Part VI – TRANSITIONAL ASPECTS OF THE LAMP-STAND MODEL
Subpart E – MESSIAH – BODY; Trumpets unto Day of Atonement
Article 5 – Impediment to the Transition; Fixation upon Earth’s Witness
a. Our Return is Not to Bethel
b. Testimony of Man as a Means, Rather than an End
c. The Loyal Disciples of John
d. Doorway to the False
IMPEDIMENT TO THE TRANSITION; FIXATION UPON EARTH’S WITNESS
a. Our Return is Not to Bethel
In the prophecy of Amos we read the warning:
But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba; For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought. Amos 5:5
The word “Bethel” means “house of God”. The site first comes into significance soon after Abraham entered the land of Canaan. He pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai, made an altar to the Lord, and called upon His name. He later returned to the same site, ie. “to the place of the altar” and called upon the name of the Lord again. He then parted company with Lot (who chose the fertile valley towards Sodom) and after doing so, God made a promise to Abraham that he would possess all the land. The promise was as follows:
“…look…northward & southward & eastward & westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you & to your descendants forever. Arise, walk about the land through its length & breadth; for I will give it to you.” Gen. 13:14-15
The site next has significance in the story of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob. As Jacob was fleeing Esau, he came to a place where he used a stone for a pillow and there dreamed of a ladder from heaven that touched the earth with; “the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” The Lord then stood above the ladder and made the same promise to Jacob that He had made to Abraham:
Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, & you shall spread out to the east & to the north & to the south; & in you & in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. & behold, I am with you, & will keep you wherever you go, & will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Gen. 28:14-15
Therefore this site seems to represent a place of initial meeting with the Lord and the receiving of a promise. Jacob’s response to this dream and to this promise is as follows:
Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, & said, “How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, & this is the gate of heaven.” And Jacob rose up early in the morning, & took the stone that he had put for his pillows, & set it up for a pillar, & poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. Gen. 28:16-19
Therefore again, we have the establishing of an altar to the Lord. In so doing, Bethel becomes a special waypoint in the path of those who receive the promises made to Abraham.
And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,7 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God. And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee. Gen 28:16 -22
Bethel is the place where we met God and set upon the path of seeking His kingdom. In the prophecy of Amos we have a warning that we are not to seek God at Bethel. There will come a time when the familiar-places we associated with finding God and entering into the things of the Spirit will not be a proper resort as much as we might desire it – a time when our heart might ache for the grace and comfort we formerly knew when Christ was present among us. Recall the Lord’s words:
The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man and ye shall not see it. Luke 17:22
There shall be a time after which God’s messengers have preached the Gospel wherein the joy that filled our hearts at “Bethel” subsides and there is no evidence that God is present or that He cares for us. This is a time of testing the Lord foretold would come after the preaching of His Gospel.  Bethel (the “house of God”) is that place we might be tempted to return-to in our desperation for the former days of God’s blessing and unity in the faith when in our youth we received the testimony of man concerning Jesus Christ with joyful hearts. But there is another witness that must be borne upon our heart; a witness greater than the testimony of man.
b. Testimony of Man as a Means, Rather than an End
Recall that Christ spoke of this testimony in his dialogue with the Jews:
“You have sent to John, & he has borne witness to the truth. But the witness which I receive is not from man, But I say these things to you that you may be saved.” John 5:33-34
The testimony we received at Bethel was a true testimony that resulted in God meeting us with the promise. This was the testimony of the church concerning Jesus Christ. However, there is a greater testimony than the testimony of man concerning Christ. What is the greater testimony? Allowing Christ Himself to bear the witness! Jesus said:
“He [ie. John the Baptist] was the lamp that was burning & was shining & you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the witness which I have is greater than [that of] John; For the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” John 5:35-36
While the church at one time bore a true witness concerning Christ, that witness must necessarily give way to Christ’s witness of Himself. This is the witness which is; “greater than that of John”. While the testimony we received from the church was true and possessed a glory (ie. “burning” and “shining”), the “testimony of man” must fade away as insufficient in itself to bring the salvation of God that is Christ. For the reception of the testimony of man is not the salvation. Rather it is the reception of the witness of Christ that is the salvation! Therefore Jesus says; “the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.” These “works” are those that are borne upon the soul of men to; convict and cleanse from sin, bear record to the heart, and strengthen in the way of holiness and true righteousness, and to reveal the grace and glory of God. This is the deeper and more profound witness of God borne by the Son of God Who is the eternal Word. As to the “testimony of man” concerning Christ, John says of himself:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30
If John does not “decrease”, what is the result? A false witness – a false prophet! To understand what is meant by “John decreasing”, we only have to look at the context of John-the-Baptist’s gospel, which clearly expresses his own diminishing role as a nursemaid for the new believers! For, when John makes this statement (ie. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”) what question was he responding to?
There arose therefore a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. & they came to John & said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have born witness, behold, He is baptizing, & all are coming to Him.” John 3:25-26
This would seem to be one of the saddest accounts in all of Scripture! Who were these “disciples of John” that continued to follow John, even while acknowledging that it was in fact Jesus of whom John had borne witness!? As to some of those that heard John’s message, they left off following John and began to “follow the Lamb” of whom John had declared; “Behold, the Lamb of God!”, did they not? Recall the account:
Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, & he looked upon Jesus as He walked, & said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” & the two disciples heard him speak, & they followed Jesus. John 1:36-37
While some of John’s disciples believed his testimony, and thereby fastened their attention upon the Lamb of God, there were others that do not appear so perceptible. And notice what the particular question was that caused John’s disciples to resort to him for an answer! We are told that John’s disciples got into a controversy; “with a Jew about purification”. They were asking John questions concerning the purification from sin, but had they listened to John, what would they have heard?
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
What were they failing to understand? Why were they so blind to John’s message? They trusted the messenger (ie. a “man”) more than they believed his true message. Therefore, they began to persistently stumble over the simplicity of the declaration; “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. Their purification was not a matter of their own efforts. Their purification was not a matter of their water-baptism. Their purification, was that the eyes of their hope be firmly fixed upon the Person and work of the Lord, the Lamb of God, that was walking in their midst.
No doubt these disciples of John were sincere in their efforts. But the one they were calling “Rabbi” was not their true teacher. Their true teacher was He that would teach them truth that would impact the inner-man. The Lamb of God was he that would take upon Himself their sins, and Himself effectuate their purification before God.
These disciples were certainly of noble character and quality. We find that they remained loyal to John to the very end of his life! Recall that the disciples of John also had this question for the Lord:
Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we & the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” & Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, & then they will fast.” Matt. 9:14-15
In asking this question, what was the more critical issue for these disciples of John? The question of why they were not believing John’s true witness! For John had testified that there in their midst walked the Lamb of God! And that it was He that must increase!
c. The Loyal Disciples of John
The disciples of John give us an illustration of how the witness of Christ can be missed. These approached Christ as “blind men”, perhaps more so than the Pharisees themselves! In fact, that they found themselves taking-up like-legal-concerns with the Pharisees might have been cause for some introspection on their part. A new thing was in their midst! And see how near to it they were! Sons of God would be coming to birth! And they were so close as to be able to partake themselves through the simple means of faith in Jesus Christ. Through this simple and direct means, they had the divine nature set before them for the partaking, and yet they were so far away!
We can be so near in our vantage-point to the true work of God, only to be the most-distant when it comes to the actual partaking! John’s disciples certainly did see the true and mighty works of God. Recall that when John was languishing in the king’s dungeon, he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus a question:
& when the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are you the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’” Luke 7:20
At the time these disciples arrived, the blind were receiving sight, the lame were walking, the lepers cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead raised up, and the poor were hearing the gospel. Jesus tells them; “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard”. But rather than the point being that John be appraised of the Lord’s work, the issue may actually have been one of whether these disciples would finally perceive Christ so as to allow John a true success in his ministry of friend of the bridegroom!  Perhaps now they would see and believe after witnessing for themselves the power of the kingdom! Somehow, they were able to walk so close as to witness the miracles of God and experience the Gospel preached with power and yet miss the gospel!
d. Doorway to the False
Notice the danger lurking in John’s question; “Are you the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” Implicit to this question is the prospect that another witness, ie. an other than Christ be looked-to; a witness yet to appear on the horizon that might fill the void created by the soul’s dissipating-hope for union with God. For it was Christ that had been the true hope!
There comes a time that the “testimony of man” ceases to be a true witness. There comes a time when that dispensation of the Spirit winds down to an end. Man is no substitute for God’s own witness concerning Himself. Having failed to assimilate John’s testimony through means of faith men will find themselves to lack something vital. The soul that once rejoiced in the light of the true Gospel-message and an awakened-consciousness of God will grope for the object of that hope even as its light becomes extinguished. Christ is the true spiritual head of man. And man will have his spiritual head. John’s disciples would soon be bereft of their teacher, and be left to bury his headless dead-body. The head of John became a gift for Herodias. What was their guidance now?
Those that have received the witness of Christ through faith shall find they have a teacher-within, as John writes:
But the anointing which you have received of Him abides in you, & you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, & is truth, & is no lie, & even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him. I John 2:27
John’s context is his warning concerning teachers of error that have arisen since the proclamation of the Gospel. Notice his statement immediately preceding:
These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. I John 2:26
The flock of God does not subsist on the teachings of men. If we do not come to the place where the Holy Ghost is our instructor, we shall fall prey to the false; false teaching and false manifestation. If there is ultimately no place for the witness of God’s Word to abide (ie. the true and spiritual witness borne by Christ), we will be left without the Holy Spirit having prepared us for God’s presence and the right entering upon His program of redemption! We shall stand with the Pharisees who themselves stumbled so terribly when faced with the true witness of God in their midst; to whom the Lord said:
Why do ye not understand My speech? Even because you cannot hear My word. John 8:43
Because they could not perceive His words, they could not be made clean thereby. They were more disadvantaged than even the general-populace in discerning God in their midst given their claim of already possessing truth.
After healing the blind-man Jesus said:
“For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; & that they which see might be made blind.” & some of the Pharisees which were with Him heard these words, & said unto Him, “Are we blind also?” Jesus said unto them, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; but now ye say, “We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” John 9:39-41
The Pharisees demonstrated the precarious-position of the religious; inclined to fall under judgment in the face of Christ’s witness. This principle stands firm today. Just as the Lord chastised the religious Jews for elevating the prophets while rejecting truth, so if we find ourselves lifting up some religious thinker or miracle-worker of the past while neglecting the simple and straightforward commandments taught by Christ, we show that we regard men (no matter how orthodox or anointed) over the testimony of Jesus Christ. We fixate upon the husk from whence a true message once came. We fixate upon the letter and outward form of truth rather than upon the substance and Personhood of Truth. In so doing, we even use the true testimony of man as a shield against the testimony of God. The Jews did this very thing when reviling the man whose sight was restored:
Then they reviled him, & said, “Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses; as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. John 9:28-29
They were in presumption even as to their like-mindedness with Moses and their kinship to Abraham. But Jesus told them:
For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. John 5:46
Was Abraham “of the truth”? Was Moses “of the truth”? They were! Was John the Baptist “of the truth”? Therefore even the true testimony of man; even such celebrated-bastions of truth as Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, or anyone else we could modernly-name, pose an inherent stumbling-block for those inclined to embrace the earthly-artifact of truth as a surrogate for the witness of Christ. Beware O church!
 H1008 bêyth-‘êl bayth-ale’ From H1004 and H410; house of God; Beth-El, a place in Palestine.
 Genesis 12:8
 Genesis 13:3
 Genesis 28:12
 Luke 8:13
 John 3:29
 I Corinthians 11:3
 John 15:3 “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
 Matthew 23:29
 John 8:39 “Abraham is our father!”