This is the Testimony by T. Austin-Sparks

By T. Austin-Sparks
We have been seeing that the testimony of Jesus is Christ, and what Christ signifies in relation to God's eternal thought as to man and the world. You can go beyond that, if you like, and say, of the universe. That signification is comprehensive and all-comprehending, but it is gathered up into three things, and those three things are: Light, Life and Love. We come now to Life. Life has a large place in John's first epistle, just as we saw Light has, and as we may yet see that Love has. What does this say?
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"That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the word of life (and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us)" (1 John 1:1,2).
"And this is the promise which He promised us, the life eternal" (1 John 2:25).
"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loves not abides in death. Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in Him" (1 John 3:14-15).
"And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life. These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:11-13).
"This is the true God, and eternal life" (1 John 5:20).
We have been seeing that the testimony of Jesus is Christ, and what Christ signifies in relation to God's eternal thought as to man and the world. You can go beyond that, if you like, and say, of the universe. That signification is comprehensive and all-comprehending, but it is gathered up into three things, and those three things are: Light, Life and Love. We come now to Life.
God's Requirement at an End-time
Life has a large place in John's first epistle, just as we saw Light has, and as we may yet see that Love has. What does this say? If this represents what must be at the end, if it is true that John is writing for an end-time, then we look to see what is to be at the end, and we find that among three things, the characteristic of what God must have and is seeking to have, the characteristic of what represents God and satisfies God as His own Son satisfies Him, is Life. That is a statement. Do not just let it pass as a statement. Let it make us really sit up.
What are we talking about? I am not anxious just to talk a lot. We have really got to come somewhere, or else all this is for nothing. Isolating this thing for a moment (although, as we have pointed out, we cannot separate them, all go together, but for a moment isolating this thing) what is God looking for, what is it that God must have? What is it that will alone satisfy Him at the end? And further, what is it that will alone justify any kind of assumed testimony of Jesus on this earth? In other words, what is it that will justify any lampstand or vessel of witness continuing to exist in the acceptance of the Lord? What is it that will make it unnecessary for Him to say, "Repent, or I will remove thy lampstand out of its place"? And the answer here is: Life!
So, you find that all the writings of John bear down upon this very strongly. And remember that although in the arrangement of the New Testament the Gospel of John comes so early in the first section, it was not written until the time of his epistles and the Revelation; even the Gospel by John was written right at the end, after Paul had been with the Lord for years and probably all the other apostles had gone to be with the Lord. Then John wrote his Gospel; it is an end-time thing.
I am not going to try and show why John should have written an earthly life of the Lord Jesus right at the end. It looks like coming down and back, but it is not. I am not going into that. It is a part of an end-time writing by the Spirit, then these letters, then the Revelation. No one questions that Revelation is the end-time, but in all of them, one of the three outstanding things is: Life.
The Revelation begins: "I am He that liveth; I became dead, and behold I am alive unto the ages of the ages" (Rev. 1:18). Even preceding that, the apostle in his introduction, his preamble, has said: "From Jesus Christ... the firstborn of the dead". Then the challenge is to the churches on this matter, and then all that follows in dealing with the nations in judgment. It is all a question of a battle between Life and death. It is the battle to conquer death. And the great issue of the book of the Revelation is the triumph of Life over death, the river of the water of Life clear as crystal. The testimony has triumphed, death is vanquished. That is the thing which is here as the testimony of Jesus. It is an end-time necessity for the satisfaction of God.
And if you ask what an overcomer is, who are the overcomers, you have simply to say that it is among three things: that an overcomer is one who is living by Divine Life which conquers death every day. In a world where death is mighty and satan is working, there is that which absolutely stands up to him and nullifies the power of death. That is the testimony of Jesus: that Jesus lives, and the Life was... preached about, talked about, the fact of the resurrection was believed in? No, the Life was manifested [shown, demonstrated]. That is the testimony of Jesus, not that you believe in the historic fact of His resurrection, but that the Life is manifested, which is something very much more.
So, the challenge comes right home to every one of us at once. Are we a manifestation [demonstration] of this Life? Is our presence what the presence of the Lord Jesus in this world was and is - a mighty resistance to the course and encroachment of death? Life is an end-time thing to be brought out in a new way because it links with the beginning.
The book of the Revelation and the book of Genesis are kindred books. You begin Genesis with the Tree of Life; you end Revelation with the Tree of Life. You begin the apostolic age with Life through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The great pronouncement is that God raised Him from the dead, and we are His witnesses (Acts 2:32). The Life is manifested, and in those first days Life was manifested indeed. But something has happened, and now there is another end and another beginning, and the thing which characterizes these crises is the fresh uprising of Life as the manifestation of Christ. How can we prove that Jesus is the Son of God? Not by argument, only by the manifestation of Life, that is, not conduct, how we behave (that is included), but by a spiritual power, a mighty spiritual energy and working which will not let death have its way.
What is the basis of this Life, this Divine Life? It is relatedness to God, for death is spiritual separation from God. Life, then, is absolute oneness with God. How do we know that we are one with Him? John's argument is because we have His Life, and the Life is manifested. That is the testimony: not in word, but in what we are. Now you can see the nature of the challenge to the churches. It is this question of Life.
Life the Law of God's Purpose
Now, going right back over the whole ground, God's eternal purpose and purposes can only be realized in and by Life. Life is the law of God's purpose. God will never try, because He has never appointed it, to realize His purposes mechanically, organizationally; that is attempting to accomplish God's purposes really by the principle of the 'machine age', something like the Philistine cart. That is not in God's mind at all. He determined that all His purpose and purposes should be realized in a spiritual, biological way, that is, on the principle of Life, and that is the only way.
We said in another connection that if God had wanted to reveal truth as a matter of information, He could have used an amplifier from heaven, announcers, machines, and that sort of thing, but to reveal truth He chose man, living creatures; and so it is with Life. God will never realize His purposes by the mechanical process, the machine process, the merely institutional process. Oh, if only there was sufficient spiritual perception among the people of God, what tremendous changes would be made, how very different things would be! If only there were perception to recognize this fact, that Satan, in order to defeat the very purposes which are the great desire of the church, to which they are committing themselves, for which they are spending their energies and their intelligence and all their resources, in order to defeat the realization of the very objectives to which they have given themselves the devil has turned it from Life into a machine.
The fact remains that real spiritual progress and development comes only through spiritual people. The rest will not last long, it will not reach God's end, it will go on so long and then fade away; it will be proved to be not what God meant. Satan has triumphed, and oh, how clever he is and how blinding he is. He makes people think that if they have the perfect organization and the large machine and the greater instruments formed by men, the more certain is the accomplishment of God's purposes, and it is a lie. Only Life accomplishes God's purposes.
There is not one part of His creation capable of development which does not develop on the life principle. You do not develop a mountain; it has no life. What has to be heaved up from outside may serve a purpose, but it does not represent progress. That part of creation, which is capable of development, develops only on the principle of life, and that is a parable. All God's spiritual purposes are bound up with this principle of spiritual, Divine, heavenly Life, and nothing will really reach God's end only in the measure in which a life from outside of this world is present, God's own Life.
Death, the Supreme Object of the Adversary
So, the supreme object and working of Satan (and 'Satan' means 'adversary', one who is against) is therefore death, but not always naked death; it is only naked death to those who have spiritual Life and that abundantly. For those who have not a great deal of real spiritual Life, death works by an assumed life, a pretended life, an imitation life, something which looks like Life, carries the impression of being a very live thing, and death is there; it is false life.
Remember that Satan himself, Satan the adversary himself, is transformed into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), and the truth is carried over to this as well. He is also transformed into an angel of 'life'. In the end antichrist will give life to the beast; in the end he will be working miracles which all look Divine, supernatural, and John says in his first letter, "Even now there have arisen many antichrists" (2:18); "and this is the spirit of the antichrist" (4:3). It is a false life as it is a false light which calls for this anointing to discern it. "The anointing which ye received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that anyone teach you" (2:27). You do not need that anyone should teach you anything about this, not as a general principle, being independent of instruction, but about what is of antichrist, what is right and what is wrong; only the anointing can show you which is which.
If you are going to judge things without the anointing, you will be deceived at once, because it looks like Life, just as it looks like Light, but the anointing in you teaches you. It is only the spiritually alive who can discriminate between true Life and artificial life, so that at the end-time multitudes will be carried away and deceived. If it were possible, even the very elect will be deceived (Matt. 24:24); a great working of error at the end, and spiritual Life to tell us what is Life and what is not life, and that not to discriminate between naked death and pure Life, but between that which is Life and that which looks like it. Everybody says that is a living thing, that there is a lot of Life there. What they mean is that there is a lot of liveliness. There is a lot of difference between Divine Life and what we call liveliness, enthusiasm, activity, high spirits, and all that sort of thing. This Life is something other. My point is that Satan has made it his own supreme object, which he presses by any and every means, to counter the true Life, and either to maintain death where it is, or to nullify Life where it is.
The Basis and Strength of Divine Life
What is the basis and strength of Life, Divine Life? Well, what is the basis and strength of death? The strength of death is sin. Death came because of sin and wherever there is sin there is death, and Life, therefore, is only in the measure in which there is holiness, righteousness. Thus, Satan’s object is in some way to corrupt, taint, confuse, mix, to get rid of that essential purity of which we were speaking in connection with Light, but it comes up again here.
Even the Water of Life has to be as clear as crystal. If there is any murkiness then the Life is limited, and in that measure, it is countered. To corrupt, to pollute it, has been Satan’s effort right from the beginning. It is the whole story of Israel's tragedy through Balaam. That is why it is brought up in the Revelation, "Thou hast there some that hold the teaching of Balaam" (Rev. 2:14). It is the old thing coming up again. Balaam taught Israel to commit fornication, and it was spiritual fornication, it was mixture, it was bringing together two things which God will not have together. God says, 'This is this and that is that, the two must never come together!' Balaam, the instrument of Satan, went round the back door and taught Israel to commit spiritual fornication and introduced idolatry. That is the doom of Israel. Israel no longer stands as God's candlestick among the nations, the Light has gone.
That is the challenge to the church. "Thou hast there some that hold the teaching of Balaam." There are those who are allowing mixture, or bringing in mixture, and the death must therefore stay in, and the Life must go out. Then there is no justification for the continuance of this vessel. The basis and strength of Life is holiness, righteousness, so that at the end: "Everyone that hath this hope set on him purifies himself" (1 John 3:3). The end-time represents a work of purging.
Priestly Function a Ministry of Life
When I was dealing with Light, I took you back and showed you that even before there was the office of a prophet, there was the function of the prophet, and Adam functioned as a prophet because a prophet's function is to keep God's thought alive in the earth. And Adam was constituted for that purpose - to represent God's mind, "Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness" (Gen. 1:26). That is, "to be here as the embodiment of Us, the representation of Us, to be on the earth as an expression of what We are in heaven".
That is Adam's first function - being after the likeness of God - so that in his very person he is a prophet to stand on the earth showing in himself what God thinks, how God feels, what God does, what God is like; he functioned as a prophet. "Adam... is a figure of Him that was to come" (Rom. 5:14). But he fell from that great function and darkness came in where there had been Light.
What is true as to the prophet is true as to the priest. The priestly function exists long before the priestly office. The office only comes out as something official when things become systematized by way of representation or type. You know that now, in New Testament times, there are no priests as in Old Testament times, but priestliness still obtains as much as ever, but it is spiritual. Adam was a priest in function.
What has a priest to do with? What is the business of a priest? In what connection did the whole priestly system of Israel stand? It all had to do with Life. Death encompassed, death assailed, death dogged their steps, death lay in their path. Spiritual death through sin was a great, active, energetic fact in this world, and for these people to remain a clear pure testimony to God, they must stand clear of the touch of death. Therefore, all those sacrifices and priestly offices had to do with countering death, the ruling out of sin, which is the strength of death, and the keeping of everything alive: the testimony of Life. "The life... is in the blood"(Lev. 17:11), the blood is the life; the priestly function has to do with Life.
The Levitical ministry came in on that. "Ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that My covenant may be with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him that he might fear; and he feared Me and stood in awe of My name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found in his lips: he walked with Me in peace and uprightness and turned many away from iniquity. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But ye are turned aside out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble in the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts" (Mal. 2:4-8). "Behold, I send My messenger... the messenger of the covenant... behold, He cometh... He will purify the sons of Levi" (Mal. 3:1-3).
You remember there was a day when Israel gathered and someone who was of another blood, an alien blood, is brought by an Israelite into the camp. At that moment, Israel was in terrible danger of being destroyed. A plague broke out, and Israel was in terrible danger of being wiped out by the plague. Judgment and death because a death ground had been let in and brought in by an Israelite, and Phinehas saw it and saw why the plague was there, and why the threat to the whole nation through the plague was there. He saw, discerned, and he took a dagger and thrust the Israelite and woman through and killed them. And God said, "Phinehas... hath turned My wrath away from the children of Israel... Wherefore... Behold, I give unto him My covenant of peace; and it shall be unto him, and to his seed after him, the covenant of an everlasting priesthood" (Num. 25:1-13). What is that? A ministry of Life when death is all about you and threatening you. "My covenant was with him of life and peace... ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi".
"Behold, I send My messenger, and He shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to His temple... But who can abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap; and He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi." This is an end-time, it is Malachi. An end-time again calls for a pure, active, priestly function which, dealing with corruption, makes a Way for Life. The whole priestly ministry, whether it be in Adam looking on to preserve the way of Life before sin comes in, or whether it be after sin has come in and the priesthood established to deal with death and so keep Life present - it all has to do with Life. That is where our priestly ministry comes in. It is spiritual. Tell me, anybody who is called a priest among men, is he one who can withstand death and maintain the testimony of Life? This is the only justification for the use of the word 'priest'. The Bible comes down from beginning to end on this. Priesthood has to do with Life and the quelling of death, and no one is a priest, though he may bear the name and be in the official position, who is not a mighty testimony against death and sin.
That is why with the end there in Zechariah when Joshua the High Priest (that is representative) before all the people stood clothed in a filthy garment, Satan was at his right hand in the place of power to resist, and it was not until the filthy garment was taken away and the clean garment put upon him and a fair mitre, that the Lord said, "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan" (Zech. 3:1-5). The rebuke of Satan is only possible when you have clean ground.
You can fight with any kind of phraseology about the devil and rebuke him, but if you are not on clean ground, he will laugh at you. He is the holder in death where there is sin. That is surely very impressive. Can we not see that at an end-time when Satan has so much ground in this world and in the church, when there is so much that is questionable, doubtful, and not pure, not holy, not clean before God, that Satan’s power is so great, and he is even able to establish himself in the temple of God? But what the Lord needs is the uprising of that testimony of Jesus which is Christ's absolute victory over death, Satan and sin.
This is no mere teaching: this is a terrific business. No wonder the overcomers are going to know all about it. They are up against the ultimate forces in this universe, and if you are standing in the good of the Life of the Lord Jesus, you are not going to have an easy time, Satan will see to that. Nevertheless, it is in the virtue and power of Him Who said, "I became dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades" (Rev. 1:18). This is the testimony - "This is the witness, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" (1 John 5:11). This is the testimony - we have Life in His Son; this is the testimony - we have it. "As He is, so are we in this world."
I trust that this comes to you with the power that the Lord would have in our lives. Do recognize what our business is! If the Lord has the disposing of you, it is more than likely that you will be put into a place of death; but that is honoring you, He knows He can trust you there. He could trust His Son to go down to hell. Can He trust us in death? His seal, His approval, will be that He does put us in such places because He knows there is enough Life in us to make it safe for Him to put us there. If we have to all the time be compassed about and nursed in living conditions, it is not a great compliment from heaven. If the Lord can trust you enough to put you into the place of greatest spiritual adversity where death is, it will again be: "I know where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s throne is" (Rev. 2:13). "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10); the crown of Life which is in you, which makes it possible for you to live and testify even where Satan’s seat is. It is all of a piece - the triumph of Life. May the Lord find it in us.
T. Austin-Sparks