The relationships we are developing in the present can build friendships for eternity. What are the implications in this for us now?

The Apostle John in his first epistle describes one of the characteristics which identify the immortal saints of the future, when he says, “We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (3:14). This observation serves to illustrate just how much importance Yahweh places upon the quality of our relationship with our brethren and sisters. The relationships we develop and value now will form a foundation for relationships lasting into eternity.

Unfeigned Love

 The Apostle Peter expresses the same thought, associating unfeigned love with the birth of the Spirit. “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently. Being begotten again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:22).

Fervent, unfeigned love out of a pure heart will be the unique spirit between the whole united family of the sons of God. Peter’s message, as John’s, is that this relationship commences now. In the Kingdom we cannot expect there to suddenly be trust where once there was suspicion; openness, where once there was envy; patience, where there was once intolerance; praise, where there was railing; or love, where there was discord.

We must be certain of the genuineness of our love, as John writes: “Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother is in darkness, even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light and there is none occasion of stumbling (Gk. ‘scandalon’) in him” (1 John 2:8-10).

The Apostolic “Knitting Together in Love”

 The basis of the everlasting love of the saints is that they all have something in common. The sharing of something special is the mark of true friendship. What could make for a more lasting and complete bond of love than a commonly shared attitude of mind? People with a common outlook on life, common goals and objectives, common ways of dealing with problems, a common appreciation of what is beautiful, will naturally and spontaneously gravitate together. In their immortality the saints will be able to exploit this shared disposition to the fullest extent in all the infinite encounters that lie in the Millennium and beyond. This complete relationship will be the cause of great joy for the immortal saints, spurring the spontaneous invitation from the Psalmist King David to those with whom he enjoys sweet fellowship, “O magnify Yahweh with me, and let us exalt His Name together(Psa 34:3). “Praise ye Yahweh. I will praise Yahweh with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation” (Psa 111:1). The congregation that David has in his mind’s eye is that general assembly and ecclesia of “firstborns” which are written in heaven – the Elohim he speaks of in Psalm 138:1, “I will praise thee with my whole heart: before Elohim will I sing praise unto thee.” Amongst this glorious company David is transported himself, and unites in a soaring harmony of myriads of immortal hearts and voices.

How could he be there unless he felt an unreserved and sincere love for every one of those gathered there? What is it that unites the hearts of normally self-seeking proud and ambitious mortal men, in such an overwhelming community of Spirit? This unfathomable love in all its compelling facets springs from one source alone – not human but Divine. All of the interests, all of the loves, the common view of things, the common responses which we find so endearing in our friends are the character of our Father – our Heavenly Father. He combines all of those qualities which are so attractive to us in our brethren and sisters. He is a warm, vibrant, eminently alive and intensely passionate being, Who, like His creation, seeks love and companionship. The love which the saints have for one another is really an indirect expression of their love for Him. They would have never known love if He had not first revealed His love and the beauty of His character which we enjoy in others. “Beloved”, John writes, “let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). When we enjoy the love unique to brethren and sisters of one mind, let us remember that it is only possible because we have each come to know our Heavenly Father, the fountain of love.

The Test of Sincerity

 To the Apostle Peter, sincere love is the most important quality to develop, “And above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The Jerusalem Bible gives the translation: “Never let your love for each other grow insincere”. It is essential that love be genuine and not merely a cultivated display. The test will be that true love will “hide a multitude of sins”, rather than speak of them. This passage does not mean that we do not need to worry about all the sins we commit and that as long as we have love, they will be forgiven. It is speaking of our relationship to others; true love not only forgives, but takes pains to cover the faults of beloved friends.

As Peter goes on to say, we should minister to others as we have received from God, “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (v10). We must be stewards now if we desire to minister the grace of God in the future to other generations.

The saints form an innumerable multitude; John in Patmos saw them in vision, “The number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands” (Rev 5:11). Humanly speaking, one would expect to be lost in such a vast concourse. This is not so with the saints, for they are all one great cognizance through the Spirit, and none need be fearful that another could see into their mind – for there is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of, all minds are filled with that which is pure, that which is honest, lovely, that which is of a good report, and each radiates a perfect wholesome love to their companions. Every saint can look into his brother’s and sister’s eyes with complete and sincere affection which will be reciprocated by an intense and unreserved love of the purest kind. This is only possible if we have developed an openness and frankness with our brethren and sisters based on unfeigned love. This begins now, for, says Paul, “henceforth know we no man after the flesh” (2 Cor. 5:16). “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God(6:4), that is, as future public serving Elohim in the Kingdom. How do we prepare to be approved as “workers together with him” (6:1)? “By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by love unfeigned” (6:6). If we are to be Elohim working together with God, Paul argues we must be able to co-operate with our brethren and sisters now. As for being unequally yoked with unbelievers, he concludes, this is totally incompatible with our future aspirations (6:14).

We must have developed a genuine affection and concern for our brethren and sisters utterly devoid of any guile, malice or self interest. We must act as if we are immortal now and have our minds so pure that our brethren and sisters could read them – this is what Paul meant when he said “henceforth know we no man after the flesh”.

 Jesus warns us not to speak, or for that matter, think evil of our brother since we are not in a position to judge. Rather we should encourage openness and frankness, confessing our faults one to another, esteeming our brother and sister more highly than ourselves, always seeking to believe the very best motives in the heart of others. So often the flesh seeks to find the worst motive. Such a frame of mind could never exist between immortal saints, nor should it exist now.

Character Perfected but Personality Retained

 Yahweh has determined that those whom He calls, justifies and glorifies must be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. These are declared to be the sons of God because they have been led by the Spirit of God (Rom 8:28-30, 9-11).

The image of God’s character as revealed in Christ, stamped upon the saints, is the distinguishing family trait. Whilst the saints then will be the same in character, since all conform to Christ, their personalities will still vary. Since the expression of personality is controlled by character, eccentricities can be brought into check by the character acquired from Yahweh. Personality traits such as dynamism, intensity and so forth can be harnessed and employed by the character in either good or bad directions. The possession of the character of Christ will ensure that these traits will always be guided in a positive direction.

Personality distinguishes the individual. Character unites the divine family.

 “They that turn many to righteousness” shall specially shine in the kingdom (Dan. 12:3). What this involves as regards the actual arrangements of the kingdom is hinted at in the clustered gems that bedeck the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem.

“The twelve foundations had not only each a different name, but each was of a different material. Whether there will prove to be any exactness of correspondence between the nature of these precious stones and the apostles they represent, we cannot know beforehand; but it must be manifest that one thing is distinctly signified by this classification, and that is that diversity of excellence will characterize the spirit state. The saints will not be all to one pattern. They will be all of a sort in one way. They will all be precious stones: but each with a preciousness of his own which gains by comparison with the preciousness of his neighbour. We see the principle faintly at work now. Brethren, resembling each other closely in their love of God and their affection for all spiritual things, and their fruitfulness in every good word and work, may yet differ entirely in their intellectual and moral characteristics. The difference, so far from being a defect, is an excellence, giving zest to their interaction and their love one for another. We shall see this law in perfection in the supernal state to which the Truth in its obedience will finally introduce men and women who please God through Christ”. Robert Roberts, Thirteen Lectures, pp185-6.

This article concludes the series on our life in the Kingdom. In the next issue of The Lampstand, Cameos of the Kingdom will contain the first of a series on “The Temple of Ezekiel’s Prophecy” by Brother John Siviour.

“The final triumph will show us at the end a generation of Adam’s race brought from the grave, belonging to different ages, having lived in different circumstances, but all related to the same hereditary evil, and who in their several days overcame by the same power. This is the final aim of the gospel, that all the children of God might be gathered together in one, and formed into one society, one family, all developed on one principle. No neutrals amongst them; all of them men and women of love, shown by the obedience of faith. By and by we shall be introduced to a company, every one of whom will be a glowing ember of divine fire, every one a perfected son or daughter, with immortal nature, which disease can never touch, which can never faint nor fail. Oh, the joy of identification with them!”