Splash! The fluffy duckling slipped on the embankment and tumbled into the pond with his siblings, all of them bobbing up and down like buoys. They quickly regained their balance, thanks to their web-like flippers paddling below the surface.
Before this treacherous descent into what must have seemed like an ocean to those seven ducklings, they had been marching and quacking in perfect formation at the peak of the embankment, following their whimsical mother. She decided to take a dip. Her followers weren’t nutty about the idea. But that didn’t dissuade them from sledding down the “mountain” on their flippers.
As soon as number seven made it in, mom decided she’d had enough. She stepped ashore, shaking her head and wings, and off she went. The little ones were now confronted with the daunting task of turning those flippers into mountain climbing boots. They weren’t nutty about the idea. But that didn’t dissuade them trying. They scrambled out of the pond, lined up and chased after mom.
I don’t know much about ducks. But I learned a lot at the park that day. Nothing would have deterred those ducklings from their one, great mission in life: to follow mom. I wonder if we have this same resolve and drive when it comes to following our spiritual mother?
Physical Vs. Spiritual
One of the main reasons most people do not understand the Bible is because they’re ignorant of this fundamental, biblical fact: God creates in dual stages. There was the first Adam and the second Adam, Christ. Ancient Israel was followed by spiritual Israel, the Church. Anciently, the priesthood offered up physical sacrifices for the people. Today, our sacrifices are spiritual. Husband, wife, marriage, family, children—you name it. They all point to an ultimate spiritual fulfillment.
The same holds true for a physical mother. Let us take a closer look at what the Bible says about our spiritual mother.
Isaiah 66:2 says God looks to this kind of individual: one who is humble and contrite (or broken) and who fears God. To these humble few, God says, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed” (verse 5). This verse reveals family division within God’s Church. Notice, their brethren cast them out. Elsewhere in the Bible, God speaks of family betrayal (Matthew 24:12; Luke 21:16).
There is family division within God’s one true Church. After asking where God the Father resides in all of this division (Isaiah 66:1), Isaiah then begins to discuss a woman in verses 7-8: “Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.” We have written before that Zion actually refers to God’s Church. This passage is speaking about a spiritual mother in travail right before the birth, just as a physical mother experiences during labor.
“Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God” (verse 9). There may be intense pain, but that does not mean the birth won’t happen. It will!
Verse 10: “Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her.” Jerusalem is often used in the Bible to signify all of Israel; in this case, spiritual Israel. “That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory” (verse 11). Jerusalem is about to nourish the whole world.
“As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (verse 13). Notice the obvious imagery in Isaiah 66. It speaks of nursing children, a mother and a father. In other words, family! This family, as it says in verse 12, is instrumental in bringing peace to the whole world. As members of God’s Family, we help to bring the world this comfort.
Our Spiritual Birth
In John 3, Jesus unveiled a shocking truth about our spiritual birth. In verse 3, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Christ said we can see the Kingdom of God, but only after we have been born again.
Nicodemus was confused. “How can a man be born when he is old?” he asked in verse 4. “Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” Nicodemus knew a physical birth came from the womb of a mother. But what about a spiritual birth?
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (verse 5). Our spiritual birth begins at baptism, when the Holy Spirit begets us. At that point, we are a child, yet unborn. Mr. Armstrong said water baptism is the “initiatory rite preparatory to the start of being born of the Spirit” (Mystery of the Ages).
Verse 6 shows how our spiritual birth is not yet complete at baptism: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” When born physically, we come from the womb of a mother. The same is true spiritually.
“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again,” Jesus said. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (verses 7-8). Here wind, which you cannot see, is compared to spirit, which is what we have to be before we can see the Kingdom. It’s a shame more people do not understand this lucid analogy uttered from Christ’s lips (see also 1 Corinthians 15:50).
Physical birth is an exact type of our spiritual birth. Physically, all human life comes from a tiny egg, called an ovum. It is produced within the mother and has an average life span of about 24 hours, unless it is fertilized by the male sperm. The sperm cell is the smallest cell in the male body, yet it gives that ovum life! But what happens once the ovum receives life? Once begotten, the embryo must be fed and nourished by physical food within the mother’s womb. Where would that little ovum be without the father? It would never be fertilized. But after being fertilized by the sperm, where would that embryo be without the mother? Spiritually, without the mother, we could not be born into God’s Family!
Abraham and Sarah
In Galatians 4:22-24, Paul refers to Abraham’s two sons, one born of Hagar, the other of Sarah. These women refer to two different covenants: one of a physical people born into slavery; the other of a spiritual people who are free, referring to the line which developed from Sarah.
God draws attention to Sarah’s critical role in Israel’s development as a nation in Isaiah 51:2. God inspired the prophet to tell Israel to look to Abraham, your father, “and unto Sarah that bare you.” Ancient Israel began with one man, Abraham, and one woman, Sarah.
Early in Abraham’s life, God made promises to him and his wife. Through those two, God would make a great nation, Israel. But He also promised grace. Through Abraham and Sarah, all the families of the Earth would be blessed, meaning a kingly line would also descend from them and culminate in the birth of Jesus Christ. It is through Christ that all the families of the Earth have been blessed. It is through Christ that we receive the promise of grace.
It is this spiritual covenant that Paul is referring to in Galatians 4. Now notice verses 25-26: “For this Agar [Hagar] is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” In the Old Testament, Jerusalem always represents the people of Israel. Here in the New Testament, it represents spiritual Israel, the New-Covenant Church. Paul calls this one true Church the mother of us all.
In verse 28, we see clearly that Paul is addressing Church members: “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” Those of us in the Church are children—of one mother. “So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman” (verse 31; rsv). The intent of this passage is clear: If we are not born of the right woman, we will not inherit the promises! (see also Revelation 21:9-10).
Hebrews is even clearer. “But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22). We’re not here to set our sights on the physical. We look to new Jerusalem—spiritual Jerusalem. “To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect” (verse 23). Spiritual Jerusalem, the Church, is the mother of us all. And that Church is about to bring many sons to birth! We are to be born of a spiritual mother.
Remember, Isaiah 66 says to rejoice with spiritual Jerusalem. Why? Because she is about to bring forth! There may be birth pangs before delivery, but she will bring forth!
On the physical level, an unborn child must be fed and nourished by the mother before parturition. There is no difference on the spiritual level. We will not be born unless we are fed and nourished properly by our mother.
It is true that, as a spiritual ovum, we must be fertilized by a spiritual sperm cell, God’s Spirit. Without that, the whole growth process would never begin. The Father makes it all possible. But after fertilization, we have such a long way to go!
Notice what Mr. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages about our tiny, embryonic start: “As yet we are not born divine beings. We are not yet composed of spirit, but of physical matter. The divine life has merely been begotten. This divine character starts so very small it is doubtful if much of it is in evidence—except for the glow of that ecstasy of spiritual ‘romance’ that we may radiate in that ‘first love’ of conversion—spiritually speaking. But so far as spiritual knowledge and developed spiritual character goes, there is not much, as yet.”
But God does not want us to stay small, spiritually. He does not want underdeveloped children. In Ephesians 4, He says the Church, our spiritual mother, is organized so that we might grow, so that we might be edified and perfected. Until when? Until we become perfect! (verse 13). 2 Peter 3:18 concurs: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” How do we grow? By being fed! Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” We need food to thrive, to grow up!
Consider John 6. The entire chapter has much to say about spiritual food. In verse 35, it says that whoever comes to Christ will never hunger. Christ continues in the chapter to compare the physical food the ancient Israelites ate with the food we must eat. Jesus Christ is that nutritious food. “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (verse 54).
In verse 44, Christ verifies the fact that the Father’s sperm begins the life, but after that, as so many passages confirm, the Bible reveals that we need nourishment from our spiritual mother.
We receive this spiritual nourishment from four main sources: contact with God through prayer, spiritual instruction and understanding through Bible study and meditation, Christian fellowship, and a continuous supply of knowledge and understanding which comes from the ministry of the Church. We simply will not receive proper spiritual nourishment unless we are with the right mother.
Mr. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages: “God designed reproduction to picture His truth in physical manner and to keep us constantly in the knowledge of His wonderful plan of salvation.
“It is the function of the Church—as the spiritual mother of Christians in it—to develop holy, righteous and perfect godly character in those God has called—those God has added to the Church.”
As members of the pcg are well aware, God’s inspiration and revelation did not stop flowing into His Church when Mr. Armstrong died. It continued because we need a constant supply of nourishment.
But all of that new knowledge constantly builds on what developed before Mr. Armstrong died. Likewise, on the physical level, life begins in a tiny cell, which looks nothing like a human being at first, but which gradually gets bigger and bigger. Soon vital parts begin to develop—head, arms, legs. The embryo gradually becomes a fetus—an unborn child which resembles an adult human being, only much smaller. Further along in the pregnancy, toward the end, the finer points of the human body develop—hair, eyelashes, fingernails. But all growth adds to what developed previously!
So what happens when the developing fetus stops receiving nourishment from the mother? In John 15, Jesus uses a different, yet similar, analogy to illustrate. He compares Himself to a vine and Church members to branches. If, as branches, we do not feed off the vine, we wither away before God finally prunes us off the vine and we die. The principle is the same concerning any fetus which doesn’t feed off the mother. It miscarries and is stillborn.
Again, notice what Mr. Armstrong wrote: “The ‘loner’—the ‘individual Christian,’ who wants to climb up into the kingdom some other way than by Christ and His way through His Church—is not being trained in Christ’s manner of training, to rule and reign with Christ in his kingdom!” (ibid). This is a truth many have rejected in recent times. They have decided to go it alone until Christ returns; they claim there is no longer a need for the Church. These self-proclaimed followers of Mr. Armstrong could not be further apart from his teachings!
“The Church is God’s special school for training those He has selected and called to be trained in His Church—to be kings and priests, to rule and to teach—for their part in that kingdom. Only those so trained in the Church will be kings and priests in the kingdom of God ….
“Take an analogy from Satan’s world. A football player says: ‘I want to play in all of the games, but I’ll train alone. I don’t want to be part of the team until the games start.’ Would the coach let him be part of the team in the games, without having learned teamwork during practice season? Neither will God let one into His Family at the resurrection who refused to be part of it now—in the Church—in the spiritual ‘training season’” (ibid).
Those who decide to go it alone have as much chance to succeed as an aborted fetus.
God calls us the Church of the firstborn! We have one Father and one mother. We are either in the right mother where we are being nourished and fed spiritually, or we simply are not growing and will die.
Better Than Children
Very soon now, God will bring salvation to the whole world. “Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed” (Isaiah 56:1). In verse 2, Isaiah shows how God is working through individuals—those called into the Church of the firstborn.
Notice verse 5 especially: “Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.” Because those in God’s Church are among the Church of the firstborn, because of our important calling today, God says we will actually be given a name better than sons and daughters! How can that be?
Notice what Mr. Armstrong wrote in his booklet Why Marriage—Soon Obsolete? : “Of all life forms—whether plant, animal or angel—none has been given this God-plane relationship of marriage and family life, except humans who are potential heirs of God’s Family.
“God is more than one person. There is only the one God—but that God is a family of more than one divine Person—having the Father at its Head—Jesus Christ as His divine Son—those converted up to the time of Christ’s coming in power and glory, as Christ’s wife—and those converted and changed to divine immortals afterward, during the Millennium, as the divine children of that union.”
Grasp the significance of this shocking statement. The Church of the firstborn, the Bible reveals, will soon marry and become the Bride of Jesus Christ. At that point, after years and years of being nourished by the mother, we will then collectively become a mother, through which millions, ultimately billions, will receive salvation and become children! Those called into the Church of the firstborn will play a role in bringing about the birth of billions of other children. As individual members of that spiritual mother, Christ’s wife, we will have a name better than sons and daughters.
Notice what Mr. Flurry wrote in his booklet Isaiah’s End-Time Vision : “How is God going to give us a better name than sons and daughters? The firstfruits are called to be the Bride of Christ—our Husband. We will be on the ‘mother’ level and help Christ lead the ‘children of God’—or those who are not in the firstfruits calling. The firstfruits are those called before Christ’s Second Coming. Those called in the Millennium and Last Great Day will be likened to the children in God’s Family. Christ will be the Husband and the firstfruits the Bride. It is very clear why our sacrificing today will bring us such fabulous rewards in the future!” God’s elect have been brought to His spiritual house today so that we may bring the whole world to God’s spiritual house in the World Tomorrow.
Isaiah 66:5 reveals a split within God’s Family in this end time. One group lost the vision and stopped feeding from the mother. “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (verse 8). Those who stopped feeding from the mother lost sight of the fact that there is only one spiritual Father and only one spiritual mother. They lost sight of the fact that they needed constant nourishment and protection from their spiritual mother.
But a handful of God’s faithful have not lost that vision. We must continue learning and growing from the mother so that others might learn from us in the World Tomorrow.
Mr. Armstrong’s conclusion in Why Marriage—Soon Obsolete? seems a fitting conclusion for this article: “I have given you, here, the greatest, most precious and valuable truth you can ever know.
“Man, and only man, of all life forms in existence, can be born into the God Family—which is the Kingdom of God. This is the gospel of Jesus!
“The family relationship is a God-plane relationship. And of all His creatures, God bestowed it solely on man.”
From the Archives: Royal Vision, May-June 1998