A LETTER ANSWERED
G. H. RAMSAY
How can the sacrifice of God be the slaughter of the wicked? I read that the offering was to be WITHOUT BLEMISH. Could that be said of the wicked people of the earth?
God Himself speaks of the wicked as being His sacrifice - Isa. 34: 1, 6, 8; Zeph. 1: 7, 8 - the word is the identical one used of the unblemished Lev. sacrifices. Certainly God revealed that for our acceptance before Him an unblemished sacrifice was required. But the paradox is set forth in Scripture of an unblemished and accepted sacrifice being represented by a blemished and unaccepted and cursed serpent. So that even though the unblemished victim was accepted itself, its death on the other hand, and simultaneously, spoke of rejection. Christ, who knew no sin, and was unblemished in Himself, was made to be sin - and cursed - simultaneously with His acceptance.
Though the unblemished Sacrifice was accepted yet the fact that it died spoke of the total rejection and destruction of all the race of Adam. So that those who remain in Adam’s race - rejecting Christ's sacrifice for them - become themselves the sacrifice. While I am accepted for Christ’s sake - yet it is not I that am accepted, but Christ for me. I myself (that is, the old, sinful me) perished under God’s wrath - so that I must regard myself as having died already in Christ. All those who are not covered by this arrangement must be God’s sacrifice under wrath and rejected as is my old sinful man. Read 2 Cor. 2: 15, 16, and meditate upon the two-foldness there set forth.
I know you Prefer to accept 1 Cor. 15: 51, 52.
I have no preferences for one Scripture as against another. My only care is to accept all Scripture, and not to make one cancel out another. 1 Cor. 15 certainly is God’s word and place must be found for it, however difficult it may be at first to fit it into other Scriptures. The same Paul who wrote these words of comfort likewise wrote the words of urgency in Phil. 3: 11-15. And you will observe the great need for humble waiting upon God for understanding to be given to us, in His last words: “If in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” Does that not indicate that he expected resistance to his statements as something hard and unwilling to be received? (Peter, you remember, says, [2 Pet. 3: 15, 16] that Paul’s writings are hard to be understood.) In any case God commands us in the next verse, verse 16, not to allow the unity we already have in simpler matters to be endangered on account of these difficult ones.
When the Trumpets sound the wrath of God is being poured out on all the people who are on the earth; but we who believe on Jesus, of us Paul says – “For God hath not APPOINTED US TO WRATH, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."
To obtain salvation speaks not of “eternal salvation”, which we already have, but of deliverance out of this present scene of sorrow and suffering. And the statement does not say that no Christian shall suffer in the earth when God judges it. It says we are not appointed thereto, and therefore that we need not so suffer. But how then are we to escape? The same Scripture informs us
Let us not sleep:
Let us watch and be sober:
Let us put on the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet - the hope of salvation.
And it gives these instructions on the foundation that a day of wrath is coming as a thief in the night, and we are admonished to escape it.
If you suppose that all Christians will automatically escape it whether they obey these injunctions or not (and certainly many, many sleep and do not watch, and head and heart are indeed uncovered by these pieces of mail) how then does the Lord Himself say to the saints – “if therefore thou shalt not watch I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee”? That is exactly what the Lord says to the wicked. Commingle with the wicked, and the judgment upon the wicked, here in the earth, will befall you - not the eternal perdition of the wicked.
You know that B. W. Newton said that “all believers will pass through the tribulation”. You may not know that George Muiller of Bristol said so also, and if ever there was a good man he was. He asserts his assurance on this point in very strong words; he says:- “having been a careful and diligent student of the Bible for nearly fifty years, my mind has long been settled on this point, and I have not the shadow of doubt about it.” Such a man must have had some Scripture behind him that teaches at the least the presence of Christians in the tribulation. I believe he has such Scripture, but he is blind to other scriptures. For the statement that all pass through the tribulation supposes that no believer will be obedient to Christ who commands:- “Watch therefore, and pray always that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are about to come to pass, and to be set before the Son of man” (Luke 21: 36).
Some will be obedient to that command: some will watch and pray and will escape - if the Lord is true to His word; and He will be.
Furthermore, there is the plain promise of the Lord. “BECAUSE thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee out of the hour of temptation which is about to come upon the whole habitable earth, to try the dwellers upon the earth” (Rev. 3: 10). Is that not the wrath of God upon the ungodly to which indeed we are not appointed, but from which our only way of escape is by watching and praying? And if there is this escape promised, is not George Muller in error in saying we shall all pass through? And if the Lord says because you have done so and so, “I will keep thee”, are you not in error in saying that because you are a [regenerate] believer therefore we shall all be kept?
I read – “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Could you honestly rejoice if you believed you had to pass through the tribulation?
I do not read that I must pass through the tribulation: I read of a way of escape: I am honestly seeking that escape by the prescribed means. Therefore, though I do not know whether I shall escape (or, with Paul, though “I count not myself already to have apprehended”), yet I can and do humbly rejoice in God at all times who has made it abundantly possible for me to do so. And you fail to counterbalance the command to rejoice with the equal command (1 Peter 1: 17) to fear. “For if ye call on the Father who, without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear”; and again, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Thus again we see the two-foldness of Scripture - rejoicing and fearing in the same heart simultaneously.
The tribulation is when the fierceness of God’s wrath will be poured out on His enemies. But "God does not Payment TWICE demand. ONCE at my bleeding surety’s hand, and then again at MINE." How then can wrath on me take place, now standing in God's righteousness and sprinkled by the blood?
Wrath, in the sense of eternal punishment, of course cannot fall on one “now standing in God's righteousness and sprinkled by the Blood.” But there is plenty of wrath short of that which may happen to us and of which we are warned. “Behold the goodness and the severity of God.” Furthermore, God’s enemies are reserved to a wrath beyond the wrath outpoured at the Tribulation, and which only takes effect at the end of the Millennium. Saints suffering in the Tribulation wrath could not be said to be paying a second time for their debts to God, therefore. The Tribulation is not eternal punishment - and it was the tasting of this by the Lord for us that paid our debts to God. The Tribulation is punishment upon this present world in preparation for the last age of this present world. Wrath can fall or chastisement upon a saint at any time before eternity dawns.
I don't serve Him for glory, or prize, or crown.
Many saints speak so, but, unknown to themselves, their conduct is not virtuous as they suppose it to be - but is disobedience to an express command of God. And God traces their disobedience to their immaturity in the things of God. “I press toward the mark for the prize: let us therefore (there is a command), as many as be perfect (full grown), be thus minded (which implies that a contrary mind and practice are due to immaturity); and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this to you” (Phil. 3: 15); therefore no contrary mind upon the matter is sanctioned. And is it not written of the Lord Himself that He “for the joy set before Him endured”. Can we be superior to Him?