My husband and I were recently eating in a restaurant by windows that looked out at the majestic Canadian Rockies. The sight was impressive in many ways—for the solidity of the rocks and firmly rooted trees, the ever increasing discoveries of depths and heights, shapes outlined in sunset colors or highlighted with white snow. Mountain deer ventured close to our windows, letting us realize something of the beauty of creature life in the natural, wild habitat as they gracefully loped across the open space and back into the woods.

How real are mountains! No need to dig and analyze and try to prove their reality. No need to race out with glue or cement and stick together the Canadian Rockies or the Swiss Alps or any other mountains to give them a greater appearance of unity.

But on the other side of the room an unwelcome sight met our eyes: imitation mountains! A plastic mass, shoulder height, running the length of the restaurant to divide one side from the other. Plastic flowers filled nooks and hollows in the plastic mountains, and gilt paint substituted for the sunshine or sunrise or sunset, never moving, never changing, never lighting the way to fresh discovery. Fragile, unconvincing copies glued together to stand in a place where even the mirrors were reflecting the glory of the real thing.

Ever since that time I have been seeing in my memory the Rockies on one side and the plastic mountains on the other. And over and over again I have thought of the frantic, wasted efforts of men and women as they try to glue together a miniature of the real magnificence that exists and is solid and everlasting: the fact of the oneness of God’s people. Consider God’s description of a future perfect unity:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.… And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes … [Rev. 21:1, 3, 4].

“And they shall be his people.” Here are people who are “one people with one God” and who need no long sessions of arguing fine points to see whether one or another belongs. The oneness of the entire grouping of people is magnificently solid and real. All of these in the new heavens and the new earth are tearless, joyful people with an everlasting oneness. Is there some special baptism that makes them one people after they get there? Do the resurrected and changed bodies create the oneness?

Article continues below

When did the oneness of God’s people become a factual happening in space and time? What is the real adhesive that bonds human beings into “the people of God” with the certainty of being together in the new heavens and the new earth? Those who came to God in his given way, bringing the lamb, looking forward to the coming Messiah, the Lamb of God, were his people right then, at whatever point in history their believing took place. It was the “circumcision of the heart” that counted, we are told. Those who truly believed did not have to wait to become God’s people until some far-off moment of history: they were his people then.

Thus saith the Lord GOD: repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations … that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord GOD [Ezek. 14:6, 11].

“So we thy people and the sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks forever; we will show forth thy praise to all generations.” People who believed could sing Psalm 79:3 with honesty; they could truly mean that it was possible to show forth praise as the people of God, as the sheep of the Shepherd, in such a way that the following generations would be affected and also be drawn to believe.

New Testament believers and you and I who believe in 1975 are called upon with just as specific a statement of fact that we are now the people of God. First Peter 1:18 and 19 speaks of our being redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. Then this statement:

Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation, a peculiar people, that we should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Peter goes on to speak of a new factor, showing that the “people of God” now include those who were in heathen nations before, the Gentiles. Now there is a oneness. Right after he spoke of laying down his life for the sheep, Jesus said: “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”

We are called upon to show forth praise to God, and to have compassion enough to keep the commission given to us to make his truth known to “all the world.” At least some of “the great multitudes which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds, and people, and tongues” who will be standing together as one people before the Lamb are to be given the truth by you or by me. As God leads us day by day, he will show us which ones of the “great multitude” are to be our special responsibility.

Article continues below

What a feeble imitation it would be if people were to be brought together only by the weak glue of organizational strategies and committee deliberations. Often the long hours of attempting to glue together a unity ends up with each person’s sticking his own hands together, diverting energy and strength, time and compassion, appreciation and understanding away from the real and factual solidity of what God is doing, has done, and is going to do. We despair over splits and fresh splits, short-lived units resulting from hopeful new combinations. Is it wrong to band together in any kind of groupings as churches and missions in localities and areas? No, a thousand times no. But—and the “but” is very important—we need to take a long, satisfying look out the “windows” of present and past history and drink in the beauty of the solid, lasting magnificence of what God has put together.

The cementing of the people into truly “one people” is accomplished by the fact in history that the Holy Spirit indwells each believer, and that God will gather his people together when the great moment arrives. Then all history and space will no longer separate us in our finiteness but will melt away to enable us to be together with Abel and Abraham and Daniel.

“So we the people and the sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks forever.”

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.