If you knew you had less than twenty four hours to live and only one evening left with those closest to you – how would you spend that time? What things would you want to say? How would you comfort those in their grief you were leaving behind? This is the situation we find from John 13 to 18. It is Jesus’ last evening with His disciples and time is running out quick. The atmosphere was filled with intensity and purpose. In chapter 13 Jesus begins the evening with a love feast and a purposeful demonstration of His sacrificial love and servant heart by washing His disciples’ feet. The evening is filled with words of impending distress and persecution for the disciples once Jesus had returned to the Father, but with repeated encouragement for His disciples to take heart that their future has been provided for in both their current life and the life which was to come. A thread that runs all through these chapters is that of love. The love that Jesus and the Father has for them, and the love that they must have for each other and for the Lord. The evidence of this love being their obedience to His Word.
A selection of key verses in Jesus’ final hours with the disciples.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13: 34, 35
“Do not let you hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. I my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:12-14
“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever – the Spirit of Truth.” John 14:15-17
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18
“Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23
“But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
“I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” John 14:29
“All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.” John 16:1-4
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
These verses give a feel for what was taking place in the final hours that Jesus had with his disciples. After their meal together we read in the last words of chapter 14 “Come now; let us leave”. We might ask, leave for where? Jesus was heading for the Garden of Gethsemane where he would spend time in prayer to prepare for his betrayal, arrest, prosecution, torture and finally his crucifixion. To get to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus would need to head out of the city of Jerusalem towards the east, then go down into the Kidron Valley which ran north to south on the east side of the city. On the other side of the Kidron Valley began the slopes of the Mount of Olives, and half way up the Mount was Gethsemane. John 17 is well known as recording some of the prayers of Jesus whilst in Gethsemane, and so we understand that when Jesus was talking about being the True Vine this was a discourse given as Jesus and his disciples fled the city making their way to Gethsemane where Jesus was later to be betrayed that night.
Finally, in setting the context for our passage in John 15, let us remember that this was during the Passover (a week commencing on 14th day of first month Nisan when the moon was full), and so as Jesus and his disciples were leaving the city, they benefit from the light of the full moon which would have lit the temple and city walls behind them as they made their way down the Kidron Valley. So as they were leaving the upper room, making their way out of the city, they would see off in the distance the magnificence temple structure. There above the massive temple doors was a golden vine and grape clusters “hanging down from a great height”. The vine was symbolic of the nation Israel. Isa 5, Eze 19, Ps 80, Hosea 10 etc. Quite possibly as the disciples saw the vine reflecting the moonlight, Jesus gives this teaching.
The Declaration of Jesus – I Am the True Vine John 15:1
- An encouragement to His disciples
When Jesus said that he was the “True Vine” Jesus knew that his disciples would soon be persecuted, excommunicated from the synagogue, and even martyred for their faith. This statement was an encouragement to them to know that the “True Vine” wasn’t in the temple, it wasn’t acceptance within Judaism and from their religious leaders, but the “True Vine” was readily available through a relationship directly with Him.
When Jesus used the word “true” He was implying the existence or possibility of other vines. There may indeed be other vines which appear to be right and acceptable, but this is not the case. There is only one True Vine. Only one way to the Father, only one life which is acceptable before God, and that is the vine which is based upon intimacy with Jesus.
Why is this important? Because we can easily deviate away from the essential truth of the Gospel message. Unless our existence and identity is based wholly on an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus then our fundamental foundation in life is misplaced, unacceptable and ineffective.
Example of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
800 years ago, the people of Pisa in Italy decided to build a tower. The tower was to have bells that would ring out to the surrounding countryside as witness to the glory of God.
Things began to go wrong almost at once. After three stories had been completed, the tower developed an ominous lean to the north. Construction stopped for about 100 years. Then four more stories were added, built at an angle to shift the weight away from the tilt. But this caused the tower to begin to lean the other way.
Countless architects persisted with the curious structure for another century, trying to compensate for the ever-increasing tilt. The result was that the tower not only continued to lean, but took on a slight curve, like a banana.
The last story was added in 1372. Since then, generations of engineers have tried in vain to save the tower from its slow demise. World War II dictator Benito Mussolini ordered it to be straightened by adding hundreds of tons of concrete to the base. It only made matters worse.
The problem is the foundation. The tower is built on weak, unstable subsoil that could not support its weight. Sooner or later the tower will topple, although modern engineers have added 800 tons of lead to the base, perhaps stabilizing it for another 300 years. (taken from http://www.gci.org/disciple/foundation)
The importance of having the right foundation
Jesus’ teaching in Matt 7 – the wise and foolish builders compared to those who would receive and obey the Word
Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthian church – no other foundation can be laid other than Jesus Christ. He is the foundation. He is the chief cornerstone.
The teaching of the True Vine is one not one of works but of relationship.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4,5
The emphasis here is not on the works but on the remaining in Him. Indeed it is not what we can do for Him, but what He wants to do in and through us, that is only possible when we are in a place of abiding in Him. This should be the priority of our ministries, but how often do we rely upon our own efforts without sufficient time in the Eternal Presence of God. It is part of our human condition that given the choice we would rather do things for God, than spend time with God. But it is the opposite with the Lord, for He would rather that we spend time with Him, rather than doing things for Him. Of course both are possible, but our doing should come out of our being, and not our being come out of our doing! We find this beautifully portrayed in the story of Mary and Martha, and though the God of Peace was physically present in her home, Martha was found to be upset and worried about many things.
- A declaration of His Divinity
Jesus statement of “I am the True Vine” was the eighth “I AM” statement found in the Gospel of John. So when Jesus made this statement he was reaffirming his position of deity as well as being human. “I am the True Vine” is a revelation of His divinity. This is further supported in several places.
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Heb 1:3
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” John 14:9
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” John 1:1
The Eight I AM’s of Jesus
- I AM the bread of life John 6:35
- I AM the light of the world John 8:12
- I AM the door John 10:9
- I AM the good shepherd John 10:11-14
- I AM the resurrection and the life John 11:25
- I AM the way the truth and the life John 14:6
- I AM Before Abraham was I AM John 8:5
- I AM the True Vine John 15:1
The number eight is significant here, as in Biblical numerology it is the number of new beginnings. By making this eighth statement of His Divinity, Jesus was announcing it stark contrast to the lifeless temple doors behind Him, despite their gold and ornate carving, that relationship with God was not through religion with all its external trappings and self righteousness, but through the inner gaze of the soul towards Him. Through and only through intimate and abiding knowledge of Jesus that we may truly enter into the Kingdom of God.
- A Prophetic Declaration
The vine was symbolic of the Israelite nation. Isaiah 5:1-7, Ezekiel 19:10-14 Ps 80:8-19
In the Old Testament, Israel was likened as a vine planted by the Lord. But the vine became wild “I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine?” Jer 2:21
Because of Israel’s sin and unfaithfulness, we read how the Lord caused the demise of His people and consequently the vine was rejected, destroyed and trampled upon. And so we read the lament of the Psalmist as follows
Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine, the root your right hand has planted, the son you have raised up for yourself. Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish. Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, O Lord Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. Ps 80:14-19
Jesus was the answer to the psalmist’s cry for restoration. Yes there is a new vine which is Jesus, but we are also included, for we are the branches which will bear the fruit. The analogy of the vine is concurrent in both the Old and New Testament.
What fruit does God look for in His vineyard?
“The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of His delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.” Isa 5:7
In this particular verse we learn that God looked for justice and righteousness. These are synonymous with His Kingdom. And so following the analogy through into the New Testament, there is a “True Vine” which is Jesus, we are the branches, associated with him through relationship and intimacy, and the fruit we shall produce will be the fruit of His Kingdom outworking itself through us.
This all ties in together very well. As we die to self and live for Christ by building our life upon Him as our foundation and True Vine, then the life flow of God passes through us so that we will bear the fruit of His Kingdom in whatever way that might be, but it will come as a result of the Holy Spirit manifesting the nature of Christ within us, so that we will do even greater things than our Lord, and we shall ask of Him anything and it shall be done.
“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor (Achor means trouble, tribulation) a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master. I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked. In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. “In that day I will respond,” declares the Lord– “I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and oil, and they will respond to Jezreel.(Jezreel means God plants) I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one. I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ ” Hosea 2:14-23
At first glance one could quickly surmise that the Bride is more important that the Kingdom. Jesus is more concerned for His Bride than He is for His Kingdom, He has already given everything for His Bride (Eph 5) and would again, such is His love and passion for Her. He forsook everything that He might bring forth His Bride.
But further study might question this initial conclusion or at least broaden our understanding of it. The unequivocal revelation in scripture is the emphasis upon the Kingdom of God. It was the message of John the Baptist as a forerunner to Jesus’ first coming, to preach the Kingdom of God, (John also had understanding of Jesus as the Bridegroom (John 3:29)) This was in the spirit of Elijah, and will be the hallmark as the spirit of Elijah rises again is preparation for the second coming of Jesus. It was the commission to the disciples to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom in all the Earth, and Jesus himself confirmed that when the Gospel of the Kingdom had been preached in the all the Earth only then the end would come. It was the Kingdom that Jesus preached, and it was the Kingdom that was the central thread through His final preparation of the disciples before His ascension (Acts 1)
In generalisation, there are two things which are necessary before the second coming of Jesus.
- The Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world. This is the preparation for the full manifestation and restoration of the Kingdom which will occur during the Millennial reign
- There is agreement between Heaven and Earth, – the Spirit and the Bride say come.
- The Spirit has always been saying come, because it is the Eternal Purpose and desire of God.
- The Bride is not yet saying come, because she is not yet ready and doesn’t know she’s a bride. No Bride will say come until she is ready, and no Bridegroom will come until the Bride is ready. The Bride is not yet prepared.
It was the preaching of the Kingdom through which Jesus came the first time. Not to establish the Kingdom without, (although this is included) but first the Kingdom within. And it is the command of Jesus to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, upon the fulfilment of which, He will come again the second time, to take His Bride and to establish the external manifestation of the Kingdom of God upon the Earth.
Proper realisation of the Bride cannot come without first understanding Jesus as the Bridegroom King. This naturally implies that there must also be revelation of the Kingdom. So in sequence is first the Kingdom (Matt 6:33 Seek first the Kingdom of God) and that Jesus is the King of this Kingdom, then the revelation that He is not only King but also the Bridegroom King. We have been restored first to the Father (the Father Heart of God movement), so that the Father might then give us to Jesus as His Bride to reign together with Him in His Kingdom forever.
And so, on further examination we realise that an emphasis on the Bride in isolation from the Kingdom is neither Biblical nor fully possible because the two co-exist together and to some degree are inseparable. Full understanding of the Bride requires understanding of Jesus as the Bridegroom King, and therefore the Kingdom. We are not equipped or prepared outside of the Kingdom. It is through the Kingdom that the Bride will be prepared, (Rev 19:7 righteous acts of the saints), and the Bridal paradigm is first dependent upon the Kingdom paradigm. The Lord is developmental in the revelation He releases to His church. But the starting place for it all is the Kingdom, both in the Lord’s first and in His second coming.
Therefore both paradigms co-exist together and are the most precious and glorious of all revelation and represent together the Eternal Purpose of God. Neither is complete without the other, but in both, Jesus must have the pre-eminence. To understand Bride we must understand Kingdom, and to understand Kingdom we must understand Jesus, that He is our Bridegroom King and we are His Bride.
This has direct implications for T.O.M. and is at the core of our teaching and message. If in one phrase the mandate of T.O.M. could be stated, we believe it is
“To prepare for Jesus coming as the Bridegroom King”
There are different facets to this preparation, including the cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word to make her holy (Eph 5:26) but also awakening the Bride to who she is, oneness within the Body, the righteous acts of the saints, the advancement and proclamation of the Kingdom. We believe our responsibility is a great and awesome privilege – to prepare the thing most precious to His heart, which is His Bride. We believe this requires Time Out Mission to have an holistic approach which covers the entirety of scripture. But the distinguishing feature that marks this movement is the perspective and paradigms of the Bride and the Kingdom through which the Word is taught.
If we are called to prepare the Bride then we must have an understanding of where we fit into the timeline of God’s Eternal Purpose. This relates not only to the past and understanding the times and seasons, but perhaps even more importantly in what lies ahead as revealed in Revelation and other eschatological books of the Bible.
In the following sessions we attempt to explore in more depth what the Bible teaches about the things to come.