Tag Archives: harvest

The Tapestry of Pentecost: Our Temple Body

weaving a tapestry. Image credit: freeimages.com

We wrapped up last week’s post talking about the Greek word naos (G3485), translated “temple” and referring to the inner part of the temple. In the physical temple, the right to enter this sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, belonged to the High Priest alone. So reading 1 Corinthians 6, we see that our bodies are the temple for God’s Holy Spirit.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

How highly must God think of your body as a vessel for His spirit, if He calls us each naos, the same word used to refer to Jesus Christ’s physical body. We are a holy place for Him, purchased by and belonging to Him. And we are infinitely more valuable to Him than the gold in a physical temple. We are His dwelling place.

God’s Temple

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:4-13)

We are given gifts for the profit of the entire body. Each of us individually, in our own bodies, are temples of the Holy Spirit. We are also members individually of the body of Christ, which is greater than any physical temple.

“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” (Acts 17:24-25)

This is what Paul says when speaking to people in Athens. It is much the same thing Stephen says in Acts 7:46-50. In both verses, Greek word for temple is naos. For me the lesson is clear. Human hands can build all the glorious temple complexes they want to build, but God is only interested in one thing – individual human beings who He can indwell through His holy spirit. Think of all the wealth of the ages that has been expended on huge temples, church buildings, and edifices, in human efforts to “glorify God” in material things, and all according to the thoughts and ways of man. We’ll put more gold in the temple (the pharisees loved the gold of the temple), maybe add a little more elbow grease to polish it up and make it nice and shiny for God, more sweet-smelling cedar wood, a higher offering, more money, crystal chandeliers, or in OT times maybe a fatter calf. But what does God really value? And what does He really want from us?

“Reverence My Sanctuary”

The answer to this question all begins with Jesus Christ, the One foundation.

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. (1 Cor. 3:11-18)

We all need to be very careful how we regard the temple, or sanctuary, of God, both in ourselves, and in others who are part of His temple. We must all be responsible with the trust God has placed in us, and be on guard because we can come to regard ourselves as “wise,” and with the best of human intentions, bring harm to the rest of His church.

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you[a] are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:16-18)

This is another caution against any type of defilement, or pollution, of His temple, the naos where He dwells in us. It reminds us of our individual responsibility to God, to Jesus the head of the body, and to our brethren. For me personally, this study has provided the greatest incentive to overcome, and reconcile with brethren that I’ve ever run across. In Leviticus 19:30 and 26:2, there is a command that reads, “You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the Lord.” I’ve always looked upon this command as it refers to the physical temple and church, but in light of what we’ve seen so far, can we also reverence (stand in awe and respect of) what God and Christ are doing in one another? Can we look upon our relationships with each other in this light? Each of us is a naos to God and Christ, a holy dwelling place for Them and a sanctuary for their spirit. The temple made up of our bodies is something He values so highly that He is willing to put His own DNA (the Holy Spirit) in us and re-write us from the old man into the new.

So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35)

Here we are reminded of the command to “reverence my sanctuary” by the command “love one another.” We need to have love and respect for each other as vessels of the Holy Spirit of God. The indwelling of His Holy Spirit is what sets us apart as a holy, sanctified people. We are all sanctuaries for the indwelling of the holy spirit of God.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:5-14)

What is God Looking For?

We’re still looking to answer the question, What kind of “temples” does God want to indwell? Isaiah 66 begins to answer this quite nicely, and with wording that connects us back to the fact that God “does not dwell in temples made with hands” that we saw twice in the book of Acts.

Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isa 66:1-2)

God is looking for a people to plant the Firstfruit into so that the harvest can continue. He wants us to walk humbly before His throne, and to respect His word which expresses a way of life that He expects us to live. God wants a people He can dwell in, and a people who will go to the effort to make themselves a habitable sanctuary for Him in the way they treat and think about themselves and the way they treat and think about their brethren. And even though we are not perfect, and we make many mistakes, the greatest mistake we could make is to give up. The churches of God are not in the greatest shape today. Everywhere we look there seems to be stagnation and gridlock. How hard is it for churches today to live in peace and walk in peace! They have to establish committees just to decide whether to recognize each other as churches or to organize an outreach program. But I don’t, and you don’t. Each of us is responsible for our own outreach program. You can extend the right hand of fellowship, make a call, send a card, pray for a brother or sister in the greater body of Christ, and you don’t have to wait for permission from a church group.

Conclusion

weaving a tapestry. Image credit: freeimages.com

In this series on the tapestry of Pentecost, we’ve seen a weaving together of different elements from the whole history of the plan of God.

  • The waving of the first sheaf of grain when Israel entered the promised land.
  • How that foreshadowed Jesus Christ as the real wavesheaf – the first fruit in a spiritual harvest.
  • How the waving of that sheaf before God started a 50 day countdown to Pentecost – the feast of the firstfruits of God – produced by him through Jesus Christ in the called out ones.
  • How the promised gift of the holy spirit (given through Him to the church) was made available to humanity by and through the first fruit.
  • Then we have the physical body of Christ as our example and forerunner – the original temple (naos) of the holy spirit.
  • Followed by the fact that each of our bodies is a temple of the holy spirit. Individual sanctuaries and vessels for the indwelling presence of the holy spirit of God and Christ.
  • And the promise that because it all worked for the First sheaf of the harvest – so it will work for all of the first fruits … Christ said, “because I live, you shall live!” and He meant it. That’s a promise to all of us.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (Jas. 1:17-18)

The feast of Pentecost is one of those great gifts of encouragement sent down from the Father of lights and Jesus Christ to each and every individual temple of Their Holy Spirit. I hope each of us considers our responsibility as temples of the Holy Spirit, vessels containing the great gift given to the church on the first Pentecost, and that we use it wisely in the hard times we’re living in the church today. May we all become better habitations for Their indwelling, and treat all of the individual sanctuaries with the reverence that God commands. Update: read the other posts in this series Part One: The Tapestry of Pentecost: Wave Sheaf and Firstfruit Part Two: The Tapestry of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit

The Tapestry of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit

Last week, we ended with John 7:39, which reads, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Christ explains this idea further in John 14.

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that it may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither sees it nor knows it; but you know it, for it dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)

These verses show that Christ and the Holy Spirit are so closely linked that the presence of the Holy Spirit in us is just like He Himself being right inside of us. A good friend of mine has spent a lot of time with a man named Dr. Ward, who has likened the Holy Spirit to God’s divine essence – His DNA if you will – and said that the conversion process is like DNA replacement therapy that results in our old man being made into a new man.

Reading on in verse 19 of John 14, Christ tells His disciples, “Because I live, you will live also.” What more inspiring and encouraging re-assurance could He have given them at this point? Then they went through the agonizing experience of seeing Him crucified, followed by the hope generated by His resurrection, and His appearance before their astonished eyes in Luke 24:49, where He repeated the promise of John 14.

The Second Thread

This brings us to Acts 2, and the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)

As the people heard the disciples speaking in different languages, some wondered “Whatever could this mean?” While others mocked and said, “They are full of new wine” (Acts 2:5-13). So Peter began to explain what the events of the day really meant. We’ll skip ahead to verse 29 to save space.

“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:29-33)

Here we see that the Wavesheaf, the First of the first fruits, was given this great promise from the Father to pour out upon the called out ones who would become a part of the harvest of the firstfruits. And just as it was for the nation of Israel when they first entered the promise land, all of this bounty was given from the pure grace and generosity of God.

So we have element 2 in our Tapestry of Pentecost, the fulfillment of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. But there’s another thing given by God to each one of us that makes it possible for us to link with Him and His son in the most spiritually intimate way possible. And the prototype, as we might expect, was again shown to us in Jesus Christ Himself.

A Third Thread

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. (Matt 12:1-6)

The word for temple in this verse is the Greek hieron (G2411) which refers to the entire temple complex. Zodhiates defines it as, “often including not only the building, but the courts and all the sacred grounds or enclosure.” This is the word that is most often used when referring to the physical temple complex in its entirety.

John 2:19 clarifies that what He was referring to as “greater than the temple complex” was Himself. The word He uses here to call Himself a temple, though is naos (G3485), not hieron. Here, it refers not to a material temple, but simply an ordinary human body that the Father had given to Him as a means to an end.

The word naos comes from naio, which means “to dwell.” Zodhiates’ definition reads like this: “The temple itself is the heart and center of the whole sacred enclosure called hieron (2411). The naos was the Holy of Holies. The Lord never entered the naos during His ministry on earth, the right of such entry being reserved for the Jewish priests alone.” Another online concordance adds that naos refers to “the sanctuary, which contained the holy place, and the Holy of Holies.”

So the spiritual temple – naos – that was Christ’s body was said to be greater than the physical temple complex – hieron. As a reminder, this was the body of the Wavesheaf, the Forerunner, the Firstfruit, our example. A physical vessel, with a full measure of the Holy Spirit. That makes the third element in the tapestry of Pentecost the human body.

This aspect is such a large topic that I want to devote an entire post to exploring it. Check back next week for part 3 of “The Tapestry of Pentecost.”

Update: read the other posts in this series

Part One: The Tapestry of Pentecost: Wave Sheaf and Firstfruit

Part Three: The Tapestry of Pentecost: Our Temple Body

The Tapestry of Pentecost: Wave Sheaf and Firstfruit

Just last week, we celebrated God’s Feast of Pentecost, and I gave a sermon titled “The Tapestry of Pentecost.” I want to begin sharing the content from that sermon with you today. There are several different elements being woven together in the observance of Pentecost that are intertwined to paint a picture that, when we see them assembled properly, make it one of the most inspiring and encouraging of God’s holy days.

“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the Lord. Its grain offering shall be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the Lord, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one-fourth of a hin. You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.’” (Lev. 23:10-22)

An Offering

The foundation of Pentecost is keyed to a yearly event that takes place during the Days of Unleavened Bread, which we read about in verses 10-11 of Leviticus 23. Verse 15 tells us that the wave sheaf offering begins a 50 day countdown, and so it is foundational to this day of Pentecost and all it’s meaning. The wave sheaf was so important that God forbade them to eat of any part of the harvest until it was offered. Without the first sheaf, there was to be no harvest at all … and let’s remember that this first harvest in the promised land was a total gift from God, planted by the previous inhabitants of the land. All Israel had to do was reap it. This harvest was freely given, from that first sheaf of grain, to the gleanings that were left in the field for the poor at the end of the harvest. It was all free.

In a few moments, we’ll be looking at several scriptures that identify Jesus Christ as the first of the firstfruits of God’s spiritual harvest from the earth , so we could rightly call parts of John 3 a “parallel” scripture to what we just read in Leviticus 23. If we look at the context, there is an enlightening conversation going on here between Christ Himself and a pharisee, Nicodemus, who said he knew Christ was “a teacher sent from God.” Their whole conversation was about how to become born of the spirit, and about the Firstfruit lifted up as an offering to the Father.

“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:12-16)

Verse 16 deserves to be so much more than just a slogan on a sign at pro football games. Here again we see that the Firstfruit is a freely given gift to humanity from God in heaven to initiate and to be the foundation of a spiritual harvest from the earth.

The whole harvest is keyed to the ascension (lifting up) and glorification of the first of the firstfruits. If it hadn’t been for the triumph of the Firstfruit, there would have been no need to even raise up a church. The “One Sent” was the key to the whole plan, and His victory over sin, Satan, and death is what began the countdown to the next event in the plan of God.

Firstfruits

If we turn over to 1 Corinthians 15, we find pretty much the same sentiment expressed for us. Here again we see that the Firstfruit is the key to the whole plan, and the only thing that makes it possible for there to be a later harvest of firstfruits.

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming”. (1 Cor. 15:3-4, 12-23)

Each of us who has this hope really needs to voice our thanksgiving each day to God for sending the Firstfruit, and for imparting to our minds a bit of understanding of what His life should mean to us

Revelation 14:4 says the firstfruits “are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” They are the ones who make it their life’s work to know Him, and to know where He is leading them.

Germination

But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:23-24)

Brethren, by the will of the mighty God, the Father of the whole family in heaven and on earth, the Firstfruit of all the earth was harvested after a physical death, and a spiritual glorification through which He would produce much fruit. In fact, every fruit that would follow depended on this one seed that fell to the earth and died (or, if it helps to paint a more vivid picture, what this seed did in “dying” was … it germinated).

“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” (Isa. 53:10)

We always read this at the Passover service. “See His seed” … “prolong His days” … sounds like His death was the beginning. It was like a seed germinating and entering a new phase. That new phase of the plan began with the glorification, the lifting up of the Firstfruit, to the Father (John 20:17). His lifting up, His glorification, made it possible to establish a solid spiritual link between He and His followers.

John 7:39, to my way of thinking is a key scripture to our understanding of the link between the wave-sheaf offering and Pentecost. It reads, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Once His glorification took place, the Holy Spirit could be given. The plan and the harvest could go on. This could not occur until Jesus Christ, the forerunner and the firstborn of many brethren had lived a perfect life in a human body, and the one seed planted in the earth had germinated.

So we have this 1st element in our tapestry, the Old Testament wavesheaf being fulfilled by Christ’s resurrection and ascension to the father, being glorified as the Firstfruit. Next week, we’ll talk about another element, focusing more on the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Update: read the other posts in this series

Part Two: The Tapestry of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit

Part Three: The Tapestry of Pentecost: Our Temple Body

God’s Threshing Floor, Part 2

Since we talked about the church as God’s threshing floor in the previous post, I’d like to take a look at how the winnowing process took place in the personal life of Peter. In Luke 22:31, Jesus tells Peter “Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.” The Greek word for “sift,” sineadzo (G4617), means to agitate, and prove by trials and afflictions.

It’s interesting to note what Christ does NOT say in the following verse. You would expect our Shepherd to just stop Satan from sifting Peter. “Don’t worry about Him Peter, I’ve got your back, man” … but instead He says, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” What He does NOT say speaks volumes about what He is willing to allow Satan to do. Let’s not forget that in Matthew 4, Jesus Himself was “sifted as wheat” by Satan, and it was a part of God’s plan. The process of spiritual winnowing involves separating the spiritual being (wheat) from the body of sinful flesh (stalk, husk, chaff, and weeds). It’s a tough process to go through, but it’s worth it.

Winnowing Peter

So then we see in verse 33 how Peter responded to what Christ had just told him, by saying “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Christ told him exactly how Satan would sift him, before it even happened, yet Peter failed this test 3 times as he denied Christ before the cock crowed to “save himself” (Luke 22:54-62). We can only imagine what might have gone through Peter’s mind that very night after he had denied his LORD three times, but I should think for this night and many after that, the words of Christ from Matthew 10:33 would echo in his thoughts: “whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

Now Peter strikes me as being more of a “hard-shelled” guy than me … my conscience would have been accosting me unmercifully as Christ appeared to the disciples after His resurrection twice, during which, it seems He had no direct, one-on-one interaction with Peter until the third meeting with them in John 21.

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” (John 21:15-18)

Boy, after denying Him three times just as He predicted, that question – “Do you love Me?” — must have really stung! Notice, He asked variations of the same question three times, one for each denial. And then Christ followed the whole ordeal with vs. 18. He might as well prefaced this with “Satan still wants to sift you, Peter.”

Words Of Eternal Life

Let’s take another look at the winnowing, purging process as it took place during Christ’s own ministry, and how it effected those who weren’t quite as committed as the 12 disciples. In John 6, we find a discourse of Christ’s that took place after one of Christ’s greatest miracles – the feeding of the 5,000 with five Barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:8-14). By the time we get to verses 14 and 15 the people want to make Him KING because of a free meal (much like the US today … free cell phones, food stamps, welfare). So He starts to teach them a lesson about who and what He actually is to the church He will build.

Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:26-27)

In verse 34 the people seem to be saying, “As long as it’s easy and straighforward … we’re IN!” But it’s not as easy as they hope and expect. You can read John 6:34-56 for His full reply. Here’s a few verses:

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. …

Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. …

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (John 6:35-37, 43-44, 53-56)

Following this discourse – an explanation of some of the deep things of God – many of His disciples said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” (John 6:60).

When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. (John 6:61-66)

breadIt’s verse 66 I want to focus on. These people who refused to continue following Christ were drawing conclusions based on what they knew to be true up to that point in time. They knew Christ only as a physical man with a physical body, but Christ was pointing ahead to a symbolic spiritual concept that they weren’t even aware existed at this time.

Then Jesus Christ asks the disciples the same question we could imagine Him asking us each time we go through a spiritual crisis of the faith, when we run into things in the Bible that we can’t find easy answers for, when we go through another church split, when a good friend or relative or a minister departs or does/says something that wears down our faith. “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67).

But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:68-69)

Peter’s answer told Christ all He needed to know about Peter. Let’s also not forget that this is the same guy who was later sifted as wheat by Satan, who denied Christ three times, had to re-affirm his love for Christ three times, and then to REALLY die for Christ in a most excruciating way.

A few years back, a guy named Steve Buchanan described John 17:3 as “the SPS of the entire Bible.” A Specific Purpose Statement is a brief nutshell phrase or sentence that conveys exactly what you want to tell your audience during a speech. That description rang true when Steve said it, and it still rings true for me today. The verse reads “this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Here, Jesus Christ is giving us the same thing that He had given Peter that provided his answer in John 6. This defines our life goal, and what should be the aim of every Bible study. The answer to ALL of the really big questions in life lies in our understanding of these two beings. Who and what are they? What is their purpose in creating us? What do they want us to do? What do they want us to become? How do they relate to each other and to us? How do they want us to relate to them?

Peter gave a similar answer to a question Christ asked in Matthew 16. When Christ asked, “’But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Matt. 16:15-16). This answer wasn’t just something Peter came up with on his own, for “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’” (Matt. 16:17). Peter’s answer didn’t come from Peter, and it didn’t come from any other man or woman on earth. The Father in heaven implanted this in his mind. The ability to see Jesus Christ for what He really is – to see His ultimate value – comes from GOD!

Entering the Barn

Now after going through all of that, I’ll just remind us what we’re talking about today. The main topic is that Jesus Christ is baptizing us “with the Holy Spirit and fire” and that “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:11-12). No matter how hard the fan blows, no matter what obstacles are in the way, no matter how difficult the sifting or purging, the wheat is going to remain and He will remain to gather it into His barn.

Brethren, no matter how much we would like for the obstacles in our path to go away, they are only there to prove that you and I are wheat instead of chaff or weeds (Matt. 13:24-29). Ever drive by a wheat field that has just been harvested? All the wheat in the field is put into a few wagons and trucks off in the corner of the field to be hauled off to the grain elevator. But the whole field is covered with stubble, weeds, straw, and chaff. The lives that we have left behind and forsaken are the stubble and straw left out there in the field. The chaff that clings to us are stubborn sins that are hard to get rid of, but the winnowing fan is in His hands. He is thoroughly purging His threshing floor.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matt. 7:13-14).

It can make us feel pretty insignificant to realize that we are just one grain of wheat among an innumerable multitude in a semi-truck in the corner of a field, – but the good news is that you ARE one of the grains of wheat IN that truck, or on the threshing floor, and God Himself cares enough about you to winnow, and purge you. And just like Christ said to Peter, He has prayed for us that our faith fail not.

I worked with my Dad in a grain elevator when I was still in high school, and harvest time was when we got all our overtime pay. The farmers would all bring their wheat in as they took it off, and we were there to run the tests for weight and moisture on it, and run it up into the big bins, and load it onto railroad cars.

Brethren, we want to be wheat so heavy with good Christian works, that no matter how many times the winnowing fan is used, we fall back to the threshing floor. We allow Him to purge away the chaff of sin, the refuse of our worldly, fleshly lives, and through it all, we remain faithful to Him, and we try our best to encourage other grains of wheat to do the same so that in the end, we will all be gathered into the spiritual grainary and barn … the Kingdom of God!

God and His Son are doing all of this work looking forward to a great harvest. He wants to bring all of His wheat into the barn, every last grain … and He’ll do everything in His power to bring that about. It’s very re-assuring to know that “His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor.”

God’s Threshing Floor

Living in a rural, agricultural part of Ohio, I’ve witnessed many a harvest season. The modern process of harvest takes a great deal less time and effort than ancient practices described in the Bible. But when I drive by an Amish field and see these big shocks of corn, it reminds me that when the pace is slowed, and things are done by hand, there is a greater opportunity to think about what is actually taking place as the grain is gathered into bundles, stood up on end to ripen and dry, carried to the threshing floor, beaten out, and winnowed to separate the grain from the chaff.

This all serves as a lead-in to the fact that, when writing my series of blogs on “Baptism For Life,” I left some unfinished business back in Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3:17.

 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3:11-12)

What does threshing have to do with Jesus being the One who “baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire?” We’ve talked about the concept of baptism as a life-long process instead of just a one-time event, which enhances the importance of water baptism as the action that kicks off the whole process. But verse 12 adds even more to Christ’s responsibility as Head over all things to the Church, and as the One who really is doing the baptizing. As the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire, He has this winnowing fan in His hand, and He is diligent in this responsibility to “thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the garner,” as it reads in the old KJV. The Greek word for “thoroughly purge” means “to cleanse perfectly, or throughout.” But what, and where, is this threshing floor He’s talking about, and how does it effect our lives as you and I strive towards the Kingdom of God?

Temple Back-story

In 2 Chronicles 3:1, we see that “Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” The back-story for this it found in 1 Chronicles 21. It begins with an assault on David by the adversary: “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. “ (1 Chron. 21:1). It’s interesting that this whole thing began with a grievous sin committed by David, and provoked by Satan himself … or was that REALLY the way it was?

There’s another account of this in 2 Sam. 24 that sheds a whole different light on it. Here it says, “Again the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah’” (2 Sam 24:1). Now we know from the 1st chapter of Job that Satan is used by God to accomplish His divine will among men, even if it temporarily grieves or hurts us, to bring about a greater end. What had the people of Israel done to provoke God’s anger? The commentaries I’ve read can only guess, and that’s all I can do too, but the last 28 verses of the previous chapter tell of the exploits of David’s mighty men. The sense that I get is that both David and his subjects took great pride in the prowess of their heroes in battle, and there are many scriptures that warn us not to trust in the arm of flesh. With that in mind, let’s pick up the story in 1 Chronicles 21, after David sinned by numbering Israel.

The Lord sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell. And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As he was destroying, the Lord looked and relented of the disaster, and said to the angel who was destroying, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. (1 Chron. 21:14-15)

The word “relented,” or “repented” in the KJV, means, to sigh, or by implication, to be sorry, to pity. It can also mean that God was consoled, or avenged of the evil committed against Him. When He told the destroying angel to stay his hand, the angel was standing in a particular place – by this threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Then David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, having in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. So David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces. And David said to God, “Was it not I who commanded the people to be numbered? I am the one who has sinned and done evil indeed; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, O Lord my God, be against me and my father’s house, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.” (1 Chron. 21:16-17)

We see that David’s eyes were enabled to see this angel with a drawn sword in his hand. He accepted full responsibility for his sin, and offered himself and his own posterity “me and my father’s house” as a ransom for the lives of the rest of his people, which may have been why God relented.

In verse 18, “the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David that David should go and erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” So David went, and paid Ornan more than a fair price for the use of his land, though Ornan was ready to give it to David with no haggling. David paid for it out of his own purse, and then he built an altar there on that spot.

And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on the Lord; and He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burnt offering. So the Lord commanded the angel, and he returned his sword to its sheath. At that time, when David saw that the Lord had answered him on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he sacrificed there. For the tabernacle of the Lord and the altar of the burnt offering, which Moses had made in the wilderness, were at that time at the high place in Gibeon. But David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord. (1 Chron.21:26-30)

So while the tabernacle and altar of the burnt offering were still at Gilgal, still functional and still being used, because of this necessity, David inquired of God right there on the spot and God answered him right there on the spot.

Building The Temple

Following this experience, “David said, ‘This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of burnt offering for Israel,” and he began to make preparations for his son Solomon to build the temple on Ornan’s threshing floor (1 Chron. 22:1-19). Interestingly, some Bible scholars believe that this was the very spot in the land of Moriah where Abraham set up the altar to offer Issac upon (Gen. 22:2).

Leaving the Old Testament temple for now, I’d like to go to cover several New Testament scriptures that say Jesus Christ is, in symbol, the Rock, King, Builder, Temple, and Threshing Floor for His heavenly kingdom.

In Matthew 12:42, and Luke 11:31, Jesus Christ speaks of Himself as being “greater than Solomon.” In John 18:33-37, He answers Pilate’s question “Are You the King of the Jews?” by saying, “My kingdom is not of this world” and “You say rightly that I am a king.” He was, and is, a greater king than Solomon, but His kingdom is to be a completely different kind of kingdom with a different kind of temple.

In Matthew 12, “Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath,” and the pharisees rebuked His disciples for picking grain on the Sabbath. Christ’s response was that “I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple” (Matt. 12:1-6). Jesus Christ standing in a cornfield was greater than the physical temple. He also described His body as a temple (John 2:19-21), and He referred to Himself as the Rock, the building site for His church (Matt. 16:18). In the Psalms, King David repeatedly called this Being “my Rock.”.

The physical temple – a type of the church – was built on a rock called Mount Moriah, which was the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite that king David purchased for God and where God had appeared to David. Now, the church is told “you are the temple of God” and that “the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1 Cor 3:16-17, see also Eph. 2:21 and 2 Cor. 6:16).

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Pet. 2:5-9)

These verses make it plain that we are the stones that are being built up into a spiritual house, or temple, for God. Our bodies are called the temples of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for “temple” in these verses is naos (G3584), which speaks of a special part of the larger temple complex. The temple as a whole is refereed to by the word hieron (G2411), while naos is specifically the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies.

Purification

As the body of Christ and the temple of God (Rom. 12:4-5 and 1 Cor. 12:12-27), one of the ways that Jesus Christ works in us is to purify us.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. (Eph. 5:25-30)

We are His Body, the temple built on the Rock, who are cleansed and purged in much the same way as a threshing floor is purged of chaff to leave the good grain. So would it be too much of a stretch to conclude that “His threshing floor” today could be the church?

Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed. O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away. Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple. (Ps. 65:1-4, KJV)

To dwell in the presence of God, our transgressions must be purged away. Jumping into a prophecy in the book of Daniel, we read that “some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time” (Dan. 11:35).

In Part 2 of this message, we’ll look at how Christ’s “winnowing process” … the “purging of His threshing floor” took place in the personal life of Peter, one of Christ’s closest and most intimate friends while He walked this earth in human flesh, and just how tough it was on Peter to be “purged” on Christ’s threshing floor