[May they be used by our Lord as a source of Spiritual STRENGTH and Inward ASSURANCE;
Setting us free from False DOCTRINES and Distracting CARES.
Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God,
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,
handling aright the word of truth.
- 2 TIMOTHY 2: 15, R.V.]
For the forgiveness of sins, and for life as a forgiven man in the camp, neither perfection of form, nor washing at the gate of the tabernacle, nor special clothing, were demanded; but for access to God and for priestly service all these were as indispensable as the atoning blood. Imputed Righteousness settles completely and for ever the judical standing of the believer as justified before the Law of God; but Practical Righteousness must be added in order to secure many of the mighty privileges which become possible to the Justified. For loss and shame must be his at last who has been content to remain deformed and imperfect in moral state, or is found to have neglected the washing, and so to be unfit to wear the noble clothing required for access to the Throne of Glory. Such neglect of present grace not only causes the loss of heart access to God, as the careless believer surely knows, but will assure the forfeiture of much that grace would have granted in the future.
Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame, (Rev. 16: 15). Therefore garments may be lost. If the reference is to imputed righteousness, then justification may be forfeited, and the once saved be afterwards lost. But let those who rightly reject this, inquire honestly what it does properly mean as to the eternally justified. And let them face what is involved in the loss of ones garments.
- G. H. Lang.
Expositions from The Disciple
G. H. LANG
AN IMPORTANT TEXT (1)
WAKE OR SLEEP
1 Thess. 5: 10:-
For God appointed us not unto wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep,
we should live together with him.
THE words wake or sleep are understood differently. Cocceius includes (1) the alternate states of the body in this life; (2) life and death; (3) and principally, spiritual slumber and its opposite. Whitbys restriction of the words to the first of these senses (natural sleeping or waking) was preferred also by Musculus, Aretius, Cajetan as cited by Estius, and has been allowed by Calvin, Bengel, Gill, Pelt. I agree with Alford in regarding this sense as trifling, but not in thinking the third sense as any better worth mentioning even as a possibility (John Lillie, D.D., Lectures on the Epistles to the Thessalonians, 309).
Yet the third sense is strongly maintained by some, as part of the argument in support of the view that rising in the first resurrection, and sharing with the Lord the sovereignty of the Millennial kingdom, is not at all dependent upon the moral condition of the believer but is wholly a gift of unconditional Divine grace. The words are held to mean that this high privilege is assured to every believer of this age whether he live in spiritual wakefulness or spiritual sleep. The following is a careful and temperate statement of this view.
The discussion turns chiefly upon the meaning of gregoreo. I maintain that it means in verse 10 what it means throughout the rest of that chapter and throughout the rest of the N.T., viz. to be spiritually wakeful and not to be physically alive. Many scholars, such as A. T. Robertson, Abbot-Smith, Lightfoot, and Alford hold that it means to be physically alive. My reasons for believing gregoreo in 1 Thess. 5: 10 means to be spiritually wakeful are these:
1. In the other twenty-two instances of the use of gregored in the N.T. it never once means to be alive; but in the majority of instances to be spiritually wakeful, and in the few others to be or keep literally awake in contrast to literal, physical sleep.
2. In verse 6 of 1 Thess. 5 gregoreo unquestionably means to be spiritually wakeful. To translate there to be alive would be to make nonsense of the whole passage. And therefore it is extremely unlikely that Paul in almost the very same breath would use the word in a sense not only different from verse 6, but from the whole of the rest of the N.T.; and so risk the Thessalonians understanding the word in its normal sense, when according to you and others he wished them suddenly to understand it quite differently.
3. The unlikelihood is further much increased when we observe that the word Paul uses for sleep, as the opposite to gregoreo, is not the word he uses in the previous chapter for sleep in the sense of death. It is katheudo not koimaomai. 4. Koimaomai in the N.T. is never used of spiritual sleep: always of death or literal physical sleep. Katheuo, however, is ever the word used to convey the idea of spiritual sleep: it is sometimes used of literal physical sleep, but never of death, unless we allow the very doubtful case of Jairus daughter, where the Lord said of her ouk apethane (she is not dead).
5. In the immediate context of 1 Thess. 5: 10 katheudo is used three times in verses 6, 7; each time of slothfulness, literal or spiritual, without the faintest possibility of meaning death. Therefore to translate katheudo in verse 10 by death, or so to interpret it, is linguistically exceedingly arbitrary.
6. Alford in his commentary owns the difficulty of interpreting verse 10 in the sense of life and death. He offers no N.T. linguistic evidence for departing in verse 10 from the normal meaning of the words in question. His theology however forces him so to depart. The other scholars I have mentioned baldly state that the words in verse 10 are there to be interpreted in the sense of life and death. They offer not a scrap of N.T. authority based on N.T. linguistic usage. Presumably again their theology forces them to these linguistically arbitrary assertions.
7. Yet if one is prepared to allow the words to mean in verse 10 what they mean in the immediate context and consistently throughout the N.T., the meaning of verse 10 is then consistent with the doctrine of the whole of the N.T., which teaches that our salvation, initial or final, depends not on our works but is by grace through faith. We believe that by the grace of the Lord we shall be saved (Acts 15: 11). Hence there is no need to depart in verse 10 from the usual meaning of gregored. 8. Now the point at issue in 1 Thess. 5: 10 is strictly not the translation of gregoreo or katheudo. To be faithful to the Greek we must translate whether we are wakeful or asleep, whether we wake or sleep. The question is the interpretation of the meaning of these words. Now all of us are, I judge, at liberty in the fear of God to state what we feel to be the right interpretation, provided that we allow our hearers or readers to perceive that it is but our interpretation. But if to secure our interpretation we categorically state that the word gregoreo in 1 Thess. 5: 10 means to be alive, then we are not only arbitrarily imposing on gregoreo a meaning which it nowhere else in the N.T. bears, but in stating our interpretation as if it were the linguistic meaning of the word we are taking a license which done in the cause of truth is regrettable, indeed.
Taking separately the reasons here given it is to be observed:
1. As regards the uses of gregoreo and katheudo in the rest of the New Testament, this could have been no guide or help to the Thessalonians, for the New Testament did not exist. This letter was probably the first part of the New Testament to have been written. Yet they were expected to understand the statement, and for this were dependent upon their knowledge of the senses in which the words could be used in their native language, guided by the Spirit of truth as to which meaning was intended in each place. This means that they were cast principally upon the moral, spiritual, and doctrinal considerations involved to settle which meaning of a word was intended.
The use of a word in the New Testament is, of course, a very important matter, but it cannot be necessary or decisive for us in this instance; it may be helpful, but it cannot be conclusive, especially if a word is known to have other meanings than those found in the New Testament.
2. Was it, then, possible for gregoreo to be used in the sense of being alive on earth? It is the fact that it is not so used elsewhere in the New Testament. The same is the case in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is there used eight times and its cognate gregorisis twice, always in the sense of watchfulness. But this does not establish that the word could not mean to be alive. It is derived from egeiro, the first meaning of which is to arise from sitting or lying, to awake from sleep; but it then takes other senses, as to raise up children to a man, and it acquires what is its most important sense in the New Testament, that of rising bodily from the dead to new life. This became the dominant sense of its other derivative exegerio. The Lexicons give Aeschylus and Euripides as so employing it. It is found in 1 Cor. 6: 14, where it is equivalent to its root egerio: God both raised (egeiro) the Lord, and will raise up (exegeiro) us. Rom. 9: 17 is its other place in the New Testament.
As the root and the cognate of gregoreo were thus used of resuming bodily life it is difficult to see why the same sense must be ruled out of the question, so as to forbid that meaning in our verse. Four scholars have been named who do so take it. Others may be mentioned, as Cremer, Ellicott on this place, the Speakers Commentary in loco., and J. N. Darby, who says (Synopsis, vol. v, 95), that whether we wake or sleep (have died before His coming or be then alive). Were all these competent Greek scholars mistaken and unjustified in holding this meaning of the word? There would appear to be no sound linguistic reason against our passage having this sense, even though it be the only known instance. A well-known living scholar writes to me: There is no reason in the words grigoreo and katheudo themselves why they should not be used figuratively for live and die respectively (F. F. Bruce).
3. But it is urged that Paul himself had only just before used the word in the sense of moral watchfulness, so that it must be thought improbable that he would so quickly employ it differently. Yet such sudden employment of a word in a changed sense is common in everyday speech. For example:
One was recently heard to greet a friend with the words, Well! I hope youre well. In only six words well is used in quite unrelated senses. Or again:
I shall presume that all present have experienced the new birth; and I hope that this presumption is not presumption, but accords with the fact. Here in immediate contact, presumption is used with two quite distinct meanings. Look now at the New Testament.
1 John 2: 19: They went out from us (ex hemon) but they were not of us (ex hemon): for if they had been of us (ex hemon) they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest how that they all are not of us (ex hemon). Here ex hemon is first used of bodily, personal removal from a local company, and then, at once, three times of an inward spiritual union. Only the inner judgment of the reader can see and feel the diverse meanings.
Luke 20: 37. Observe our Lords use of nekros (dead) in two incompatible senses in one verse. But that the dead (nekros) are raised, even Moses showed ... when he called the Lord the God of Abraham. Now he is not the God of the dead (nekros) but of the living: for all live unto him. Here dead is first used in its common meaning of physically dead, as was the case with the Patriarchs; but then it is at once used in the sense that the Sadducees held, of non-existence, the argument against them being that God cannot be the God of the non-existent and therefore the continued existence of the dead is certain and their coming resurrection to be inferred.
1 Cor. 15. Consider Pauls usage of apothnesko in this chapter. In verses 3, 22, 36 it means ordinary physical death: Christ died ... in Adam all die ... is not quickened except it die. In verse 31 it is used metaphorically: I die daily, i.e. I am daily in danger of death. In verse 32 it is used of annihilation, parallel to Christs usage of nekros just mentioned, these being the only places I have noticed in Scripture where death is allowed this meaning, it being used controversially in the sense given to it by the opponents being answered: let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die and are done with, there being no resurrection.
In view of this last instance we may accept Dr. Lillies remark (at the place before cited): That a word is employed with different meanings in the same context need not offend any one familiar with Pauls style.
The difficulty advanced as to katheudo not meaning death, but
moral sloth, is equally met by the argument just given. The word does usually mean sleep, physical or
moral; but it can mean death, and therefore Paul could rightly so employ
it. In the Septuagint it plainly means death at Psm. 88: 5: the dead
asleep in the tomb, and at Dan. 12: 2, them that
sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake to everlasting life.
Nor does the case of Jairus daughter mentioned seem very doubtful or doubtful at all. Mat. 9: 24: Mk. 5: 39: Lk. 8: 52. Before the Lord had reached the
house the message had come to the ruler Thy daughter is dead, as all in the house knew (Lk. 8: 49, 53).
The Lords words she is not dead but sleepeth could not be a denial of what was obviously the fact, the physical
death of the child. To force that idea robs the incident entirely
of its miraculous character. Anybody
could have roused her from natural sleep; only Jesus could raise her [from physical death back again] to life. Godets words are very just: Jesus means that, in the order of things over which He
presides, death is death no longer, but assumes the character of a temporary
slumber (Luke 1. 394; 3rd ed.,
This is the more demanded seeing that in the immediately preceding verses moral sleep is emphatically reprobated as being utterly unworthy of the sons of light because it characterizes the non-Christian and his dark night.
5. To argue that it is unlikely that Paul here used katheudo in the sense of death because elsewhere he used the more usual word koimaomai is really to deny to a versatile and educated writer the right to vary his vocabulary, or to choose an unusual word which may properly express his thought. Since katheudo can mean bodily death the apostle cannot be denied liberty so to use it.
6. The true crux of the question is stated in para. 7 above as follows:
Yet if one is prepared to allow the words to mean in verse 10 what they mean in the immediate context and consistently throughout the New Testament, the meaning of verse 10 is then consistent with the doctrine of the whole of the New Testament, which teaches that our salvation, initial or final, depends not on our works but is by grace through faith. We believe that by the grace of the Lord we shall be saved (Acts 15: 11). Hence there is no need to depart from the usual meaning of gregoreo in verse 10.
As regards what is here called final salvation this assertion is simply to be denied. We take the writers initial salvation to mean the justification of the guilty and the gift of eternal life. These two acts of God are the minimum indispensable to salvation in any degree. The sinner cannot acquire these by merit or work, because he cannot remove his guilt or bring himself from spiritual death to life; therefore they are what they must be, free gifts by grace to faith, and both are so described most distinctly: being justified freely (dorean, unconditionally) by his grace (Rom. 3: 24), and the free gift of God (charisma) is eternal life (Rom. 6: 23).
This change of legal status and of spiritual condition brings
the now living man into a vast realm, the
These warnings are addressed to [regenerate] Christians. They apply in particular to the matter of sharing the sovereignty of Christ in His [millennial] kingdom, as it is written that we are heirs indeed (men) of God, but (de) joint heirs with Christ [Messiah], if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him (Rom. 8: 17); and again, If we died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him: if we shall deny him, he also will deny us; etc. (2 Tim. 2: 11-13). Although these ifs stand with the indicative of the verbs, it is impossible to read them as since we do this or that, for it is not true that all [regenerate] believers do in fact die, suffer, and endure with Him, and obviously it is not true that all deny Him. The conditional force is not to be avoided. To assert the opposite is to assert that there is no backsliding, and to make void the warnings of the New Testament to [regenerate] Christians. This subject I have discussed at length in Firstfruits and Harvest, Ideals and Realities, Revelation, and Hebrews.
Our passage (1 Thess. 5: 1-11) is concerned distinctly with the future aspect of salvation, not the initial aspect. It deals with the hope of salvation, not the entrance thereto. For it is not the intention of God that the sons of light and day (verse 5) should meet His wrath at the return of Christ, but that they should then obtain salvation, that is, that salvation which is ready to be revealed in the last time, which is the inheritance (the portion of the heir), as yet reserved in heaven (1 Pet. 1: 4, 5). This magnificent and heavenly inheritance is the highest possible development of salvation to which faith can aspire, and in His very first recorded mention of it the Lord set it forth as a reward for suffering on His behalf (Mat. 5: 12: Blessed are ye when men shall reproach and persecute you ... great is your reward in heaven). This is the key to all later references to the subject.
Of this most noble of prospects the noblest element is that it assures continuous enjoyment of the personal company of the Lord. All the saved will be blessed in His [eternal] kingdom, but not all will be the personal companions of the King [during the coming age (see Luke 20: 35; 22: 28-30; Rev. 3: 11, 21.)]. Heb. 3: 14 says that we are become companions of Christ [the Messiah tou Christou] if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end. This high privilege is for those who hate their life in this age, who serve and follow Him in reality. Of such He says where I am there shall also my servant be and will be honoured by His Father (John 12: 25, 26). This may be followed throughout the New Testament. To the few who keep their garments undefiled in this foul world it is promised that they shall walk with Me in white; for they are worthy. The one overcoming shall thus be arrayed in white garments (Rev. 2: 4, 5).
Now it is distinctly of this salvation - [at the end of your faith, the salvation of souls - presumably from the Underworld of the dead, where the souls of the righteous dead are now waiting for the time of the First Resurrection (1 Pet. 1: 9; Psa. 16: 10; Acts 2: 34; Rev. 6: 9-11; 20: 4-6. cf. Luke 14: 14; Heb. 11: 35b, etc., R.V.)] - that Paul speaks in our verse: that whether we wake or sleep we should live together with Him, and all relevant passages likewise show that this privilege is contingent upon the sons of light not sleeping as do the rest of men, but being watchful, sober, having on the armour of light and fighting the good fight of faith. This Christ stated impressively when Peter objected to Him washing his feet. The act was symbolic of the need the saint has of daily cleansing from the defilement caused by contact with this defiled world. This cleansing the Lord is ready to effect by the laver of His word and Spirit (Eph. 5: 25-27); and to one who refuses this daily sanctification the solemn word applies If I wash thee not thou hast no part with Me.
The 1946 Revisers of the American Standard Version make this read, If I do not wash you, you have no part in me. This would cut off the unsanctified believer from [eternal] salvation entire. It is a flagrant and culpable mistranslation. But what Christ said to Peter did not put in jeopardy his justification [by faith] or eternal life, but it did make the enjoyment of the personal company of the Lord [in the age yet to come*] to depend upon daily sanctification, as does the whole New Testament, and as the [disobedient] believer finds by present experience.
[* Luke 20: 35; Matt. 5: 3-12. cf. 7: 21-29.]
Therefore in place of accepting the above view, that to take wake or sleep to mean watchfulness or slothfulness, puts the passage into harmony with the doctrine of the whole New Testament, we then rather see it as forcing the verse into open conflict with the whole New Testament upon the matter Paul states, that of living with Him. If we are right in this, the point is settled that the words in question cannot here have this moral sense.
7. This leads to the final consideration, which also by itself really determines the matter. When the words in question are taken to mean moral watchfulness or slothfulness the plain effect is that the carnally-minded believer is as sure to be a personal companion of the King in His [millennial] glory as is the heavenly-minded saint; for says this view, God appointed that, whether we are watchful or slothful, we shall live together with Christ. What a premium is thus put upon slothfulness, and by the predetermination of God Himself! Demas forsook Paul, the aged prisoner, having learned again to love this present [evil] age; yet he is as absolutely certain as the faithful apostle to reign with Christ in the heavenly* glory. This was put bluntly by a teacher of this view, when he said at a public meeting, No matter how you live as a Christian, you are certain to be part of the bride of Christ and to reign with Him. He emphasized the words in italics, it being the express point he was urging.
[* See footnote.]
On this view it matters not a straw that Demas, because he
loved this world, did thereby constitute
himself (kathistatal) an enemy of God, being spiritually an adulteress (
8. It was suggested above that it was the theological views of the scholars named which forced them to hold that the passage speaks of bodily death or life at the coming of the Lord. There is always danger that ones opinions may affect the judgment upon a particular point or passage, but this applies equally to those who wish to hold the moral sense of the words, it being a great support to the view that reigning with Christ is guaranteed irrespective of conduct. But the objection cannot apply to J. N. Darby, at least, for he held the opinion just stated yet took the opposite view of our verse, nor were the other scholars named of any one school of theology so as all to be biased in one direction. It would be fairer to allow that, apart from linguistic reasons, it was a just sense of morality that made them reject the meaning desired by some and which dulls the sense of moral urgency everywhere inculcated by the Word of God.
The view in question amounts to this - that in verses 6 and 7 Paul urges that to sleep in the night is natural enough for the sons of darkness but most unbecoming in the sons of light and day, who ought to be ever watchful, armed, and sober, like soldiers on duty. Yet nevertheless, says this view, in verse 10 he cancels this by assuring them that, even if the Christian does not watch, but goes to sleep while on duty, it wont seriously affect his heavenly prospects, because the soldier of Christ may sleep through the battle but be sure of sharing the triumph banquet! Is it not unjustifiable to force upon the apostle this moral contradiction? Is it not obvious that Paul must have used katheudo in different senses?
From the foregoing it appears:
1. That there is adequate linguistic ground to allow wake or sleep to mean alive or dead.
2. That the objection that the writer would not in close contact use a word in two different senses is unfounded.
3. That it is contrary to the consistent teaching of the New Testament to regard the high and heavenly prospects of the saints as free of moral conditions.
4. That the view here rebutted is calculated to diminish fidelity and morality.
5. That therefore the words must be taken to mean that whether those who live godly in Christ Jesus are alive when He shall come, or shall have died, they shall live with Christ in His [millennial] kingdom.
[* FOOTNOTE. Keep in mind Jesus has said of some resurrected saints, accounted worthy to attain to that age, that they will be equal unto angels, Luke 20: 35, 36! That is, they will have been qualified to reign in both the heavenly and earthly spheres of His Messianic kingdom!
To deny that possibility, for those - (who, after the time of their resurrection in glorified and immortal bodies of flesh and bones Lk. 24: 39 - like that of our Lords body) - who will eat and drink with Him at His table and in His kingdom Luke 22: 29, 3, is to set oneself in unbelief and at variance with the circumstances and conditions which will exist here after Messiah has come into His Fathers promised inheritance upon and over this sin-cursed earth. Rev. 11: 15a; Rom. 8: 21, 22; Psa. 2: 8!
It is vitally important for Christians to distinguish this present earth - now groaning under the curse of sin and awaiting the time when it will be set free at Messiahs return - from another entirely new creation, after this creation has passed away when the sea is no more (Rev. 21: 1, R.V.)!]
Thou art coming; at Thy table
We are witnesses of this;
While remembring hearts Thou meetest
In communion clearest, sweetest,
Earnest of our coming bliss,
Showing not Thy death alone,
And Thy love exceeding great,
But Thy coming and Thy throne,
All for which we long to wait.
O the joy to see Thee reigning,
Thee, my own beloved Lord!
Evry tongue Thy Name confessing,
Worship, honour, glory, blessing,
Brought to Thee with one accord;
Thee, my Master and my Friend,
Vindicated and enthrond,
Unto earths remotest end
Glorified, adored, and ownd!
- F. R. HAVERGAL.
* * *
AN IMPORTANT TEXT (2)
Romans 8: 17:-
If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him.
Long years ago C. F. Hogg pointed out to me that the second clause of this verse contains in Greek the untranslated particles men ... de, and should be rendered heirs indeed of God, but joint-heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with Him. Upon these particles that excellent classic W. H. Isaacs says that it is a construction which in normal Greek has no purpose but to express an antithesis (The Epistle to the Hebrews 73). All children indeed inherit from the father - his life, love, care, training; but not all share the larger portion of the first-born son.
Forty years ago there circulated in the West of England a small magazine entitled Counties Quarterly. Being asked to contribute an article I sent a paper on John 9: 4, We must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day, which stressed various things which must be done in this life or not at all, such as, to trust Christ for salvation, be baptized, remember the Lord in the breaking of bread, witness for Him, win souls, and finally, suffer with Him if we would be glorified with Him. The above passage was cited in the translation and sense just mentioned.
It transpired that the magazine was owned by the Editors of Echoes of Service and the matter proposed for insertion was submitted to them. Mr. W. E. Vine wrote to the Editor a courteous note that, as this use of the passage was matter of dispute, perhaps it were better to omit the sentence. He added that the Greek construction in this place (eiper if with the indicative of the verb) does not create a condition but means since we suffer with Him we shall be glorified with Him.
The difference is momentous. The latter sense implies that all the children of God will share the glory of Christ, the former that this honour is contingent upon sharing His sufferings. The sense adopted here will govern our understanding of many other passages.
I readily altered my paper but said to myself, Mr. Vine is a Greek scholar, which I am not; but I will look
into this. There was then living
I mentioned to him this passage and what Mr. Vine had said as
to the force of if with the indicative of the verb. He
replied; That is what we were always taught on the
If we died with Him,
we shall also live with Him:
If we endure,
we shall also reign with Him:
If we shall deny Him,
He also will deny us:
If we are faithless,
He abideth faithful;
for He cannot deny Himself.
Now, I said, here are four parallel poetic clauses, and having all the same grammatical construction they must all be construed alike, and it is the same construction as in Rom. 8: 17. It is impossible to take the if here as meaning since, for it were contrary to fact to say since we deny Him ... since we are faithless, for not all believers deny Him or are faithless to Him. So that the same writer, writing later on the same subject, uses the same construction to express a condition upon which depends the realization of the hope stated, and this must govern his earlier statement in Rom. 8: 17 or he will be made to contradict himself.
For a while Mr. Reynolds looked steadily at his Greek Testament, and said, You are certainly right. I added: Is not this an example of what scholars now know, that the New Testament was not written in classical Greek, but in the everyday speech of the people? To which he assented.
The sense since we suffer we shall therefore be glorified robs the eiper if of any real weight. The particle is rendered by scholars in this place, and in verse 9 preceding, if indeed, if at least, provided that (Darby, Alford). E. H. Gifford (Speakers Commentary) says: eiper ... represents the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil. 3: 10) as an indispensable condition of sharing His glory. Obviously this is the plain and simple force of the English Versions if so be. On these verses 9 and 17 Fritz Reinicker says: eiper, if in reality (wenn wirklich) - expresses an expectation the justness of which must first be tested (Sprachlicher Schlussel zum Griechischen N.T. 412).
Further, the unconditional sense nullifies the final clause if so be that we suffer that we may be also glorified, where hina with the subjunctive of the verb cannot but have the conditional force in order that we may be glorified. If so be ... in order that cannot have the meaning since ... therefore.
NOTE - Upon eiper comp. 1 Cor. 15: 15: Whom He raised not up, if indeed [eiper ara] dead men are not raised: and Moulton and Milligan ( Vocab. of Gk. Test. 182): For the emphatic eiper if indeed, cf. please return to the city, unless indeed [eiper me] something most pressing occupies you.
* * *
AN IMPORTANT TEXT (3)
THE CONDITIONAL FORCE OF 1 JOHN 1: 7:-
If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Ean is a conditional particle, from ei, if, and an which emphasizes the conditional element. This force of the three particles continues in modern Greek. The conditional force is the more distinct with the subjunctive of the verb, as here. In this second paragraph John uses this construction seven times:
Chapter 1: 6, if we say: verse 7, if we walk: verse 8, if we say: verse 9, if we confess: verse 10, if we say: chapter 2: 1, if any one sin: verse 5, but whoever may keep (hos dan tere).
In all these instances the strict sense is suppose we should say, walk, etc. Darby, New Translation, in note c to these verses in ch. 1., says: In all these cases the verb is in the subjunctive, and puts the case of so doing. I should have translated them if we should say etc. but that it is the case in verse 9 also, where it cannot be done. But he offers no reason why it cannot be done in verse 9, nor does there seem to be any reason. To all these places his German version gives the note Gesetzt den Fall, dass, which means, Let us suppose that, and no exception is mentioned. In the 1939 edition of his English Translation the exception is no longer found.
Youngs Literal gives: If we
Darbys earlier exception involves forgetfulness of the
difference between justification and forgiveness. Upon faith in Christ the sinner is given a new
standing in grace and before the law of God, and he becomes a child of
God. This status is irreversible; being
a child of God he can never be otherwise than His child. This is forensic justification. But obviously a child that does wrong needs
forgiveness, and this can only be rightly and helpfully extended by the father
upon the child being sorry and confessing the fault. To continue in disobedience to
God is to go into the darkness of forfeited communion, for God cannot come out
into the darkness with the disobedient child and give him His fellowship there. The child must return to the light, the
prodigal son must come home, if he is to be forgiven. He that covereth his transgressions
shall not prosper: but who so confesseth and forsaketh
them shall obtain mercy (Prov. 28: 13). Thus does
Does not Lev. 16., the Day of atonement, lie behind this passage in John? On that day the High Priest, as the religious representative of the whole nation made a general confession of and offered a plenary atonement for all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, even all their sins (vs. 21, 22). This removed ceremonially the guilt of all their unrecognised sins, which however God recognized and which would have restrained His grace. But if an Israelite had sinned consciously he had to repent, desist, confess, and offer the appointed personal sacrifice: then he was forgiven. He could not say in his heart, Next week is the great atonement when all our sins are put away, so I need not fear or offer my own sacrifice. That general atonement was for all the offences unrecognized by men but known to God. If a man was not walking in what light he had as to the law of God, but in the darkness of self-will, that Day availed him nothing. But while he walked in what light he had all other transgressions were held covered and did not debar fellowship with God or the godly. In our passage also the emphasis is on the word all, and covers not only those sins of which the believer is aware and of which he has repented, but all other failures and sins of which he does not know, but which are known to God and which would debar fellowship but for the plenary virtue of the blood of Christ.
In this connection the force of ean with the subjunctive is seen clearly in Matt. 6: 14, 5: If ye forgive ... your Father will forgive you. If ye do not forgive ... neither will your Father forgive. Here also it is not a matter of justification but of forgiveness. And it must be thus. Gods holiness demands it. An unforgiving spirit is itself sin, being utterly contrary to God, and He cannot condone [wilful] sin in His children, nor forgive them until they repent and return to the light.
In his Grammar of the Greek New Testament (1005 f.) A. T. Robertson points out that in John 13: 17 two uses of ei and ean are distinguished: If ye know (ei with the indicative) assumes that they do know as a fact; happy are ye if ye should do (ean with the subjunctive) leaves the fulfilment uncertain and therefore conditional. It is this last construction that is found in the passage in John here considered.
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AN IMPORTANT TEXT (4)
Heb. 4: 9:-
There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God.
What rest is this? Its noblest feature is that God calls it MY rest. Therefore it cannot be that rest of conscience received by the sinner upon faith in Christ, nor that rest of heart which the saint gains when he casts all his anxieties upon God Who cares for him. These are our rest in God, but this is Gods own rest, which cannot be that of a purged conscience or of peace of mind after turmoil.
Nor can it be that unbroken tranquillity which is the eternal condition of God, for here it is a rest after work; wherefore it is termed a sabbatism, for sabbath rest is cessation of work.
Gods first work was the act of creating: the heavens are the work of Thy hands (Ps. 102: 25). The result of that work was disturbed by pre-historic rebellion, which brought judgment and chaos. In due time God wrought again and in six days refitted the earth for man to inhabit and restored the stellar world for mans benefit. This finished, God rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made and declared that day holy (Gen. 2: 1-3).
Then sin disturbed this fair realm also and brought disorder and ruin [at the time of the flood]. But God is indefatigable. Again He set to work to reduce this world to order, to further which work the Son of God came here, and said My Father worketh even until now, and I work (John 5: 17). This work being still in progress (for the past intervention of the Son of God did not complete it), God is not yet resting, and therefore what He calls His rest cannot be a present experience. His servants are called and privileged to share His work. We are Gods fellow-workers ... working together with Him (1 Cor. 3: 9: 2 Cor. 6: 1); and therefore this [evil age] is not the period of our rest, as here meant, but of our toil and suffering until the time shall come when God will again rest. Thus it is written by the apostle, to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven (2 Thes. 1: 7). And therefore it is said here that there remaineth a sabbath rest for the people of God.
The English Versions obscure this by inserting without warrant the tiny word do, ... we who have believed do enter. Delitzsch gives the sense aright as being that, we who at the time for entering in shall be found to have believed will enter.
It is further clear that not peace of conscience or rest from
care is meant because these are gained by ceasing from work, whereas this [future] rest has to be gained by all diligence, and may be missed by unbelief and disobedience, even as
Of what, then, was
But as Gods [millennial or Sabbath-day-] rest here in view is neither present nor eternal, it can be only that age which is to intervene between the close of this [evil] age, at the coming of the Lord in glory, and the eternal ages to commence after the final judgment and the creating of new heavens and earth. That Millennial age is frequently set forth in Scripture as a prize to be won by diligence, patience, endurance, and as being forfeitable by negligence or misconduct. As William Kelly said on this passage: We are called now to the work of faith and labour of love, while we patiently wait for rest in glory at Christs coming (Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 73).
At His second coming the Lord will speak peace to His people, and to His saints (Psm. 85: 8), and He Himself will enter His rest, He will rest in His love (Zeph. 3: 17). Let us fear therefore, lest haply, a promise being left of entering into His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it ... Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience as was seen in Israel of old (Heb. 4: 1, 11).
For a full discussion see my Epistle to the Hebrews, 75-83.
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AN IMPORTANT TEXT (5)
1 Cor. 15: 51:-
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.
IT is often urged that this passage declares that though we shall not all sleep, but some be alive at the descent of the Lord, yet we shall all be changed, and surely, says the objector with emphasis, all means all. Truly; but in ver. 22, For as in Adam all die, so also in the Christ shall all be made alive, all means all of mankind, for every child of Adam will at some time be raised by Christ (Jo. 5: 28, 29). But not all at the first resurrection (Rev. 20: 5). Therefore in this very chapter all means different things, and in ver. 51 requires limiting, since it refers to a smaller company than in ver. 22.
The last and immediate context is in verses
48, 49, which
speak of those who are to bear the image of the heavenly, that is, are to share with the Lord
in His heavenly form, glory, and sovereignty.
Now the more difficult, and therefore the more probable reading here is
as in the R.V. margin: As we have borne the image of the earthy, let
us also bear the image of the
heavenly. It is evident that one copying a document is
not likely to insert by mistake a more difficult word or idea than is in the
manuscript before him; so that, as a general rule, the more difficult reading
is likely to have been the original reading.
Moreover, in this case let us also bear is so well attested by the
manuscripts as to have been adopted as the true reading by Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, and Westcott and
is given as the text in the latest editions of the Greek Testament, those of Nestle and Von Soden. Ellicott
prefers the common reading, but on subjective and internal grounds only, and his remark on the
external authority is emphatic: It is impossible to
deny that the subjunctive phoresomen is
supported by very greatly preponderating authority. Alford (on Romans 9: 5) well says, that
no conjecture [i.e., as to the true Greek text] arising
from doctrinal difficulty is ever to be admitted in the face of the consensus
of MSS. and versions.
By this exhortation the apostle places upon Christians some
responsibility to see that they secure that image of the heavenly which is
indispensable to inheriting the
[* In this context of a believers works after his/her regeneration, the Greek word translated eternal should be understood to mean age-lasting glory. See also Tit. 2: 13 cf. Tit. 3: 7; Heb. 5: 9, etc.]
Since therefore this most honourable calling must be made sure by walking worthily, in order that we may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer (2 Thess. 1: 5), the reading let us also bear the image of the heavenly becomes consistent and important. Thus 1 Cor. 15: 41, 52 is addressed to those who are assumed (whether it be so or not) to have responded to that exhortation, and it will mean that we [who shall be accounted worthy to bear that heavenly image] shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. Of that [select] company it is strictly true that all means all.
Further, the primary antecedent to ver. 52 is in ver. 23: But each [shall be made alive] in his own order : Christ the first-fruits then they that are Christs in His Parousia: then the end ... Does not the whole sentence, in the light of other passages, carry the force: But each shall be made alive, not all at the same hour, but each in his own class or company (tagma); first-fruit, Messiah ; then, next, those of the Messiah, i.e., in His character as first-fruit, at His Parousia; then, later, the end of all dispensations, involving the resurrection of all, saved and unsaved, not before raised? Here is additional reason for R. C. Chapmans view that the first resurrection is one of first-fruits, and not of all who will be finally raised in the harvest of eternal life.
It has been accepted above that all means all, but what does all mean? It is not always used absolutely, in its universal sense. Thus the Lord, speaking of the last days of this age, said, ye shall be hated of all men for My names sake (Matt. 10: 22: Lk. 21: 17); yet later, speaking of the same period, He showed that there will be then some, the sheep, who will befriend His persecuted followers (Matt. 25: 33-40). The explanation is found in the other report of His words: ye shall be hated of all the nations (Matt. 24: 10); that is, this hatred will affect all the peoples everywhere on earth, though not every individual as the other use of all might by itself suggest.
Again; of the trial of Christ before the Council of the Jews it is said that all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel (sumboulion) against Jesus (Matt. 27: 1); yet Lk. 23: 50 tells that one of that Council, Joseph of Arimathaea (a bouletees), had not assented to their counsel (boulee); and John 19: 39 shows that Nicodemus dissociated himself from their act; and he also was one of the Council (John 7: 50-52). Acts 1: 1 speaks of Lukes Gospel having narrated all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, yet we know that the world could not contain the books that would be required for such a full account (John 21: 25).
These instances suffice to warn against rashly taking all in its fullest sense. They call for careful consideration of each use of the word. The [Holy] Spirit took up the natural habits of human speech! No one is misled when he hears one say that all the world was there.
Passages which deal with a matter from the point of view of Gods plan and willingness use general, wide terms to cover and to disclose His whole provision. But these must be ever considered in connection with any other statements upon the same subject which reveal what God foresees of the human element which, by His own creation of responsible creatures, He permits to interact with His working. Out of these elements, through self-will in the [regenerate] believer, arises the possibility of [saved] individuals not reaching unto the whole of what the grace of God had offered in Christ. For fuller discussions we my First-fruits and Harvest and Ideals and Realities.
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AN IMPORTANT TEXT (6)
Matt. 24: 31:-
And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they
shall gather together his elect from the four winds,
from one end of heaven to the other.
THE Lord was dealing with the question What shall be the sign of Thy parousia and consummation of the age? (verse 13). It is almost completely overlooked that this question was concerned with one double event not with two separated events. This is clear in the Greek though not in the English Versions, for the latter render it the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world? The comma, with the words of the, dissociate the coming from the consummation of the age, leaving it possible that there may be an undefined interval between them, but they are without warrant. The phrase the end of the world is simply false and misleading, for it carries the mind on to the final event of heaven and earth passing away, to be substituted by new heavens and earth. But tou aionos means of the age, and sunteleia means the consummation of this age, the point when this period of Gods dealings touches and leads into the next period, the millennial kingdom to be ushered in by the parousia of Christ.
Among other events to lead up to that consummation the Lord mentioned (15-28) the rise of the Desolator foretold by Daniel, bringing on a tribulation surpassing all previous troubles on earth and never afterward to be equalled. He then declared that it would be immediately after that tribulation that His coming in power and glory would be seen (29, 30), to which He added our passage: And He shall send forth His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The view that the parousia and the removal of the [whole] church will be before that tribulation has (1) to ignore the fact that the question of the disciple; was concerning two events so closely connected that they could be indicated by one and the same sign; and (2) it has to affirm that the elect of our present verse are not Christians but godly Jews. It is part of the theory that the Synoptic Gospels are Jewish in character, not Christian, which theory will stand or fall with this particular passage. The following considerations must have weight.
1. This gathering of the elect takes
place while the Son of man is still in the clouds. Thence He sends forth His angels, having
not yet come as far as the earth. Comp. Rev. 14: 14-16 and 1 Thess. 4: 16,
17. But the saved of
2. No gathering of Jews to
3. The gathering of the elect by the
angels is to be universal: from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the
other, or as Mark 13: 27, from the uttermost
part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.
If these were Jews there would be no Jews left for the second gathering
to Messiah at
5. The term elect is applied to angels (1 Tim. 5:
21), to Christ (Lk. 13: 35: 1
Pet. 2: 6). Election is used of Gods purpose concerning
Jacob (Rom. 9: 11). The cognate verb chosen is used of Jehovahs choice of
In the parable of the wedding feast, given only a few days earlier (Matt. 22: 1-14), the Lord had given the warning that many are called but few are chosen, this last word being the same as elect. As the invitation to the feast is not limited to Jews neither can the elect be only Jews. Therefore the urgent matter for each who hears the call is to be [found] among the few who are chosen (elect). The condition for this is suggested in the last place where the word is found in the New Testament, Rev. 17: 14. Of the Beast and his supporters it is there said that These shall war against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and they also shall overcome that are with Him, called and chosen, and faithful. The faithful to Him in His battles will be found among the chosen, the elect.
[It will help to free the mind from theological bias if the word eklektos be translated chosen in all places. Of its 22 occurrences it is already so rendered in six, and the cognate verb eklegomai is thus rendered in all its 22 occurrences. The remaining form eklogee is rendered chosen at its first occurrence (he is a chosen vessel unto me, Ac. 9: 15), and might be so translated in its other six places.]
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AN IMPORTANT TEXT (7)
Phil. 3: 11:-
If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from among the dead.
DEALING with the first and select resurrection the Lord spoke of those that are accounted worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from among the dead (Luke 20: 34-36). That age (singular) is not a Bible term for eternity, which is not one age but many, the ages of the ages (thirteen times in the Revelation). That age is set by Christ in direct contrast to this age, and so means the age of the [millennial] kingdom to follow this age. A general resurrection the Jews expected (John 11: 24; Acts 24: 15), but here Christ speaks of the resurrection which is out from among the dead (tees anastaseos tees ek nekron). This is the first clear intimation of such a limited, select resurrection (this doctrine being rooted in a germinal saying of Christ), and its terms are the key to and must control all subsequent instructions upon the subject. And it is made very clear that this resurrection is a privilege to which one must attain [i.e., gain by effort - a dictionary definition,] and be accounted worthy thereof. The notion that a share in the First Resurrection is a certainty, irrespective of attainment and worthiness, can only be held in direct disregard to this primary declaration by the One who will effect the resurrection - [after judgment beforehand, (Heb. 9: 27)] - and determine who shall participate therein, the Son of God.
It was through Paul that the Holy Spirit saw fit to give in permanent written form fuller particulars as to this theme (1 Cor. 15.; 1 Thess. 4), and it is Paul who elsewhere repeats the words of our Lord Jesus just considered, declaring that, whereas justifying righteousness is verily received through faith [alone] in Christ, not by our own works, yet, in marked contrast, the [out] resurrection which is [out] from among the dead (teen exanastasin teen ek nekron) is a privilege at which one must arrive (katanteeso) by a given course of life, even the experimental knowledge of Christ, of the power of His resurrection, and of the fellowship of His sufferings, thereby becoming conformed unto His death (Phil. 3: 7-21). Surely the present participle (summorphizomenos becoming conformed) is significant, and decisive in favour of the view that it is a process, a course of life that is contemplated.
It has been suggested that Paul here speaks of a present moral resurrection as he does in Romans 6. But in that chapter it is simply a reckoning of faith that is proposed, not a course of personal sufferings. The subject discussed is whether the [regenerate] believer is to continue in slavery to sin (douleuein), as in his unregenerate days, or is the mastery (kurieuo) of sin to be immediately and wholly broken? It should be remembered when writing to the Philippians Paul was near the close of his life and service. Could a life so holy and powerful as his be lived without first knowing experimentally the truth taught in Romans 6? Did the Holy Spirit at any time use the apostles to urge others to seek experiences other than the writer had first known, and to which therefore he could be a witness? And again, if by the close of that long and wonderful career Paul was still longing and striving to attain to death to the old man and victory over sin, when did he ever attain thereto? Such reflections upon the [Spirit-filled] apostle are unworthy; and, as has been reached, or to be sought, by suffering [for righteousness sake], by attaining, by laying hold, by pressing on, or any other such effort as is urged upon the Philippians, but by the simple acceptance by faith of what God says He did for us in Christ in relation to the old man.
Thus this suggested exposition is neither sound experimental theology or fair exegesis. Paul indicates as plainly as language can do that the First Resurrection may be missed. His words are: If by any means I may arrive at the resurrection which is out from among the dead. If by any means (ei pos) I may - if with the subjunctive of the verb - cannot but declare a condition; and so on this particle in this place Alford says, It is used when an end is proposed, but failure is presumed to be possible: and so Lightfoot: The apostle states not a positive assurance, but a modest hope: and Grimm-Thayer (Lexicon) give its meaning as, If in any way, if by any means, if possible: and Ellicott to the same effect says, the idea of an attempt is conveyed, which may or may not be successful. Both Alford and Lightfoot regard the passage as dealing with the resurrection of the godly from death, and Ellicotts note is worth giving in full. The resurrection from the dead; i.e., as the context suggests, the first resurrection (Rev. 20: 5), when, at the Lords coming the dead in Him shall rise first (1 Thess. 4: 16), and the quick [living] be caught up to meet Him in clouds (1 Thess. 4: 17); comp. Luke 20: 35. The first resurrection will include only true believers, and will apparently precede the second, that of non-believers, and disbelievers, in point of time. Any reference here to a merely ethical resurrection (Cocceius) is wholly out of the question. With the addition that the second resurrection - [after the millennium] - will include [regenerate] believers not accounted worthy of [attaining unto] the first, this note is excellent.
In connection with the study of truth, and of prophecy in particular, I have more than once commended in print the following remarks by Dr. Robert Daly. They were written in 1838 and are found on page 9. of the Preface to The Letters and Papers of Viscountess Powerscourt. He said:-
I consider the whole
Therefore all sober and fair examination of a subject is to be welcomed, from whatever side it proceeds. But it can only be deplored when controversialists endeavour to create prejudice by unwarranted assertions. For at least one hundred and twenty years there have been serious and competent students of the Word of God who have believed it to be a clear teaching of Scripture that the honour of reigning with the Lord in His kingdom is a privilege not guaranteed to every child of God, though it is offered to such in this age. This involves that sharing in the raptures or the first resurrection, which will remove to the heavenly regions those who are to reign there with Christ, while open to all believers is not assured to all, but to those only who are accounted worthy to attain to that [the Millennial] age and the resurrection which is from among the dead (Luke 20: 35). We consider that this view alone answers to the many conditional statements of Scripture and also supplies both needful stimulus to holy living and check against the abuse of the grace which provides such a great prospect.
Upon so important a theme concentrated examination is needful and helpful, but there are some who seek to discredit the doctrine by alleging that it negatives the truth of the eternal salvation of those who are born of God through faith in the Son of God and His atoning work. No credited teacher of the view in question will admit this, for it is of the essence of our view that we emphasize heavily the contrast between life eternal as a free gift and sharing the glory of Christ as a reward. The assertion serves to give some very greatly needed body and weight to the opposition, for without it there would be no warrant for alleging that the doctrine impinges upon the faith of the gospel. The fact that it is found necessary to use this makeweight is silent testimony that the view is consistent with the faith.
- G. H. LANG.
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IMPORTANT TEXTS (8)
2 Cor. 5: 1-10. & Phil. 1: 23:-
To be read in the R. V. with their contexts. [As shown below:-]
1 For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. 2 For verily in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven: 3 if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. 4 For indeed we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life. 5 Now he that wrought us for this very thing is God, who gave unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 6 Being therefore always of good courage, and knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord 7 (for we walk by faith, not by sight); 8 we are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Wherefore also we make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well-pleasing unto him. 10 For we must be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive that thing done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
23 But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better
1. The Present. (a) Our outward man decays (ch. 4: 16) - a perpetual process, which even our strenuous labour in the work of the Lord accelerates. Consequently while in this body we groan being burdened (vs. 3, 4).
(b) Yet we faint not (4: 16), for our inward man is renewed continuously, and the spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity (Prov. 18: 14). This renewing operates while faith animates the heart; for faith makes real a world which the senses cannot discern (v. 7), a heavenly realm free from all weakness and burdens, a system of life which is eternal, not, as this, temporary, insufficient.
The present physical house in which man dwells is of the earth, suited to the business of living on
earth, but not to the higher life of the realm above: flesh and
blood [even had it
remained sinless] is not capable of inheriting the
2. The State after Death. Man by constitution is a soul clothed with a material body which is kept in life by the [animating] spirit (Gen. 2: 7). At death God recalls this spirit-element, thereupon the body turns to dust (Eccl. 12: 7), and the soul, the man, without the external body, is unclothed, naked. This incomplete condition is not to be desired (vs. 3, 4). It entirely forbids that the person should in that naked state reach the final and supreme goal of being presented before the presence of Gods glory in heaven, as surely as no naked man would be presented before a king in his throne room.
Nevertheless the intermediate state has this unique advantage over this earth life, that freed from the limitations that the body of flesh puts upon our faculties, the saint can enjoy the presence of the Lord more acutely [in the Underworld of the dead]. Therefore to depart and to be with Christ would have been very far better for Paul personally than to be chained day and night to a pagan ruffian (Phil. 1: 21-26). He was torn between the two possibilities, that of his personal advantage of departing to be with Christ, and that of further serving Christ by helping His people on earth. He chose the latter.
Being with Christ in the sense Paul had in view did not imply ascent to the
heavens where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Not even the Lord ascended there, far above
all heavens, while in the death state. Even on the morning of His resurrection He had not yet gone thither to the Father (John
20: 17). At death He had gone to
Therefore He is (a) on earth with His servants personally (John 14: 21, 23; Acts 22: 6-10; 23: 11; 2 Tim. 4: 16, 17); He is (b) with them when assembled (Mat. 28: 19, 20); He is (c) with them and they with Him in the realm of the dead (Phil. 1: 23; Rev. 6: 9-11); and they will (d) be with Him when rapt to meet Him in the clouds and by resurrection (1 Thes. 4: 17); and (e) those who conquered in His battles in this life shall walk with Him in white and shall sit down with Him on His throne in His glory (Rev. 2: 4, 5, 21). It was in sense (c) that Paul thought of being with Christ should he die. But while living and active in the noble service of the gospel his wish was not to be unclothed, disembodied (2 Cor. 5: 4). The difference in his circumstances, now while free for his active, blessed ministry, later when chained and restricted, explains his different outlook and desire.
If believers go to the glory of God at death, they have already reached the summit, the goal, and there is no need of resurrection or rapture. But, as just stated, the Lord showed distinctly that only by His return can we reach the Fathers house, our home: In My Fathers house are many abiding places ... I go to prepare a place for you ... And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto Myself; in order that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14: 2, 3; 1 Thes. 4: 16, 17).
As flesh and blood cannot rise to that realm there must needs be given a body capable of life there (1 Cor. 15: 50-58). Thus had Paul shortly before written to these Corinthians. Now (2 Cor. 5: 1) he tells them that this [resurrected] body will be permanent, a building, not a tent, a house; and that it will be a direct creation of God, not something which lesser beings had made out of heavenly materials. Gnostics were already inculcating their false philosophy of creation, that the supreme God had left to lesser beings the work of manipulating the created matter or its basis. This is tacitly rebuked by the assertion that the coming body of glory, immortality, and incorruption will not be made with hands, but will be Gods own handiwork.
As to duration, it will be eternal; as to location, it will be in the heavens; not of the earth for the earth, but of heavenly substance suitable to life in the heavens. The present body exhibits the activities of mans soul; it is a psychical or Soulish vehicle: the heavenly body will be the vehicle of the movements of his spirit; a pneumatical or spiritual body (1 Cor. 15: 44-46).
Changing the figure from a house to a garment, the apostle now (ver. 4) speaks of this heavenly body as a robe to be put on, either to cover and conceal our nakedness wrought by death, or to take the place of the corrupted body of those to be changed by rapture. For the intermediate state he was not now longing: not that we would be unclothed (ver. 4); but for this final great change he was most desirous. He will gladly be disrobed of the frail earthly robe, to be worn only till death or till the Lord shall descend, which garment shows that the wearer is absent from the Lord as regards visible presence; and he longs to be clothed upon with that heavenly body which will enable him to be at home with the Lord in the full felicity of the Fathers house.
4. The Occasion of this momentous event is shown distinctly. Writing in the former letter the apostle said that this change will take place at the last trump (15: 52). 1 Thes. 4: 16 tells that this will be at the descent of the Lord from heaven to the clouds of this earth. Paul adds that this putting on by the mortal of immortality will be the fulfilment of the ancient prophesy (Isa. 25: 8) that Death is swallowed up in victory. He now repeats (ver. 4) that the putting on of the eternal heavenly garment is in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life. Obviously these two statements refer to the one event, at the coming of Christ. This forbids two erroneous errors [beliefs]:
(a) That it is the hour of a believers death of which he speaks, or
(b) That he has in mind some supposed conferment of a temporary heavenly house, or robe, to cover in measure the believers nakedness during the intermediary condition between death and resurrection. For such a covering there is in fact no need. There is already an outer form, answering to the material form dropped at death but much less substantial, rare not coarse, yet real. Thus Samuel when called back to speak with Saul had on a robe (1 Sam. 28: 14), and Dives and Abraham could recognize each other in Hades (Luke 16: 23). See also Isa. 14: 15, 16. But by comparison with the earthly body this covering is so attenuated that the soul feels uncovered, naked.
It is to the coming of the Lord that Paul points and the supreme and permanent change to be wrought then.
5. The Moral Effects. The believer is liable to become weary and discouraged by the burdens that make him groan; but the steadfast contemplation of those grand eternal verities will give a ceaseless invigoration of the inner man. He will not faint, but will experience daily inward renewing; his present burden will seem but light and momentary, as compared with the weight of eternal glory. As Paul wrote to the Romans (8: 18), the sufferings of the present will be counted insignificant in comparison with the eternal glory. The term light is the word of the Lord used when He said, My burden is light (Matt. 11: 30). It is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. This so heavily burdened disciple and pilgrim assures us that Christs word is true in experience.
Therefore the apostle says twice we are always of good courage (vs. 6, 7). When God wrought in us His good work of the new birth, He had in view this final glorious development; to this end He directs all His ways and discipline. As assurance that all this prospect is real, not visionary, He has granted us the Spirit of life that animates that heavenly world. In heavenly emotions and energies, which the Spirit already imparts, we have in advance the earnest of that coming inheritance.
But this demands that we live in correspondence with the heavenly realm to which we now belong and toward which we urge our way. Only what is drawn from Christ, the Lord from heaven, by the Spirit, will pass the scrutiny of His judgment seat. We shall receive back then exactly what we do here by the use of our present body, whether good or bad (ver. 10). The light and energy of these weighty considerations induces the fear of the Lord. This urges the believer to persuade men to embrace this noble prospect and walk humbly with God, as men who have died with the crucified Redeemer and now live as new-born creatures devoted to Him risen from the dead (vs. 11-6: 10).
* * *
AN IMPORTANT TEXT (9)
Romans 8: 28-30:-
And we know, that to them that love God, all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many
brethren: and whom He foreordained, them also He called: and whom
He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified,
them He also glorified.
This passage is an instance of how profound doctrine is introduced with practical purpose. The assertion that all things work together for good is bold and startling, being apparently contradicted by innumerable experiences of the godly. Only a little earlier the apostle has reminded us of present sufferings and the groanings they cause. How can he, and we, be so confident that all things, without exception, work together for good?
The ground of his assurance and comfort lies in the facts covered by his word For. He points to a sequence of factors in the plan and working of God: He foreknew - foreordained - called - justified - glorified certain persons. How can it be otherwise than that He shall cause all conditions and circumstances to co-operate to the fulfilling of His purpose concerning them? He cannot suffer any external agency to frustrate His sublime intention.
There was an ancient philosophy that regarded all the universe as wholly unregulated, all is the plaything of chance. Solomon glanced at this misreading of history when he said time and chance happeneth to them all (Eccl. 9: 11). A distinguished modern scholar and historian has given this as his view of history.*
* H. A. L. Fisher, A History of Europe, Preface, v, one vol. ed.
Another philosophy conceived of certain unapproachable godesses, the Fates, issuing purely arbitrary and unchangeable decrees, which not even the supreme deity, Zeus, could vary or escape. This conception rules hundreds of millions today. It dominates, for example, Islamic, Hindu, and Bhuddistic thought, and is the root of moral corruption. The Moslem excuses his vices by pleading that it is his kismet, fate.
Seven centuries before Christ, God expressly condemned both these notions, Fortune and Destiny, and pointed to their origin as being a result of refusing to heed His call because men loved evil (Isa. 65: 11, 12. Comp. Rom. 1: 18 ff.. From this it follows that God Himself cannot act haphazard, but by purpose; and equally that there can be no fatalistic element in His purpose and action. It is in the light of this His declaration as to Himself that Romans 8, and all Scripture, must be understood.
Close scrutiny of the words of our passage will confirm this view of God and His ways.
1. A Purpose is that which one sets before ones heart to see accomplished. God does not work casually. There is a purpose that He pursues through all the ages of time (Eph. 3: 11). This purpose was not formed on the basis of mans sinful works, but on the principle of showing favour to the undeserving. Nor was it an after-thought to meet human need, but it was formed before the ages of time began, and its ground design was to associate us with Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 1: 9).
In furthering this purpose God acts as He sees fit and according to His own choice (Rom. 9: 11). But it is wrong to conceive His actions as being purely arbitrary, a mere fiat, an act of the will but not governed by reason; for though it is His own will that directs, yet it is according to the counsel of His will that He acts in all things (Eph. 1: 11). This is seen in His first step manward: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion (Gen. 1: 26). The creation of man was not a mere fiat, but the persons of the Godhead took counsel together as to this step towards the purpose God had in view.
2. Called. But how shall man, darkened in his understanding, alienated, and at enmity with God, get to know of Gods purpose and be drawn into its orbit of grace? As soon as Adam and Eve had sinned and wandered Jehovah God called unto the man (Gen. 3: 9). The purpose and grace of God concerning the man turned on whether he would respond to that gracious call.
There was no fatalistic element involved. The last time that Christ is said to have referred to the call of God (Matt. 22: 14) it was to warn aspirants to a place at His wedding feast that many are called but few chosen. And the last time but one that Gods call is mentioned in the New Testament (Rev. 17: 14) shows that those who attain to heavenly fellowship with the Lord are not only called but are also chosen and faithful.
This call is directed first that sinners shall repent (Matt. 9: 13); but that there is no compulsion is seen in the fact that the majority who hear the call do not repent. The call then extends to inviting men to a feast, but here again many make light of it and are accounted unworthy (Matt. 22: 8). Sharing a wedding feast is not equivalent to a criminal escaping the gallows, but is something far beyond it. This privilege also may be forfeited, as Christ showed in the parable. Gods severe complaint against man is I have called, and ye refused (Prov. 1: 24).
3. Foreknew. The call of God was so far from being arbitrary that it was guided by somewhat that He foreknew. What He foreknew is not told here, but the fact shows that His purpose and call follow knowledge on His part.
Some light on the matter is given in connexion with that covenant with Abraham through which all grace flows to Abrahams spiritual descendants (Gen. 15.; Rom. 4: 16-18; Gal. 3.). It is most material that God did not make this covenant with Abraham with a view to him being justified, as Gen. 15: 6 shows. It was with him as justified that the covenant was made. When God renewed His covenant with Isaac He said expressly that He would fulfil its promises because that Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws (Gen. 26: 2-5). This shows something that God had foreknown that Abraham would do and which would justify God in covenanting to bless him.
Scripture knows of no covenant made with the unjustified and unregenerate or with a view to their justification. Nor does Scripture use the term covenant of grace, as if it had been possible, consistently with morality, that God could enter into covenant to bless Abraham irrespective of His foreknowledge and irrespective of the fact that Abraham would keep His commandments. It was truly of grace that He called an idolator into fellowship with Himself, but that grace had to reign through righteousness, not in disregard of whether Abraham would or would not walk righteously.
4. Foreordain (pro-horizo). The root of this word meant chiefly to settle a boundary, as of an estate or a country. Obviously no such boundary was ever unalterable. The word comes in the statement in Acts 17: 26 that God has determined the appointed seasons of the nations and the bounds of their habitation. This settling of the times and areas of nations was not by unchangeable decree, for it allows of the extension of the period of national prosperity if a people repents of sin and its curtailment if they persist in evil. This was declared by God explicitly at the time of mighty international changes forced by the conquests of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Jer. 18: 7-10, and consider Nineveh (Jonah 3: 10; 4: 11).
The word takes on a firmer meaning when applied to other acts of God: the Son of man indeed goeth, as it hath been determined (Luke 22: 22); but even the stupendous matter of the sacrifice of the Son of God as Redeemer did not result from some arbitrary compact between the Father and the Son, but it was by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God that Christ was delivered up.
The same thought is shown in the first place where the compound word used in Romans 8 is found: to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel foreordained to come to pass (Acts 4: 28).
In all the six places where prohorizo comes the R.V. has properly used foreordain. The word predestinate has a harder sound and sense than the Greek word warrants, and there was no justification for it being used in the A.V. If the Translators had considered the passage cited from Isaiah, where God distinctly condemns the notion of destiny, they would have avoided the word and have retained the dominant usage of the earlier English Versions.
In Romans 8: 28, Wyclif had before ordained, and Tyndale ordained before, followed by Cramner and
the Geneva Versions. In verse 29 Tyndale read before
followed by Cramner and
In these places it was the Catholic Version, the Rheims, following the Latin Vulgate, which continued the use of predestinate, and it is regrettable that A.V. turned from the earlier English to follow the Vulgate.
In Eph. 1: 5 Wyclif, Tyndale, and Cramner read having foreordained
us unto adoption as sons. In verse 11 Wyclif had foreordained according
to the purpose of Him who worketh all
things after the counsel of His will, but inconsistently and regrettably
Tyndale turned to the word predestinate and was followed by Cranmer,
It is against Scripture and morality to say that God had determined irreversibly the eternal destiny of any being. He does not cancel but rather respects the grant He made of freedom of will. But He has foreordained the feature that some of the saved should share with Christ in His heavenly kingdom and glory. This, not the question of exemption from deserved perdition, is the matter affected by foreordination. Now a thing which is ordained may be ordained subject to conditions which God, according to His foreknowledge, foresaw would arise and be right. Whereas that which has been fixed as a destiny, and which must therefore come to pass, cannot be affected by any possibility or condition. In this latter case God would have fixed unalterably that certain of the saved shall share the glory of His Son even though in practice they should be beguiled by the Tempter and walk in sin. Thus is the grace that creates the noble prospect made the minister of sin in its subjects. God forbid! Grace must not be turned into lasciviousness.
That which Gods foreknowledge foresaw and which foreordination purposed, is that saints should be conformed to the image of His Son. An image is an external resemblance of some other visible form. Certain of the saved are to live on a new earth (Rev. 21: 1-4, 24, 25), which is lower than being removed to Gods immediate and upper realm. To be outwardly like the glorified body of the Son of God in heaven is far higher than being saved from hell beneath. This supreme dignity the Lord mentioned when He said to the Father, the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given unto them (John 17: 22). Paul refers to it in 1 Cor. 2: 7 above mentioned, and in Col. 3: 4; 1 Thes. 2: 12; 2 Thes. 2: 14; 2Tim. 2: 10; 4: 18. Peter speaks of it in 1 Ep. 5: 10, and John in 1 Ep. 3: 2. The climax is shown in Rev. 21: 10, 11, where the Bride, the wife of the Lamb, has the glory of God.
This unique honour looks beyond the ennobling of the saints to the still higher purpose that the Son shall be the Firstborn among many brethren, as it says at Heb. 2: 10 that God is bringing many sons unto glory.
Nothing more blinding and hurtful can be supposed than the false, yet almost universal teaching that being saved and going to heaven are equivalent terms; for thus the unique privileges of the church of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven (Heb. 12: 23), have been offered as the common, universal, and unforfeitable possessions of all believers, even though they should live as worldlings or lapse into wicked ways.
Those who in His foreknowledge God thus foreordained unto such a heavenly status and glory in His universal kingdom, He in due time called by the gospel. On this see 2 above, and upon these responding to the call in repentance and faith He thereupon
5. Justified them. Their guilt and defilement blocked the way to the realization of Gods purpose, but this obstacle He in grace removed by the atoning death of His Son, so that the righteousness of God thus displayed could be reckoned their property upon faith. And finally, in steadfast pursuance of His royal purpose, those called and justified, He
6. Glorified, that is, by the purpose that they shall share the glory of His exalted Son.
It is to be heavily stressed that each of the chief words of this declaration is in the Greek aorist tense, which regards the whole transaction as accomplished. And accomplished it is in the purpose and willingness of God. From His standpoint He sees it as already done. But this does not warrant the assertion that therefore each and every person involved must inevitably be at last glorified with Christ in heaven. Other Scriptural considerations must have weight.
In the closely preceding context (ver. 17) the apostle has just stated a condition that attaches to being thus a sharer of the glory of Christ: But if children, then heirs, heirs indeed (men) of God, but (de) joint-heirs with Christ, if so be (eiper) that we suffer together that we may be also glorified together. Years later, in his last Epistle (2 Tim. 2: 11-13), he emphasized the same condition, and made his statement the more impressive by saying
Faithful is the word:
For if we died together [with Christ Jesus],
we shall also live together
If we endure,
we shall also reign together
If we shall deny Him,
He also will deny us
If we are faithless,
He abideth faithful
For He cannot deny Himself.
All Scripture agrees, of course, with these unequivocal assertions. So far is this Divine calling from being absolutely guaranteed that Peter, in turn, balances his statement quoted, that the God of all grace has called us unto His eternal [age-lasting] glory in Christ, by the exhortation (2 Ep. 1: 10, 11), Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble : for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal [age-lasting] kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Here the calling is viewed from our side, and what is definite enough on Gods side, has to be made secure on ours, and be made sure by our own works and diligence. Evidently this cannot be applied to justification [by faith], for from this our works are most peremptorily and completely excluded (Rom. 3: 27, 28; Titus 3: 4-6: etc., etc.).
Further, the Lord from heaven, speaking to His people now on earth, refers to the prospect of being His companions in His [millennial] glory, and shows that the same conditions obtain: But thou hast a few names in Sardis which did not defile their garments: and they shall walk [about, i.e. habitually] with Me in white; for they are worthy. The one overcoming shall thus be arrayed in white garments ... and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels, in fulfilment of His promises to this effect (Matt. 10: 32, 33; Luke 12: 8, 9). He cannot go back on His word, whether it be to own us or to deny us, and it is our own conduct toward Him that must determine His attitude and action toward us.
And when at last we are shown in vision the Bride on the bridal day, we are told that, for this supreme occasion, she hath made herself ready. And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright, pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints (Rev. 19: 7, 8). It was given to her, for all is of grace to the defiled, according to the foreknowledge and foreordination of God; but that foreordination included that she should on her part exercise the grace granted to walk with undefiled garments, not to be careless as to this.
The crossing of the Red Sea by Israel, their journey through the desert, their settlement in the land of promise, are used powerfully to instruct and warn [regenerate] Christians, as in 1 Cor. 10, and Heb. 3., 4., and 6. In the song they sang on the resurrection shore of the Sea their future entrance upon their [earthly] inheritance was celebrated in advance as if it had already taken place (Ex. 15: 13-18). There is used a series of past tenses, in exact conformity with the past tenses in Rom. 8: 28, 29, the former instructing us how to understand the latter.
Thou in Thy mercy hast led the people which Thou hast redeemed:
Thou hast guided them in Thy strength to Thy holy habitation.
The peoples have heard, they tremble
Pangs have taken hold on the inhabitants of
Then were the dukes of
The mighty men of
All the inhabitants of
Terror and dread falleth upon them:
By the greatness of Thine arm they are as still as a stone
Till Thy people pass over, 0
Jehovah [i.e. over
Till Thy people pass over which Thou hast gotten.
Thou shall bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance,
The place, 0 Jehovah, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in,
The sanctuary, 0 Jehovah, which Thy hands have established.
Jehovah shall reign for ever and ever.*
* The passage must be read as above from the R.V. The A.V., as often, renders the various tenses irregularly.
In the fact the people had not yet taken a step from the Sea,
the inhabitants of
This is the solemn reality pressed upon us in the New Testament passages mentioned. It is of men redeemed by blood and set free by their baptism in the Sea that the history speaks: it is upon Christians redeemed and baptized into Christ that the warning is pressed.
There is here an example of the feature that, when a purpose of God is viewed from His side, it is declared in terms definite and certain; but when viewed from mans side the uncertain element comes into view. The foreknowledge of God took account of this latter feature and He foreordained accordingly. Fatalism there is none, and the term predestinate goes beyond the truth.
God is able to guard you from stumbling and to set you before the presence of His glory without blemish in exceeding joy (Jude 24); but they only shall not stumble who give the more diligence to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1: 10).
Finally, it should be noted how they are described in whose case all things work together for good. The changed order of the sentence in the R.V. follows the Greek and gives the emphasis intended by the [Holy] Spirit: We know that to them that love God all things work together for good.
Henry Drummonds celebrated paper The Greatest Thing in the World (i.e. love) taught the fatal error that [eternal] salvation depends upon our love, whereas Scripture attaches it to faith. But justification [by faith] and eternal life having been secured by faith, the subsequent privileges of the person thus [eternally] saved depend largely upon love. The [Millennial] Kingdom is promised to them that love God (Jas. 2: 5). Daily enjoyment of the presence and love of the Father and Son is the recompense [or reward] of obedient love (John 14: 21-24), for our love to God consists in and is proved by keeping His commandments (1 John 5: 3).
The believer who can daily face this practical and searching test may rejoice in the assurance that what God in grace has purposed and foreordained will be accomplished and that justification will end in the honour of being conformed in outward glory to the body of Christs glory. For obedient love conforms the inner life to the character of Christ in this life, and upon Christ in His servant the glory of Christ shall be put in that day of glory. Christ alone is worthy of glory, and therefore Christ must be developed in us in order to give us the hope of being glorified, even as it is written Christ in you the hope of glory (Col. 1: 27).
Note. - In the first article in this issue there is mentioned the distinction between children and sons of God. It is purposed to examine this more fully.
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SOME IMPORTANT PASSAGES (10)
1. 1 Chron. 16.
Did this general declension and religious break-up disturb the purposes of God? Not at all. As soon as David had brought the ark to Jerusalem, and had restored in measure the national worship, his prophetic song of thanksgiving (in 1 Chron. 16) returned at once to celebrate the covenant God had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, declaring it to be an everlasting covenant commanded to a thousand generations (15-17), and quoting the Divine promise as to the land of Canaan. Looking to the promise that all the families of the earth shall be blessed the singer calls upon all the peoples to worship Jehovah, and speaks of an era when Jehovah reigns and judges, the world is established immovably, and concludes with a prayer that Israel shall be gathered together and delivered from the nations (28-36). These last conditions have never yet [been] obtained. Are they yet to do so? or is this inspired prayer and prophecy to fail of fulfilment, as some assert?
2. 1 Chron. 17. The answer of God to that prayer is given in the next chapter. David had planned to erect a grand temple, to take the place of the tabernacle. God approved the purpose but said that a son of David should carry it out. But to David He said that He would build him a house, that is, a family line, and make him great. As for Davids people, this significant promise was added: And I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness waste them any more, as at the first ... (9, 10).
These features are renewed from the Abrahamic covenant: (1)
[* That is, for as long as the sun and moon endures.]
It is obvious that neither David, nor Solomon, nor their kingdom continued for ever. Yet God calls it My kingdom. Is this promise to be fulfilled or not?
3. Ps. 89. The covenant was confirmed by the oath of God and its terms were public property. Ethan the Ezrahite recited them in his psalm (19-37), and emphasized (1) the supremacy promised to David over all kings; (2) the certainty and everlastingness of the covenant; (3) the chastisements for failure and disobedience; (4) but My covenant will I not break. Nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by My holiness; I will not lie unto David; his seed shall endure for ever, And his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as the faithful witness in the sky (i.e., the rainbow) (34-37).
Yet in spite of these solemn unequivocal declarations by
Jehovah some ask us to believe that He has altered the thing that has gone out
of His mouth, and that the notion of the throne of David being established for
ever is now wholly ruled out, and that
4. Isaiah 19. But this is the exact
reverse of how Isaiah was enlightened by the Spirit of Christ and inspired to
describe the future of
The future of
In that day shall
of the earth: for that Jehovah of hosts hath blessed them,
saying, Blessed be
my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and
* It is untenable and fanciful to refer
these particulars to the Great Pyramid.
That is not an altar, nor is it a pillar as next mentioned, nor is it at
the border of
It is certain that these three peoples never yet have had such
a triple alliance and been jointly a blessing at the worlds centre. Never yet has
But this will involve similar mangling of the many other prophecies concerning the other lands of the Middle East, for they are all associated with these three both geographically, politically, and in the Divine forecasts of the End Days.
Those who would turn the literal
To the speakers, hearers, and readers of the prophecies the
names used had definite, well-known significance.
This article is taken from the Editors pamphlet - Israels National Future.
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AN IMPORTANT TEXT (11)
Mark 13: 32:-*
* This paper was a contribution to a controversy of over thirty years ago. It has been now curtailed by the omission of a number of quotations.
But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven,
neither the Son, but the Father only. (Matt. 24: 36).
QUOTATIONS FROM DIVINES
It is the glory of God that He subdues evil to promote good: Ye meant evil; but God meant it for good (Gen. 50: 20). Controversy regarding the omniscience of Christ has constrained many to deeper thought and better understanding concerning His Person as the God-man. This is for good; and if thereby any be excited to a more thorough study of the deeper teachings of the Faith in general, further great gain will accrue. Urgent need exists that younger brethren should qualify as teachers, as true doctors of divinity. There is much shallow talking, evidencing a want of careful research; often a dogmatic asserting that texts mean this or that which students know they cannot mean. A late teacher once said to me that the inexact treatment of Holy Scripture he sometimes heard reminded him of the schoolboys answer to the Inspectors question: Who was the most merciful man? - Please, sir, Og, King of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever! (Ps. 136. 20).
In time, and yet more in the eternal kingdom, profound study of
the truth will repay a young man a thousandfold, even if he must for this forgo
special secular studies, degrees, and monetary prospects in this fleeting
world. He will acquire wealthy store of
the true riches, will enrich others, and will count for much in the
But not all can have many books. Hence, for aiding the earnest in a study of Mark 13: 32, I have collected the following (among other) statements by competent divines, all of whom, it will be seen, are upholders of the true doctrine of the proper Godhead and proper humanity of Christ. These will show what various opinions upon the matter of His knowledge in the days of His flesh have been held, and rightly tolerated all through the Christian centuries.
The explanations offered may be thus classified:-
(1) That our Lord really knew the time of His return, but as the teacher He said He did not know, because it was not then the occasion to tell the disciples. (See Wordsworth, Extract 1). Dean Alford describes this not too strongly as an evasion. It comes not far short of imputing to our Lord prevarication.
(2) That in the fact our Lord, in the background of His mind, in the reserves of His knowledge, did know, but that He chose not to bring the information into His conscious mental vision at the moment, and so said He did not know. (See Lange, Extract 2). Stier and others rightly reject this view also. It does not fit Christs plain words, and is too much like Nelson at Copenhagen putting (as is said) his telescope to his blind eye and saying he could not see the senior admirals flag order to retire.
(3) The third opinion is that as God Christ knew, but as Man He did not know. This view commands able and ancient support; see Extracts 3 to 5, especially the last by Liddon. Its difficulties are mainly two: (1) As to the text, our Lord did not say that the Son of Man did not know, but simply the Son, including Himself with men and angels in the contrast with the Father as the only One who knew. (2) Theologically, the explanation (in spite of Liddons efforts) runs near the ancient and fatal error of dividing the personality of Christ into two, of separating the Deity from the Humanity in such degree that He ceases to be one Individual, though with two conjoined natures. Compare Lord Congleton Extract 17.
(4) The only remaining method is to accept the simple sense of Christs statement that, without reservation, He, the Son, did not know that day or hour. This implies a then existing limitation of our Lords knowledge as to that one matter at least. The remainder of the Extracts adopt this view in essence. See, e.g., Moule, Extract 6. Some suggest explanations; some, like Tregelles (Extract 21), leave untouched the question How? while unreservedly accepting the fact.
The Extracts with an asterisk (*) prefixed I have taken from books and have not myself checked.
1. Bishop Wordsworth, Commentary, ed. 6, 1868, pp. 89, 146. Various Latin quotations omitted.
Matt. 24: 36. The Father only knows that day; an assertion which does not exclude the Son of God from that knowledge, as the Agnoeiae imagined. Christ does not know it as Man, and it is not His office to declare it, as Son of God. See on Mark 13: 32.
By saying that the Angels do not know it, He checked the disciples from desiring to know it. He knew that they would be inquisitive concerning it, and restrains their curiosity. The times and seasons are in the Fathers own power, and they are not therefore for the Son to reveal. It is in this sense only that He says they are not known by Him (Chrys. citing Luke 10: 22).
The Arians say, that the Son cannot be equal with the Father, if the Son does not know what the Father knows. To whom we reply that by the Son all things were made (John 1: 3); and therefore all times are made by Him, and all things are delivered to Him of the Father (Matt. 11: 27), and all the treasures of wisdom are hid in Him (Col. 2: 3). And when He says that it is not for His Apostles to know the times and seasons which the Father has put in His own power (Acts 1: 7), He intimates that He Himself knows them; but it is not expedient for the Apostles to know them, in order that, being always uncertain when the judge will come, we may so live every day as if we were to be judged on that day (Jerome, see v. 42).
Mark 13: 32, nor yet the Son. A sentence perverted by the Arians and Agnoetae, affirming that Christs knowledge, not only as Son of Man (cf. Luke 2: 52), but as Son of God, was limited.
The sense appears to be,- The Son, Who is the Eternal Logos, or Word, the Dei Legatus, and so the only Minister and Messenger of Divine Revelation to man, does not know it so as to reveal it to you; it is no part of His Prophetical office to do so.
2. J. P. Lange, D.D., Commentary, vol. iii., 441. (T. & T. Clarke, 1880).
Neither the Son. Athanasius says, Jesus did not know as a human being; Augustine, He did not know it to impart it to His disciples ... We admit that the Son, as God-man, knew not that day in His present daily consciousness, because He willed not to pass beyond the horizon of His daily task to reflect upon that day; because He preferred, accordingly, the encircling horizon of His holy, energetic observation and knowledge, which widened from day to day, to a discursive, pedantic polyhistory, or supernatural pretention of knowing everything, the sombre opposite of dynamic omniscience. Self-limitation in the knowledge of all chronological, geographical, and similar matters is quite different from limitation of Jesus omniscience, arising from the union of His divine and human natures.
Vol. ii., 370: Knoweth no man but the Father only. This excludes the Son also (Mark 13: 32) whose not knowing Lange regards as a sacred willing not to know (Meyer). Sartorius has rightly understood and explained this. The Son would not prematurely reflect upon that point as a chronological point of time, and the Church in that should imitate Him.
3. Bishop Harold Browne, Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, III.
It has been seen that in His human nature our Lord was capable of knowledge and ignorance. He was perfect Man as well as perfect God, and He grew in Wisdom as well as in stature (Luke 2: 52). In that nature, then, in which He was capable of ignorance, He, when He was on earth, knew not the coming of the day of God. Though He is Himself to come; yet as Man He knew not the day of His coming. This is indeed a great mystery, that that Manhood, which is taken into one Person with the Godhead of the Son, should be capable of not knowing everything, seeing that God the Son is omniscient. But it is scarcely more inexplicable than that God the Son in His Manhood should be weak, passible, and mortal, who in His Godhead is omnipotent, impassible, and immortal. If we believe the one we can admit the other.
4. Blomfield, Commentary on Matt. 24: 36.
That the Son should not know the precise time of the destruction of Jerusalem, or of the end of the world, ought not to be drawn as an argument to prove the mere humanity of Christ; the expression having reference solely to His human nature, since, though, as Son of God He was omniscient, as Son of Man He was not so. See Calvin, and Smiths Scrip. Test., iii., 331, et seq.
5. Canon Liddon, The Diviniy of our Lord, 458, et seq.
But it may be pleaded that our Lord, in declaring His ignorance of the day of the last judgment, does positively assign a specified limit to the knowledge actually possessed by His human soul during His ministry. Of that day, He says, and that hour knoweth no man, no not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
If these words, you urge, do not refer to His ignorance as God, they must refer to His
ignorance in the only other possible sense, that is, to say, to His ignorance
Of what nature, then, is the ignorance to which our Lord alludes in this much-controverted text? Is it a real matter-of-fact ignorance, or is it an ignorance which is only ideal and hypothetical? Is it an ignorance to which man, as man, is naturally subject, but to which the soul of Christ, the Perfect Man, was not subject, since His human intelligence was always illuminated by an infused omniscience? or is it an economical as distinct from a real ignorance? Is it the ignorance of the teacher, who withholds from his disciples a knowledge which he actually possesses, but which it is not for their advantage to acquire? or is it the ignorance which is compatible with implicit knowledge? Does Christ implicitly know the date of the day of judgment, yet, that He may rebuke the forwardness of His disciples, does He refrain from contemplating that which is potentially within the range of His mental vision? Is He deliberately turning away His gaze from the secrets which are open to it, and which a coarse, earthly curiosity could have greedily and quickly investigated?
With our eye upon the literal meaning of our Lord's words,
must we not hesitate to accept any of these explanations? It is indeed true that to many very
thoughtful and saintly minds, the words, neither the Son, have not appeared
to imply any ignorance in the Son, even as
At any rate, you rejoin, if our Lords words are to be taken literally, if they are held to mean that the knowledge of His human soul is in any degree limited, are we not in danger of Nestorian error.* Does not this conjunction of knowledge and ignorance in one Person, and with respect to a single subject, dissolve the unity of the God-man? Is not this intellectual dualism inconsistent with any conception we can form of a single personality?...
* Nestorius (early century 4) taught that Christ had two separate personalities, the divine and the human, with a single consciousness, instead of the orthodox doctrine of one Person with two natures.
The question to be considered, my brethren, is whether such an objection has not a wider scope than you intend. Is it not equally valid against other and undisputed contrasts between the Divine and Human natures of the Incarnate Son? For example, as God, Christ is omnipresent; as Man, He is present at a particular point in space. Do you say that this, however mysterious, is more conceivable than the co-existence of ignorance and knowledge with respect to a single subject in a single personality? Let me then ask whether this co-existence of ignorance and knowledge, is more mysterious than the co-existence of absolute blessedness and intense suffering? ... If Jesus, as Man, did not enjoy the Divine attribute of perfect blessedness, yet without prejudice to His full possession of it, as God; why could He not, in like manner, as Man, be without the Divine attribute of perfect knowledge? If as He knelt in Gethsemane, He was in one sphere of existence All-blessed, and in another sore amazed, very heavy, sorrowful even unto death; might He not in equal truth be in one Omniscient, and in the other subject to limitations of knowledge?...
No such limitation, we may be sure, can interfere with the completeness of His redemptive office. It cannot be supposed to involve any ignorance of that which the Teacher and Saviour of mankind should know; while yet it sufficies to place Him as Man with a perfect sympathy with the actual conditions of the mental life of His brethren.
If then this limitation of our Lords human knowledge be admitted, to what does the admission lead? It leads, properly speaking, to nothing beyond itself. It amounts to this: that at the particular time of His speaking the Human Soul of Christ was restricted as to Its range of knowledge in one particular direction.
For it is certain from Scripture that our Lord was constantly giving proofs, during His earthly life, of an altogether superhuman range of knowledge...
If that statement [respecting the day of judgment] be construed literally, it manifestly describes, not the normal condition of His Human Intelligence, but an exceptional restriction. For the Gospel history implies that the knowledge infused into the human soul of Jesus was ordinarily and practically equivalent to omniscience...
If then His Human Intellect, flooded as it was by the infusion of boundless light streaming from His Deity, was denied, at a particular time, knowledge of the date of a particular future event, this may well be compared with that deprivation of the consolations of Deity, to which His Human Affections and Will were exposed when He hung dying on the Cross...
We may not attempt rashly to specify the exact motive which may have determined our Lord to deny to His human soul at one particular date the point of knowledge here in question; although we may presume generally that it was a part of that condescending love which led Him to become in all things like unto His brethren. That He was ever completely ignorant of ought else, or that He was ignorant on this point at any other time, are inferences for which we have no warrant, and which we make at our peril.
Note to p. 469: If a human teacher were to decline to speak on a given subject, by saying that he did not know enough about it, this would not be a reason for disbelieving him when he proceeded to speak confidently on a totally distinct subject, thereby at least implying that he did know enough to warrant his speaking. On the contrary, his silence in the one case would be a reason for trusting his statements in the other.
6. Bishop Handley Moule, Outlines of Christian Doctrine, The Doctrine of the Son, 63.
(8) We read in the phenomena of the Gospels the truth that our Incarnate Lord, whatever the conditions of His humiliation, still was always God as truly as Man, and Man as truly as God. Real temptations, real hunger, thirst, and surprise, leave Him still able to offer rest to all the weary of mankind; to assert His own eternity and His eternal being in heaven (John 3: 13); to exercise omniscience as far as He wills.* In Him full Godhead and full Manhood were always present, in harmony.
* Mark 13: 32 is quoted as invalidating His perfect knowledge. It no doubt limits His knowledge on that one point. But the very phrase from His lips looks like an implicit claim to knowledge otherwise complete. And the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship, in the Gospels, makes it surely inconceivable that even that limitation of conscious knowledge should be imposed on the Son because of limitation of capacity. It was for unknown purposes of dispensation; and it was the one thing of the kind. The Christian who deals eclectically with any positive statement of His, about fact as well as about principle, is on very dangerous ground indeed.
As regards Luke 2: 52, the increase in wisdom no more implies stages of defective wisdom than the increase in favour with God implies stages of defective favour. What is implied is developed application to developed subject matter. Compare by all means Liddon, Bampton Lectures, Lect. viii.
7. Dean Alford, Commentary, vol. i., ed. 6.
P. 245, on Matt. 24: 36: The very important addition to this verse in Mark, and in some ancient MSS. here, neither the Son, is indeed included in but My Father only, but could hardly have been inferred from it, had it not been expressly stated: Ch. 20: 23. All attempts to soften or explain away this weighty truth must be resisted; it will not do to say with some Commentators, nescit ea nobis [that is, His knowledge is not our concern], which, however well meant, is a mere evasion:- in the course of humiliation undertaken by the Son, in which He increased in wisdom (Luke 2: 52), learned obedience (Heb. 5: 8), uttered desires in prayer (Luke 6: 12, etc.) - this matter was hidden from Him: and as I have already remarked, this is carefully to be borne in mind, in explaining the prophecy before us.
P. 409, on Mark 13: 32: This is, one of those things which the Father hath put in His own power (Acts 1: 7), and with which the Son, in His mediatorial office, is not acquainted: see on Matt. We must not deal unfaithfully with a plain and solemn assertion of our Lord (and what can be more so than neither the Son, in which by the neither He is not below but above the angels?) by such evasions as He does not know it so as to reveal it to us (Wordsworth) ... Of such a sense there is not a hint in the context; nay, it is altogether alien from it. The account given by the orthodox Lutherans, as represented by Meyer, that our Lord knew this kata kteesin [that is, as regards right of possession], but not kata chreesin [that is, as a matter of use], is right enough if at the same time it is carefully remembered that it was this ... kteesis of which He emptied Himself when He became Man for us, and which it belongs to the very essence of His mediatorial kingdom to hold in subjection to the Father.
8. Calvin, Commentary, iii., 153 (ed. Calv. Transn. Socy., 1846).
I have no doubt that He refers to His office appointed to Him by the Father, as in a former instance, when He said that it did not belong to Him to place this or that person at His right or left hand (Matt. 20: 23; Mark 10: 40). For (as I explained under that passage) He did not absolutely say that this was not in His power, but the meaning was that He had not been sent by the Father with this commission, so long as He lived among mortals. So now I understand that, so far as He had come down to us to be mediator, until He had fully discharged His office, that information was not given to Him which He received after His resurrection; for then He expressly declared that power over all things had been given to Him (Matt. 28: 18).
9. Neander, Life of Christ, V6 (ed. Bohn, 1869).
Christ Himself says (Matt. 24: 36; Mark 13: 32) that the day and hour of the final decision are known only to the counsels of the Father, and, as it would be trifling to refer this to the precise day and hour, rather than to the time in general, it could not have been His purpose to give definite information on the subject. To know the time pre-supposed a knowledge of the hidden causes of events, of the actions and reactions of free beings, a prescience which none but the Father could have; unless we suppose, what Christ expressly denies, that He had received it by a special Divine revelation. Not that He could err, but that His knowledge was conscious of its limits; although He knew the progress of events, and saw the slow course of their development, as no mortal could.
10. J. A. Bengel, Gnomon, I, 562, 563, (ed. Clarke, 1877).
Mark 13: 32, neither the Son ... Moreover, both in the twelfth year of His age and subsequently, Jesus increased in wisdom (Luke 2: 52): and the accessions of wisdom which He then gained, He had not had before. Since this was not unworthy of Him, it was also not even necessary for Him in teaching to know already at that time the one secret reserved to the Father.
11. Rudolf Stier, Dr. Theol., The Words of the Lord Jesus, III., 295-297 (Clarke, 1856).
Matt. 24: 36: Christ having come thus far, now in the first place again connects together the last day of His coming with that announced at ver. 30, comprising them in the one that day, and assures us that His people shall indeed perceive the being near at the doors, but that the exact determination of the time (for this is what is meant by and hour) is and remains what the Father alone reserves for Himself. Not even the decree of the watchers in heaven (Dan. 4: 10, 17), who know of many a time and hour, knows this day, but the Father alone, in the reserved, eternal decree: what a word against all such apocalyptic curiosity as degenerates into special reckonings of time! ... The Son also knew not - He said of so important a thing as this: I also know it not...
He does not say: This I have not to tell you, I know it not for you - but the Son knows it not, thus He speaks of Himself simply as of the Father and the angels. Here again to have recourse to the artificial distinction that as man He knew it not, although as God He knew it - such knowing and not knowing at the same time, severs the unity of the God-human person, and is impossible in the Son of Man, who is the Son indeed, but emptied of His glory.
12. *Dean Plumptre, Ellicotts Commentary. The Four Gospels, 226, in loco.
The passage indicates the self-imposed limitation of the
divine attributes which had belonged to our Lord, as the eternal Son, and the
acquiescence in a power and knowledge which, like that of the human nature
which He assumed, was derived and therefore finite. Such a limitation is implied by
13. Bishop Pearson, Exposition
of the Creed. (
... Jesus increased in wisdom and stature (Luke 2: 52) one in respect of His body, the other of His soul. Wisdom belongeth not to the flesh, nor can the knowledge of God, which is infinite, increase: he then whose knowledge did improve together with his years, must have a subject proper for it, which was no other than a human soul. This was the seat of his finite understanding and directed will ... (Vol. i, page 285).
14. Dr. A. T. Pierson, Many Infallible Proofs.
God is omnipresent; yet here is God submitting to the laws and limits of a human body, which can occupy but one space at any one time, and must, by the law of locomotion, take time for a transfer from place to place. God is omniscient; yet here is a being claiming equality with Jehovah, yet affirming there are some things which as man, and even as Messiah, He knows not. God is omnipotent, yet the God-man says He can do nothing of himself, and that it is God dwelling in Him that doeth the works (P. 236).
He emptied Himself of His divine glory, and laid His divine attributes, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, under temporary, voluntary limitations; it was part of His humiliation that He condescended to human infirmities, to accept as His lot human want and woe, so far as consistent for a sinless man (P. 246).
15. *Canon Nolloth, Person of our Lord (Macmillan & Co.), 1908.
If we find that our Lord does not know something, it is not for us to suggest that, in a sense, He does know it, because the theory which we have adopted regarding His knowledge seems to require some such Vermittlungs-hypothese [mediating (or accommodating) hypothesis]. Any view of His Person which can only be consistently maintained by the omission or neglect of something which is authentically reported of Him, stands self-condemned. It is not the Gospel view.
Two facts come out clearly in the Synoptic narrative.
Our Lords knowledge is infallible, unerring. But it is limited. There is no contradiction in these two statements. To be infallible and incapable of error is not the same thing as to be omniscient...
But a knowledge which requires no correction within its own province, which is perfect so far as it goes, is not necessarily encyclopaedic...
His knowledge was, in certain departments, acquired which means that it was not at one time what it afterwards became. St. Luke expressly and repeatedly mentions this in his Gospel of the Childhood : " Jesus increased in wisdom and stature." Therefore, at one period of His life our Lord's knowledge was inferior to what it was at a later period. To that extent He was at one time ignorant.
Then there is our Lords own statement of a limitation of His knowledge: But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Here our Lord states that, on a matter of first importance, the date of the judgment at which He Himself will act as judge, He Himself was in ignorance. The Son is used in its absolute sense, as in St. Matthew 11: 27, and is set over against the Father. It would therefore be untrue to the meaning of the passage to say that our Lord is here speaking simply of His human consciousness - that as Man, He does not know that of which, as the Eternal Son, He is cognisant: for it is as the Son that this particular piece of knowledge is withheld from Him (pp. 179-180.
16. * C. J. Ellicott, Commentary (Cassell & Co.), on Matt. 24 and Mark 13.
It is obviously doing violence to the plain meaning of the words to dilute them into the statement that the Son of Man did not communicate the knowledge which He possessed as Son of God ... the Eternal Word in becoming flesh emptied Himself of the infinity which belongs to the divine attributes, and took upon Him the limitations necessarily incidental to mans nature, etc., etc. (P. 150).
Also on Luke 2: The soul of Jesus was human, i.e., subject to the conditions and limitations of human knowledge, and learnt as others learn (P. 257) ... with Him as with others, wisdom widened with the years, and came into His human soul ... as into the souls of others (P. 259).
17. *Lord Congleton, in letters to H. W. Soltau in 1864.
All knowledge belonged to Him as God. But He testified of Himself that He did not know of that day and that hour, etc. (Mark 13: 32). Thus it appears that He had emptied Himself of His knowledge.
All power belonged to Him as the Son Almighty, even as to the Father, Who is almighty. But He says concerning His miraculous works, The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works (John 14. 10). Thus it would appear that He had emptied Himself of His almighty power as well as of His freedom from weakness and suffering ...
It is also true that, whilst He had thus emptied Himself, He was mightily filled by Gods Spirit, and that God wrought mightily by Him (Acts 10: 38; 2: 22). This only confirms the fact that in taking the form of a Servant He had emptied Himself. Indeed, so true is the fact of His emptying Himself, that it stands good even when He is risen from the dead ... We are told that God hath made that same Jesus Whom ye crucified both Lord and Christ (Acts 2: 36); also that God hath highly exalted Him (Phil. 2: 9), and He testifies that all power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28: 18). But that is not all; we are told Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him (1 Cor. 15: 28). Thus even at that time He will be manifested as One that has emptied Himself ...
We both reject that mode of explaining those passages whereby it is said that this was true of Him in His human nature and that in His divine ... Except Jesus was a real Man, leading the life of dependence here, thus distinguished from other men ... He was no example to His dependent disciples. And except the Risen Jesus, Who has ascended to His God, is a real Man and a dependent Man, possessed indeed of Lordship (for He has been made Lord), possessed also of all power in heaven and on earth (for the same have been given Him)...
Now, if anybody should say to me Dont you know that He was God as well as Man, and therefore, though it is true He was crucified through weakness, and felt weakness, He at the same time was strong and felt strong, I can only say it is a contradiction and I dont believe it; no more does anybody else, for nobody can believe contradictions.
18*. H. W. Soltau in letter to Congleton, 1864.
I believe He is emphatically God; and that He is emphatically Man. But I equally believe that He is a person, who always acts as a person, and never acts in a separate nature...
So that I cannot say that He acted or thought as God, or that
He acted or thought as
I hold the perfect subjection of the Son to the Father, and His perfect dependence on Him. Neither do I believe that He ever put forth His own power as God, but in subjection to, and in dependence on His Father ; and that He wrought His miracles and spoke His words by the power of the Holy Ghost...
19.W. Kelly, in Bible Treasury, June 1865, P. 284;
afterwards re-published by him in Lectures on Philippians.
No matter who or what it was, you have in the Lord Jesus this perfect subjection and self-abnegation, and this, too, in the only person that never had a will to sin, whose will cared not for its own way in anything. He was the only man that never used His own will; His will as man was unreservedly in subjection to God. But we find another thing. He emptied Himself of His deity when He took the form of a servant.
*William Kelly, Lectures Introductory to the Gospels, 229.
The reason of this peculiar, and at first sight perplexing expression seems to me to be, that Christ so thoroughly takes the place of One Who confines Himself to what God gave to Him, of One so, perfectly a minister - not a master, in this point of view - that, even in relation to the future, He knows and gives out to others only what God gives Him for the purpose. As God says nothing about the day and the hour, He knows no more.
20*. J. N. Darby, Words of Faith and of Good Doctrine.
No. 13. The Deity of Jesus Christ. ... As a Person He emptied Himself. He could not have done so save as God. A creature who leaves his first estate sins therein. The Sovereign Lord can descend in grace. In Him it is Love. Then, as in that position, He receives all. All the words He has are given to Him. He is, though unchangeable in nature as God, yet in His path a dependent man. He lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God - is sealed by the Father; the glory He had before the world is now given Him of the Father. Now in this state of obedient servant, with a revelation which God gave to Him, the day and hour of His judicial action was not revealed (Mark 13: 32) (P. 52).
21. S. P. Tregelles, LL.D., Three Letters, 55, 56.
As to verse 67 [of Psalm 119: Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I have kept thy word], the difficulty [as to applying it to Christ] was removed when I saw how Jerome had rendered the passage 1,400 years ago; his knowledge of Hebrew was respectable, and he did not differ from the Old Latin version of the Psalms (still retained in the Vulgate) without having a reason for so doing. He renders the verse: Antiquam audirem ego ignoravi: nunc autem eloquium tuum cusiodivi. I was ignorant, or uninstructed, instead of I went astray. This appears philogically to be the meaning of the verb; all thought of wandering seems to be secondary. No one who believes in the humanity of our Lord can feel difficulty in this: He had a finite mind and directed will (Bishop Pearson); He was instructed by God. How He could be the omniscient God, and at the same time the one who could say, Of that hour knoweth not the Son, I neither wish nor attempt to explain; I only bow to the testimony of the Spirit concerning Him Who is very God, equal with the Father, and very man even as we are men. He was instructed; He prayed to the Father, and He was guided; He grew in wisdom; the New Testament reveals all this, and much more, to us.
22. Professor James Orr, D.D., Sidelights on Christian Doctrine, 117-122.
Every view of Jesus which detracts from the entire reality of His humanity-whether by pronouncing it a semblance (thus the Gnostics), or by saying that the Divine Logos took the place of the rational soul in Jesus (Apollinaris), or by denying the reality of Christs human development, and His voluntary assumption of human limitations - is shown by the facts of the Gospel history to be in error...
He, the Son of God, took upon Him the form of a servant, and voluntarily renouncing all pre-prerogatives of Godhead, submitted to poverty, suffering, rejection, ignominious death. In this, surely, there is kenosis enough to satisfy the most exacting ...
Let it be granted that, in His earthly state, Jesus submitted to such limitations as a true manhood imposed upon Him. He neither claimed nor exercised, as a man, an absolute omniscience in matters of natural or of even divine knowledge. No one imagines that Jesus carried with Him through life, from manger to cross, in His human consciousness (nothing is said here of His divine), a knowledge, e.g., of all modern sciences - astronomy, geology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and the like. Such things were foreign to His calling; He had no need of them, else they would have been given Him. On divine things, such, e.g., as the time of the Advent, He distinguishes between His own knowledge and that of the Father, who had set the times and the seasons within His own authority (Acts 1: 7), and says expressly; Of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father (Mark 13: 32). It is, however, a very wide and unwarrantable inference to draw from this that on the things on which Christ did pronounce, His mind was in error. The conclusion to be deduced is rather the opposite. If Jesus had not the knowledge of the day and hour of the end, He said so, and gave no utterance on the subject. He was conscious of what He knew, and of what it was not given Him to know. Within His knowledge He spoke; on what lay beyond He was silent. In what He did say His utterances were authoritative ...
It means that Christs consciousness moved in a sphere of revelation as in its natural environment. There are other sayings that might be recalled, as, He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: For He giveth not the Spirit by measure [unto Him]. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand (John 3: 34, 35). Does this leave room at any point for error in Christs consciousness? Finally, it is never to be forgotten that, while the Son submits to the conditions of humanity, it is still the Son of God who so submits, and behind all human conditionings are still present the undiminished resources of the Godhead. Omniscience, omnipotence, all other divine attributes, are there, though not drawn upon, save as the Father willed them to be.
23. W. E. Vine, M.A. (The Witness, July, 1925).
He could and did restrict the use of His Divine attributes. He allowed His captors to bind Him after the display of His Divine power in prostrating them with His word. He subjected Himself to human violence and indignity. He permitted those who had charge of His crucifixion to carry out their deed. He was crucified through weakness (2 Cor. 13: 4), not through helplessness, nor through weakness caused by maltreatment, but by the voluntary suspension of His essential power as the Son of God. ...
The restrictions He imposed on Himself are consistent with His true Manhood. ... His death could not have been the death of a mere man. It is useless to argue that God cannot die and therefore Christ was not God. He who was God could become also Man in order to die, and this He did. His death was the supernatural death of One who was both Man and God.
As with His Divine power, so with His Divine knowledge, referring to His Second Advent, He said, But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father (Mark 13: 32)...
The Scriptures plainly teach, then, both that the Lord divinely imposed limitations upon Himself, and that He sat as a scholar in the Father's school and learned from Him His daily will. It was of Christ that Isaiah wrote: The Lord God hath given me the tongue of them that are taught ... He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as they that are taught (Isa. 50: 4, 5). ...
All such instances, while evidences of the true humanity of our Lord, are at the same time to be regarded in the light of His essential Deity. Not that the attributes of the Divine were communicated to the human nature; the Lord's acts were those of One Who was in possession of both natures. He never acted at one time as man and at another time as God. The two natures were, and are, perfectly and inseparately combined in Him. The restrictions He imposed upon Himself illustrate then the Apostles statement that Christ emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant. They reveal the essential reality of His Servant character, and only so can they be rightly considered. They are not matters of mere Christology.
The whole subject may be summarized in the following statements of a renowned orthodox German divine of the last century:
24. F. W. Krummacher, D.D., The Suffering Saviour,
The self-renunciation of the Eternal Son consisted essentially in this, that during His sojourn on earth, He divested Himself of the unlimited use of all His divine attributes, and [in] leaving that eternity, which is above time and space, in order that He might tread the path of the obedience of faith, like ourselves, and perfect Himself in it as our Head, High Priest, and Mediator. As the Servant of Jehovah, which title is applied to Him in the Old Testament, it was His part to serve, not to command; to learn subjection, not to rule; to struggle and strive, but not to reign in proud repose above the reach of conflict. How could this have been possible for one who was Gods equal, without this limitation of Himself? All His conflicts and trials would then have been only imaginary and not real. He did not for a moment cease to be really God, and in the full possession of every divine perfection: but He abstained from the exercise of them, so far as it was not permitted by His heavenly Father.
* * *
AN IMPORTANT TEXT (12)
Acts 1: 21, 22:-
Of the men therefore who have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus
went in and went out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto
the day that He was received up from us, of these must one become
a witness with us of His resurrection.
Since it must ever remain matter of mere opinion it is to little profit to discuss whether Peter had the mind of the Lord in proposing the election of a new apostle. It is much more to the purpose to ponder the rich practical instruction his remarks contain. Here is an instance of how valuable teaching was given incidentally to the main matter in hand.
1. The dominant note of apostolic testimony was to the fact of the resurrection of Christ: a witness with us of His resurrection. His life as a man was material to the testimony; His atoning death was essential; but the fact that God had raised Him from the dead and given Him glory dominated the Christian message. Without this act of the Father all preceding earthly experiences of the Son would have been to no purpose, as regards our salvation and also the plans of God.
This assertion of the resurrection of a man, and his ascension to heaven, was so stupendous, so unprecedented, that it demanded the conjoint testimony of many witnesses to compel, yea to justify, men in accepting it: the new witness must unite with us in asserting the fact. This united testimony Paul stressed in 1 Cor. 15: 4-8.
2. The qualification, therefore, of such a witness was that lie had moved personally in the circle of those who had surrounded the Lord on earth: he companied with us all the time of Christs public life. It implied a capacity for steady intercourse with others in the path of discipleship. One task to which the Lord had ever and anon to return was to keep the peace among His followers. It was needful that they present to the world an united front and united witness: By this shall all men know that ye are disciples to Me, if ye have love one to another (John 13: 35). Men could be disciples of other Teachers without the necessity of loving one another.
3. The limit of time of that intercourse with the Lord was strictly defined. It commenced with the baptismal ministry of John the Baptist and extended to the ascension of Christ. Of the Lords life prior to His baptism the inspired histories tell nothing beyond one incident in His boyhood, with the general feature that He was obedient to His parents (Luke 2: 40-52). Like all the silences of Scripture this is instructive. It throws full emphasis upon His public career, and this commenced with the work of John, as fore-runner, drawing the attention of the crowds to Jesus as the Lamb of God who should take away sin and baptize His people in the Spirit of fire and power. As to those many hidden years it was enough that, as the Son emerged from their obscurity into the glare of publicity, the Father had declared from heaven by an audible voice that He was well-pleased with Him.
It had been well indeed if expounders of Scripture had
observed this divine emphasis upon the ministry of John the Baptist. Not
Paul emphasized the distinction between the law and the gospel by assuring men that through Jesus they could, by faith, obtain complete justification from all offences, whereas under the law of Moses only partial justification was provided, there being a great number of major offences for which the law allowed no atonement or pardon. Now this sending by God of a Saviour Paul associated with Johns ministry, saying John had first preached before the face of His entering in [that is, immediately before His public appearance] the baptism of repentance (Acts 13: 38, 39, 23-25).
This good news for all men Mark describes as the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1: 1). Plainly this is the Christian message, for the fact that Christ is the Son of God is the rock on which the church is built (Matt. 16: 16-18). What, now, is the beginning of this gospel? Mark at once adds that, in fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah, John came preaching in the wilderness the baptism of repentance unto [with a view to] the remission of sins (Mark 1: 1-4).
Speaking to a company of Gentiles concerning the good tidings of peace by Jesus Christ, Peter told them that this message followed directly upon the baptism which John preached (Acts 10: 36 ff.).
It is the same in the Gospel of John. Having spoken of the Word who was God, the Creator, the life, the light that was to shine in this dark world of mankind, John at once adds that There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John, sent to bear witness to that heavenly Light (John 1: 1-8).
Therefore Peter stated, what all apostolic preachers supported, that the message the apostolic witnesses were to spread had John's ministry as its starting point and the ascension of Christ as its culmination. Dispensational doctrine which differs from this is, in this difference, not apostolic.
4. The facts that Christ was raised from the dead and received up in glory are of necessity the permanent essence of the saving Christian message. But how was this witness to be perpetuated seeing that those early personal witnesses soon passed off the scene? It is momentous that those first preachers did more than point out that the Old Testament had foretold the resurrection of Messiah. They did this with emphasis (Acts 2: 22-31; 13: 34-37). But this fact did not by itself justify their Christian message. They had to show by personal testimony that this prophetic announcement had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, who therefore was the aforesaid Messiah. In like manner we of to-day must point out to men that the Old Testament foretold that Christ would suffer and then, by resurrection and ascension, enter into His glory (Luke 24: 25, 26); and we can add that the New Testament gives the testimony of eye-witnesses that this was fulfilled in Jesus. But this is only to declare that the Book asserts it, and is not the same as a personal testimony to the fact. How, then, can I to-day give this personal witness to the fact that Christ is alive, so that the Book declares verifiable fact?
For this I, like the apostles, must have the Lord Jesus going in and going out with me in daily affairs, made to my heart a personal reality by the ministry of the Spirit. Not all who believed on Him in those days of His flesh were prepared to take Him as their Leader and heavenly Companion. It meant the renunciation of everything unsuitable to Him. Those to-day who are sincerely ready for His daily presence and control will be given plain tokens that He is alive and is all that Scripture offers to the disciple. Thus these can give a personal witness to His resurrection and His fidelity to His promises. They can tell from experience that He is with them, they can narrate how He answers their requests and controls their affairs; they can thus testify that the records of the Book are being verified in their experience. Others may believe on Him, or may even tell others what Scripture says about Him; but this is not the same as to be a witness to His resurrection, for it is the essence of a witness that he must talk of that which is within his personal knowledge. It was an apostolic witness who said, we cannot but speak the things which we saw and heard (Acts 4: 20).
5. By a very striking expression Peter reveals the chief and essential condition of this constant intercourse with the Lord in every day life. He said that the Lord Jesus went in and went out [not among us, as the English versions] but over us, as R.V. margin following the Greek (eph hemas. Luke 1: 33; Rom. 5: 14; Heb. 3: 6; Rev. 9: 11). The Gospels show the Lord as regularly taking the initiative in the movements and activities of His disciples. He was the Good Shepherd going before His sheep (John 10: 4). He was the Leader, and they the followers. As long as this relation was maintained all went well for the sheep, for the disciples. But the narratives silently indicate occasions when the disciples took the initiative, and every time they did so they blundered. For example:
Mark 8: 32, 33: Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him ... He rebuked Peter.
Mark 9: 38, 39: We forbad him ... but Jesus said, Forbid him not.
Luke 9: 54, 55: Wilt thou that we bid fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?
But he turned and rebuked them.
Let us search and try our ways. How often we form our own plans, and then ask the Lord to grant His favour. The place we choose to live; the calling we decide to follow; how and for what ends we train our children; where we will spend our holiday; to what church we will belong; what branch of Christian work we will undertake, if any - these are merely illustrations of the many matters as to which too often we do not wait quietly for the Lord to order but in which we take the initiative. Or again, the church thinks well to have a mission. It decides the time, and the duration; chooses the missioner; makes needful arrangements; and then holds a prayer meeting or two to ask God to endorse these their own plans. Or a chapel needs a minister. It invites various preachers to visit them on trial, and presently selects the one they like best. Or the travelling preacher books his visits as far ahead as he gets invitations, without distinct indications from his Master upon the disposal of his time. The invitation gives a date or dates, his diary shows he is free, and he books the engagement.
Let the individual, let the church, reverently give to the Lord
His one true place, as Head, as LORD; let
them wait for Him to move first, to indicate His plan and will; to allow Him to
be Lord over all, and it will be found that He is indeed and in truth over all, God
blessed for ever (Rom. 9: 5).
For His Spirit is on earth expressly to glorify Christ and enable us to
be witnesses to Him, making effective our witness by His co-witness, on the
very ground that we have been with Him, have habitually companied with Him as
obedient followers (John 15: 26, 27). Such
fellowship with the Holy One demands clean feet (John
13: 8: If I wash thee not, thou hast no part
with Me). Such purity of walk
now assures companionship with Him in His glory: Thou hast a few names in
* * *
AN IMPORTANT TEXT (13. part 2)
PREVAIL TO ESCAPE
Luke 21: 34-36:-
But take heed to yourselves, lest haply your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting,
and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that day come on you suddenly
as a snare: for so shall it come upon all them that dwell on the face
of all the earth. But watch ye at every season, making
supplication, that ye may PREVAIL TO ESCAPE
all these things that shall come to pass, and to
stand before the Son of man.
1. These things that
shall come to pass.
report of this utterance of our Lord found in Matt. 24: 3 shows that He was answering the
question by four apostles, What shall be the sign of Thy presence and
consummation of the age? He had just announced
He had just spoken of the demolition of the grand temple upon which they were then looking and they supposed that that overthrow would be directly before His parousia. He guarded against this notion by saying that the end is not yet, not immediately (Matt. 24: 6; Luke 21: 9). Many false prophets would attempt to mislead them upon this point, which has had fulfilment all through this age. This distinct warning ought to have forbidden the idea that the apostles expected a speedy return of Christ. Only a few weeks later they were told that Peter (one of the four now questioning the Lord, Mark 13: 3), would live to be an old man and then die by violence (John 21: 18-23).
Wars would occur but would not by themselves indicate His
return. There would have to be seen a conjunction
of wars, earthquakes, pestilences, and also preternatural terrors and
great signs from heaven. Only this conjunction of such
events would announce His return, and bring the hour when He would
be seen coming in a cloud with power and great glory, assuring them that their
deliverance had at last drawn nigh (25-28).
Prior to this there would immediately precede two principal matters: (1)
universal persecution of His followers (12-19), and (2)
That this desolation did not point to A.D. 70 and the destruction by Titus (as did verse 6) is clear.
(a) Zechariah 12-14 tells of the capture of the city, its being sacked, and half of
the inhabitants being carried thence into captivity. These details Jesus repeated (20-24).
The prophet put these events forward to a specific time when Jehovah
should descend to Olivet, deliver
Therefore Christ said that by the events in question all things which are
written shall be fulfilled. This did not become so
in A.D. 7o nor since. Much foretold
(b) The Lord put these things at a time which would
see the close of the times of the Gentiles. Those times, those allotted periods, set in
(c) During the period of this desolation of
the holy city it shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, which shall continue
without break until that conclusion of Gentile times and rulers:
Therefore the things that
shall come to pass are to occur at the time when the
That short period the Lord described as utterly unexampled for
horror: there will have been nothing like it, there shall be nothing thereafter
like it (Matt. 24: 20-23). He was
repeating the angelic announcement to Daniel as to that time of trouble (Dan. 12:
1), which placed
it at the era of the deliverance of
There is no good ground for the common opinion that the church
that would be at
2. The Escape. From the foregoing considerations it follows that disciples of Christ will be on earth at the epoch in question, exposed to the perils and terrors of that final crisis of this age and of all the ages. But the Lord announced that escape would be possible from all these things of which He had been speaking: that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass (ver. 36). Here divergent views exist as to the method of this escape. Some say that fulfilment will require the bodily removal from earth of those who are to escape: others, that the meaning is that they will be granted such inward grace as to resist the spiritual perils and endure faithfully to the coming of the Lord. Much depends upon the true meaning of the word escape (ekpheugo), which we shall now examine.
(1) Common Greek. The root of the word is pheugo, the meaning of which is simply to flee, as from servitude, justice, or to abandon ones native land. So Matt. 3: 7: who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Mark 16: 8: The women fled from the tomb. This flight may be moral 1 Cor. 6: 18: flee fornication; 2 Tim. 2: 22: Flee youthful lusts; that is, run away from temptation; not, parley and battle with it. Change of locality is implied by this word: Mark 5: 14: the keepers of the swine fled; John 10: 12: the hireling leaveth the sheep and fleeth; Rev. 12: 6: the woman fled into the wilderness. Pheugo equals Latin fugio, and English fugitive.
In the compound ek-pheugo, ek intensifies this thought of change of location, its meaning being out of, away from.
(2) In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament current
among the Jews for a century or more before Christ, and in His time), ekpheugo is found at Judg. 6: 11: Gideon was threshing wheat in the
winepress in order to escape from the face of Midian, that is, to escape the wheat being
seized by the Midianites. Prov. 10: 19: Out of a
multitude of words thou shalt not escape sin, that is, not avoid sinning. As late as century 4 A.D. in a Christian
letter this passage is cited loosely in this sense (Vocab. of Greek Testament, 200). Prov. 12: 13: A sinner
falls into snares, but a righteous man escapes from them. Job 15: 30: Eliphaz said of the godless, neither shall
he in any wise escape the darkness. Isaiah 66: 7 compares the future sudden
(3) In the Apocrypha (likewise
current in our Lords time) it is said in the Epistle of Jeremy (ver. 68) that the beasts of the fields are
better than a man for they can flee [escape] into a covert and help themselves. Wisdom (15: 19) says of idolators that
they went without [escaped] the praise of God and His blessings. Ecclesiasticus 6: 35 says Be willing to hear every godly discourse; and let not the
parables of understanding escape thee.
11: 10 says to the meddlesome
man, thou shall not obtain, neither shalt thou escape
by fleeing. In 16: 15 it is
said to God, It is not possible to escape Thy hand. 27: 20
says that a neighbour whose love has been lost will not be recovered as a
friend, for he is as a roe that has escaped out of
the snare. 40: 6 compares the restless, dreamful sleeper to one who has escaped out of a battle. In Susannah
22 that chaste woman says to her tempters, If I
do it not, I cannot escape your hands.
In II Maccabees 6: 26 we
learn that the aged scribe Eleazar
was offered life if he would obey Antiochus
Epiphanes and eat swines flesh contrary to the law of God, but he replied,
For though for the present time I should be delivered
from the punishment of men, yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty,
neither alive, nor dead. And in 7: 35 a young Jew, being tortured warns
Antiochus thus: thou hast not yet escaped the
judgment of Almighty God, who seeth all things. In 9:
22 Antiochus himself hopes that
he will escape this sickness from which he
was suffering. In III Maccabees 6: 29 the Jews in
These six places in the Septuagint and twelve in the Apocrypha are all that I have traced as using epkheugo. Not one of them carries the idea of one being able to endure testing without soul injury. They all speak of escaping, not of enduring. In this the translators and writers simply followed the customary meaning of this word. It is against the background of this uniform usage, with which they were well acquainted, that the Lord and His apostles employed the word.
(4) The New Testament. The thought in the
above passage in Esther is closely followed by Paul in Rom. 2: 3. The former speaks of the godless who
that they shall escape the judgment of God; of the hard of heart and impenitent
Paul inquires if he reckons that he shall escape the judgment of God?
2: 3 the question is
pressed, How shall we escape, having neglected so great salvation? Acts 16: 27: the jailor at
Apart from Luke 21 before us these are the only places where ekpheugo is found in the New Testament. Here again it is plain that no thought enters of patiently enduring through a trial and being benefited by it. The thought is always that of being entirely exempted, of escaping completely, as from a house, or city, or prison, or evil men, or the judgment of God. It is clear that the uniform usage of the word, ancient and later, secular and religious and Biblical, gives no warrant for taking it in any other sense in our passage. This is the only natural force of the words escape all these things which shall come to pass, for it does not say escape the hurtful influences of these things, but escape the things (events) themselves.
The Lexicons are uniform as to this meaning. Grimm-Thayer: to flee out of, flee away, seek safety in flight. Abbot-Smith: to flee away, escape. A. Souter: I flee out, away, I escape. The prefix ek compels this force of removal from one place to another. The other compounds of pheugo have the same force. Their only occurrences in the New Testament are apopheugo, 2 Pet. 1: 4; 2: 18, 20: diapheugo, Acts 27: 42: katapheugo, Acts 14: 6: Heb. 6: 18. So unvarying is this meaning that, after two thousand years, the Modern Greek terms (ekpheugo, diapheugo, ekpheuge) retain exactly the same sense to escape, run away.
3. Conclusion. Three deeply important conclusions follow from above.
1. That disciples of Christ of the company of the apostles will continue on earth down to the last days of this age and will be in danger of being overtaken by the snare of that time. They will be in peril of being suddenly caught as a bird in the net of the fowler. It is a plain denial of the Lords solemn warning to tell Christians that they are [all] certain to be taken from the earth by rapture before that period breaks on mankind. That the Lord addressed the apostles as representing Jews of that end time is mere unwarranted supposition.
2. On the other hand, Christ makes equally plain that escape will be possible. The statement is definite, even were there no other promise to this effect. But other scriptures say the same, such as Revelation 3: 10, with 12: 5 and 14: 1-5.
3. It is equally emphatic that this escape will depend upon the believer being of a pure heart and life, watchful, prayerful, a conqueror in the conflict of faith, and so prevailing to escape all these things that shall come to pass. Teaching cannot be according to truth which assures him that he will escape though worldly in heart and ways. Truth always sanctifies. But neither is it in harmony with our Lords words to say that there will be no escape at that time even for the sanctified.
(To be continued)
* * *
AN IMPORTANT TEXT (13, part 2).
PREVAIL TO ESCAPE, Luke 21: 34-36
1. Two Promises of Escape.
We take up now the second conclusion reached in the former paper, namely, that escape is possible from the dread End events of which the Lord had been speaking: that ye may prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass.
The opening event is mentioned in verse 12: Before all these things they shall lay their hands on you, and shall persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My names sake ... (17) and ye shall be hated of all men for My names sake; or, as in Matt. 24: 8, 9: All these things are the beginning of travail [pangs]. Then shall they deliver you up unto tribulation, and shall kill you and ye shall be hated of all the nations for My names sake; and see Mark 13: 8-13.
1. This persecution will rage against persons who bear the name of Christ; nor will they bear it vainly, for they will be prepared to suffer even unto death rather than deny that Name. Therefore they are Christians. Jews as such will not own Jesus as Lord until they see Him in glory at His descent to destroy Antichrist (Zech. 12: 9, 10).
The persecution will be universal, and it will be at a time when
The concluding event of all these things in view will be that they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (ver. 27).
It seems that there will be an earlier persecution instigated by the Harlot Babylon (Rev. 17: 6), prior to the Beast reaching supremacy, but this does not seem to be included in the Olivet prophecy or to be covered by the promised escape. The assurance given by Christ is that escape can be secured from all these events He mentioned; therefore this escape must be effected before that second persecution which ushers in these events.
As we saw in the former paper, this word escape describes complete exemption from the events; but inasmuch as the rule of the Beast and the persecution will be strictly universal, affecting all the nations, must not the escape be by removal from the earth? How else can it be effected? This is made plain in other scriptures.
Rev. 3: 10. The letter to
Because thou didst keep the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, that hour which is to come upon the whole inhabited earth, to try them that dwell on the earth.
Here again is a strictly universal affair, for it affects the whole inhabited earth: how then shall any be kept out of it but by removal from the earth? The promise is not that they shall be given moral strength to endure that time of testing, but that they shall be kept out of it, not be kept in or through it. Inhabited earth (oikoumene) cannot here have the limited Roman meaning of the territory of that empire, for its connected equivalent here is simply the earth, and moreover, there will be Christians dwelling outside the ancient Roman territory.
The same verb (tereo) and preposition (ek) come together in John 17: 15, where the Son said to the Father: I do not request that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them (tereo) out of (ek) the evil one. The earth is the physical sphere of the believer: to be taken out of it would imply physical removal from it. The Evil One is the moral sphere which envelopes the unbeliever: the whole world lieth in the Evil One (1 John 5: 19). They are in him and he is in them, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2: 2). He is the moral atmosphere that inspires the wicked. From this environment the disciple can be entirely preserved. (On John 17: 15 see Westcott). The Evil One is to him an outside foe to be fought, but is not the sphere or atmosphere in which the inner man lives and against the poisonous atmosphere of which he must seek to survive, if possible. Therefore John directly adds: we are of God ... and we are in Him that is true, in His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 5: 19, 20).
Thus to be kept out of the time of testing does not mean to survive its poisonous influences, but not to encounter them, by having been removed from the earth which is the physical realm of the Evil One and of the persecution he will again inspire.
Surely this is the first and natural force of these two promises of the Lord, in both English and Greek.
2. Two Pictures of Escape.
These two verbal promises are confirmed by two symbolic prophecies.
Rev. 12. In this vision there are four persons or groups of persons - a woman, a male child, a dragon, and a company described as the rest of the womans seed. (ver. 17).
The dragon is identified as the Devil and Satan. He is shown at first as acting in heaven, but is presently cast out to the earth. This is part of the events that John had been told were to take place later than when he was shown the vision (ch. 4: 1: I will show thee the things which must come to pass hereafter). Eph. 6 had already shown that Satans forces were active in the heavenly regions thirty years after the ascension of Christ. Rev. 12 shows that this situation was continuing another thirty years later again. Every spiritual Christian knows that this is still the case.
Therefore the circumstances of this woman and her family do not refer back to Mary and the early years of her son Jesus, but picture events still future. Jesus was not caught away to Gods throne directly upon His birth. He did not escape the fury of the Devil, but was attacked again and again and finally hounded to death.
This womans condition answers to that of the people of Christ at the End times. John had heard the Lord describe the onset of those times as the beginning of travail pains (Matt. 24: 8): now he notes that this woman is in the last stage of travail pains and that this man child is then brought forth.
The woman is seen in heaven, arrayed with the glories of
heaven, at the same time that she is on earth in travail and hard beset by the
dragon. It is only the
The identity of this male child is disclosed by the feature that he is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. This is a dignity promised to the conquerors of this Christian age (Rev. 2: 26, 27) and to none others of the saved. That he is caught away to God and to His throne shows that this is not the rapture of saints mentioned in 1 Thess. 4, for these will be taken to meet the Lord Jesus and this in the air, not in the upper heavens. Christ will then have left the throne and descended to the air.
Upon this male child being translated to the throne Satan and his angels are cast out of heaven. Since this has not even yet taken place the events must be yet future. Upon Satan being ejected from the realms above, and restricted to the earth, he is filled with fury and at once attacks the woman and then the rest of her family (12: 13; 13: 1). For this last purpose he brings up the Beast to be his agent in chief. The chapter division is to be ignored, and the statement is to be read as in R.V. Thus there sets in that period of frightful persecution of the disciples of Christ which He foretold as to be the worst days that earth has ever known or ever will know.
Plainly the male child and the rest of the womans seed are one family, but the former escape all these things that shall come to pass, for he is removed to the throne of God just before Satan is cast out of heaven and the events of the End begin.
The promise of Christ is that those who escape shall stand before the Son of man. Until the end of that period the Son of man remains at the right hand of God, superintending the affairs of that period (Rev. 4 and 5 on to the events of ch. 19). It is to that high realm that the male child is taken. The Lord does not descend to the clouds to fetch him, but he is taken to the throne where the Lord will still be.
Rev. 14. This vision, with its six scenes, reveals the same identical sequence of events as in ch. 12.
The period of the Beast and of his persecution of the saints is seen in scene 4 (ver. 9-13). The saints are Christians for they keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. This corresponds to the course of life of the Philadelphian disciples who had kept Christs word and had not denied His name (Rev. 3: 8).
Scene 3, directly preceding the era of the Beast, announces
the fall of
Directly before that destruction of the Harlot Babylon is scene 2 (ver. 6, 7), in which an angel announces that the hour of Gods judgment is come. This indicates precisely that the final stage of this age has been reached, the End time is at hand.
Before this crisis, scene 1 (ver. 1-5) describes a heavenly vision. Certain persons, who had been purchased out
of the earth and
from among men, come into view and are described as firstfruits unto
God and unto the Lamb.
If a purchaser should say, I bought these
things out of the market, from among the many articles that were there,
it would be plain that he was not still in the market but had taken his
purchases elsewhere. Thus these redeemed
firstfruits are shown as on
This scene corresponds to the church of the firstborn ones who have come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12: 22); and it corresponds also to the male child being caught up to God and to His throne just before Satan is cast out of heaven and brings the Beast on the scene on earth.
It answers also to the promise of Christ in Luke 21 that those who escape the End
events shall stand before the Son of man, because these firstfruits in Rev. 14 are with the
In scene 5 (ver. 14-16), the next after that of the Beast, the Son of man is seen on a white cloud reaping the now fully ripe harvest of the earth; and in
Scene 6 (ver. 17-20) He is pictured as treading the winepress of the wrath of God
outside the city (
These six scenes are based on an agricultural figure - firstfruits,
harvest, and vintage, scenes 1, 5 and 6.
In early summer the Jew was to gather from the cornfields a sheaf of
ears that might be ripe early. This was
taken away to the temple at
Just as the male child and the rest of the womans seed were one family, but the former escaped the End days whereas the latter passed through them, so are firstfruits and harvest from the same sowing in one field, but the former escaped the fiercest summer heat while the latter were ripened by it. Thus the firstfruits escape the tribulation under the Beast, being already before God in heaven the harvest is taken only to the clouds (1 Thess. 4: 16, 17) the vintage is crushed on the earth.
Similarly the Lord is shown in three situations. First at the throne on
3. The Escape Conditional.
Thus there are two promises of escape from the dread events of the End and two pictures of that escape. Seeing that it will be only a comparatively small number of believers that will be affected, and at only one point of time in the course of perhaps two thousands of years of the history of the church of God, these four scriptures may be regarded as ample testimony on the subject. And the heaviest possible emphasis is placed upon the moral conditions required for the escape.
Luke 21 stresses the great care needed lest the heart be choked with earthly cares or indulgencies, inducing watchlessness, and so being caught unawares by that day of Satanic attack and deception. Ceaseless watchfulness will be indispensable and constant prayerfulness. These conditions will enable the Christian to prevail to escape.
The older Greek text read kataxiotheete, to be accounted worthy. That reading stressed that the [regenerate] believer could not take for granted that he would escape: he had to be found worthy to do so. The reading now accepted is as R.V., katischuseete, prevail. In Jeremiah 15: 18 the Septuagint reads: Why do they that grieve me prevail against me? In Ezekiel 3: 8 God assured the prophet that I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy victory to prevail against their victory. (LXX). The word is used very frequently in this sense of overcoming in conflict. In the New Testament it is found in the comforting assurance that the gates of Hades shall not prevail to hold the godly dead in captivity, that is, when the hour for their resurrection shall have come. Its only other use is to picture vividly a raging mob clamouring to Pilate for the crucifixion of Christ and beating down his reluctance; and their voices prevailed (Luke 23: 23).
It is only by such divinely given resolution and strength that the [regenerate] believer can triumph against the powers of darkness: is only thus that any will prevail to escape the End days. This same attitude and victory are stressed as the condition upon which the Philadelphian saints will be kept out of that hour of universal testing: Because thou didst keep the word of my patience I also will keep thee out of that hour of trial. The male child is all but seized by the angry dragon, but he is born amidst distress and danger and is caught away to the throne of God. The firstfruits are declared to have kept themselves undefiled, as a virgin for her Bridegroom. They had followed the Lamb unswervingly along His path of self-sacrifice. In their mouth was found no lie, though by some prevarication they might have avoided severe treatment by their persecutors: they are without blemish, and thus were fit to be presented to God in His temple. Lev. 1: 3; Phil. 2: 15-18.
It is certainly true believers that are thus warned and encouraged, for such a life of purity and devotion is not possible to others. Plainly the moral power of these promises is great. Such a prospect cannot but promote in those who heed it the utmost care to be holy as their Lord is holy. On the contrary, to reject such searching demands will necessarily induce indolence of soul, carelessness of conduct, and prevent the believer from being without blemish. Being then caught in the snare of the Fowler, the possible escape from the last dread days will be missed, and only the great heat of the great Tribulation will ripen such for the garner. Thus the enduring of the wrath of the Beast will prepare the believer for removal from the earth to the cloud before the wrath of God bursts forth against His foes at the descent of the Word of God to destroy the Beast and his followers. But they might have escaped this ordeal had they been ripened by the earlier trials that will lead up to the days of the End.
Since I must fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage Lord
Ill bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy word.
* * *
AN IMPORTANT TEXT (14).
Phil. 3: 20, 21:-
For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus
Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be
conformed to the body of His glory, according to the working
whereby He is able even to subject all things unto Himself.
The apostle is greatly concerned that Christians shall so live as to be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ (1: 10), that is, with the view to be found suitable for that day, even as a virtuous maiden lives for the wedding day, and ever deports herself with that day in view. This is the keynote of the epistle to which our present passage is attuned. Many do not walk in life after Pauls style, for his mind was set on the things that are above (Col. 3: 1-4), whereas these mind earthly things (ver. 19). Our verses give reasons against this earthly-mindedness and in favour of that eager pursuit after things heavenly, even that consuming passion for Christ which marked Paul (vv. 7-16).
1. Our Status. The first reason is that our citizenship is in heaven.
The verb is more than is and means actually and already
exists (huparchei). Those
who had the honour of citizenship in
Where the sovereign resides there is the capital city, the centre of the commonwealth: therefore our political centre is in heaven. Darby translates politeuma by commonwealth, but addes the discriminating note: Commonwealth does not at all satisfy me, but citizenship is a somewhat different word. Conversation is wrong, though it be a practical consequence. It is associations of life, as I am born an Englishman.
The follower of Christ should search his heart and ask himself if it is his conscious state of mind that he feels himself on earth as an Englishman feels in a foreign land, an alien on earth because, by spiritual birth, now associated with Christ in heaven.
2. Our Hope. The earthly-minded have their portion in this life (Psm. 17: 14); they have received their good things here in full (Luke 16: 25), and have nothing to expect hereafter, save the due reward of their sins. Being without God they are without hope (Eph. 2: 12). The heavenly-minded, on the contrary, are content with food and coverings (1 Tim. 6: 8), as all sensible pilgrims are, but their prospects are glorious. As loyal subjects in a rebel area they expect difficulties, but they await eagerly (apekdechomai) the promised intervention of their Sovereign. He will leave His capital and move swiftly for their deliverance: from heaven we wait for a Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.
The follower of Christ should ask himself if this is really the conscious attitude of his heart, toward both the world and toward the second coming of Christ. Does he feel like one in need and peril, expecting eagerly a Saviour as his only resource and hope? Or is he jogging along comfortably, with no felt need of his Lords intervention? Will His advent be rather an interruption?
3. Our Redemption. Redemption refers to the release of some article from custody, as of a house from mortgage or a prisoner from captivity. Its two parts are, first, the payment that effects the release, and then the release itself. The life-blood of the Lamb of God shed on the cross is the price of our redemption (1 Pet. 1: 18, 19). Upon our acceptance of this transaction, the believer finds the heart released from the accusations of conscience, from dread of God and of wrath, from the bondage of sin, from fear of the world - all this progressively according to the measure of life and of faith.
Yet however far this happy and normal experience develops, however rich the release experienced, the Christian remains restricted by the body. The body of man is not vile, but it is a humiliation that a being made in the image of God must, on account of sin, carry about a body marked by weakness and liable to corruption.
At the coming of the Lord this shall be changed by rapture or resurrection, and redemption shall reach its full result. This latter aspect of redemption is the chief force of the word in the New Testament, though in preaching in general the stress is put rather upon the price paid (Rom. 8: 16-25; 2 Cor. 4: 16-5: 10; 1 John 3: 1 -3). The glory of God is concentrated in the body of the Saviour we expect (Col. 2: 9); and the body of the saint who is counted worthy is to be conformed to that heavenly form and standard (Dan. 12: 3).
The Christian should consider whether he is giving due heed to the exhortation: Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober, and set your hope perfectly [constantly and un-dividedly] on the favour that is being brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1: 13).
4. The Adequate Power. The natural mind regards such a proposal as incredible, even fantastic; but right reason reflect s that Jesus, before His death, foretold His resurrection at a given time, and that there would be restored to Him the glory which He had with the Father before the universe was created (Matt. 16: 21; John 17: 5). This astounding assertion was fulfilled (Acts 26: 12-15). He further promised to effect likewise the resurrection of those who believe on Him and to share with them His glory (John 6: 39, 40; 17: 22). As He fulfilled the prediction in His own person it is reasonable to believe that He can and will do so for those who shall be accounted worthy to attain to that millennial age and the resurrection from [out of, ek] the dead (Luke 21: 34-36). As glorified, He has universal authority (Matt. 28: 18), and to raise the dead is but one exercise of the energy of His power to subject to Himself all things (ta panta, the entire universe).
Where this noblest of prospects not merely interests the intellect but moves the affections, the practical effect is profound and sanctifying.
In 1830 A. N. Groves
was living in
I never felt more powerfully than now, the joy of having nothing to do with these things; so that let men govern as they will, I feel my path is to live in subjection to the powers that be, and to exhort others to the same, even though it be such oppressive despotism as this. We have to show them by this, that our kingdom is not of this world, and that these are not things about which we contend. But our life being hid where no storms can assail, with Christ in God - and our wealth being where no moth or rust doth corrupt, we leave those who are of this world to manage its concerns as they list, and we submit to them in everything as far as a good conscience will admit. (Anthony Norris Groves, 198).
For many Christians a chief hindrance to enjoying this peace and joy under trials is the fact that their wealth is not placed where no moth or rust can corrupt.
In 1870, the year of the Franco-Prussian war, J. N. Darby wrote to a French Christian as follows:
What pains me is the manner in which the idea of ones country has taken possession of the hearts of some brethren. I quite understand that the sentiment of patriotism may be strong in the heart of man. I do not think that the heart is capable of affection towards the whole world. At bottom human affection must have a centre, which is I. I can say My country, and it is not that of a stranger ... But God delivers us from the I; He makes of God, and of God in Christ, the centre of all; and the Christian, if consistent, declares plainly that he seeks a heavenly country. His affections, his ties, his citizenship are above. He withdraws into the shade in this world ... As a man I would have fought obstinately for my country, and would never have given way, God knows; but as a Christian I believe and feel myself to be outside all; these things move me no more ... (Letters, ii, 130).
At that period these truths, concerning the Son of God as rejected by man and glorified by God, and as outside this worlds life until He shall again intervene at His coming, had gripped the hearts of many Christians and moulded their lives. It was usual that such withdrew from politics and many resigned position and prospects as officers in the armed forces. One such was Julius von Posek, a Prussian noble, who submitted to imprisonment and banishment rather than bear arms. Another was J. G. Deck, of the British navy. Happy is the Christian who with unaffected simplicity can say with him:
Called from above, a heavenly man by birth
(Who once was but a citizen of earth),
A pilgrim here, I seek a heavenly home
And portion in the ages yet to come.
I am a stranger here; I do not crave
A home on earth, that gave Thee but a grave;
I wish not now its jewels to adorn
My brows, which gave Thee but a crown of thorn.
Thy cross has severed ties that bound me here,-
Thyself my treasure in a heavenly sphere.
(Hymns and Sacred Poems, 168).
Freed thus from the trammels of worldly affairs such Christians were at liberty to devote all their energies, time, and means, in home, business, or elsewhere, to the kingdom of God, and they were used mightily to the salvation of the lost and the strengthening of the cause of Christ in His church. The reflex social benefit was itself far greater than by direct co-operation in public concerns.
* * *
AN IMPORTANT TEXT (15).
Matt. 13: 51, 52:-
Have ye understood all these things? They say unto Him, Yea. And He said unto
them, Therefore every scribe who hath been made a disciple to the
kingdom of the heavens is like unto a man that is a
householder, who bringeth forth out of his
treasure things new and old.
In every kingdom it has been found necessary to have a class of men learned in the constitution and laws and able to expound these and apply them for public and private welfare. In the East of old such men were few because it was needful that they should learn to read and write, which not many did with proficiency. Hence they were called scribes, writers. Their public value gave them much importance and gained much respect.
It is thus in the kingdom of the heavens, over which God is universal Sovereign. At present this kingdom, though real and powerful, is not recognizable by the natural man, but only by the spiritual mind (1 Cor. 2: 14, 15). And among even these the majority do not busy themselves to become learned as to its affairs.
The Lord, in wisdom and grace, calls some to be scribes, to devote themselves seriously to mastering the constitution, laws, principles, and course of development of this kingdom. These are discipled, brought under special instruction by the [Holy] Spirit, disciplined, and devoted to divine interests on earth.
The apostles were such scribes, nor has the Lord ever suffered the succession wholly to fail. They are compared to a householder, and their accumulated knowledge to his treasures.
This means, not simply that they have information, but that the instruction and enlightenment they receive becomes their own property, wrought deeply into their very mind and heart.
These treasures they bring forth, that is, they impart their God-given knowledge of affairs heavenly. They are not inventors of things divine: all they have is in their treasury, which, for all practical purposes, means for us in the Word of God. No fresh truth has been revealed since the era when the promise was fulfilled that the [Holy] Spirit should guide the apostles into all the truth, including the things future (John 16: 13). But the scribe has to assimilate truth revealed so that it becomes a treasury within himself, his very own possession, vital and ruling in his own practice. It is not enough that he can say that such and such things are taught in the Bible; a studious unbeliever can say this: it must be his, cherished in his own heart as a treasure. Moreover, he must know where to find this or that treasure of truth which he sees suits the person or case before him, and be skilled in exhibiting and applying it.
This heavenly treasure is divided by the Lord into two classes, the new and the old, and it is momentous that He places the new before the old as that which the instructed scribe will bring forth. This was a marked characteristic of Christs own ministry. His inner man was filled with divine truth, a veritable treasure-house of heavenly knowledge. This treasure He had gathered largely from the Word of God, the Old Testament, of which Book He was truly a Master. He believed it implicitly, obeyed it unhesitatingly, and His public ministry took the line of reading and explaining it (Luke 4: 16-30). He accepted all that was there found, including what was old to His hearers, that is, already known and believed. In addition He received communications direct from God the Father (John 8: 28, 38; 15: 15; etc.).
But had He stayed at the point of repeating the old, why did His teaching create such a furore and provoke such determined resentment?
If He had been content, like the rabbis and scribes, merely to repeat and retail the old, the generally accepted, the popular, He would have been esteemed like they were and honoured. No, it was the new that startled, arrested, and either blessed or rebuked the hearer.
Nicodemus was one of these publicly acknowledged teachers in
This was so new to the rabbi that he queried if it were possible. It meant that the most approved externalism,
such as all pious Jews honoured and trusted, was inadequate. Christ did not annul the old, as based on Moses, but He obtruded
the new as altogether necessary. Yet its
newness lay only in the dullness of men; it was already in the treasury, the
Scriptures, as Nicodemus, a teacher of
In this conversation, built on things old, it was the new that was vital and arresting.
2. Jewish theology had taken the old truth of the supreme holiness and infinite majesty of God and so mishandled it as to make it wrong even to pronounce His sacred name, Jehovah. The natural effect for the masses was to create a feeling that God is remote, almost inaccessible: a Deistic conception, that God is to be revered, but cannot be really known. By this means worship became external, formal, service that only a few, the priests, could render effectually.
Now there suddenly stands forth this young teacher, un-trained in the recognized schools of theology, and one of His early and supreme stresses is that God is the father of such as seek Him in sincerity, a father nigh at hand, accessible, intimately concerned with every detail of human life, eating, drinking, clothing, and delighted to bestow His best care upon the affairs of the humble (Matthew chapters 5-7).
Here again it was the new element that was attractive and comforting, and encouraged men to seek personal intercourse with God, even while it claimed from them utter devotion to His demand that men must be holy even as He is holy. Yet here also the newness arose because of the ignorance of the hearers. That God is ready to be father to the humble is in the treasury (Isa. 63: 16; etc.).
3. It was a new use of ancient Scripture by which the Lord confuted the Sadducees and their error that the dead do not rise again. God cannot be the God of anything that does not exist; but He said Himself that He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Ex. 3: 6), though speaking centuries after their death. Therefore they had not ceased to exist at death. Such new, pungent, convincing use of the old in Scripture, confounded the learned materialist, humbled him before the people, irritated, exasperated him.
4. Take again this very instruction given in the parables in Matt. 13. Its arresting force lay in it giving a new aspect to the kingdom of God. The reality and sovereignty of that kingdom was not new, but was a basic element of the law and the prophets; but now they are listening to a line of thought fresh to them. It was new that the kingdom was about to go through a series of developments as here outlined, leading up to the grand climax announced in the prophets, even the intervention of the Son of man in judgment. This new element gripped the apostles; their minds had been opened to grasp this new phase and programme, and it became the basis of their own public ministry.
This is very clearly seen in the ministry of Paul. It consisted in preaching the
6. It was the same among Gentiles. The heathen philosophers listened with interest while Paul spoke upon the nature of deity, the creation of the universe, and such like perennial topics of discussion. But resentment arose in many the moment he advanced as fact the new feature that Jesus had [by Himself]* risen from the dead. This cut at the root of their human speculations, and challenged their whole outlook and practice (Acts 17: 32).
[* See, Acts 2: 31. cf. Acts 2: 34; John 3: 13; 14: 3; 1 Thess. 4: 16; Rev. 6: 9-11: etc.]
Abundant further instances can be found of the prominence and influence of the new in the cases of Christ and the apostles. It must needs be that it is the new that arouses interest and claims attention. Without this element the mind of man becomes, through custom, lethargic, and the old, even if true, can lose its former stimulating power. So that while no truth is in itself new, yet it is that which comes to the hearer as new that seizes upon and stirs his inner man. History constantly offers instances of this.
After the formulation, in early centuries, of the great Creeds (the Apostles, the Athanasian, and others), Christians soon settled down into a formal acknowledgment of the old doctrines and general spiritual inertia spread everywhere. How shall such deadly contentment with the old be disturbed except by something new?
In century 17 the Spanish priest and mystic Miguel de Molinos
(1640-1697) gave an example within the Church of Rome. He taught in
But the Jesuits soon saw that this possibility of direct private intercourse with God implied that Church, priesthood, sacrifices, ceremonies were not necessary. In 1687 they secured Molinos condemnation to the terrible ordeal of solitary imprisonment for life, which he endured for ten years till his death in 1697. A Dominican father accompanied him to the cell where he was to know no fellowship but God and his own heart. At the door he said: Farewell father, We shall meet again at the judgment day, and then it will be seen whether you were right or I was.
Or take the Reformation in century sixteen. Its startling, terrific impact arose from the feature that Luther had discovered something new, the truth that the sinner is declared righteous by God upon faith, apart from works, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
As long as that new element remained fresh in the hearts of men that mighty work of grace continued. But in due time justification by faith settled down to being an orthodox commonplace, something to be embodied in creeds and defended strenuously, even by the sword, but becoming old it failed of inspiration. That stage was reached which John Robinson in century seventeen deplored, even that neither Lutherans nor Calvinists would go a step beyond those great leaders, and so general stagnation was prevalent.
Indeed, so resolute did the chief Reformers become against anything new that they persecuted relentlessly and unto death the many who shortly rose up and propounded something new to the Reformation, though as old as Christ and the apostles, even that [Humanly, instead of Divinely anointed] priests, and salvation of infants by baptism, and State Churches were not of God.
This process has marked all the Reformed bodies. They began by men finding something new; baptism of [regenerate] believers, independent [not federate] local churches, rule of the house of God by elders, for example. But soon they crystallized their doctrines and church formulas into creeds, and nothing further, nothing new, can be tolerated. It may be brought out of the Treasury, the Word of God; it may be attested by the householder, the scribe, as his veritable experience, part of his personal spiritual treasure and enrichment, but no matter, it is new and must be rejected. The inevitable result is stagnation, inertia, pride of knowledge, spiritual death.
Nor is this seen only in the Reformed and Nonconformist Churches, it is painfully evident in such a community as the Brethren. I speak of Open Brethren. This movement commenced 130 years ago and was at first spiritually mighty. It attracted clergy, ministers, prominent Christian laymen of every type, and, by drawing into itself the cream of spiritual men, was a threat to all organized church systems. The explanation of such startling success was nothing other than that the Spirit of truth by them brought forth things that were new, such as the following:
1. That the
2. That no organized system of churches is of God.
3. That clerisy in every form is contrary to Christ, all believers, according to the [divine] gift granted, having [should have] liberty to exercise that gift in the house of God. For this no human ordination is needed or to be tolerated.
4. That the kingdom of God consists of the godly
of all ages, and is divided, as to the earth, into three sections, the people
of Israel, the Gentile nations, the church of God (1 Cor.
10: 32; etc.). Each of
these companies has its own place in the plans of God:
5. That members of the church [of the firstborn (Heb. 12: 23)] are offered a still higher destiny than Israel by being called into fellowship with the Son of God in His heavenly realm and glory, as distinct from the earthly prospects of Israel and the Gentile peoples.
6. The teachers of this movement [rightly] rejected the general Protestant
7. In opposition to this they [rightly] returned to the primitive belief of the first three centuries, attested by the universal assent of the fathers of that period, that a personal Antichrist will arise and persecute the godly; that he will be destroyed by the personal descent of Christ to the earth, that the church of God will be raised from the dead and removed to heaven; that the godly of Israel of that time will form a new kingdom centred at Jerusalem; with the spared of the Gentiles in submission to them; and that the Lord will reign at Jerusalem over all the earth for a thousand years. Then [after this] will follow the general resurrection of the dead, with the last judgment at the great white throne, to be followed by the creation of new heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness will dwell for ever.
There were naturally differences as to the details of so vast a programme, but such was the general character of the teaching of the Brethren at the commencement. Now this programme, as such, was something new. Phases of it had been before discerned by sundry Bible searchers, but as a programme it was new to the great majority, and hence it arrested attention, captivated the assent of great numbers, and established a fresh outlook among evangelical Christians: for it was so plainly not the invention of the men who taught these things, but they brought it forth out of their Treasury. It was Scriptural.
But both its ecclesiastical and its prophetical elements were antagonistic to the old views and customs of Protestantism. Hence determined opposition was offered, and those who accepted the new were forced into separation from the adherents of the old. Thus there arose large numbers of groups of believers, marked by holiness, zeal, and spiritual vitality.
But there was a great defect in this movement. It was in general Calvinistic in outlook and spirit, and it rightly maintained the eternal security of each and all born of the Spirit unto eternal life. But they proceeded to apply this everlasting security of the saved to the benefits, privileges, and possibilities that attach to salvation, as well as to salvation itself. Hence, by making all privileges unforfeitable, there was nothing to hold the balance and prevent [regenerate] believers from settling into carnal lethargy and sinful ways: and soon this sphere of heavenly life and love was defiled and defaced by bitter strife, which ruined the early testimony to the oneness of all saints in Christ.
But a few saw and declared the balancing truth. A. N. Groves, Lady Powerscourt, P. H. Gosse the naturalist, R. C. Chapman, were of those who acknowledged the warnings and penalties which the New Testament addresses to the [redeemed] people of God. They gave place to the scores of Ifs which mingle in passages plainly addressed to real Christians. They taught that sharing in that first resurrection, and in the [millennial] reign of the Lamb to follow, were high dignities that might be forfeited by [a Christians] carnal conduct.
This, in its turn, was something new to the general Brethren
programme, and it was rejected and only what was old allowed. A century ago Robert Govett of
The general and inevitable result is, that Brethren ministry today is a mere repetition of the old, lacking in that freshness, grip, attractiveness, and vital energy which comes, and can only come, through something new being super-added to the old.
Profitable lessons arise.
What is true of a community is true of the individual. As surely as a [regenerate] believer becomes unwilling to face [and learn] something new to him, unwilling to receive it even though it comes out of the [Divine] Treasury and to readjust [his/her] life and practice to include the new, so surely at that point he must needs cease to learn, and will become stagnant and barren. It is a new element, salt, from a new cruse, that can heal unhealthy water (2 Kin. 2: 19-22). It was not more gourds, such as were already in the pot, but something different, a new element, meal, that healed the pottage (2 Kin. 4: 38-41).
It is thus with a local church, a Denomination, a
While the early Brethren remained thus little children they became mighty men of God who moved multitudes and were pioneers in Bible exposition. But it is most sorrowful fact that for a century neither those first teachers, nor their diminutive successors, have added anything noteworthy or quickening to the knowledge of divine truth: they have been content to repeat and repeat the old, and only the old, until the great number are only peddlers of other mens wares, instead of householders with fresh, new, vitalizing [spiritual] messages for the meeting of present need.
The disease being manifest, the remedy is evident. The Lords beloved people must be as eager to receive the new as is the little child, so long as that new is brought out of the Treasury of Holy Scripture, as to which matter they must keep an honest, open mind, whether as to the [scriptural] doctrine of Selective Rapture and [Selective] Resurrection or any other line of teaching that is new to them and their school of thought.
This does not mean that the Christian is to be an Athenian spending time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing (Acts 17: 21). It calls only that he pay attention to such as are plainly scribes instructed as - to the kingdom of heaven. Some profess to be this who are not, Edward Russell, founder of Jehovah Witnesses, for example. He could not abide the two tests involved. First, he was not a disciplined scribe as to his conduct, but was morally undisciplined, and secondly, he did not set forth the old treasures; he set aside the deity of Christ, His atoning death, justification by faith without works, and other fundamental truths. The new ideas such propound are not really new but are ancient philosophic errors re-dressed. These are to be abhorred.
The Lord give today to His church such disciplined scribes as can say with Jeremiah, Thy words were found, and I did eat them: and Thy words were unto me a joy, and the rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by Thy name, 0 Jehovah, God of hosts (Jer. 15: 16). Gods word had been long lost: now it was suddenly discovered (2 Chron. 34: 14). Its message was new, having been long hidden. Jeremiah devoured, assimilated, enjoyed it. It became his personal treasure, and therefore out of it he brought forth vast riches to lay before others. The majority preferred the old in which their minds lay dormant and content. They persecuted the prophet. But a few rejoiced with Jeremiah, and became Gods nucleus for the future. Thus it has ever been, thus it will ever be. The Lord give to many grace and determination to be such a scribe unto the furtherance of the kingdom of the heavens in our day. Only so can the present situation be met.
The principles the Lord here lays down admit of no exception. Whether he be clergyman, minister, lay preacher, or ministering brother, if his ministry be only a repeating and repeating of the old, even if it be Gods truth, he is not one of the scribes whom Christ here describes, taught, disciplined, adapted to the affairs of the kingdom of the heveans; for every such scribe brings out of his treasure things new as well as things old: he confirms the old, but he also displays the new. Being ever a little child he is ever learning something new and ever talking about the wonder he has discovered. Am I such a one? Is my reader?
* * *
AN IMPORTANT TEXT (16)
Matt. 18: 20:-
Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.
THOMAS NEATBY, M.D. (1835-1911)
(Taken by permission from Thomas Neatby, a Memorial, 71-77)
GATHERING IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS
More than fifty years ago, whilst quite a young servant of Christ, I became much exercised about the condition of the church at that time. Then the Keswick motto, All one in Christ, was almost unknown, both in principle and in practice. Clerical pretension had not received the rude shock that it suffered some years later at the time of the Irish revival. And worldliness, that constant snare of the children of God, held terrible sway. Sectarianism, clerisy, and worldliness in the church formed for me a real burden.
About this time I became acquainted with some devoted Christians, who met together in an exceedingly simple and, as it seemed to me, scriptural way for worship and communion, breaking bread every first day of the week, welcoming all whom they had reason to believe were really children of God, sound in faith and godly in walk. They were without a separate class of ministers, though thankful for any whom the Lord might fit for, and use in the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. I had found what I sought. I was known as a disciple and, according to my measure, a preacher of the gospel, and was at once welcomed as a brother in Christ.
I found I had much to learn. These happy people with little pretension were living upon truths of which I knew little or nothing. A full salvation in a risen Christ, with whom they were one by the Holy Ghost, who dwelt in them; the distinct and special calling of the church as the body and bride of Christ; the present daily hope of His coming again: the sovereignly important place of Israel in the Word and ways of God: these and many allied truths were their daily food and their daily joy. Of these joys I was glad to partake with them and to find my heart more closely knit to Christ Jesus my Lord. What I then learned from God I hold more firmly today. It would indeed be a cloudy and dark day that saw me without one truth that then gladdened my heart.
Years passed away, and amid much weakness and failure my
convictions as to these truths were strengthened and my enjoyment of them was
increased. But little by little I found
that sectarianism had pursued me where I thought myself safe from it, and that
it had in some degree taken possession of me. The devil is subtle, and we, alas! are prone to be fleshly and to walk as men, an easy prey then to the enemy of
Christ, who makes us think we are serving Him in refusing or depreciating those
that follow not with us (Luke
9: 49). John
no doubt thought himself jealous for his Master, whereas his fleshly zeal had
the us for its object. Even after the whole
truth as to Christ and the church had been revealed, there were those who made Christ
the head of a rival school to those of Paul and Apollos. Subtle indeed were both cases. For John might have rightly said, He ought to
follow Christ with us his chosen apostles. And the school at
Let me here give two examples of the use of this denominational title: (1) I have seen repeatedly of late years printed copies of an outline letter of commendation to be filled in as required. It runs thus: The saints gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus at commend, etc., and is addressed to the saints gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus at (2) A periodical, giving reports of the evangelization of south-eastern counties, is said to be on behalf of assemblies of Christians gathered unto the name of the Lord Jesus.
There are, then, Christians gathered unto the Name of the Lord Jesus distinguished from Christians not so gathered. This is their denominational title. They are formed into assemblies bearing this distinctive denomination. They are no longer gatherings of Christians who refuse all names or titles to distinguish them from other saints. (This was once our glory.) They have found a name to pit against all the names of Paul, Apollos, and Cephas. They are Christians gathered unto the Name of the Lord Jesus, the Corinthian school of Christ. My brethren, this is carnality. For myself the old is better. The school of Christ the assemblies gathered unto the Name of the Lord Jesus I cannot endure. Rather let me be one with all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours!
I may be asked, Are you not gathered
to the Name of Christ? Answer: Not always,
not distinctively. I am not gathered whilst writing these lines. Always a sheep of Christs one flock; sometimes gathered
with others for worship and fellowship, and then always, thank God, in the Name! Let me beg the reader to consider well Matt. 18: 20 with its context,
without reading into it what is not there. Let us now suppose a score of earnest
Christians (Presbyterians and Episcopalians, Baptists and Methodists, Friends,
and those who refuse all separating titles) who feel that the Education Bill tends to rob them of the liberty they
have so long enjoyed, and is the thin wedge which opens the passage to the
woman on the scarlet beast. These men,
we may suppose, are not at liberty to join in passive resistance, or to
interfere with the government of the world, but they feel that if ever their
prayers for all men were called for it is now. They are gathered together and agree in supplicating the throne of the
heavenly grace. In whose name are they gathered? There is but one answer, as there is but one Name available before that throne. It is that Name that Elijah invoked for an undivided
The present use of this distinguishing title of a section of the church is comparatively recent. Is the gathering also recent? In modern times Christians were not accustomed to meet in the way referred to before the second quarter of last century. Was there no gathering in Christs Name between the early centuries of our era, and, say, 1826? Surely no Christian could be found who would affirm it. The church early lost her hope - the return of her heavenly Bridegroom - and with it her separation from the world. She soon proved unfaithful to her crucified Lord, and was ruined as to her testimony and in her responsibility. Did the Lord leave Himself all these hundreds of years without even two or three gathered in His Name? Saints were gathered in the dark ages, but in whose Name? Some of them wandered about in sheeps skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented. Did these, when driven into dens and caves, ever pray together? And in what Name? If in the name of Jupiter, or Astarte, or Mary, they might have gone out free. But confessors and martyrs for the Name which excludes all others, theirs was the fellowship of His sufferings. Rejoicing to share His rejection, their prayers, offered stealthily, and often interrupted by fire and sword, rose as sweet incense in the Name, and presented by the priestly hand, of Him who was dead and is alive again.
Priceless privilege this gathering in My Name! Much too precious to be accorded exclusively to any of the fragments into which a testimony has been broken, which was truly the work of Him who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working. To us belong shame and confusion of face for the way in which we have cared for His work. Tell me, does gathering in Christs Name belong to those of so-called open or close fellowship? Do not the leaders of each party claim it for themselves and refuse it to others? Must it be yielded to any one of the numerous bodies into which, alas! the once lovely witness raised of God to the glory of Christ and the privileges of the church which is His body has been divided? If the theory underlying this denominational title be true, only one of those bodies can have the right to adopt it. And which? A reductio ad absurdum truly!
My brethren and whosoever among you feareth God, let us seek grace to cast our vain pretensions at the foot of the cross, and to take our place in humble confession before God. Our pride has grieved and stumbled many dear to God. It has turned aside many of them and of their children who might otherwise have been walking now amongst us in the comfort of the Holy Ghost. It is written in eternal truth, God resisteth the proud; woe to the man or, the company whom God resists!
If half the energy which has been wasted on hatching and maintaining high ecclesiastical claims had been devoted to the Lord in making straight paths for our feet, in walking humbly, faithfully, and fruitfully with God, in seeking earnestly the blessing of the whole household of faith, and in winning souls for Christ, what a harvest of blessing we should have been reaping today!
It is to be feared that many have entered upon a path, which is really one of faith, without the brokenness of spirit which is essential to such a path. What should we say of a drunkard or a dishonest man who said he was convinced of his folly and was determined to turn over a new leaf - to lead a new life? Should we not be saddened by his self-righteousness? No repentance toward God! No need for the atoning blood or the life-giving Spirit! What shall we say then of a Christian who is convinced that his path has not been according to the Word of God, and therefore not pleasing to Him, who in like manner turned over a new leaf, and is determined to walk according to what he finds in Scripture? No bitter herbs! No confession! Is not this the very essence of self-righteousness? The first step is one of pride. And the subsequent course ...? Does not this account for much of the pride and self-satisfaction seen among us? Those that walk in pride He is able to abase.
* * *
Luke 17: 32, 33:-
but whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it
Who here will follow Jesus Christ
Must be of serious mind,
And onward press, or standing still
Will soon be far behind:
For danger lurks in idleness,
Destruction of thy life;
Too late thou mayest it perceive:
Oh, think upon
For she had gone from
Where danger threatened sore;
And she would reach the refuge safe
Gods grace had set before:
But as her heart in
And there had still its life,
Her body stiffened into salt:
Oh, think upon
The Saviour speaks this solemn word
To me and thee today:
How easily the world can drag
The child of God away!
That it may not with life desire
With Jesus live thy life,
Nor heed its fair entising words:
Oh, think upon
Oh, think not lightly of a sin,
Its deadly poison hides;
And when its goal it has attained
Its judgment sure abides:
Oh, play not with thy blessedness,
Oh, trifle not with life:
How swiftly flies the time of grace:
Oh, think upon
- (From the German)
I felt it appropriate to end Important Texts by the above Poem, published 50 years ago by G. H. Lang on Page 2 of The Disciple Vol. 1, No. 3. January, 1954. The following is written on Page 1:-
THE Editor offers to all Readers his Hearty Greetings and Good Wishes for 1954. What experiences, personal and public, the year may bring we do not know; but this need cause no distress of mind, for no one ever has known what even a day may bring forth, not to speak of a year. The natural mind lives in perpetual uncertainty, but faith enjoys the continual assurance that, to them that love God, all things are always working together for good (Rom. 8: 28).
This passage shows the place of love in the life of faith. True faith works by love. God indeed is lovable because He is love. Let us enter and traverse the coming year with the quietness that comes from the enjoyment of the love of God displayed in Jesus Christ the Son of His love.
The opening of Thy words
- PSALM 119: 130, (R.V.)