttermost”. After all no matter how deep the ravages of sin the Lord is able to save any or all who believe on Him from them and the new man is specifically created incorruptible in order to be immune from such temptations.
Also when we are renewed in the image of the new man, the very deepest part of us is reached and renewed. Can you imagine it? This new creation process of imagination removes everything in us that does not conform to his image and replaces it with Christ’s own righteousness, faith and holiness.
Now as to height, clearly this dimension far exceeds man’s ability to “prove” the will of God by conforming himself to God’s standards, which is why there is no “fourth dimension” in Rom. 8:29. Height you see has to do with making us completely fit to live with God for ever in the high and heavenly place of his residence. The degree of change required to fit us for this abode is so great that clearly only God can do it. This is why are told in Col. 1:12 that we should be:
Giving thanks unto the Father which has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
Truly the Father has “made us meet” in that He has already caused us to put on “the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him” (Col. 3:10). He has imagined us to be the very best we could ever be. And, in fully reflecting the image of his Son, that is what we have become.
To be continued
EXPLORING THE FOURTH
DIMENSION - Part Four
Imagination and the dimensions of the new
By John Aldworth
Published 6 November 2013-11-06
Eph. 3:18-19: May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the length and breadth and depth and height And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.
Eph. 4:14: And that ye put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Col. 3:10: And have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created him.
According to 1 Pet. 3:4 Jewish wives are advised to let their adorning be the “hidden man of the heart which is not corruptible … a meek and quiet spirit”. Here the Apostle Peter states important truth for those whose hope is to be resurrected on earth; it is that of the inner man’s incorruptibility.
Similarly in 1 Cor. 15:53 Paul teaches that “… this corruption must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality”. He is referring to the incorruptibility of the revived bodies in which the Old Testament kingdom saints and those saved into the Acts period “Church of God” will be resurrected when they live again on earth. Clearly these believers hoped in a future resurrection.
But we as believers saved under the dispensation of grace and the mystery set out in Paul’s prison epistles – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, etc – have no hope at all in any future resurrection.
Why so, you ask? Because already, meaning right now, we “are risen with Christ through the faith of the operation of God” (Col. 2:12). Accordingly, our “blessed hope” is to “appear” with Christ in glory when He Himself appears in glory (Titus 2:13 and Col. 3:4. This, of course, is the only way of going to “heaven” for believers today. It is the “blessed hope” of appearing in glory with Christ who has “ascended up far above all heavens” (Eph. 4:10). But perhaps you believe only in John 3:16 or the “gospel” of 1 Cor. 15:1-4. If so you are trusting in the doctrine of a former dispensation now superseded by the “grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men…” (Titus 2:12).
Let me say again that our hope in grace is not to be resurrected on earth. For any such resurrection can only happen in the coming “Day of Christ” (2 Tim. 4:1) and then only if the Lord judges it to be appropriate in each believer’s case.
As such it is not a sure and certain, still less a “blessed hope”, for those who have spurned the “present truth” revelation of grace and glory and insist on trying to enter heaven by other means. For most that means being saved by the gospel and the doctrines of the Acts period Church of God which include water baptism, speaking in tongues, outward manifestation of miracles and salvation that is clearly conditional. How conditional, you ask? Well, Rom. 8:13 plainly teaches:
For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live.
Salvation in the Pentecostal dispensation into which most Christians would put themselves today then depends on how good one is in putting your evil nature to death, rather than having it done for you which is God’s promise to those called in the grace-mystery dispensation.
In Col. 3:4, 5 and 10 we find that grace-mystery believers are not put on probation as their Acts period counterparts were. They are already “accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6) and “complete in Christ” (Col. 2:10). This is how the grace gospel of the prison epistles supersedes the “get yourself right or perish” gospel of the Acts period.
Today grace believers in mystery truth are assured that “… ye also shall appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). What’s more we “…have put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created him”. Since God’s salvation is already “complete” in us it is now only by simply knowing and believing these wonderful assurances that we can obey Col. 3:5 and:
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence and covetousness which is idolatry.
We should realise that “by faith of the operation of God” (Col. 2:12) we are already “risen with Christ” and that God hath “raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 2:6). Importantly God says we have already “put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him” (Col. 2:10). And if God has said it, why should we argue or disagree with Him?
The truth is that long before the Day of Christ eventually dawns we as saints saved under the grace-mystery dispensation of God’s goodness, will have already taken our place with Christ in glory. In fact right now we are already there, positionally speaking.
However to realise in our direct spiritual experience both our present life in the Lord and lay hold of our future glory now hidden with Christ (Col. 3:3-4) we must use imagination. Not our imagination, that is, but the imagination of the new man, he who is created in the image of Christ and who after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
There is a progression in the revelation to Paul concerning the “new man” from Eph. 4:24 going forward to Col. 3:10. While he urges the Ephesians to “put ye on the new man”, later, having realised the fuller work of God in the believer, he assures the Colossians that already they have “put on the new man”.
But did the Ephesians and Colossians believe the wonderful new truths about the “new man” that Paul put before them? Evidently not, for in 2 Tim. 1:15 the apostle laments, “This thou knowest that all they which in Asia be turned away from, me.”
Now all means all without exception and since both Ephesus and Colosse lay in the Roman province of Asia, Ephesian and Colossian believers alike were among those who turned from the latest news from God, the Pauline revelation of the mystery. It also means they failed to put on the new man.
Similarly today most Christians when confronted with a call to grasp mystery truth spurn the offer. Trusting largely in what they can do to make themselves holy (the legacy of both the Catholic Church and the holiness, Pentecostal movement) they find themselves unable to “put on” the “new man which after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness”.
Indeed the very thought of abandoning their own “holiness” in order to do so is repugnant to nearly all of them. Perhaps they should view that accurate critique of the holiness/Pentecostal movement the film “The Apostle” to realise again the truth of Isaiah’s inspired words:
But we are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Is. 64:6).
By nature man can no more be holy than a pig can fly. In fact it would be easier for the pig to fly. Saved though he may man cannot by his own will and thinking make himself holy. And if he can’t put on holiness by an effort of his will, how can he put on the “new man” which is so holy as to be so alien to his natural understanding. He can’t and that is why God has to put it on for him.
But how does God do this? By his grace is the answer. And how can a believer know God has clothed him with new man? Not through his ordinary thinking nor by “will worship”, i.e. by willing it, but by faith in God’s words and as explored through the fourth dimension of reality, height, that is by the new man’s imagination.
You see by the time of writing Colossians Paul had learned not only that the Father hath already caused us to “put on” the “new man” but also that He has “made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). Paul also knew that the Father has “delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. (Col. 1:13)
So, far from struggling to achieve holiness and righteousness by our own feeble efforts, we have been “strengthened with all might according to his glorious power” to undergo a momentous change, one based on the truth that in Christ “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins”.
Fact is that already we are fully forgiven, finally delivered from evil and totally translated into the Lord’s heavenly kingdom. All that is required for this to become absolutely real in every circumstance of our present experience is that we believe God when He says He has already accomplished this in us.
Significantly, in Phil. 3:10 the Apostle Paul describes this process of our believing as being “made conformable unto his death” so that we might know “the power of his resurrection”. Please note it is not we who must make ourselves conformable unto his death but God that does the actual work. Our only part is to be willing to “suffer the loss of all things” if that is what it takes, in order to “win Christ and be found in Him” (Phil. 3 9).
There is one other prerequisite to progress upward toward heaven in “the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). It is that we should forget “the things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before”.
Many Christians start to progress in the truth of God as He reveals it to them. Sadly they then stop part way, pitch camp and refuse to go further. Pleas for them to heed Paul’s latest revelation that of the grace mystery dispensation, and to thus climb higher, fall on deaf ears.
Now we have all learned many wonderful things about God from the Old Testament, the gospels and the Acts period Pentecostal dispensation. But those who respond to the “upward call” find it necessary to leave them behind in the sense that they are not vital doctrine we must obey today. You see, there is no room for excess baggage as we set to scale the height(s), which is why Paul urges us to “forget the things which are behind”.
Recently I was given a graphic example of this by my friend and fellow Bible student Pravin Puna. He invited me to see a wonderful scriptural example of the difference between depth and height in terms of what we need to do to find acceptance in the Lord. I had always felt, without really thinking about it, that seriously serving the Lord was a requirement.
However, Pravin urged me to compare the following verses:
2 Cor. 5:9-10: Wherefore we labour that whether present or absent we may be accepted of Him. For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ.
Eph. 1:6: To the praise of the glory of his grace wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.
Can you see what has changed here as Paul moves from the primarily Jewish dispensation in Acts to the new revelation of grace for all men, but Gentiles in particular, given him by the Lord in the prison epistles? In the pre-mystery Pentecostal dispensation believers are told they must labour to be accepted and that they must face judgement at the judgement seat of Christ.
By contrast in Eph. 1:6 no labouring is required because believers are now told they have already made fully acceptable. You see, once the dispensation of grace and of the mystery is brought in (see Eph. 3:1-4) the apostle strikes a far higher note. He is now operating in height not in depth (see Eph. 3:18).
You see in height there is no need for us to work to be accepted because through the glory of God the Father’s grace we have been “made” acceptable in the Lord. Not only is our acceptance guaranteed; it is already accomplished.
What’s more there is no mention in the prison epistles of anyone needing to be assessed at the judgement seat of Christ. This is because we have already been accepted “in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6) and have been “translated into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col.1:13).
And being so accepted in Christ, being lifted up to be seated with Him the highest place “above the heavens” and being translated (written in, if you will) into the Lord’s heavenly kingdom all involve us in “going up higher”, climbing in fact to reach the very height of the revelation of mystery truth in the “new man” which we have “put on”.
So this is what God means by height. It is being taken up far above what we could ever hope to achieve, to be found in a far higher realm not by our own efforts but by what only He can do in his grace. Height then is what we experience when we “comprehend” the fourth dimension of true spiritual experience in God.
Remember the Collins Dictionary definition of .image, quoted in an earlier study? It is: 1) A mental picture of an object and 2) A representation in three dimensions of a person or object.
Now the “image” of Col. 3:10 is indeed both these things. However, Collins’ definition falls short in one respect. It deals with only three dimensions whereas God expresses his image in us in four dimensions. Thus we see in the spiritual reality of the mystery as outlined in Ephesians a “representation in four dimensions of both a person and an object”.
Allow me to explain: The “person” in the definition is the risen ascended God of glory, Christ Jesus the Lord. Importantly for us Gentiles, it is in his image, as the Lord of glory and the Creator of the New Creation (see Col. 3:10), that our personal “new man” has been created. What’s more this “new man”, which we are told we have already “put on”, has been created in his own image by no less a person than Christ Himself.
As to the “object” represented by the “image”, that is both the Lord’s personal glory and the glorious realm in which He now lives at the right hand of the Father. And at the same time it is also both of these in us as we are renewed in his image and in the glory which is to be our abode in future. Presently, however, this realm of glory is hid in God both from our view and that of mankind (see Col. 3:3-4).
But there’s more to the dictionary definition of “image” than that. Collins says that philosophically it means “a mental scheme in which sensations are revived”. And it is in
such a sense in the mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:1-4) that we are revived in our Christian walk of faith. It is how we are “renewed” in our “sensations” of faith in and love for Him. Proof of this is that all who come into grace mystery truth find themselves revitalised, their love for the Lord much greater, their ministry and love of the truth much increased.
Collins also states that, optically, “image” means “the representation of an object formed at the focus of a lens or mirror by rays of light refracted or reflected to it from all parts of the object”. And in 2 Cor. 3:18 the Apostle Paul expounds the power of such “imagery” (Collins: “imagery n. images regarded collectively):
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass (or mirror) the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Several things need to be said about this passage. Firstly, that dispensationally speaking it is doctrine or teaching for the Acts period Church of God which was made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers called into the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:1). Careful study of scripture reveals that in the Pentecostal dispensation miracles accompanied what was a “faith plus works” programme.
All this has now been superseded by the “grace plus faith alone” programme of the grace-mystery dispensation (Eph. 2:8-9 and 3:1-4). By contrast there is a works principle in 2 Cor. 3:18 in that being “changed into the same image from glory to glory” depended on the believer taking pains to behold the Lord’s glory “as in a glass”. If he did not then no transformation into greater glory took place.
And if “glass”, which means mirror, is correctly understood in the context of other scripture it will be seen to be the word of God (James 1:27, 1 Cor. 13:12). Thus even in the miraculous Acts period serious study of scripture was required. Today diligent Bible study is also required. However, now it must be done through the imagination of the new man.
Sadly, current charismatic teaching takes a short cut on that by erroneously asserting that the transformation from glory to glory is effected solely by the “Spirit of the Lord”. But pastors who preach this from 2 Cor. 3:18 do not “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). They fail to see that this is doctrine to the Acts period Church of God, but not present truth for the “church which is his body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:21-22), which is the only scriptural church God is running with today. The upshot is that many are deceived into wrongly believing that the more filled with the Spirit you are the more glorious you become.
This is wrong on two counts. Firstly because study of God’s written word is a prerequisite for spiritual progress in any dispensation; thus it can’t be achieved just through the Spirit. Secondly because the “from glory to glory” piecemeal process of glorification of the Acts period has been superseded by the completed work of being “translated into the kingdom of his dear Son” as set out in Col. 1:13.
Back in 2 Cor. 3:18 the Pentecostal believer had to behold the Lord’s glory with “an open face”. As it turned out few could do it, which begs the question how many could do it today. Do you and I always read God’s word with “open face”?
In other words, do we read the prison epistle revelation given to Paul; with an “open mind” relying on God the Father’s “spirit of wisdom and knowledge in the revelation of Him” (Eph. 1:17) to reveal its true and therefore not commonly accepted meaning, or not? Certainly the word is our “glass” or mirror in which we can see reflected the glory of the Lord. But then again are we now being changed into the “same glory” as the glory of the Lord by what we read? Or have we already been fully changed by the putting on of the “new man”, which has superseded that process?
The truth is that the Acts period Church of God people very largely rejected the mystery revelation of Christ in glory given to Paul (see 2 Tim. 1:15). So it seems unlikely that they would have progressed far in being “changed from glory to glory”. Had they truly been changed into the glory of the Lord surely they would have rejoiced in the new truth revealed to the Apostle Paul; and written for us in his prison epistles. The scriptural record is that they rejected both Paul and the new revelation the Lord gave him (2 Tim 1:15).
Importantly, that new truth includes the fact that believers are now “raised up together (and) made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). And if that is not being fully changed “from glory to glory” I don’t know what is.
It is crucial to understand that truths set out in Paul’s Acts period epistles are both earthly and conditional. They are earthly in that they pertain to entry by resurrection into the Lord’s kingdom on earth. They are conditional in that they require a “work” done by the believer to receive them.
Thus at Pentecost those convicted by the Apostle Peter’s preaching were commanded to “repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). In the grace dispensation, by contrast, salvation is by grace and God’s work alone. The believer’s only contribution is to believe that He does so. Thus in Titus 3:5:
Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.
Accepting that now in the mystery “all things are become new and that all things are (now) of God” (2 Cor. 5:17-18) posed a gut-wrenching challenge for the Pentecostal believers, as it still does for many today. It is hard to let go totally of what man can do in order to receive what only God can do.
Thus we see that, in common with other aspects of the mystery, being changed into Christ’s glorious image is only glimpsed and certainly not fulfilled in Paul’s Acts period writings (Romans, Corinthians, Galatians and Thessalonians). Only in the Apostle’s prison epistles (Ephesians to Philemon) is the change into glory fully brought about in the believer, and then only because it is done entirely by God through his grace. Proof of this is found in Col. 3:9-10 where believers are told that:
…ye have put off the old man with his deeds and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.
Note first that this is already an accomplished fact. Believers here “have put off” the old man and “have put on” the new. Consequently they are already “renewed in knowledge after the image of Him”. In the new dispensation then, the transformation has already taken place in God. Like finding oneself “complete in Christ” (Col. 2:10), it is a completed work that requires no contribution from the believer save believing that because God in his word has said it, then indeed it is so.
Similarly believers have been “delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13), “made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12) and indeed are “risen with Him (Christ) through the faith of the operation of God” (Col. 2:12).
Today many sincere followers of Christ struggle with issue of putting off the old man and putting on the new because they wrongly believe that this is something they must do themselves. But who can honestly say that in their own strength they have fully done so?
The only answer to this seemingly impossible task is found in God’s grace, the complete provision for our needs. Look carefully in Col. 3:9-10 and you will see that God has done the putting off and putting on for us, leaving us only the task of putting on “bowels of mercies, kindness humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering, etc” as proof of the change that has already taken place.
In the same way we have already been “re-imaged”, or re-imagined if you will, into the very image of Christ. Thus the “new man” that we have now “put on” not only has the “mind of Christ” and is holy; he also has the Lord of glory’s very own imagination, which raises the question: Just what is imagination anyway?
It is often confused with imaginariness which is the quality of being imaginary or fanciful but that is not the word’s meaning. Collins Dictionary defines imagination as:
“The mental faculty which apprehends and forms ideas of external objects; the poetical faculty; inventive powers controlled by a dominant plan or purpose.”
It is in this sense that the word “image”, and by implication its derivative “imagination”, are used in the Bible. And the verb to “imagine” is used in scripture with exactly the meaning given by Collins Dictionary:
Imagine (verb transitive - to form in the mind an idea or image; to conceive; to devise to picture; to believe. Imagine (verb intransivitive) - to form an image of; to picture in the mind.
To be continued.
EXPLORING THE FOURTH
DIMENSION - PART FIVE
By John Aldworth
Published 27 November 2013
Eph. 3:18-19: May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height; And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.
Matt 21:9: And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
What is height as God means it in the Bible? And what does the highest describe in spiritual terms? The answers to these questions are important as we seek to progress our understanding of the Fourth Dimension of Eph. 3:18.
I believe that height is where we experience the fullness of salvation. It is the spiritual state of being where we “know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge” and where we can be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 4:19).
As to the “highest” I see this not only as the realm in which God lives “far above all heavens” but also as a place of spiritual experience where God instantly saves in sudden power (scriptural proof of this later). Furthermore it is the location of the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14), that lofty plane above all heavens where we are bodily transformed into glory to live for ever with our Lord.
Thankfully, the good news for us presently earth bound creatures is that the “highest” can break into our life, into our world and that when it does we are instantly changed. This, of course, is what actually happened when you got saved. God’s power overwhelmed and changed you in a moment. Proof of that is that you’ve never been the same since.
But consider a scriptural example of the huge power of the Highest breaking loose on earth. Turn with me to Matt. 21:1-17 and picture the scene.
Israel had spurned her Messiah but look, the One whom thousands turned away from in John Chapter Six now rides into Jerusalem royally greeted by “a very great multitude”. What brought about such a change for the better in so many hearts? Answer: a visitation of power from the Highest. And we know that because those whose hearts were changed said so in Matt. 21:9:
And the multitudes that went before and followed after, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
And in verse 10 we are told that “… when He was come into Jerusalem the whole city was moved, saying, Who is this?” Now to “move” (Strong's 4579) means to “rock, vibrate, shake to and fro, agitate and cause to tremble”. It’s not a gentle push, it’s a hard shove. That’s what happened to the people of Jerusalem at Jesus’s entry. It’s also what happened the moment you and I were saved. We were shoved suddenly into the realm of the Highest and changed from within.
Proof of that is found in the little known meaning of hosanna. It means “Save now, save immediately”. And “in the highest” means the highest place of power, that is, the very throne room of God which is “far above all heavens” (Eph. 4:24). Put the two together and you have: Save right now in the highest, or from the highest.
In other words people in Jerusalem at Jesus’s entry, and you and I when we were saved, were changed in an instant by the power of height, God’s height, that is, the Highest Himself. No wonder then that in Eph. 3:18 Paul prays that you and I might be able to “comprehend” the four dimensions of length, breadth, depth and height. And please note he prays that we grace-saved believers might comprehend these dimensions “with all saints”, meaning that other believers in other dispensations have experienced God breaking in upon them from the height above.
The height or the highest then is the sphere from whence the Lord saves instantly and with great power. It is also a name for God. Jesus Himself is called “the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:32) and He was conceived in Mary when the “power of the Highest” overshadowed her (Luke 1:35). John the Baptist was called “the prophet of the Highest” (Luke 1:76) and the Lord’s disciples were told that if they loved their enemies they would be the “the children of the Highest” (Luke 6:35).
Importantly in the Old Testament God is often referred to as “the Most High” or “the Lord Most High” (Num. 24:16 and Ps. 47:2, for example). Nor is experience of the height or highness of God a thing of the past. As Psalm 92:8 puts it: “But Thou Lord art Most High for evermore”.
This why the words “Hosanna in the Highest” ring through the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke like a peal of bells:
Luke 2:13-14: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 19:37-38: And when He was come nigh even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives the whole multitude began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen. Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord, peace in heaven and glory in the Highest.
Mark 11:10: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.
In passages such as these it is well to ask what the words mean. Bless, for example, means to speak well of. And praise means to acknowledge God’s goodness and one’s desire for his glory. Bless does not mean a priest or minister can cast a spell of spiritual power upon you nor does praise mean God will be pleased if you sing the same chorus several times over.
When people and angels blessed and praised God in the verses above they did so because they were overcome with sudden emotion as power from the height above shook them. It was not something they tried to do to please God. To the contrary they did it because they wanted to thank Him. Collins Dictionary has it right when it says hosanna means “a cry of praise to God, an exclamation of adoration”.
But, I hear you say, these bursts of power from the height above occurred in the gospels and the Old Testament, so are they still relevant today? Yes, very much so. For us to be saved today the Highest still has to break in upon us from above.
By nature we are “dead in trespasses and sins” and unless we are “quickened together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5) by the Highest Himself we remain dead to the call of God.
We have already noted that it was the Apostle Paul’s prayer that grace-saved believers should “comprehend with all saints” the dimensions of Eph. 3:18, which include height. However, there is a huge difference between the meaning of height for those of earlier dispensations who have an earthly resurrection hope and it’s meaning for us whose calling is the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).
The hope of Old Testament believers and those saved during the Lord’s earthly ministry and under the Pentecostal dispensation of the Acts period was definitely their “resurrection”. In fact Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 precisely to convince them of this truth. Hear his stern rebuke to doubters in 1 Cor. 15:13, 16 and 19.
But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
However, Paul writes no such message for those saved under the dispensation of the grace of God and the mystery, which is detailed in Eph. 3 at the start of the prison epistles. Rather the apostle’s unequivocal statement in Col. 2:12 is that “ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead.”
Thus we who are called as members of the “church which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:21-22) have already been resurrected – with Christ. This is why when the apostle discusses our future state he makes no mention of resurrection save to state in Col. 3:1:
If ye then be risen with Christ seek those things which are, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
This is something Old Testament, gospel period and Acts period believers were never told to do. Nor were they ever told they were risen with Christ. Rather the message to them was that since God had raised up Christ He would also resurrect their bodies too.
Fact is that if you study the Old Testament, Matthew, Mark Luke and John and Acts and the pre-prison epistles carefully you will find no promise anywhere to believers that they either rise with Christ or that they would appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4) in that place “above where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God”.
Let us be very clear. The place where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God is the place to which He “ascended up far above all heavens” (Eph. 4:10). As such it is far above the “heaven” pictured in the Book of Revelation and higher than the heaven which the author of Hebrews portrays as mount Sion, the “heavenly Jerusalem” where are found the “spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb.12:23).
Note that in the Book of Revelation the heavenly Jerusalem descends to earth; it is “the tabernacle of God” by which God will dwell with men on earth, not in heaven. So if your hope is that you will go to this heaven please realise that if you succeed (and that is doubtful given the watershed change that occurred in Acts 28, ending the Jewish, earthly dispensation and replacing it with “blessed hope” of appearing with Christ in glory) eventually you will end up back on earth.
To sum up, the hope of saints saved in the Old Testament, the gospels period or during Acts was and is to be resurrected back on earth Height to them meant heaven coming down to earth, breaking in upon them from above.
By contrast our hope in the grace-mystery dispensation is not one of resurrection at all because we are already risen with Christ. Instead our hope is that of change and our appearing with “Christ in glory”Our change will come when that which we are twice told to look for occurs and for this see Phil. 3:21 and Titus 2:13. In Phil. 3:20 we are told to look to heaven where our conversation is and in Titus 2:13 we are urged to be “looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”.
It is important to remember that this appearing of the Lord takes place in “glory”, that is in the realm “far above all heavens where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God”. It most definitely does not take place on earth, nor is it a coming down to earth by the Lord. That takes place at the Second Coming.
No, for us his appearing is in glory. As Col. 3:4 has it:
When Christ who is our life (not our death and then resurrection, because we are already risen with Him) shall appear then ye (we) shall also appear with Him in glory.
You see in grace just as we are risen with Him, so his appearing is to become our appearing. Importantly, this takes place not in heaven but in the “heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6) which according to Eph. 4:10 are “far above all heavens”.
Consequently our understanding of height is very different to that of earlier saints whose destiny is to be resurrected to live again on earth. Their height rises no higher than the highest heaven while ours soars far above that to the place to which Christ ascended. They look to a heaven come down to earth; we look to a home with the Lord in glory in the very highest place that God Himself occupies.
Truly right now we need to be looking, believing, thinking and talking about the very highest things above. This is because we are destined to appear with Christ in the full glory of the very height of God Himself.