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God has always wanted a holy people.
From the time of creation, God has had one consistent purpose in mind. He has wanted to have a people that were different: a people that would live in unity with him; a people that would truly walk with him - in his Spirit. His purpose has not changed. It is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
To attempt to accomplish his purpose in man, God has used different strategies down through time. For example, at different times he made varying covenants with mankind. Also, at times, he has gone so far as to repent himself of doing certain things, as when he repented himself of destroying Ninevah.
Eventually his ultimate strategy to try to have a different, separate, and holy people unto himself was to send Jesus, his only begotten son, with a new covenant to replace the old one that wasn't working well.
He began with Adam and Eve. He created them in the Garden of Eden and he walkedwith them "in the garden in the cool of the day" (Gen. 3:8). For a time, he had unity with his creation. Then they sinned against him by breaking the one rule he had laid down (see Gen. 3:6).
But, none of that changed the purpose of God. He still wanted unity with his creation. He found a man of faith and told him, "I will make of thee a great nation; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:2-3). So, out of Abraham, a nation of people would come; and "all families of the earth" would eventually be blessed.
God made a covenant with that nation; but that covenant didn't work well. It was incomplete. It was faulty. The Jewish nation failed over and over, many times, to keep the covenant of God: to keep faith with their creator. They failed to be the holy people God desired.
So, God established a New Covenant to replace the Old. We're told that "if that first covenant had been faultless, thenshould no place have been sought for the second" (Heb. 8:7). But, God spoke through the Old Testament prophets to foretell of a time when there would be a New Covenant to replace the Old: a new strategy with some real heart; a new strategy brought into the world by Jesus.
Part of the new strategy of God that Jesus established, taught, and lived is the reality of the "kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 4:17), or "kingdom of God" (Mark 1:14-15) as it's also called. This was a radical, new approach to the reality of the human condition. The kingdom of God is not simply some religious concept, or some unreal fantasy Jesus dreamed up.
He actually established a new nation on this earth. A nation with its own King, its own laws, and its own citizens: a spiritual nation without the physical boundaries that limit other nations. A spiritual nation, also, without limits of time or space. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah says, "Who has heard such a thing? Shall a nation be born at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children" (Isa. 66:8).
The Overcomers are citizens of that nation: a nation ruled by God, a nation that has, and will continue to fulfill the original purpose of God: to have a separate and holy people to himself.
Peter says, "Ye, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood. Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people... which intime past were not a people, but are now the people of God" (I Pet. 2:5 & 9-10).
Paul says, "Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it... that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that itshould be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25 & 27).
The people who live out these ideals, laid out by God himself; those who allow themselves to be all they can be for God - to fulfill his purpose on earth - can truly be called Overcomers.
The Woman of Revelation 12
Some people believe the woman of Revelation 12 symbolizes the Jewish nation, some believe she is the church, and some believe she represents either Eve or the virgin Mary.
But, the woman, as she is described in the early part of the chapter, cannot be the Jewish nation. While it's true that Jesus the Christ came out of the Jewish nation, he was not born into this world because of the nation itself; but because of the Faithful Few who allowed God to work through them to fulfill his purpose on earth. Most of the Jewish nation at that time rejected Jesus as the Christ; and still reject him as their Messiah today.
And, the woman in the early part of the vision is not simply the church in the usual sense of the word. Nor is she the first woman Eve; or the virgin Mary. At this point in the Revelation, she is much more than simply the church; and to try to make her be either Eve or Mary is far too limited in scope to seriously consider. So, who is she?
Throughout the vision of the woman of Revelation 12, from beginning to end, she can best be thought of as the spiritual collection of God's people, who in faithfulness, have kept covenant with him.
In the early part of the vision, she symbolizes the Old Covenant faithful few - from Abel down through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to name a few - who by faith allowed God to work through them to bring about the birth of the Messiah into the world.
Later in the vision, the woman comes to represent the New Covenant faithful few, the ones we call the Overcomers: the true church on earth. They are the "remnant" of the Bible. They are those few out of the multitudes of people who profess to be believers, out of every denomination and out of every church, who, in spite of the traditions of men, hold fast to the Word of God.
In his book, "God's Plan and the Overcomers," Watchman Nee says, "Now, whenever the church fails, God finds a few in the church - called to be Overcomers - that they might bear the responsibility which the church as a whole ought to, but fails to bear. He chooses a company of the faithful few to represent the church in the demonstration of the victory of Christ. He has his Overcomers in all the seven periods of the church (as represented by the seven churches in Revelation, chapters 2 & 3).
"This Overcomer line is never cut. The Overcomers are not some special class. They are simply a group of people who conform to the original plan of God." (pp. 55-56)
A Native American and his friend were in downtown New York City, walking near Times Square in Manhatten.
It was during the noon lunch hour and the streets were filled with people. Cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, sirens were wailing, and the sounds of the city were almost deafening.
Suddenly, the Native American said, "I hear a cricket."
His friend said, "What? You must be crazy. You couldn't possibly hear a cricket in all this noise!"
"No, I'm sure of it," the Native American said. "I heard a cricket."
"That's crazy," said his friend.
The Native American listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He looked into the bushes, beneath the branches, and sure enough, he localed a small cricket.
His friend was utterly amazed. "That's incredible," he said. "You must have supernatural ears."
"No," said the Native American. "My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you're listening for."
"But, that can't be," said the friend. "I could never hear a cricket in all this noise."
"Yes, it's true," came the reply. "It depends on what is really important to you. Let me show you what I mean."
The Native American reached into his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk.
And, then, even with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within twenty feet turn and look to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs.
"See what I mean?" asked the Native American. "It all dependes on what's important to you."
So, what's important to you? What do you listen for?
Some people say there is no God; or, that if he exists, he never speaks to us anymore.
But, perhaps they can't see or hear hem because they aren't listening for him. Perhaps they're living for themselves, rather than for God.
If you are in tune with God, you will be able to notice him at work in your life - and in the world.
And, you will be able to hear him when he speaks.
So, what's important to you? Could you hear the cricket in Times Square at the noon hour?
Could you hear the still small voice if it spoke to you?