Theme: Spiritual glorification (Part 5)
(Key Chapters: Genesis 37 to 41)
Within this theme of spiritual glorification, we are confronted with many aspects which God’s elect must endure within the process of being seated together with Christ in rulership over the earth and the heaven (Mat 20:28; Eph 2:6; 1Co 6:2-3; Rev 20:4-15). One of these aspects is physical confinement or imprisonment, even in terms of its spiritual application in this age. This concept of physical imprisonment first appears in the scriptures in the life of Joseph. Many people mentioned in the scriptures also experienced physical imprisonment – a few names that come to mind includes Samson and some of the prophets in the Old Testament like Jeremiah, Micaiah, Zedekiah and Daniel. In the New Testament we read about physical imprisonment in the lives of John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Silas, Paul, Epaphras, Aristarchus, Junia…even Jesus was physically laid hands on and incarcerated:
Mat 26:50 And Jesus said unto him [Judas], Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they [the “great crowd with swords and clubs, being sent from the chief priests and elders of the people”], and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.
Prison life is characterized with much sighing, suffering, groaning and death (1Ki 22:27; Psa 66:10-12; Jer 52:11; Mat 14:3-10; Act 16:23-24; 2Ti 2:9):
Psa 79:11 Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die.
Psa 102:20 To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death.
The physical creation and all carnal spirit beings were created by God to be in a spiritual prison in which all these creations of God are appointed to a death experience (Gen 2:7-8; Job 4:18-19; Rom 7:24; Rom 8:5-6). Whenever we read about prisons in the scriptures, it is therefore a spiritual type which includes the life in flesh of all in the first Adam (Rom 1:20; 1Co 15:45-50). It is indeed an experience of evil and death which God is giving to the sons of man to humble them in it (Jer 52:11; Heb 13:3):
Ecc 1:13 I applied my heart to inquiring and exploring by wisdom concerning all that is done under the heavens: it is an experience of evil Elohim has given to the sons of humanity [Hebrew: “âdâm”] to humble them by it.
Death and the fear of death rule us in this time of our fleshly imprisonment, and it is only by the spirit of the Father that spiritual liberty and deliverance from this prison can come through Christ (Isa 61:1):
Psa 142:7 Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.
Luk 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me [Christ], because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
Jesus Christ took part of the same prison-life in flesh to open the way to spirit-life for all in this prison through His resurrection from this death:
Heb 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
Heb 2:15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Paul also describes this prison of flesh and its carnal mind as a law under which we must live before the law of the spirit in Christ Jesus will start to operate in us to set us free and give us rulership:
Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
Rom 7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Rom 7:20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Rom 7:21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
Rom 7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
Rom 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
Rom 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Rom 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
We also know that God does not despise His prisoners which He appointed to this death experience, especially those in this age who are given to see that they are indeed poor in spirit being in this fleshly existence and in desperate need of God’s spirit and His redemptive work through Jesus Christ:
Mat 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Psa 69:33 For the LORD heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners.
To be raised to the glorious spirit-life of the Father, we need to be baptised with the death of Christ, which means we must carry His cross and die to our own flesh and to the spirit of the world with all its pride and lusts in us (1Jn 2:16). This also links to us being despised and rejected for His name’s sake as we drink this cup with Him (Mat 10:38-39; Mat 20:22-23; Gal 2:20; 1Co 15:31):
Rom 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of hisresurrection:
This death and resurrection was all pictured and typified in the global flood where the same spirit of Christ preached before the flood came to those people whose “spirits [were] in prison” and who were under the dominion of sin “in the days of Noah” (Gen 6:1-7). Even the ones who were supposed to be God’s messengers (“the sons of God”) through the generational line of Seth, sinned and were trapped in the “chains of darkness” through those in the generational line of Cain (Gen 4:16-24; Gen 4:25-26; Gen 5:1-32). Only Noah was kept perfect by God in that generation of Seth, and with his family they escaped the prison life of that “old world” as a type of how few in this age will be given first preference to escape this old flesh (Mat 22:14):
Gen 6:2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
2Pe 2:4 For if God spared not the angels [Greek: “aggelos” = messengers] that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Greek: “tartaroō” = death/spiritual incarceration], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
2Pe 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.
1Pe 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
1Pe 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
1Pe 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
1Pe 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God’s elected few is called to bring the other spiritual prisoners from their prisons at the time appointed of the Father:
Isa 42:6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
Isa 42:7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.
Although all in the first Adam are “concluded under sin”, this resurrection from the prison of death of the flesh is firstly ordained for these few elected ones, even as they are experiencing this now in faith as a downpayment (Rom 8:22-30; Eph 1:13-14; Jas 1:18):
Gal 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
Gal 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
It is through the life of Joseph that these different aspects of spiritual glorification through imprisonment are first brought to the fore in the scriptures. We first meet Joseph in the scriptures at the age of seventeen, and from this time until he was placed on the throne in Egypt, a period of thirteen years transpired:
Gen 37:2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren…
Gen 41:46 And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.
These thirteen years in Joseph’s life were always characterised by some type of prison or restrictive living conditions under which Joseph had to live. The number thirteen in the scriptures spiritually connects with our old man and its focus on self and its kingdoms which are in a natural rebellion against God while it depends on its own strength and abilities (Gen 14:1-4; Gen 17:25; Num 29:13; 1Ki 7:13). But these thirteen years in Joseph’s life also bring the positive application to this number thirteen in the sense that these years were very important, because these trials prepared Joseph for rulership. These trials in Joseph’s life started off when he was placed in physical confinement within a pit by his envious and hateful brothers:
Gen 37:23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, hiscoat of many colours that was on him;
Gen 37:24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit [Hebrew: “bôr” = cistern, dungeon, fountain, pit, well]: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
The scriptures indeed confirm that the earthly life was created in the beginning as a spiritual pit filled with darkness, being void of the spirit life and light of God (Gen 1:2). The haughty strongholds in our carnal mind obstruct the light of the truth, and we cannot see God’s purposes with us and this creation. But the day of judgment is the process in us where we see the demise of our earthly kingdoms and the establishing of God’s rulership in us:
Isa 24:21 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.
Isa 24:22 And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.
Isa 24:23 Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.
The apostle Peter describes this time of darkness when the spirit of God starts its work in our lives as follows (Joe 2:1-2; Joe 2:31; Eze 32:6-8; 1Pe 4:17):
Act 2:19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
Act 2:20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:
Act 2:21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
This is the time when the seals of our book are opened and the judgment is announced by the seven trumpets which will take us through to rulership as John also alluded to in these words:
Rev 4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
This is what is typified with this pit experience and the subsequent enslavement and prison experience of Joseph. This thirteen year-long journey for Joseph reveals to us the judgment which first comes on God’s elect which will also come later on the rest of humanity who do not obey the gospel in this age, as per God’s design (Rev 20:11-15). Joseph’s brothers will be taken through their time of judgment later:
1Pe 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
We did not choose to be placed in this flesh, and we had no options in terms of our families and physical environment. We also do not even choose our enemies and the struggles we encounter in this life. God made those decisions for us, and we all struggle with these “wonderful works of God” at our own appointed times (Psa 107). But after God brings His light, these obscurities and our silly contentions with His decisions start to lift, and we slowly learn that all things are fitting exactly into a perfectly ordained time period and purpose which are all worked after God’s glorious counsel and will (Eph 1:11):
Ecc 3:11 (CLV) He has made everything fitting in its season; However, He has put obscurity in their heart So that the man may not find out His work, That which the One, Elohim, does from the beginning to the terminus.”
It is exactly through all these works of God that we are being taught how to be humbled and how to submit to an awesome God and His glorious plan for us. This is part of the foundations of all wisdom in our lives when we can see the “fitting” purposes for these necessary evils in our lives:
Ecc 1:13 (CLV) I applied my heart to inquiring and exploring by wisdom concerning all that is done under the heavens: it is an experience of evil Elohim has given to the sons of humanity to humble them by it.
At this point in time, Joseph had no idea what was ahead of him as God also mercifully does not reveal “what shall be on the morrow” (Jas 4:14). We are also perplexed at times, but with patience we learn that all darkness of this earthly pit will be taken away when God’s revelation is given. Like Paul, we gain deeper understanding of God’s works as we grow through these perplexing trials:
2Co 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2Co 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
2Co 4:8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
2Co 4:9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
2Co 4:10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
It never ceases to amaze how God’s elect are saved through these trials that sometimes seem to take the very life from us. In the case of Joseph, this is also written for our comfort that God will bring an outcome which our natural mind cannot work out:
Gen 37:25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
Gen 37:26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
Gen 37:27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.
Joseph’s brothers then took him from this pit in order to sell him to the slave traders who brought him to Egypt where he was working as a slave in the house of a man called Potiphar. This was again a type of prison as Joseph’s movements were restricted under the orders of his slave master in Egypt for many years (Gen 39:1-6). But the elect of God is not limited by their physical environment or fleshly restrictions because their service is to a God whose wisdom rules far above what the eye can see or the ear can hear (1Cor 2:6-10; Col 3:17). God’s elect will be diligent and industrious whatever is thrown at them:
Col 3:23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men;
Col 3:24 knowing that from the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance. For you serve the Lord Christ.
In this sense Joseph could also not avoid being a prosperous man, as the Lord was with him. Even the world will have to acknowledge this witness in the lives of God’s elect, typified here by Joseph’s industrious attitude:
Gen 39:2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
Gen 39:3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.
Gen 39:4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.
But even when we do our best, we will be naive to think that deeper struggles will not come or that those opposing the truth will be kept away from us. The opposition to Joseph’s impact in the prosperity of his master came from a very powerful and influential source – it came in the form of a temptation from Potiphar’s own wife. This wife of Potiphar symbolizes the false church who seduces many with its false integrity and fleshly security. Spiritual Babylon is given this power of seduction by God, and she herself is a spiritual prison. Joseph was continuously under the watchful eye of this adulterous wife of Potiphar as she also spoke to him “day by day”:
Gen 39:7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
Gen 39:10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.
Jesus was also tempted like we are on a daily basis, but Jesus never succumbed to any temptation at any time during His time in this fleshly prison (Heb 2:17; Heb 4:15). This is what Joseph also typified as he never gave in to this woman’s daily temptations. When Joseph rejected her at all occasions, she eventually had him framed by giving a false report to her husband that Joseph wanted to sleep with her. Potiphar believed his wife, as he represents our carnal mind which cannot see through the lies and deceit of Babylon. These false reports and attacks on our integrity are all part of the plan in the lives of God’s elect, even as Joseph was thrown in yet another prison:
Gen 39:19 And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.
Gen 39:20 And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.
This prison is where the Pharaoh’s prisoners were kept, also called “the king’s prisoners”. This prison will be used by God to be Joseph’s connecting point to be later placed in direct contact with the Pharaoh. God, who is the designer and keeper of all prisons of darkness and evil, will never forsake the righteous nor let go of His plan for His elect, even the prison of death (Isa 45:5-7; Act 2:31):
Psa 37:22 (ESV) for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off.
Psa 37:23 (ESV) The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;
Psa 37:24 (ESV) though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.
Psa 37:25 (ESV) I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
We are the King’s prisoners, and we were purposefully chosen and elected by God to suffer for the sake of righteousness in this life (Psa 69:33). God’s elect knows this inner witness, and they rejoice in tribulation, even as they serve others now and much more in the future (Jas 1:2-5). This servant attitude is what the apostle Paul also alluded to when he wrote these words as a prisoner of King Jesus (2Co 11:23; 2Co 1:10; 2Co 12:10; 2Ti 1:7-12):
Eph 3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
Eph 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Eph 3:3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
Eph 3:4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Eph 3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
Eph 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Eph 3:7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.
Joseph’s visions of rulership never departed from him, even in the darkest trials. The diligent spirit of the Lord in Joseph made him to stand out from the rest of the prisoners:
Gen 39:21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
Gen 39:22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.
Gen 39:23 The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.
What a testimony to the work of the Lord through His elect wherever they may be! It was here in this prison where Joseph met the butler and the baker of the Pharaoh. Both had dreams by which Joseph was used by God to correctly interpret and clarify these dreams. The baker was eventually killed, and the butler was restored to Pharaoh’s service. It was through this butler that Joseph was called to interpret the two dreams of the Pharaoh, and by doing that Joseph was placed in rulership over Egypt under the Pharaoh (Gen 41:38-44). This is a type of Jesus who is given the rulership over all by the Father:
Php 2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
Php 2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
Php 2:11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.