The Rights of Primogeniture
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come (Hebrews 11: 20).
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby may be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears (Hebrews 12: 14-17).
Esau and Jacob were twin brothers. Esau, having been born first, was recognized as the elder and thus the one in line to receive the blessing of the father reserved for the firstborn. But Esau forfeited the rights of primogeniture, and his younger brother, Jacob, received the blessing in his stead. Esau received a blessing from his father, but it was inferior to Jacob’s blessing; and it was not connected in any manner with the rights belonging to the firstborn, for those rights had been forfeited.
Esau’s forfeiture of the birthright was foretold before he was even born. At a time prior to the birth of Esau and Jacob, the Lord had told Rebekah, “the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25: 23). In order for this to come to pass, the elder would have to forfeit the rights of primogeniture, and the younger would have to receive the blessing in his stead (cf. Genesis 27: 37).
When the time arrived for Isaac to bestow his blessing upon Esau and Jacob, he set about to bestow the blessing of the firstborn upon Esau, contrary to what the Lord had revealed to Rebekah. But Isaac could not bless Esau as the firstborn, for Esau had forfeited these rights. And, although Jacob used deceptive means to obtain his father’s blessing as the firstborn (Genesis 28: 27: 18ff), he was merely taking what rightfully belonged to him.
The faith of Isaac in Hebrews 11: 20 centers around God’s promise in the Abrahamic covenant. This covenant had been confirmed to Isaac (Genesis 26: 3-5), and the Lord had specifically told Isaac, “… unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father” (verse 3). In so far as the promises in the Abrahamic covenant were concerned, Jacob was the only one recognized as Isaac’s seed. Esau, because he was Isaac’s son, received a blessing – as Ishmael, because he was Isaac’s son (Genesis 17: 20, 21; 21: 13) – but this blessing, as Ishmael’s, was completely outside the scope of the Abrahamic covenant and the rights of primogeniture.
The forfeiture of the birthright by Esau and the blessings bestowed upon both Jacob and Esau by their father are recorded in Genesis 25: 27. – 27: 40. These experiences of Jacob and Esau form the last of five major warnings directed to Christians in the Book of Hebrews (12: 14-17). Even though it had been revealed before the birth of Jacob and Esau that the elder would serve the younger, Esau, through a wilful act of his own, forfeited the rights of primogeniture. And within this forfeiture lies the warning to every [regenerate] Christian concerning the possibility of a [regenerate] Christian, in like manner, forfeiting his birthright.
Every [regenerate] Christian is a firstborn child of God and in line to receive the inheritance belonging to the firstborn. But it is evident from the clear teaching of Scripture that every [regenerate] Christian will not receive this inheritance. The Christian’s present [eternal] salvation is NOT an inherited salvation and has nothing to do with the rights of primogeniture, except that of placing the Christian in a position where, at a future date, he can either receive or be denied the inheritance belonging to the firstborn.
The birthright in-so-far as Jacob and Esau were concerned involved an earthly inheritance. … Esau forfeited his earthly inheritance, and the clear teaching of Scripture attests to the fact that [regenerate] Christians, in like manner, can forfeit their … inheritance.*
[* This ‘earthly
inheritance’ can only point to Christ’s
keep in mind: “No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a
man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the
* * *
Warning: One’s Birthright can be Forfeited
There are two classic examples in the Word of God concerning the forfeiture of the rights belonging to the firstborn. One is the account of Esau, and the other is the account of Ruben.
1. Reuben and the Birthright
Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, was in direct line to inherit the rights of primogeniture; but because of one grave sin committed during his life, Reuben forfeited these rights. Reuben’s sin, resulting in the forfeiture of his birthright, was sexual impropriety of a nature which dishonoured and shamed his father: “Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine” (Genesis 35: 22).
Because of this one sin, years later when Jacob called his twelve sons into his presence shortly before his death to relate what would befall them “in the last days,” Reuben heard the words: “Thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defilest thou it: he went up to by couch” (Genesis 49: 3, 4). The tribe of Reuben, as Jacob prophesied, did not excel. From this tribe came no judge, no king, and no prophet. That which Reuben lost, he lost forever. But he himself remained a son of Jacob and was blessed in measure, but not as the firstborn.
birthright was divided among three of his brothers. The tribal rulership was bestowed upon “
During the Kingdom Age the status created by Reuben’s sin will still abide. The King will be of the house of Judah (Revelation 5: 5); the priests will be of the family of Zadoc, the Levite (Ezekiel 44: 15, 16; 48: 11); and the double portion will be held by the house of Joseph through Ephraim and Manasseh (Ezekiel 47: 13; 48: 4, 5).
2. Esau and the Birthright
Esau, as Reuben, forfeited his birthright. In Esau’s case the entire inheritance went to his younger brother, Jacob. Esau forfeited his birthright to satisfy a fleshly gratification. He sold his birthright to his younger brother, Jacob, for a single meal (Genesis 25: 27-34).
Since the rights of the firstborn had ultimately been promised to Jacob (Genesis 25: 23), some doubt that Esau ever actually possessed these rights. However, Esau was no pretender to the rights if the firstborn. The Greek word translated “sold” in Hebrews 12: 16 is inflected in a tense implying that the article sold belonged to Esau alone, and he was fully aware of his actions when he sold his birthright to Jacob.
In Genesis 25: 34 we read that Esau “despised his birthright.” The Greek word in the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament translated “despised” implies that Esau regarded the birthright as a paltry, a mere trifle. Esau regarded the birthright as practically worthless, and sold his rights as firstborn with the thought in mind that what he was selling was of no real value. It was only later, at a time when it was too late, that Esau realized the value of what he had sold. As in Reuben’s case, the forfeiture of the birthright did not affect his sonship, but it did affect forever his relationship to Isaac as firstborn.
After Jacob had been blessed as the firstborn in the family, Esau, apparently for the first time, realized the value of what he had lost. Esau then tried to retrieve the birthright, but the Scripture records that “he found no place of repentance.” After Esau realized the value of the birthright and the finality of what had occurred, he pleaded with his father, Isaac, to change his mind and bless him also. Esau cried out to Isaac: “Hast thou but one blessing, my father: bless me, even me also O my father.” And it is recorded that “Esau lifted up his voice, and wept” (Genesis 27: 38).
The word “repentance” means to change one’s mind. Esau sought to effect a change of mind on the part of his father, but “he found no place of repentance,” i.e., “he found no place for a change of mind.” The American Standard Version of the Bible (1901 ed.) has possibly the most accurate rendering of Hebrews 12: 17 to be found in any of the translations presently appearing on the market. This verse in the American Standard Version reads, “For ye know that even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place for a change of mind in his father, though he sought it diligently with tears.” Isaac could not change his mind. The birthright had been forfeited and was beyond Esau’s grasp forever.
Christians and the Birthright
Within the minds of many Christians is the thought that after a person has received the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour it makes little difference how he conducts his life, for all Christians will inherit with the Son when He receives the [millennial] kingdom. Nothing could be further from the truth. To reign with Christ is contingent upon identifying oneself with Christ and sharing in His rejection and reproach during the present day and time. If all Christians are to rule and reign with Christ in His kingdom, what does the Scripture mean when it states, “If we suffer [‘patiently endure’], we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2: 12)? If a Christian lives an undisciplined life, following the carnal nature (typified by Esau’s attitude toward the birthright) rather than the spiritual nature (typified by Jacob’s attitude toward the birthright), fails to occupy until the Lord comes (Luke 19: 12, 13), or fails to use the talent or pound entrusted to him by the Lord (Matthew 25: 14-30; Luke 15: 15-24), that Christian will also fail to occupy a place in our Lord’s [millennial] kingdom.
Every Christian is presently a firstborn child of God awaiting the adoption and inheritance belonging to the firstborn (Romans 8: 16-23, 29; Hebrews 2: 10; 12: 23). The adoption and inheritance are both future, and both can be forfeited, for one is intimately associated with the other. A Christian’s relationship to the Father as a firstborn child awaiting the adoption cannot be forfeited. But a Christian’s relationship to the Father as a firstborn son participating in the rights belonging to the firstborn can be forfeited. As in the account of Esau and Rueben, once this forfeiture has occurred, the rights belonging to the firstborn cannot be retrieved.
Christians retaining the rights of the firstborn will exercise these rights as “joint-heirs” with the Son in the [millennial] kingdom. But Christians who forfeit the rights of the firstborn will find themselves in the same position which Esau and Reuben found themselves following the loss of the rights belonging to the firstborn. Such Christians will seek a place of repentance. That is to say, they will attempt to have the [righteous] Judge change His mind and bless them alongside the others who did not forfeit the rights belonging to the firstborn. But they will find no place for a change of mind. It will be too late. The birthright will have been forfeited. The blessing pertaining to the [millennial] inheritance awaiting the firstborn sons of God will have been forfeited, and those who forfeit this blessing will occupy no position among the “kings and priests” who reign over [and upon] the earth with the Son. Christians in that ‘Day’, as Esau in the type, when they at last realize what has been lost, will lift up their voices and weep.
“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Revelation 3: 11).
* * *
Awaiting the Adoption
There is one place in the Book of Romans (8: 14) and one section in the Book of Galatians (3: 24-4: 7) where Christians are called “sons” of God in a present tense. In all other instances the expression is, or should be, rendered “children” of God (ref. John 1: 12; Phil. 2: 15; 1 John 3: 1, 2). However, neither the verse in Romans nor in the section in Galatians teaches that Christians have been adopted into sonship, for both, if rightly understood in the light of their respective contexts and related Scripture, are used in a future tense.
Romans, Chapter Eight
The verses immediately preceding Romans 8: 14 have to do with individuals (Christians) either walking after the flesh or walking after the Spirit – following the old man or the new man (vv. 1-13). The verses immediately following Romans 8: 14 state that we are presently “children” awaiting the adoption (vv. 15-23). Consequently, in the light of the context and related Scripture – which clearly teaches that we are presently children, not sons – it appears evident that Romans 8: 14 must be understood in the sense that the ones, as the first part of this verse states, who are “led [presently being led] by the Spirit of God” are the ones who will be adopted, i.e., placed in the position of “sons.” These are the ones who will be manifested as the “sons of God” in verse nineteen, synonymous with both the “many sons” who will be brought into glory in Hebrews 2: 10 and the ones who will comprise the “church of the firstborn” in Hebrews 12: 23.
The great burden of Scripture has to do with God’s intentions to replace the “sons of God” presently ruling under Satan with a great host of individuals He is about to place in the position of “sons” via adoption. Angels ruling under Satan have disqualified themselves, and they are to be disposed; Christians are presently in the process of qualifying to rule, and they are to be established in these positions. Christ has already shown Himself fully qualified to replace Satan, and Christians who qualify will hold positions under Christ, presently held by angels ruling under Satan.
Galatians, Chapters Three and Four
Galatians 3: 26 – 4: 7 is a section which deals with our position in Christ (3: 26-28), the adoption (4: 5), and the heirship (3: 29; 4: 7). The expression “in Christ” sets forth a positional standing, not what we are personally and actually here and now. “In Christ” all distinctions of the human race have been blotted out. There is neither male nor female, bond nor free, etc. But personally and actually these conditions exist. “In Christ” we have been seated together in heavenly places, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion” (Ephesians 2: 6; 1: 20, 21). But personally and actually we are here on earth, Jesus is at His Father’s right hand, and these heavenly powers (synonymous with the powers in Ephesians 6: 12) still possess dominion. “In Christ” we have been blessed with all spiritual blessings and have received the inheritance “reserved in heaven.” But personally and actually the reception of most blessings and the entirety of the inheritance are yet future (Ephesians 1: 3, 11-14; cf. 1 Peter 1: 3, 4). The same is also true of the sonship in the section in Galatians 3: 36 – 4: 7. We have already come into this position “in Christ,” but personally and actually the adoption and the heirship are yet future. This is the clear teaching of related Scripture, and Scripture does not contradict itself.
Placement and Position of Sons
Sons of God have held, continue to hold, and will always hold the main positions of power and authority under God over this earth. During prior ages, continuing into the present, angels have held these positions. But God is about to bring into existence a new order of sons; and this order of sons will, during the coming [millennial] age, occupy positions of power and authority presently held by angels, for “unto the angels hath he [God] not put in subjection the world [inhabited earth] to come”(Hebrews 2: 5).
future adoption of Christians [See Galatians 3: 7], as in
[* That is, both
The double portion of the Father’s estate, to be possessed by the Church, has to do with both spheres of the kingdom – heavenly and earthly. The blessings in store for Christians are heavenly, but these heavenly blessings will include an earthly “inheritance” and “possession,” for Christians will be joint heirs with Christ; and the Father has promised His Son, “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen [Gentiles] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm 2: 8, cf. Revelation 2: 26, 27). This earthly inheritance and possession … is associated with “the kingdom of the world [present world kingdom under Satan]” which will become “the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ [future world kingdom under Christ]” (Revelation 11: 15, ASV).
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne …” (Revelation 3: 21).
* * *
Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a could of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race [a contest involving a struggle] that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and hath set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that hath endured such gainsaying of sinners against himself, that ye wax not weary, fainting in your souls. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin [lit. ‘the sin.’ ref. verse 1]: and ye have forgotten the exhortation which reasoneth with you as with sons,
My son, regard not lightly the chastening [child training] of the Lord, nor faint when thou art reproved of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth [brought about by improper actions in the contest, but with a view to correction] every son whom he receiveth.
It is for chastening that ye endure; God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father chasteneth not? But if ye are without chastening, whereof all have been made partakers, then ye are bastards, and not sons (Hebrews 12: 1-8, ASV).
To properly understand the Book of Hebrews, one must keep the fact ever before him that the message in this book is directed to the saved, not the unsaved. The exhortations and warnings are for the child of God, not for one who remains outside this standing. The great burden of Hebrews is not that of rescuing the unsaved from the lake of fire, but that of bringing many sons unto glory.
Hebrews is a book on faith; and unlike Romans with its emphasis on a past faith governing our present position and determining our eternal destiny, Hebrews places the emphasis on a present faith, which not only governs present and future [aspects of salvation and] spiritual blessings, but also determines our [entrance and] position in the coming [millennial] kingdom. Hebrews, chapter eleven is recognized as the great chapter on faith; but it is, in reality, merely the capstone for the first ten chapters, and the conclusion of the entire matter is then given in chapter twelve.
The Race Through Faith
“Strive [strain every muscle] in the good contest [race] of the faith; lay hold upon life for the age, for which purpose you were called…” (1 Timothy 6: 12a).
The preceding is a literal translation from the Greek text, and some variances will be noted between this and other translations. The word “strive” is a translation of the Greek word agonizomai, from which the English word “agonize” is derived. One who agonizes in a contest or race strains every muscle of his being as he moves toward the goal. This is the same word used in both Luke 13: 24 and 1 Corinthians 9: 25, translated “strive” and “striveth.” And these verses refer to the same race as 1 Timothy 6: 12, which is also the same race referred to in Hebrews 12: 1.
The race must ever be run completely apart from any fleshly means. Man’s goals, aims, ambitions, plans, methods, etc., can in no way enter into this race, for it is a “race of the faith.” The w[W]riter of Hebrews stresses over and over again in chapter eleven, “By faith,” “By faith,” “By faith …,” with the summation of the matter being, “Therefore let us also …” (Hebrews 12: 1a).
the race set before us we are to keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus. The literal translation in verse two is, “Looking away unto
Jesus …” We are to look away from the trials and
testings of this life unto “the author and perfecter of our faith,” He, in exchange for the joy set before Him,
patiently endured the Cross, the opposition of sinners, and disregarded the
shame. He resisted to the point of blood
(cf, verse 4).
During His prayer to the Father in the
Christians are to “lay aside every weight [impediment] and the sin [the sin waiting to ensnare every Christian]” as they, through patient endurance, strive in the race. There is no room for a relaxed stance, or a look back (cf. Matthew 26: 40, 41; Luke 9: 62; 17: 32, 33). Disqualification for the prize not only can but will occur if one runs contrary to the rules (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27; 2 Timothy 2: 5).
The word “sin” in the first and fourth verses is both singular and articular in the Greek text. The reference is not to sin in general, but to a specific sin. The subject at hand is “faith”; and “the sin,” within the context, can only be the antithesis of faith, i.e., lack of faith, unfaithfulness. The besetting sin which Christians [regenerate believers] are to strive against in the race is unfaithfulness, for this, and this alone, will result in failure.
Participants in the Race
The race in which Christians are engaged is that of a life characterized by faith resulting in obedience to the Lord’s commandments. Christians alone are engaged in the race. Unsaved [unregenerate] individuals are aliens, outside the arena of faith, and, thus, cannot participate. In the basic type established during the days of Moses, an unsaved person is positioned in Egypt out from under the blood of the Passover Lamb; and the participants in the race are not only under the blood of the Passover Lamb, but are also positioned outside of Egypt, beyond the Red Sea passage.
likewise, have been delivered from
un-baptized Christian is on the right side of the blood but on the wrong side
of the baptismal waters. He is still in
There is no gainsaying [denying] that “born out of water” in John 3: 5 refers to water baptism. All attempts to discredit this interpretation result from a misunderstanding of the passage and fall short of sound exegesis. First, this passage is not dealing with eternal life, but with entrance into the kingdom. There is a vast difference between the two. Second, the type in Exodus requires both the appropriation of the blood and the passage through water prior to running the race; and this, in the antitype, is the subject of John 3: 3-5.
John 3: 5 is one of the most abused verses in Scripture. Cults have seized upon this verse, and, through their failure to understand that entrance into the kingdom is not synonymous with eternal life, they have sought to teach their baptismal regeneration heresy. The mainstream of Protestantism, on the other hand, realizing that baptism can have nothing to do with eternal life, has gone almost equally as far afield in the other direction through various unwarranted interpretations of “water” in this verse. Desiring to stay as far away from those who teach baptismal regeneration as possible, but still, by large, also failing to understand that the main issue of the verse is entrance into the kingdom rather than eternal life, they have sought to interpret “out of water” to mean something other than baptism. There are at least three popular views held by those who believe that “out of water” in this verse does not refer to baptism.
1. The passage should be translated, “born out of water, even Spirit…” This would make “water” symbolic of the Spirit. (The translators of the Amplified New Testament follow this interpretation.)
2. The word “water” should be understood as a reference to the Word of God. (This is probably the most widely held interpretation of the three, and verses such as Ephesians 5: 26 and Titus 3: 5 are offered in support.)
3. The words “out of water” refer to the first birth, the natural birth. (An infant, surrounded by water in its mother’s womb, is literally “born out of water,”)
None of these views, however, can be considered tenable. The first two violate a basic rule in Greek grammar, and all three ignore the contextual interpretation of John 3: 5.
The words translated “out of water and Spirit” in the Greek text of John 3: 5 consist of two nouns governed by one preposition and connected by a copulative. There is a rule in Greek grammar which states that whenever such a construction occurs, both nouns must be understood either in a literal sense or in a figurative sense. One cannot be interpreted literally and the other figuratively. This is a common construction in the Greek text, and there are no exceptions to the rule. Thus, the first two views present a grammatical problem, for both interpret “Spirit” literally and interpret “water” figuratively.
All three views present contextual problems. Aside from ignoring the fact that the subject matter at hand is the kingdom of God rather than eternal life, proponents of these views also ignore distinctions between expressions “see the kingdom of God” (verse 3) and “enter into the kingdom of God” (verse 5). Note the third view for example. If “born out of water” in verse five refers to the first birth, then this birth has already been experienced by the individual born from above in verse three, i.e., he has already undergone both the birth from below (“out of water”) and birth from above (“out of Spirit”) within the framework of his experience in verse three. This would then make verse five a repetition (or explanation) of what is already contained in verse three, leaving the words see and enter in these two verses to be looked upon as no more than synonymous terms, which they are not. Proponents of the other two views on the interpretation of “born out of water” in John 3: 5 are also confronted with the same basic problem.
Baptism alone is the only interpretation which is in keeping with the subject matter at hand, with the type, and presents no problems in interpretation. If “born out of Spirit” is effected through immersion in the Spirit (which it is), then “born out of water” can only be effected through immersion in water.
Time has been spent in this concluding chapter on a basic requirement for being in a position to run the race set before us because of such misunderstanding in Christian circles on the subject of baptism. Baptism is far more important than is commonly held. It has nothing to do with eternal salvation, but it has everything to do with running the race. An un-baptized Christian is a disobedient Christian who is in no position to participate in the race, for he is outside the arena where the race is run.
Purpose of the Race
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway [lit. ‘be rejected’]” (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27).
The great “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12: 1 is comprised of saints who have not only completed the race, but have also completed the race in a satisfactory manner. The specific reference is to the Old Testament saints in chapter eleven who moved through their earthly pilgrimage “by faith.” The words, “Therefore let us also,” indicate that we are to run the race in the same manner that they ran the race. Successful completion of the race on their part was “by faith,” and successful completion of the race on our part must be through the same means.
The response, “by faith,” on the part of individuals throughout chapter eleven was occasioned by the promises of God. God had, through His revelation “unto the fathers by the prophets,” revealed certain things concerning His plans and purposes lay the promises of future blessings which would one day be realized by His [obedient] people. Numerous Old Testament saints became interested in these things, took their eyes off the present, and looked out into the future, believing that God would ultimately bring to pass what He had promised.
The response, “by faith,” on the part of individuals today is also associated by the promises of God. God has, through His revelation “in these last days … unto us,” revealed certain things concerning His plans and purposes. And within the scope of this revelation lies the promises of future spiritual blessings which will one day be realized by [obedient and divinely enlightened] Christians. As Christians become interested in these things, they take their eyes off the present [evil age] and look out into the future, believing that God will ultimately bring to pass what He has promised [in the age to come.]
1 Corinthians 9: 25 reveals that an “incorruptible crown”
will be given to those who successfully complete the race. Other crowns held out before the participants
are a “crown of rejoicing” (1 Thessalonians 2: 19; Philippians 4: 1), a “crown of righteousness” (2
Timothy 4: 7, 8), a “crown of life” (James 1: 2; Revelation
2: 10), and a “crown of glory” (1 Peter 5: 2-4).
Crowns are to be [won and] worn by those who [will] occupy positions of rulership with Christ in His
kingdom. These positions are presently
being offered to [regenerate] Christians.
God is presently extending to Christians the opportunity to qualify for
a crown and, thus, be among those who rule from the heavens as joint-heirs with
Christ. Only those Christians who
qualify for one or more of the five crowns will [‘inherit the kingdom,’ and] be
placed in positions of power and authority, for no uncrowned individual will
rule in the
1 Timothy 6: 12 reveals that the Christians’ calling has to do with “life for the age,” which is derived through striving in the “race of the faith.” (refer to previously corrected translation of this verse.) The words “life for the age,” in the corrected translation (translated “eternal life” in most versions) refer to the salvation of the soul in relation to the coming age, the Messianic Era. That eternal life cannot be in view is evident. Eternal life is not obtained through striving in a race. Eternal life is a free gift, obtained completely apart from the race, and is the present possession of all [regenerate] believers. One is not qualified to enter the race unless he is in a possession of eternal life. Life for the age, however, is something quite different. It is a future hope held out before those who presently possess eternal life and are engaged in the race for the victor’s crown.
The Greek language actually contains no word for “eternal.” The word used in 1 Timothy 6: 12 (aionios) can, and many times must, be understood in the sense of “eternal”; but this meaning is derived from the textual usage of the word, not from the word itself. John 3: 16 is an example of a text where aionios must be understood as meaning “eternal,” for the only type [of] life which can be derived through faith [alone] in Christ is “eternal life” (cf. John 1: 4; 8: 35). Certain other times in the New Testament the word aionios must be understood [and interpreted] as referring to one or more periods of time (an age, ages), and ages always have definite beginnings and endings. Understanding aionios in this sense is also derived from the textual usage of the word rather than the word itself. Mark 10: 17, 30; Romans 16: 25; Galatians 6: 8; Titus 1: 2; 3: 7 are examples of verses where aionios cannot be understood [or interpreted*] in the sense of “eternal.”
[* One must always examine the context to find the correct interpretation. If the word aionios is found in a context of works, then it must be understood to mean “age-lasting” life. See additional note at the end.]
Scripture bearing upon the race in which Christians are presently engaged always connect the object of the race with participating in [an entrance, and participating] in the activities of the coming age. Shame and suffering constitute the normal lot for the faithful today. Christians are to be associated with Christ in His sufferings, reproach, and rejection. The day of His exaltation and glory is yet future. And the faithful [and obedient] who are identified with Him during the present day are the ones who will be identified with Him during the coming [millennial] day. Old Testament saints, through God’s revelation to them, understood these things; and New Testament saints are to understand these things through the same means.
* * *
Bringing Many Sons to Glory
“For it became him, for whom all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2: 10).
“Child training,” with a view to sonship, is set forth as the primary object of faith in the Book of Hebrews. Christians are presently “children” awaiting the adoption into sonship, and, through proper training they are being prepared for the time when God will bring “many sons unto glory.” Since this is the case, it is only natural that the subject would appear in all its fullness in chapter twelve – the chapter containing summation verses for the first eleven chapters of Hebrews.
The w[W]riter of Hebrews, in 12: 5b, 6, quotes the words of Solomon to his son recorded in Proverbs 3: 11, 12. Solomon rightly contemplated that his son would one day inherit the throne in his kingdom. Thus, Solomon counselled his son accordingly, for it was necessary that his son be properly trained for this high position. And this is exactly what God is doing for the ones who are about to become joint-heirs with His Son, be seated with Him on the throne, and rule with Him in the [His] kingdom. These individuals are today being called out - [i.e., from amongst the members of His ‘body,’ (the Church); as Eve was taken out of the ‘body’ of the ‘First Adam.’ (Genesis 2: 22, 23.)] – and trained for the exalted positions into which they are about to enter.
In Hebrews 12: 5ff there is a great deal of misunderstanding, not only concerning chastening itself, but also concerning the reason for chastening and the identity of the ones being chastened. Chastening is a teaching or training process designed to bring a particular group of individuals into a particular position for a particular purpose.
The words “chastening,” “chasteneth,” “chastisement,” and “chastened” in Hebrews 12: 5-11 are translations of either the Greek verb paideuo or the noun paideia. Paideuo and paidia have to do with “the rearing of a child,” and the words mean “to instruct,” or “to educate.” This instruction or education of a child is performed with a view to proper growth into manhood. The root idea of paideia is brought out in passages such as, “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians…” (Acts 7: 22a), “… for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3: 16b), and “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope…” (Titus 2: 12, 13a).
The training which a child of God receives is rooted in instruction from the Word of God, but in a broader sense, this training also encompasses all the trials and testings of life and is intimately associated with “scourging” (verse 6). In reality though, the latter must be based on the former, for without proper instruction from the Word of God, the trials, testings, and scourgings which the Lord brings to pass would be meaningless. “Faith” rooted in a mature knowledge of the Word of God is the prerequisite, and it is “in this faith” that we are to move victoriously through the trials and testings of life (cf. James 1: 2-6; 1 Peter 1: 7-11; 2 Peter 1: 2-8).
1. Purpose of Chastening
What is God’s great purpose for the Church [i.e., regenerate believers] during the age in which we live?
“The answer is simple. The establishing of a great empire upon what has been hostile territory lately conquered, and its consequent permanent administration, demand a large body of trained and qualified officials, having full knowledge of the purposes of their Sovereign, and of the means by which they are to be served, and with enthusiastic devotion to His ends. Every great leader will train such men in advance of the actual conquest, so that they shall be at hand immediately when the hour strikes. This is what God is doing: this is His purpose for this selected company, the Church [of the firstborn.]
“With this high end in view they are put through a severe school of discipline of character, TO TRAIN THEM TO FEEL AND ACT LIKE THEIR KING, and thus be qualified to co-operate with Him in His coming day” (G. H. Lang).
was trained “in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” He was trained in this manner in view of that
day when he would be adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter and occupy
a responsible place, as a son, among the members of the royal family of
Christians, in like manner, are being trained, not in the wisdom of the Egyptians (the world), but in the wisdom which comes from on high. They are being trained for that day when they will be adopted and take responsible places, as sons, among the members of the royal family of heaven. All child training in God’s court is directed toward this end.
2. Identity of the Chastened
The chastened and non-chastened in Hebrews 12: 5ff should not be thought of in the sense of saved and unsaved individuals, else one will completely miss what is really in view. The passage is dealing with [i.e., regenerate] Christians alone, not with Christians and non- [nominal] Christians. These verses involve “child training” with a view to sonship and rulership. Only children (Christians) are presently being dealt with as sons (cf. Romans 8: 14-17).
Note verse seven: Literally translated the first part of this verse reads, “If you [Christians] are patiently enduring child training, God is dealing with you as sons.” The antithesis, a definite possibility brought out in verse eight, is that if you are not patiently enduring child training, God is not dealing with you as sons. The teaching in this passage is that the child of God patiently enduring child training is being dealt with by God as a son in view of the day when he will be adopted. The child of God not patiently enduring child training is not being dealt with as a son, for he will not be among the adopted. Bear in mind that adoption has to do with sonship, which itself implies rulership. Only those patiently enduring child training will be among the many sons whom the Lord will bring unto glory.
Now note verse eight: “But if ye [Christians – same as verse 7] are without chastening, whereof all have become partakers [all who are ‘patiently enduring child training’ and, thus, being dealt with ‘as sons,’ (verse 7)], then are ye “bastards” (nothoi) only appears this one time in the entire New Testament. The word within its context is used relative to the ones not being trained, the nothoi, are simply those Christians (children) who have rejected training and, thus, cannot be dealt with as sons.
The entire creation presently “groaneth and travaileth in pain together” awaiting “the manifestation of the SONS of God.” The condition will persist throughout the entire child training era – the entire present age. Then, after the training is over, “he that shall come will come, and will not tarry,” the adoption will occur, and the adopted sons of God will be elevated to high positions of power and authority with God’s Son, Jesus [Christ] – positions which are presently being “reserved in heaven” for the faithful (Romans 8: 18-23; Hebrews 10: 37; 1 Peter 1: 4).
“Now the just shall live by faith …” (Hebrews 10: 38a).
* * *
Inheriting the Promises
“That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself. Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath. That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whether the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek:” (Heb. 6: 12-20).
Jesus Christ is God’s appointed “heir of all things” (Heb. 1: 2a). This is the manner in which the Book of Hebrews begins, which sets the tone for the entire epistle. And a connected thought deals with the ages being planned around the Son’s activity - as God’s appointed Heir - within these ages (Heb. 1: 2b). The Son is the central figure of Scripture, beginning with Gen. 1: 1 (cf. John 1: 1-3,14); and His heirship is the central subject of Scripture, beginning at the same point in Genesis (cf. Psa. 8: 1-9; 1 Cor. 15: 45-50; Heb. 1: 4-13).
Man was created for a purpose, which was revealed at the time of his creation (Gen. 1: 26-28). He was created to “have dominion.” And the Son being appointed “heir of all things” has its basis in the purpose for man’s creation in the beginning. ‑
lost his right and ability to exercise dominion through the action of the first
Man, the first Adam. Man, through Adam’s
action, found himself in a fallen state, necessitating redemption. Then the second Man, the last Adam,
subsequently paid redemption’s price through His finished work at
The second Man, the last Adam, will realize His appointed position as “heir of all things” through exercising dominion over all of God’s creation (as it pertains to the earth). He, along with numerous redeemed co-heirs, will exercise this dominion for 1,000 years, for the duration of the coming Messianic Era.
Thus, in the preceding sense, the central subject of Scripture is not really redemption per se but that which redemption makes possible (with the central person of Scripture being Christ, the One Who paid redemption’s price).
Redemption entered the picture in Genesis only after man found himself in a position wherein he could no longer realize the purpose for his creation (Gen. 3: 15, 21-24; cf. vv. 1-13). And redemption enters the picture today - or at any point in history - for the same purpose that it did 6,000 years ago. Unredeemed man is alienated from God and in no position to take the sceptre, and occupying a position of this nature he cannot realize the purpose for his creation. He must first be redeemed. Then, the purpose for redemption, going back to the purpose for creation, naturally follows.
Thus, whether dealing with man’s creation, his fall, or provided redemption following the fall, the same central purpose is always present; and that purpose has to do with man exercising dominion. Man was created to exercise dominion, Satan brought about his fall to prevent him from exercising dominion, and redemption has been provided so man can be brought back into a position wherein he can one day exercise dominion.
The thought of man exercising dominion both precedes and follows redemption at any point in Scripture. It must, for that is the way matters are introduced in Genesis, establishing an unchangeable pattern.
It is as outlined in the opening part of the Book of Hebrews. This book, as previously stated, opens through calling attention to the fact that the Son has been appointed “heir of all things” (1: 2). Then reference is made to His redemptive work and His present position at God’s right hand (v. 3). And following this, the Spirit of God provides seven Messianic quotations from the Old Testament, pointing to that day when the appointed Heir will come into possession of His inheritance (vv. 5-13).
The book begins by centering on the Son after this fashion. But, again, redemption provided by the Son is for a purpose; and that purpose begins to be unfolded in the book immediately following the seven Messianic quotations through calling attention to the purpose for the entire present dispensation - to acquire the co-heirs who will occupy the throne with the “heir of all things” during the coming day of His power (1:14ff; cf. Rom. 8: 17).
The second Man, the last Adam, has provided redemption so that fallen man (descending from the first Man, the first Adam) can be brought back into the position for which he was created. Thus, redemption is not an end in itself. Rather redemption is a means to an end. The end is “heirship,” and redemption places the person in a position wherein he can one day come into a realization of this heirship.
is as in the type beginning in Exodus, chapter
twelve. The death of the
And that is exactly what the Book of Hebrews is about in a type-antitype structure. It is about man who has been redeemed with an end in view. It is about redeemed man one day inheriting with the Son in a land removed from this [groaning] earth. It is about redeemed man coming into possession of “so great salvation” in that coming “seventh day” ‑ the seventh millennium ‑ first spoken of in Gen. 2: 2, 3 (Heb. 1: 14 - 2: 5; 4: 4-9).
God has set aside an entire dispensation lasting two millenniums, during which He is calling out the co-heirs who will inherit with His Son during that coming day when the Son exercises dominion. And these co-heirs are being called out from among the redeemed. Thus, in this respect, the central subject of Hebrews revolves around matters beyond redemption. It revolves around God’s dealings with the saved relative to an inheritance in a land set before them. It revolves around redeemed man being brought into the position for which man was originally created.
An original type involving saved man in Hebrews can be seen in the account involving Eve in Genesis, chapter two. Viewing the antitype, this chapter in Genesis presents Christ’s co-heirs from Hebrews occupying the position of consort queen, typified by Eve. Christ is the second Man, the last Adam, typified by the first Man, the first Adam (Rom. 5: 14). The redeemed of the present dispensation form His body (Col. 1: 18); and as Eve was removed from Adam’s body to reign as consort queen with him (“let them have dominion” [both the male and the female; Gen. 1: 26, 27]) so will the bride of Christ be removed from Christ’s body to reign as consort queen with Him.
Then in a subsequent type the central mission of the Holy Spirit to the earth during the present dispensation is seen to centre ‑ not around redemption per se ‑ but around the purpose for redemption. According to Genesis, chapter twenty-four, the central mission of the Holy Spirit in the world today is to acquire a bride for God’s Son.
Genesis, chapter twenty-three the wife of
Jehovah is seen set aside following
Events in chapter twenty-four have to do with one central subject – Abraham’s servant sent into the far country to acquire a bride for Abraham’s son Isaac. And the bride was to be acquired only from within Abraham’s family (vv. 3, 4).
Matters surrounding redemption, allowing unsaved man to become a member of the family, occur, in the type, back in chapter twenty-two (the offering of Isaac); and the whole of that dealt with in chapter twenty-four pertains to matters occurring within the family, to matters subsequent to and separate from redemption.
specifically, viewing the type and antitype together, the basis for redemption
occurs through the Father offering the Son in ch. 22
[typifying events surrounding
The Holy Spirit, in the antitype of Abraham’s servant, is in the world today; and His primary mission revolves around calling out a bride for God’s Son. Redemption must occur first. That is fundamental and primary. But there is a purpose for redemption, and the realization of that purpose follows and is contingent upon the events typified in chapter twenty-four occurring first.
The order is threefold: 1) redemption, then 2) the acquisition of the bride, and then 3) the Son’s reign over the earth with His bride. And, in this respect, the bride of Christ - in perfect accord with Eve being removed from Adam’s body (Gen. 2) or Rebekah being removed from the family of Abraham (Gen. 24) - is to be acquired from the family of God. That is, the bride is to be called out from among the saved.
And events depicted in Genesis, chapters two and twenty-four rather than events depicted in Genesis, chapter twenty-two is where one finds himself in the Book of Hebrews. This book deals with the Holy Spirit calling out a bride for God’s Son, offering to redeemed man the privilege and opportunity to one day participate in activities surrounding the bride. This book centers around a salvation out ahead, a rest, an inheritance. The Book of Hebrews is about Christians one day entering into positions with the Son as co-heirs, comprising the Son’s bride, the one who will reign as consort queen in the antitype of Eve or Rebekah. …
THE HOPE SET BEFORE US
Insofar as Abraham having both a heavenly seed and an earthly seed which would one day rule over the Gentile nations and through whom the Gentile nations would be blessed, the matter is as certain as the veracity of God’s oath. He has sworn by Himself concerning the matter.
Abraham’s earthly seed through natural, lineal descent from Isaac and Jacob,
will one day dwell in the land of Canaan at the head of the nations, with
Christ seated on David’s throne in their midst.
And not only will
The hope of
individual Jews, “the hope of
2. THE CHRISTIANS’ HOPE
text relative to “hope” in Hebrews, chapter six (v. 18)
though does not concern
Christians’ hope, with its basis found the same place as
In Ephesians this “hope” has to do with an inheritance (1: 11-18); in Colossians it has to do with the coming glory of Christ (1: 5, 23, 27); in 1 Thessalonians it has to do with a future salvation (5: 8); in Titus it has to do with an inheritance and life in the coming age (1: 2; 2:12, 13; 3: 7); in 1 Peter it has to do with an inheritance, the salvation of one’s soul, and participation in Christ’s coming glory (1: 3‑9; 3:14, 15; 4:12, 13); and in 1 John it has to do with being unashamed and like Christ when Christians see Him “as he is” at the judgment seat (2: 28 - 3: 3).
Hebrews, accordingly, should be no different; and that is exactly the case. “Hope,” in this epistle, is something set before Christians, which is associated with God’s promise to Abraham, an inheritance, and the saving of the soul (6:13-19; 10: 36-39). The “confidence and the rejoicing of the hope” is to be held by Christians in an unwavering, steadfast manner (3: 6; 10: 23); and Christians are exhorted to assemble together for the specified purpose of discussing this hope and being a help to one another in things related to this hope (10: 23-25 [in v. 23, “profession of our faith” should literally be translated “confession of the hope”]).
AN ANCHOR OF THE SOUL
This hope is presented as “an anchor of the soul” (Heb. 6: 19). It is an anchor “both sure and stedfast ... which entereth into that within the veil [i.e., beyond the veil, inside the Holy of Holies].” And Christ, beyond the veil, is presented as “the forerunner ... for us” (the One Who has gone ahead on our behalf). He is presently acting as High Priest on our behalf, anticipating the coming day of His power; and He, as High Priest beyond the veil, is providing a present cleansing for the “kings and priests” (Rev. 5: 10) who will ascend the throne with Him during that coming day.
Note how the preceding is reflected at the end of Hebrews, chapter six: “Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever [‘for the age,’ the coming Messianic Era] after the order of Melchizedek” (v. 20).
Our hope is not only firmly anchored on the person of Christ beyond the veil, but it is anchored upon Christ as He will appear in that coming day ‑ as the great King-Priest, “after the order of Melchizedek.” It is a present hope which looks to a future day for its realization, and it has to do with the saving of the soul.
This is why, within the capstone of the book, Christians are exhorted to keep their eyes fixed upon Jesus (Heb. 12: 1, 2). Christians are exhorted to keep their eyes fixed on the One beyond the veil, where the anchor of their soul lies; and, in this manner, they are to faithfully run with patient endurance “the race” set before them.
The summation of the matter surrounding “faith and patience [‘patient endurance’]” is possibly best stated in the words concluding the fourth major warning in Hebrews, introducing chapter eleven in the book, the great chapter on “faith”:
“For ye have need of patience [‘patient endurance’], that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition [‘destruction’]; but of them that believe [are ‘faithful’ ] to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10: 36-39).
* * *
Overcoming, Being Overcome
Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the Lord.
Also the Lord was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also
shalt not go in thither. But Joshua the
son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him:
for he shall cause
Moreover your little ones, which ye said shall be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.
But as for you, turn you, and take your journey
into the wilderness by the way of the
And command thou the people, saying, Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir...
And when we passed by from our brethren the children of Esau, which dwelt in Seir, through the way of the plain from Elath, and from Ezion-gaber, we turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab ... the children of Lot... (Deut. 1:35-40; 14, 8, 9).
Because of the
action of the people of
On the one hand, there was the overthrow of an entire unbelieving generation, overthrown in a manner completely in keeping with their unbelief. Then, on the other hand, Caleb and Joshua - the ones believing that they could go in and, under God, take the land ‑ ultimately realized their inheritance in a manner completely in keeping with their belief.
nation at large, at Kadesh-Barnea, believed the false
report of the ten spies. They envisioned
falling at the hands of the inhabitants of
Once this had occurred, once the Israelites had expressed unbelief after this fashion, at this particular place, the nation found itself in a position from which there could be no return. The accountable generation had forfeited their part in the rights of the firstborn (rights to be realized by the nation as God’s firstborn son [cf. Ex. 4: 22, 23; 19: 5, 6]), matters could not be reversed (cf. Matt. 12:31, 32), and the only thing awaiting these Israelites was God carrying out His judgmental decree.
Note that the very next day, after hearing God’s judgment upon them because of their unbelief (along with seeing the ten spies die “by the plague before the Lord”), the unbelieving Israelites changed their minds. They even went so far as to attempt to enter the land after being warned by Moses that the Lord was no longer with them; and they were, accordingly, driven back by the Amalekites and the Canaanites. They could no longer occupy the place from which they, through unbelief, had fallen (Num. 14: 28-45).
This is what the third of the five major warnings in the Book of Hebrews is about (6: 4-6). Once a Christian falls away in the antitype of that which occurred at Kadesh-Bamea (Heb. 3, 4), exactly the same thing will occur to the unbelieving Christian as occurred to the unbelieving Israelites. The Christian will have fallen away after such a fashion that he cannot be renewed “again unto repentance [‘unto a change of mind’]” (v. 6).
The “change of mind” is not on the part of the Christian, as it was not on the part of the Israelites in the type. It was/ is on the part of God. A Christian falling away after this fashion may later change his mind, as the Israelites did after falling away. But, as in the type, God will not change His mind.
The Christian will have forfeited his part in the rights of the firstborn (rights to be realized by the Church following the adoption into sonship [cf. Rom. 8: 18-23; Heb. 12: 23]) with only judgment awaiting; and God will not change His mind and bless that Christian also. The type has been set, and the antitype must follow the previously established type.
Exactly the same thing is seen relative to these rights and a change of mind in the last of the five major warnings in Hebrews (12: 14-17). Esau, after forfeiting the rights of the firstborn - selling these rights to his younger brother, Jacob – “found no place of repentance [‘a change of mind’], though he sought it carefully with tears” (v. 17).
Esau changed his mind following the forfeiture. After realizing the value of that which he had forfeited, Esau sought to get his father to change his mind and bless him also. But it was too late. The birthright had been forfeited, it was beyond Esau’s grasp forever, and all Esau could do at this point was express grief over that which he had allowed to occur. Scripture reads, “And Esau lifted up his voice and wept” (Gen. 27: 34-38).
(Note two things: 1) The warnings in Hebrews become self-explanatory, self-interpretive, if they are understood in the light of the types [an interpretive method which is true, in reality, throughout the whole of Scripture, i.e., types and antitypes understood in the light of one another]; and 2) very few Christians today could fall away in the antitype of Heb. 6: 4-6, for to fall away after this fashion requires an understanding of the Word of the Kingdom - [i.e.‘The message about the kingdom’ (Matt. 13: 18, N.I.V.] - something which very few Christians presently possess. …
1. TURNED ABOUT
Moses, near the end of his life and near the end of the wilderness journey, recounted to the Israelites that which had occurred at Kadesh-Barnea and throughout the thirty-eight succeeding years. He spoke of the nation’s unbelief, along with Caleb and Joshua’s belief. Then he recounted God’s promise to Caleb and Joshua, along with the account of God’s judgment falling upon the unbelieving nation (Deut. 1:26ff).
Caleb and Joshua, because they believed the Lord, had been promised that they would one day realize an inheritance in the land. They would be allowed to go in with the second generation and, individually, have a part in the rights belonging to God’s firstborn son. The remainder of the accountable generation though, because they did not believe the Lord, would die in the wilderness prior to the second generation being allowed to go into the land under Joshua. They would have no part in realizing the rights of the firstborn (Deut. 1:35ff).
After Moses had recounted the Lord’s promise to Caleb and Joshua, he then turned to the account of the Lord’s judgmental decree upon the unbelieving generation. God’s decree from thirty-eight years back, given through Moses, began with the words, “But as for you...” (v. 40).
Then, the first thing which the unbelieving generation at Kadesh-Barnea heard after that was, “turn you” (v. 40). That is, they were to turn from the land set before them. Through their prior act of unbelief, they had gone too far. They had expressed unbelief concerning the Lord being able to complete His work and bring them into the land to which He had called them. They had expressed unbelief in matters surrounding the very goal of their calling - a realm which the Lord considered of supreme importance, important above everything else. And, through so doing, they went beyond the point which the Lord could allow them to go and still allow them to enter the land.
Thus, there was only one thing left. They were to be turned from the land toward which they had moved for the preceding eighteen months, with a view to their being overthrown outside this land. And the place where they were to be overthrown was clearly revealed at the beginning; and now, thirty-eight years later, God’s dealings with a rebellious people after this fashion was in the very last stages of being completed.
2. IN TO THE WIL DERNESS, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA
viewing matters from the beginning once again, the Israelites were not to be
overthrown just any place in the wilderness; nor could they be taken back to
Israelites were turned away from the
The “Sea” refers particularly to two things in Scripture. It refers to the place of the Gentile nations and to the place of death. In this respect, typically, the place which God had reserved for the unbelieving Israelites was in the sphere of death among the Gentile nations. And it was here that they were to be overthrown. …
picture is really the same as seen in the later experiences of
Moses’ day, it was only at the end of a full forty years (referring to a complete period*) that God allowed a second generation of Israelites
to leave their place in “the wilderness by the way of
[* Is there not a teaching here relative to a select resurrection of the dead? Of an entrance, after two thousand years in Sheol/Hades of “those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age (the millennial age) and in the resurrection from the dead:” (Luke 20: 35, N.I.V.)]
if the Hebrew rendering for Jesus is preferred in the antitype, it is “Joshua” [this is the reason for the incorrect
rendering, “Jesus,” rather than “Joshua,” in Heb. 4: 8,
KJV]. Joshua led the Israelites into the
land in the past, and Joshua [Jesus] will lead the Israelites into the land in
the future. Also note that a more
detailed and complete look at the overall type is seen beginning with the
3. INTO THE LANDS OF ESAU,
according to the text, that the unbelieving Israelites were not to be
overthrown just any place in “the wilderness by the way
Esau, the elder son of Isaac, “despised his birthright” and sold his rights as firstborn to his younger brother, Jacob, for a meal consisting of “bread and pottage of lentils” (Gen. 25: 27-34). The Septuagint (Creek version of the O.T.) uses a word for the rendering “despised” (v. 34) which means that Esau regarded his birthright as practically worthless. He saw no real value to the birthright and sold it on a particular occasion to satisfy his [natural] hunger.
was “a cunning
hunter, a man of the field,”
contrasted with Jacob who was “a plain man, dwelling in tents”
(Gen. 25: 27). The “field”
in Scripture, as “
Thus, Esau, in Scripture, is pictured as a man of the world - a person interested in the things of the world rather than the things of God. And Esau sold his rights as firstborn at a time immediately after he had been out in “the field” and at a time when he was “faint [weary and hungry]” (Gen. 25: 29, 30).
There was nothing in the field to reveal the value of the birthright to Esau. The birthright had to do with spiritual values, separate from the world; but Esau was interested in the world and that which could bring satisfaction to the fleshly man. Spiritually, he could only have been completely destitute, with his rights as firstborn being something which he knew practically nothing about and, accordingly, something of little interest to him. Thus, looking upon the birthright from the vantage point of the world and seeing little value therein, he considered one meal to be of more value and sold his rights as firstborn for the meal.
And it was into Esau’s land - the land of a person of the world who considered his birthright to be of little value - that God’s firstborn son, because of the nation’s unbelief and forfeiture of the rights of the firstborn, was taken to be overthrown. The unbelieving [and disobedient] generation was to be overthrown in the land of the descendants of a person who had looked upon the rights of the firstborn after a similar fashion to the way they had looked upon them.
not only were the unbelieving Israelites to be overthrown in the
after strife had arisen between the herdsmen of
moved down into the cities
of the plain, pitched his tent toward
who sat in the gate of a city in those days transacted business on behalf of
the city. Thus,
it was into
4. CHRISTIANS [i.e., REGENERATE BELIEVERS]
IN THE ANTITYPE
The whole matter of Christians in the antitype hardly needs to be stated for those who have eyes to see. There is nothing ‑ absolutely NOTHING - more important in the Christian life than presently moving out toward and ultimately realizing the goal of one’s calling.
But, what are most Christians doing relative to the matter today? Take a look around and see for yourself.
Is this the topic of concern when Christians meet together today? Is this what is heard from the pulpit or the classroom on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and /or other times when Christians come together. Again, the reader can answer from his /her own experience.
Christians cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6: 19-24). They cannot have the best of what this world has to offer and also expect to have the best of what God has already offered. Christians must, individually, choose; and that decision is left entirely up to them (cf. Gen. 24: 58).
can go the way of Esau and Lot ‑ having any spiritual senses and
perspective progressively dulled by the things of the world ‑ resulting
in their progressively being overthrown in the
[* That is, a full inheritance – Millennial as well as Eternal - and this requires an undisclosed high standard of ones personal righteousness to ‘attain’ entrance, (Matt. 5: 20; 7: 21, 26; Luke 22: 28-30; Gal. 5: 19-21; Eph. 5: 1-7. cf. Phil. 3: 11-14, etc.)]
The former is the easy life, and the latter is not so easy. In fact, the latter often becomes quite difficult. But what will the end be? That’s what matters!
Note that Caleb and Joshua, at Kadesh-Barnea, didn’t have it easy at all when giving a true report relative to the land set before them. In fact, the unbelieving [redeemed] generation of Israelites sought to stone them (Num. 14: 6-10). And they had to live with this unbelieving generation for the next thirty-eight and one-half years, until every single one of them had been overthrown.
And that’s where the believing Christian is today. He is out living among unbelieving Christians who are in the process of being overthrown; and he, invariably, experiences similar treatment to that which Caleb and Joshua were accorded among the unbelieving Israelites.*
[* Many years ago, the editor of this website was told to “shut up,” when talking about responsibility truths to members of the congregation in a local Baptist Church: and this is not surprising, when he is now fully aware that the Principle in the Baptist College at Moira, is himself Anti-Millennialist.]
Persecution, in actuality,
doesn’t come from the world. That’s not
what is found in the type, and it can’t be found after any other fashion in the
antitype. True persecution comes from unfaithful
fellow-believers. They are the ones who find themselves in the position of Esau,
1. NECESSARY PREPARATIONS
was only near the end of the forty years that God began to once again deal with
the Israelites relative to entrance into the
“This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee” (Deut. 2: 25).
This was the beginning of the Lord’s preparatory work relative to bringing the second generation of Israelites, along with Caleb and Joshua, into the land. And the remainder of Deuteronomy - prior to the account of the entrance of the nation into the land in the first three chapters of the Book of Joshua - concerns itself mainly with what was stated by Moses in Deut. 4: 1:-
“Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you.”
Then Moses’ closing words to this new generation of Israelites, given immediately before his death, near the end of the book, were almost identical to the way he began:-
“Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you
this day, which ye shall command your
children to observe to do, all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing
ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over
the time Moses proclaimed these final words to “all
with the leadership falling to Joshua, this is where the five books of Moses
close, with the Israelites ready to cross the
2. GROSSING THE
Moses, at Kadesh-Barnea, had sent twelve spies into the land. Now, thirty-eight and one-half years later, Joshua, from the eastern side of Jordan, sends two individuals to spy out Jericho and the surrounding land (Joshua 2: 1ff). And upon the return of the two spies “from the mountain” (v. 23), their report was very simple and straightforward:-
“And they said unto Joshua, Truly the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us” (Joshua 2: 24).
And this time there was no evil report by the spies or unbelief on the part of the people. According to the record, following the report of the two spies, the immediate matter at hand was the passage of the people across the Jordan River and the conquest of the land, beginning with Jericho (Joshua 3: l ff).
the Israelites were across and twelve stones had been taken from the midst of
Jordan as a testimony for future generations, the priests brought the ark up
from the midst of Jordan, and the Lord released the waters to their natural
flow once again (Joshua 4: 1-24). Then note the reaction of the Gentile nations
“And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel” (Joshua 5: 1; cf. Deut. 2: 25).
following Joshua circumcising the new generation (in accord with the Lord’s
instructions) and the manna ceasing (the people were to now eat “the fruit of the
3. TAKING THE LAND, REALIZING AN INHERITANCE
was among the cities in the land described thirty-eight and one-half years
earlier by the ten spies as being “walled up to heaven
[‘to the heavens’]" (Deut. 1: 28).
But note what the Lord did with the wall surrounding
After the Israelites had followed the Lord’s instructions concerning taking Jericho, the wall simply “fell down flat”; and the Israelites marched across the fallen wall, “utterly destroyed all that was in the city” (save Rahab and her family), and then burned the city (Joshua 6: 2-27).
And that is the way it was to be as the Israelites marched through the land, conquer the inhabitants, and possessed the land. And that’s the way it could have been thirty-eight and one-half years earlier had the Israelites believed the true report given by Caleb and Joshua rather than the false report given by the ten.
the wav it was to be and the way it actually happened ‑ even during the
conquest under Joshua ‑ were not the same. At the very next city which the Israelites
sought to conquer ‑ Ai ‑ they suffered defeat. Achan, contrary
to the Lord’s command, had kept some of the spoils of
The matter of Achan’s sin had to be dealt with first, and the people could then (and did) move victoriously against Ai (Joshua 7:23-26; 8: 1ff). And beyond that the Israelites, under Joshua, began to progressively move victoriously throughout the land, taking it “by little and little,” as the preceding generation had been instructed to do under Moses (Joshua 9: 1ff; cf. Deut. 7: 22).
Then, after the Israelites, over time, had destroyed part of the nations in the land, the Lord instructed Joshua to divide the land for an inheritance among the different tribes (Joshua 13: 1ff; cf Joshua 21: 43-45; 23: 4-13). And it was within this division that Caleb and Joshua realized the inheritance which had been promised to them at Kadesh-Barnea forty-five years earlier (Joshua 14: 7-14; 19: 49, 50; cf. Num. 14: 24, 30; Deut. 1: 35-38).
4. CHRISTIANS TODAY
Everything is identical in the antitype. There is a warfare against those dwelling in the land of the Christian’s inheritance (Satan and his angels), and the warfare can be won or it can be lost.
One primary, simple fact though remains should Christians expect to one dav realize an inhentance in the land to which they have been called: They must engage themselves in the battle; The war must be fought (Eph. 3: 9-11; 6: 11-18).
battle and its outcome can be seen in the experiences of the Israelites at Jerico;or the battle and its
outcome can be seen in the experiences of the Israelites at Ai. And victory (as at
God’s people must do what He has told them to do. This is the reason Moses, near the end of his life, immediately before the Israelites were to enter the land under Joshua, spent his time reiterating the Lord’s commandments to the people (Deut. 4: 1 ff); and this is also the reason that Joshua did exactly the same thing immediately following the Israelites’ defeat and subsequent victory at Ai (Joshua 8: 34, 35).
Moses, by reiterating the Lord’s commandments to the people prior to the conquest, sought to prevent events such as those which had occurred at Ai; and Joshua, going back over the Lord’s commandments after matters surrounding Ai had been taken care of ‑ something which formed a conclusion to previous instructions left by Moses ‑ sought to prevent a repeat of such events (cf. Deut. 27: 1-8; Joshua 8: 30-35).
Jesus is “the author of eternal salvation [‘salvation for the age’*] unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5: 9; cf. Gen. 42: 55, 56; Matt. 7: 24-29; John 15: 1-15). A Christian must follow that which the Lord has commanded (which will result in his keeping himself unspotted by the world [rather than following Achan’s path]) as he goes forth to battle the inhabitants of the land.
[* See footnote at end on the various translations of the Greek word aionios.]
Sin is disobedience to that which the Lord has commanded. And though Christians ‑ presently in a body of flesh, housing the old sin nature ‑ may fall, cleansing is available. That’s why Christ is presently exercising the office of High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary (cf. John 13: 8‑10; Heb. 10: 19‑22; 1 John 1: 6 – 2: 2).
Sin must be dealt with prior to the battle (as at Ai). Then, believing that the Lord will do exactly what He has promised, victory after victory can ensue as the person moves forward, keeping his eyes fixed on the goal. There can be no such thing as defeat if one moves in accord with the Lord’s instructions.
* * *
NOTE ON THE GREEK WORD ‘AIONIOS’
The word “eternal” in the English text is misleading. Those for whom Christ is the source of salvation (Christians) already possess eternal salvation; and, beyond that, this salvation was not acquired through obedience to Christ, as in the text. Rather, it was acquired through believing on the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3: 16).
Obedience to Christ, resulting from suffering, can come into view only following belief, never before. Only the [eternally] saved have “passed from death unto life” and are in a position to suffer and subsequently obey. The unsaved are still “dead in trespasses and sins” (John 5:24; Eph. 2: 1).
The Greek language, from which our English versions have been translated, does not contain a word for “eternal.” A person using the Greek language thinks in the sense of “ages”; and the way this language is normally used in the New Testament to express “eternal,” apart from textual considerations, is through the use of the Greek words eis tons aionas ton aionon, meaning, “unto [or, ‘with respect to’] the ages of the ages” (ref. Heb. 13: 21; 1 Peter 4: 11; Rev. 1: 6; 4: 9, 10 for several examples of places where these words are used, translated “forever and ever” in most versions).
less frequently used way to express “eternal” in
the Greek New Testament, apart from textual considerations,
is through the use of a shortened form of the preceding ‑ eis tons aionas,
meaning “unto [or, ‘with respect to’] the ages” (ref.
The word from the Greek text translated “eternal” in Heb. 5: 9 is aionios. This is the adjective equivalent of the noun aion, referred to in the preceding paragraph in its plural form to express “eternal.” Aion means “an aeon [the word ‘aeon’ is derived from aion]” or “an era,” usually understood throughout the Greek New Testament as “an age.”
Aionios, the adjective equivalent of aion, is used seventy-one times in the Greek New Testament and has been indiscriminately translated “eternal” or “everlasting” in almost every instance in the various English versions. This word though should be understood about thirty of these seventy-one times in the sense of “age-lasting” rather than “eternal”; and the occurrence in Heb. 5: 9 forms a case in point.
Several good examples of other places where aionios should be translated and understood as “age-lasting” are Gal. 6: 8; 1 Tim. 6: 2; Titus 1: 2; 3: 7. These Passages have to do with running the present race of the faith in view of one day realizing‑ in inheritance in the [millennial] kingdom which is the hope set before Christians.
the other hand, aionios can be understood in the sense of “eternal”
if the text so indicates. Several good
examples of places where aionios should
be so translated and understood are John 3:15, 16, 36. These passages have to do with life derived through faith in Christ
because of His finished work at
Textual considerations must always be taken into account when properly translating and understanding aionios, for this is a word which can be used to imply either “age-lasting” or “eternal”; and it is used both ways numerous times in the New Testament. Textual considerations in Heb. 5: 9 leave no room to question exactly how aionios should be understood and translated in this verse. Life during the coming age, occupying a position as co-heir with Christ in that coming day, is what the Book of Hebrews is about.
2. SUFFERING, REIGNING
Suffering with or on behalf of Christ must precede reigning with Christ. The latter cannot be realized apart from the former. Such suffering is inseparably linked with obedience; and the text clearly states that Christ is the source of that future salvation “unto all them that [presently] obey him,” in the same respect that Christ is the source of presently possessed eternal salvation for all those who have (in the past) “believed” on Him.
1 Peter 1: 11, relative to the saving of the soul (vv. 9, 10), states, “Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify when it [He] testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ [lit., ‘the sufferings with respect to Christ’], and the glory that should follow.”
The thought, contextually, is not at all that of Christ suffering. Rather, the thought has to do with Christians suffering with respect to Christ’s sufferings, subsequently realizing the salvation of their souls through having a part in the glory which is to follow the sufferings.
This is the underlying thought behind the whole book of 1 Peter, expressed in so many words by the writer in 4: 12, 13: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
This is the “eternal [‘age-lasting’] glory” to which Christians have been called and in which Christians will be established after they “have suffered a while,” with obedience to Christ emanating from the sufferings (1 Peter 5: 10).