The Lord’s recovery is by definition a progression and an advance in the apprehension of the truth as revealed to the saints in the Scriptures. This advance in spiritual understanding translates into a growth in the full knowledge of Christ, that is, in the experience of Christ by the saints, which in turn issues in the building up of the Body for the fulfillment of God’s economy to gain His universal expression. Since the practical beginning of the recovery in the days of Martin Luther, there has been steady progress across the centuries, and the Lord has used many believers to advance His recovery. In the seven decades that the Lord has moved among us, first through Brother Nee and then through Brother Lee, the progress and advance of the recovery are easily perceived. During the first decades the Lord used Brother Nee to bring to light a number of revelations and scriptural realizations. (For a detailed list, see Watchman Nee: A Seer of the Divine Revelation in the Present Age, by Brother Lee, published by Living Stream Ministry, pp. 15 1-167) When Brother Lee was sent out of China in 1949, he repeated and emphasized what he had received from Brother Nee. In 1958 the Lord began to release yet more light and truth through Brother Lee, and continued to do so until Brother Lee’s last days. The truths we have received through Brother Lee since 1958 fall broadly into nine categories: God, Christ, the Spirit, salvation, life, the believers, the church, church practice, and the New Jerusalem. There are thirty-nine items.
First, through Brother Lee’s ministry the Lord recovered the pure revelation of the Triune God in the Scriptures. God is uniquely one in essence, or substance, and distinctly three in hypostases, or persons. The three of the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit—are eternally distinct, but They are never separate from one another, and They never act independently. Such a Triune God is the Father in Christ as the Spirit to be the life and life supply to the believers.
The second item concerning God recovered through Brother Lee’s ministry is the processed and consummated Triune God. In His eternal existence God is unchanging, but in His economical move the Triune God underwent in Christ the processes of incarnation, human living, death, resurrection, and ascension to be consummated as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45b; 2 Cor. 3:17) to dwell in the believers. The third item is the dispensing of the Triune God. The processed and consummated God dispenses Himself into His chosen people to regenerate them with His divine life (1 Pet. 1:3), transform them according to His divine nature (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18), and ultimately glorify them with His divine glory (Rom. 8:30), thereby making them the same as He is in life, nature, and expression. The fourth, and perhaps greatest, item is the revelation of God’s New Testament economy (1 Tim. 1:4), which is God’s eternal plan to accomplish His eternal purpose by dispensing His very being into His chosen people (Eph. 3:8-11) to consummate the New Jerusalem as the mutual abode of the Triune God and the tripartite man (Rev. 2 1:3, 22) for His full expression in eternity.
The first item concerning Christ recovered in Brother Lee’s ministry is that the living Christ is versus dead religion. The second item is that Christ as the Head of the Body (Col. 1:18) is not merely the Leader of and pattern for the church but more intrinsically the very person of the church, out from whom all the Body has its existence, living, and work (Eph. 4:16; Col. 2:19). The third item is Christ’s full ministry in the three stages of His incarnation, His inclusion, and His intensification, through which ministry God accomplishes in full His eternal economy according to His heart’s desire. In the stage of His incarnation Christ brought God into man, expressed God in humanity, and accomplished our judicial redemption, effecting for us the forgiveness of our sins (Col. 1:14), our justification before God (Rom. 4:25; 5:18), our reconciliation to God (Rom. 5:10), and our positional sanctification (Heb. 13:12). In the stage of His inclusion, through His resurrection Christ was designated the firstborn Son of God (Rom. 1:3-4; 8:29), became the all-inclusive, compound, life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 1 5:45b), and regenerated all His believers to be the many sons of God (1 Pet. 1:3). In the stage of His intensification, He as the life-giving Spirit is intensified to be the seven Spirits of God (Rev. 1:4; 5:6) to deal with the degradation of the church by intensifying His organic salvation, producing the overcomers, and consummating the New Jerusalem for eternity.
In all his ministry Brother Lee emphasized the crucial role of the Spirit in God’s economy. First, he realized that Christ has become the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45b), who is the reality of Christ in resurrection (John 14:16-20). Second, in his study of the book of Revelation he discovered the crucial revelation concerning the sevenfold intensified Spirit (Rev. 1:4; 4:5; 5: 6). While the Spirit is eternally one (Eph. 4:4), in the age of the church’s degradation the function and working of the Spirit are intensified “sevenfold” for the completion of God’s economy. Third, in his ministry Brother Lee gave us, according to the revelation of the New Testament, the fullest description of the Spirit as the all-inclusive, compounded, life-giving, indwelling, sevenfold intensified, and consummated Spirit as the consummation of the processed Triune God. Fourth, Brother Lee realized that the experience of Christ as the Spirit ushers us into the divine and mystical realm of the consummated Spirit and the pneumatic Christ, where we enjoy and experience what the Triune God is. Today Christ as the life-giving Spirit is ministering to us things that are not physical (and not even merely spiritual) but divine and mystical, and He is bringing us into a realm that is divine and mystical.
Brother Lee had a very rich understanding of both the judicial and organic aspects of God’s complete salvation. The judicial aspect of God’s complete salvation was accomplished by Christ’s death for God’s judicial redemption so that we might be forgiven before God, washed, justified, reconciled to God, and sanctified unto God positionally. Having been judicially redeemed and reconciled to God, we now enjoy the organic aspect of God’s salvation, which is being carried out in Christ’s life (Rom. 5:10), as made available to us by Him as the life-giving Spirit. In such an organic salvation we are regenerated, sanctified, renewed, transformed, conformed to His image, and ultimately glorified.
Watchman Nee was used by the Lord to recover the experience and enjoyment of the divine life by the believers. Brother Lee was led by the Lord to see the further development that this life is actually the processed Triune God being dispensed into the transformed, tripartite man
(1 Thes. 5:23; Rom. 8:10, 6,11). This dispensing transforms man into the glorious image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18) so that man may become God’s expression.
Brother Lee saw that the Bible begins with the tree of life (Gen. 2:9) and ends with the tree of life (Rev. 22:2). The line of the tree of life is always versus the line of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Another major emphasis in Brother Lee’s ministry was the experience and enjoyment of Christ by eating and drinking Him (John 6:54-58). Because Christ is the life-giving Spirit today, we can practically and actually enjoy Him as our life and life supply. Brother Lee showed us that the best way to eat the Lord is to pray-read His Word, that is, to receive the Word of God by means of all prayer (Eph. 6:17-18). He also showed us that the simplest way to enjoy Christ is to call on His name. No one can call “Lord Jesus” except in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). Calling on the Lord was joyfully practiced by both the Old Testament saints (Gen. 4:26; 12:8; Isa. 12:3-4; Lam. 3:55) and the New Testament saints (Rom. 10:12-13; 1 Cor. 1:2). Brother Lee also helped us to see that because Christ is the life-giving Spirit, or Pneuma (‘Breath’), we can breathe the Lord. Actually, calling on the Lord is both a drinking (Isa. 12:3-4) and a breathing (Lam. 3:55-56).
Brother Lee showed us from the Scriptures the organic union between the regenerated man and the processed Triune God (1 Cor. 6:17). He further showed us from the Scriptures that our relationship with the Triune God is more than a union; it is a mingling of the processed Triune God with us as the sanctified man. In this mingling His identity as God and our identity as man are distinctly preserved.
The highest peak of the divine revelation is that in God’s economy man becomes God in life and nature but not in the Godhead. Brother Lee taught that because we are begotten of God (John 1:13; 1 John 5:1) with His divine life and are partakers of His divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), we become what He is in life and nature.
One of the last revelations given to us by the Lord through Brother Lee was the universal, divine-human incorporation of the consummated God with the regenerated believers. God in His divine Trinity is an incorporation (John 14:10-11), and the goal of God’s economy is to bring the regenerated, transformed, and glorified elect into an incorporation with the Triune God, whereby we and He become one forever (John 14:20; 17:2 1, 23).
In February 1997, in the last conference that he gave, Brother Lee said that the full experience of God’s organic salvation equals reigning in Christ’s life (Rom. 5:17). In this age we the believers can reign over sin and death by the full experience and enjoyment of Christ as life, and ultimately, in the New Jerusalem, we will reign in life with God forever (Rev. 22:5b).
One of the earliest revelations that the Lord gave Brother Lee concerning the church was that the church is the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Cot. 1:24). As the Body of Christ, it is an organism (John 15:1-8) and not an organization. The church is also the new man composed of the redeemed and regenerated believers from the two peoples of mankind, the Jews and the Gentiles. Those who formerly were enemies by nature, Christ has reconciled in His own Body through the cross, forming the two into one new man and making peace between them (Eph. 2:15-16). Brother Lee saw that one of the results of Christ’s work on the cross was to abolish the ordinances that divided the Jews and the Gentiles, thus opening the way for the genuine blending of all the believers in the one new man.
Brother Lee also saw that the church as the fullness of Christ results from all the saints enjoying the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8). The riches of Christ enjoyed by the saints become the fullness of Christ for His expression. The church is also the increase of Christ as the bride of Christ (John 3:29). It is the counterpart of Christ, and it matches Christ. Brother Lee also ministered concerning the organic building up of the Body of Christ as the organism of the Triune God. The universal vine with its branches (John 15:1-8) is a figure of the Body of Christ, which is the reality of this organism of the Triune God. Brother Lee also helped us to see that in its highest definition the church is the issue of the dispensing of the processed Trinity and the transmitting of the transcending Christ (Eph. 1:22).
The church, which is the result of the universal dispensing of Christ, is expressed in every Locality as the local churches. These local churches are the lampstands standing on the ground of locality to express the one unique Christ. Brother Lee saw that the local churches are the process, the procedure, while the one Body of Christ is the unique goal.
In his earlier years Brother Nee recovered many items of church practice for the Lord’s recovery in China, such as the breaking of bread and baptism by immersion. The goal of such practices was to bring the saints back to the scriptural way to carry out the church life and to help all the saints to function properly as living members of the Body of Christ. Brother Lee continued this recovery by stressing the importance of all the saints prophesying in the church meetings, which issues in the actual building up of the Body of Christ (1 Cot. 14:3-4, 24, 31). From Romans 15:16 Brother Lee also saw the New Testament priesthood of the gospel. He also brought us into four vital practices necessary for the building up of the Body— begetting, nourishing, perfecting, and building. First, we need to lead sinners to Christ that they might be begotten of God (1 Cot. 4:15). Then these new believers need to be nourished in an intimate way with the divine supply from the Scriptures (1 Thes. 2:7; John 21:15). As they grow in life, all the ones we care for must be perfected in the truth and in their function in the Body. Ultimately, every believer must be brought into the same work of building up the Body according to this pattern (Eph. 4:12, 16). Practically speaking, this organic building work consummates in all the members being perfected to prophesy for the building up of the Body of Christ.
Beginning in 1992 Brother Lee led the churches to enter into a new way for the increase and building up of the church, the way of the vital groups (Heb. 10:24-25). In the vital groups the saints are blended together and built up in an atmosphere of mutual love and shepherding. They also labor together to visit the unbelievers with the gospel that the church may continually increase.
In the last months of his ministry, Brother Lee stressed the need for the blending of all the saints in order to bring in the genuine reality of the Body of Christ. Through the blending many saints can be perfected to be overcomers who are built together to be today’s Zion.
The New Jerusalem
Brother Lee far surpassed other students of the Bible before him in his apprehension and appreciation of the New Jerusalem. He came to realize that the New Jerusalem is the totality of the divine revelation in the Scriptures. All the revelations in the Bible ultimately point to the consummation found in the New Jerusalem. Brother Lee also taught that the New Jerusalem is the consummation of the processed and consummated Triune God mingled with His chosen, redeemed, regenerated, sanctified, transformed, conformed, and glorified elect to be a universal, loving pair eternally (Rev. 21:2, 9-10).
The highest revelation concerning the New Jerusalem, and thus the highest revelation concerning the goal of God’s economy, is that the New Jerusalem is the universal incorporation of the union and mingling of divinity with humanity. As a sign, the New Jerusalem signifies that God and man will be incorporated into one existence of mutual coinherence for eternity and that divinity and humanity will be mingled forever. Brother Lee was used by the Lord to unlock the grand revelation concerning this incorporation. Before creation, God in His Trinity existed eternally as an incorporation, and as the great issue of His work in time, the New Jerusalem will be the enlargement of that incorporation to include His regenerated, transformed, and glorified elect for eternity (Rev. 21:2-3). (A Memorial Biography of Brother Witness Lee, pp. 38-41)