By John Yates
My soul is filled with boundless love
Whilst gazing on the precious blood,
I catch the rays of Jesus’ face
Transfixed in me, the Throne of Grace.
Wonders beyond the human mind
Rushing into me, a Life Divine;
I feel the Power of the Holy Dove,
And speak in Tongues of things above. (Smith Wigglesworth)1
Wigglesworth’s ecstatic poetry flowed out of an overwhelming spiritual experience in the Sunderland revival (1907), which emphasized the connection between the cross and the Spirit. His testimony illustrates what I believe God is saying today:
“She [Mrs. Boddy] laid her hands on me and then had to go out of the room. The fire fell. It was a wonderful time as I was there with God alone. He bathed me in power. I was conscious of the cleansing of the precious Blood, and I cried out: ‘Clean! Clean! Clean!’ I was filled with the joy of the consciousness of the cleansing. I was given a vision in which I saw the Lord Jesus Christ. I beheld the empty cross, and I saw Him exalted at the right hand of God the Father. I could speak no longer in English but I began to praise Him in other tongues as the Spirit of God gave me utterance.”
In prayer I recently sensed rivers of love flowing through the streets of Perth, these were grounded in the connection between the blood of the cross and the gift of the Spirit. When the church enters into the intimate connection between the cleansing power of the blood of the cross and the outpouring of the Spirit revival occurs. The principal evidence of such a work of God is the adoration of the slain Lamb (Jesus).
A Vision of the End
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev 22: 1- 2).
This vision brackets2 “God and the Lamb”, indicating the intimate relationship between the Father and the Son. Since in John’s imagery living water symbolises the Holy Spirit,3 the vision symbolically reveals the Spirit flows out to heal humanity from the union of the Father and the Lamb.4 In Revelation the identity of the Lamb is the one slain (5:6, 12; 13:8), who has shed his blood (7:14; 12:11) to cleanse and redeem from sin (1:5; 5:6). This makes him the object of perpetual adoration (5:12- 13; 7:9- 10; 14:4; 15:3; 19:7).
The connection between the blood of Christ and the Spirit in the experience of a Christian derives from Jesus own experience of death and resurrection. It is Jesus himself who must first come into an experience of cleansing and be led to the living water of the Spirit. The vision of the End is grounded in a vision of the cross.
A Vision of the Cross
“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness-his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth-that you also may believe.”(John 19:28 – 35)
In crying “I thirst”, Jesus is not merely longing for physical water but for the life giving power of the Spirit5 His spiritual desolation is part of the cost of taking the burden of our sin, it is his share in our rejection of God’s super- abundant spiritual supply, “they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters” (Jer 2:13). In sharing in our state of forsaking God, Jesus experiences forsakenness for us6 He feels dry and lifeless for he enters into the endless thirst of the damned7( Jesus laid himself down in “the dust of death” (Ps 22:15).
In John’s account, “blood and water” flow out of Jesus pierced side together, and the apostle relates his seeing this event to “bearing witness” and “true testimony” that others “may believe” (19:35). Clearly, the combination of “blood and water” had a powerful impact on his conscience. This is because in John’s Gospel Jesus is glorified through the cross8 When the dying Christ utters his last words, “It is finished” (19:30), this signified for John as an eye – witness Jesus’ translation to glory. In the symbolic world of the Gospel of John the outflow of blood and water prophetically conveys forgiveness and life in the Spirit from the Lamb (John 1:29) who is enthroned on the cross9 John’s witness to the death of Jesus has the same essential meaning and witness value as the final vision of the water from the throne in Revelation. The blood of the Lamb (cleansing) and the Spirit of God (power) are poured out with equal grace and freedom.
The resurrection seals the effectiveness of the cross. Jesus was “made alive in the Spirit” (1 Pet 3:18). The Father poured out the life giving streams of the Spirit to raise his Son out of the state of death. Jesus’ hope was not put to shame, because God’s love was poured into his heart through the Holy Spirit who was given to him.10
The Power of Pure Testimony: what the Blood means to us
The blood of Christ is a major theme in the New Testament. The atoning power of the blood of Jesus to reconcile sinners to God is expressed by all the major terms for salvation.11 The profusion of references to the blood of Jesus indicates its dynamic importance in the salvation experience of early believers. They were amazed that the death of Jesus transformed an outpouring of wrath12 into an outpouring of the Spirit. Having been through “hell’s flames” on the cross and passed through “heaven’s gates” in the resurrection, Jesus can bear full witness to what his cleansing blood has saved us from and what he has brought us to.
“What the cross cleanses, the Spirit fills.” (Roy Hession). Calvary must precede Pentecost, cleansing must precede infilling.13 Where the blood is seen in its cleansing – forgiving power, the Spirit is thankfully received as the Spirit of grace.14
Something must happen deep inside for the human heart to allow itself to be infilled by God. The human conscience can be described as the moral faculty of the heart, it witnesses to us, like an inner judge, of what is good for us and evil to us. In our corrupted state the conscience typically accuses God and defends itself.15 When the Word of the cross16 regenerates the human heart it reveals that the power of God’s Spirit is given to bless and not destroy. Crucified love is revealed as absolutely trustworthy and God in Christ as worthy of all our love in return. In seeing the blood of Christ as cleansing and not accusing, the conscience now welcomes God as a friend, the gate of the heart is opened17 and the love of the Spirit pours in. From the perspective of the experience of the convert, “the blood cleanses the water”,18 in the light of the cross the omnipotent Spirit is no longer seen as our Judge.
There is no shortage of gifts in the church today;19 the river of God is always flowing (even as a trickle). Where however the church’s total ministry of the Word20 lacks the power to penetrate the human condition, bringing about radical repentance, healings and deliverances, it must be that the river of God has become polluted by idols.21 We are not experiencing the outpouring of the “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal”22 because the church has not “kept itself from idols” (1 John 5:21). Idols such as money, success, status, reputation, self- interest, ambition, man- pleasing have diluted and muddied the presence of the Spirit23 because the conscience is not clean.
Even though ministry in the Word may be conducted in the Spirit, the conscience needs first to be transformed by this truth “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Heb 9:14). Only the joint testimony of the two witnesses, blood and Spirit, has the authority of God to persuade our conscience that ALL is forgiven. Until this happens “dead works” abound among the children of God.24
For the spiritual life of the church on earth to faithfully image the life of heaven the testimony of our heart and conscience must conform to the testimony of scripture that the blood of Jesus has purified the throne room of God in heaven25 allowing us unfettered access26 to the place from which the Spirit flows. The cleansed human conscience is the holy place where heaven and earth meet, when the conscience accepts the testimony of the Lamb’s blood that God’s holy judgement has been satisfied the heart is necessarily open to the Spirit’s power.
Since from the heart “flow the springs of life” (Prov 4:23), ministry that issues from a blood cleansed conscience is a pure stream of love. Flowing out to those around it, this love, ablaze with the love of the slain Lamb, is experienced by others as trustworthy and in this way penetrates into the very depths of the human condition bringing repentance, conversion, healing, deliverance.
“We have, as never before, adored the Lamb that was slain.” (Alexander Boddy, leader of the Sunderland revival)
Every now and then in the history of the church the full force of the redeeming work of the cross breaks into human life in the power of the Spirit. At this point men and women offer themselves up in sacrificial love to God – to the point of death – in the same manner as Jesus offered himself up to us. At this point, the point of the cross, spiritual rivers flow in the desert;27 rivers of love flow in the streets of a city even as the river of life flows through the middle of the street of the heavenly city of God. These are not two rivers but one, the power of the eternal river of God surges among the society of man – even in this time of fallenness, such is the miracle of grace. Nothing less than such an event is worthy of the slain Lamb. This is what it is all about. It is for this manifestation of the blood and water that we must pray.
- Wigglesworth (1859 – 1957) was an English Pentecostal pioneer who became famous through his revival meetings that included many healings and prophecies. [↩]
- Note that it does not say “thrones” (plural) of God and the Lamb. [↩]
- “Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit.” (John 7:37- 39) [↩]
- This relates to a very contentious issue in church history that has long divided the Western from Eastern (Orthodox) churches. It is the clearest biblical evidence that the Father and the Son equally give the Spirit. [↩]
- “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Ps 63:1). [↩]
- “”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34). This is the exact opposite of the supreme Spirit inspired cry of Sonship, “Abba, Father!” (Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15 – 16) [↩]
- The thirst of the rich man in Hades could never be satisfied (Luke 16:24) [↩]
- “Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” [↩]
- The inscription on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” (Matt 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19) makes a similar point – Jesus reigns in death. [↩]
- This is what makes possible our hope and reception of love in the Spirit (Rom 5:6). [↩]
- Forgiveness (Matt 26:28; Eph 1:7; Heb 9:22); justification (Rom 5:9); propitiation (Rom 3:25); cleansing (1 John 1:7); peace (Col 1:20; Heb 13:20); ransom (1 Pet 1:18- 19). [↩]
- 28 verses use wrath “poured out” in the English Standard Version. [↩]
- Commenting on the outpouring of the Spirit upon the Gentiles, Peter explains, “And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8- 9). A similar sequence is found in the logic of Romans 5:5 – 9, 1. Christ died for us 2. His blood justifies us 3. Therefore, God pours out the Holy Spirit. [↩]
- Whilst referring to a different context, these ideas appear together in Hebrews 12:29, “How much worse punishment will be deserved by the one who…profaned the blood of the covenant…and outraged the Spirit of grace.” [↩]
- Hence the description of the heart and sin as “deceitful” e.g. Jer 17:9; Heb 3:13. [↩]
- 1 Cor 1:18 [↩]
- Compare “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). [↩]
- Commentators are divided over the meaning of 1 John 5:6- 9. “This is he who came by water and blood-Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.” One interpretation is that “came by water and blood” refers to a continuous spiritual coming (symbolized by water) into the life of the believer because of the death of Jesus (blood). The Spirit is the one who bears witness to this reality; hence John’s own testimony in this passage. [↩]
- “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Rom 11:29) [↩]
- In the very broadest sense, not simply pulpit preaching. [↩]
- For example, “All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the Lord that he had made holy in Jerusalem.” (2 Chron 36:14), “write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols” (Acts 15:20). See also Psalm 106:38; Jeremiah 16:18. [↩]
- This signifies its ability to purify from the defilement of sin i.e. guilt and shame. [↩]
- What older writers would call a “mixture” of flesh and Spirit. [↩]
- This was a core part of the message of David Wilkerson in his visit to Perth in October 2005. [↩]
- “he entered once for all into the holy places… by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (Heb 9:12). [↩]
- “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus….22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Heb 10:19,22). [↩]
- “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isa 43:19) [↩]