THE CLEANSING OF A BELIEVERíS SIN

(The Red Heifer)

 

When an Old Testament type matches a New Testament doctrine exactly, just as the right key (and the right key only) fits into the wards of a lock and opens it, we know that we have interpreted the New Testament truth correctly. Such is the case with the cleansing of a believerís sin. That all sin, of all humanity, has been expiated on Calvary; that a believerís sin up to the moment of conversion is totally forgiven and forgotten; that all believers, however, do sin after conversion, and that that sin has equally to be confessed and forgiven; that this forgiveness is made possible by a special and separate application of the one great Atonement; that this cleansing does not happen without repentance and confession;, and that without this pardon during life a believerís sin must appear before God for judgment:- all this is presented for ever in the sacrifice of the Red Heifer.

 

Therefore, as we should expect, the sacrifice of the Red Heifer is perfectly unique. It was the only sacrifice applied to the People of God throughout their whole pilgrim journey; it, alone of all the sacrifices, was slain outside the camp, And its blood, alone, was not poured away, but burnt with the body; it, alone among the sacrifices, was an application, not of blood, but of ashes; it alone rendered the handler of it unclean; it is the only sacrifice which had to be of a special colour - the colour of blood; and it was the only sacrifice stored up - in its ashes - for indefinite use.* The Passover Lamb had placed all Israel under the Blood: the five great offerings of the Law were the Lamb passed under a microscope - Calvary in its five great aspects: now, since conversion was typed by the Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5: 7), the Red Heifer, a postscript to atonement, by its very nature as a cleansing ordinance added after conversion and baptism, stands forth as a supplementary covering for post-baptismal sin. For it was a wilderness ordinance, to be applied whenever sin occurred, throughout their pilgrim journey, among the people of God, who all shared in the Heifer as a contribution from and for the whole people.

 

[* So also it is the solitary sacrifice recorded in Numbers, the book of pilgrimage, not in Leviticus, the book of the sacrifices; and the ordinance was given not at Sinai, but in the wilderness of Paran, the region of exile. It is also all but unique in being a female sacrifice - an offering for the Bride, the Church* (cf. Deut. 21: 3; Lev. 5: 6).]

[* That is, the church of the firstborn; all who are called out of the body of the redeemed; all who are given a double share of the inheritance. In other words, all who will inherit the Millennial Kingdom as a reward. (Heb. 12: 14-16 ;23; Col. 3: 23, 24) - WHT.]

 

The Heifer stands forth as an immense revelation of sin, The fundamental of all Divine Law is this:- "The soul that sinneth" - any soul, and any sin-"it shall DIE" (Ezek 18: 4); and therefore a sentence of death is hanging over the whole assembly, on account of sin committed after conversion and baptism. And the believerís defilement is vividly expressed as the living touching carrion. The peril of a rotting corpse is the apt and God-chosen symbol of the constant peril of us all, ringed as we are with defilement; and of the effects of any sympathetic contact with a corpse-world.* Moral evil is as desperately infectious as a corrupting carcase; and so the Red Heifer is slaughtered, not for those who have committed known offences only, but for the entire assembly, every soul needing it at some time or another.

 

[* Even the cleanser was defiled (ver. 10) by the contact for the cleansing. Henry Drummond used to say that after the confessions made to him in private he often felt as though he must change all his clothes and take a hot bath.]

 

Now it is blessedly clear that the Heifer stood, first of all, for Calvary, in common with all other blood-sacrifices. "Eleazar shall bring her forth without the camp" - Calvary is "without the gate" (Heb. 13: 12), "and one shall slay her before his face:* and Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times" (Num. 19: 3). So then, it was a red heifer - saturate with scarlet sin, and yet drenched with crimson atonement (cf. Lev. 14: 6): spotless, uncrippled, unyoked - the sinless, perfect Christ, never under sin for Himself, yet yoked to sin and death for us. "Tempted men and women need a tempted Saviour; wounded men and women need a wounded Saviour; broken-hearted men and women need a broken-hearted Saviour; and the Master never looks more beautiful than when we see Him through our tears, and under the scarlet of a worldís sin."** The blood-sprinkled assembly is the entire mass of the redeemed purged for ever by Calvary from all pre-conversion sin.

 

[* The slaughter was not done by the priest, but the sprinkling of the blood was: Pilate did the one, Christ the other.

** The Red Heifer stands over against the Scarlet Beast (Rev. 17: 3) the one is Christ, the other is Antichrist; the one is blood-red sacrifice, the other is scarlet guilt; the one is sin borne, the other is sin lived. The scarlet has become an obsession with the Beast. "At the first funeral I saw in Moscow," says a traveller (Round Table, Dec., 1934), "everything was red, blood-red. The open hearse was painted red, the flowers were red - red roses, red dahlias, red chrysanthemums. The horses drawing the hearse were decked with long red trappings which reached over their ears and foreheads. The bunting over the coffin and hearse was an undulating stream of red. A long procession were carrying banners as red as the bunting, the coffin, the flowers."]

 

Now the uniqueness of the sacrifice shines forth. "And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a sin-offering." The ash, the most incorruptible of all bodily substances, is the imperishable residue of the sacrifice after the judgment flames have searched it through and through; and this ash to which the heifer has been reduced - with the blood burnt in it, and so holding all the cleansing efficacy of the blood - was carried to a clean spot, for after-use, and to be ready for constant application. But before application it had to be mixed with water, and the water had to be Ďlivingí (that is Ďrunningí) water; and the only running water in the desert was from Ďthe rock that followed themí (1 Cor. 10: 4): that is, it is the Water that gushed from the smitten Rock - Pentecost after Calvary. So the merit of our Saviourís person is applied by the Spirit to the penitent whose sin was in the fire that searched the Ash, and Jesus is the ĖĎpropitiation for our sins,í as well as Ďfor the sins of the whole worldí; and the Holy Ash, burnt once for all, is for ever stored among Godís people, alongside the rushing River; perpetually accessible throughout the pilgrim journey, and charged with the whole power of Calvary to purify and restore.

 

The vital truth for the believer now emerges. The whole mass of the sacrificial system, together with the blood-offering of the Red Heifer itself, while it completely purges all pre-conversion sin, effects (by itself) nothing at all of effective pardon for conscious and un-abandoned sin after conversion. "Whosoever toucheth the* dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the Lord; because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; HIS UNCLEANNESS IS YET UPON HIM." He does not become totally un-forgiven, and therefore lost; but remains guilty of the specific offence; and without the application of the ash there was no forgiveness. On the other hand, since the ash is stored outside the Camp., exactly where even an excommunicated believer is, it is immediately accessible, and there can be instant pardon. "If" [a vital condition] we [believers, even including an Apostle] confess [here is application for the ash] our sins [our transgressions after conversion], he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins [namely, the sins confessed], and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1John 1: 9).*

 

[* It is of extraordinary significance, and fatal to the Roman theory, that no priest, no Levite even, was necessary to hear the confession and effect the cleansing by the ash, but only, a fellow-member of Godís people who was himself clean.]

 

So therefore the summoning of a believerís un-abandoned, un-cleansed sin before the judgment Seat of Christ stands forth unchallengeable. The pardon must be obtained on the third day with a view to the seventh: "the same shall purify himself therewith on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean." The third is the resurrection day of Jesus. "Him God raised up the third day, that through His name every one that believeth on Him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts. 10 40); covering in its limitless possibilities of abundant pardon all the days until the seventh: the seventh is the day ushered in by the Judgment Seat of Christ ďthere remaineth therefore a sabbath rest" - a seventh millennium - "For the people of God" (Heb. 4: 9); when formal pronouncement of purification (ver. 19) is, or is not, made, and when a sinless body is given to the already clean. Defilement contracted in the walk, unless purged now, reappears as un-purged defilement on the seventh day, with grave consequences, graded in gravity according to the guilt.* "The man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the Lord" - he is separated from the obedient and self-purified (1 John 3: 3) people of God in that day (Rom. 8: 13 ; Gal. 6: 8) for "if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God defile for the temple of God [the antitypical sanctuary] is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Cor. 3: 17).**

 

[* It is an astonishing fact that many evangelicals, Pointing back at the sevenfold sprinkling, neglect or refuse or deny the ash. For example, that most gracious and spiritual writer, C. H. Mackintosh, acknowledges the type as we have stated it:- "God has not only made provision for past sins [in the blood], but also for present defilement [in the ash]." Yet he also says:- "He will never impute anything to us, because it was all, long ago, imputed to the One who died in our stead. He will be a faithful reprover of the unclean thing; and He can reprove all the more powerfully simply because He will never reckon it against us" (Numbers, pp. 343, 352). This flatly contradicts the type, and takes the whole sting out of both type and antitype - judgment on the people of God for wrong-doing; and (if God never imputes our defilement to us) it comes perilously near making the Most High connive at sin, while Calvary becomes a cloak for evil conduct in the saved. God never forgives unabandoned sin in any soul in the universe, and the believer who dies with it must meet it again at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

** ďEven under the Law, the blood of bulls and goats was but once applied to the nation. Thenceforward the nation was consecrated to God. For offences of individuals there was no second application of the blood. The remedy was the water of purification, mixed with the ashes of the sacrifice" (Govett).]

 

- D. M. PANTON.

 

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NOTES

1

THE ASH UNAPPLIED

 

A young opium-eater known to Pastor Hsi was converted, and Pastor Hsi welcomed him into a fatherís affection; and then, after months of probation, he was summoned to the charge of a pastorate. Lifted up with pride, he began to retain missionary monies, and soon made rapid and total shipwreck. He then brought the gravest accusations against Pastor Hsi, and the whole church was thrown into confusion. Casting himself upon God with prayer and fasting, Hsi appointed a day for a public examination of the matter: and then God stepped in. Before the day dawned tidings came that he, and two others of his family, had been suddenly called to the bar of God: and the whole countryside exclaimed, "See the wrath of the Christiansí God!" "If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth" - wilfully: that is, there is no application for the ash (Num. 19: 18) - "there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins" - there is no second Red Heifer - "BUT A CERTAIN FEARFUL EXPECTATION OF JUDGEMENT" (Heb. 10: 26).

 

THE ASH APPLIED

 

When first I joined my regiment as Chaplain in North Carolina I found there a young lieutenant whom I had known as an active, earnest Christian worker in his Connecticut home. As I was looking up the members of my new charge, I called on him in his tent and said something of my hope to have his help in work for my Master. "No, no, Chaplain," said he, "I've given up all that stuff. I know now that thereís no truth in it, and I donít want to hear a word on the subject." "You are not saying now what you believe, Lieutenant?" "What do you mean, Chaplain?" "I mean that I know you well enough to understand that what you said and did for years, in your faithful Christian work, and in your Sunday School teaching, has not been given up by your inmost heart. You can talk this way to me now, to try to stiffen up your courage of resistance; but when the camp is quiet, and you are alone in your bunk in the darkness, you would never talk in this way to your God, whom you know is near you always."

 

"Well," he said, somewhat more gently, "I don't want to talk about this subject at any rate." "But I must talk about it," I said. "It's very real to me. And I'm here because of my belief. I love you too dearly to refrain from speaking to you, and urging you to come back to your old love and faith and duty and joy." Weeks passed on. When I saw the Lieutenant in his tent, I would show him that I, at least, hadnít lost my faith yet, and refrained from provoking any discussion on the subject. He seemed to be grateful for my interest in him, and he never again gave an expression of his unbelief, nor did he say that which would jar on me.

 

After a little there came on a battle in which our regiment lost severely. Several temporary hospitals were opened in small dwelling-houses in different parts of the field of action. As I was occupied in one of these hospitals, I heard that my lieutenant friend lay wounded in another. As soon as I had opportunity, I went over to see him. His right leg had been amputated near the hip. He lay on a cot among many wounded. Looking up as I approached, he said cheerily:- "The Lord has got me, Chaplain; I wouldn't serve him with two legs, so he took away one. But now Iíll be more of a man with one leg than I was with two." Then as I spoke warmly of my sympathy with and interest in him, he told of his experience and feelings. "As my leg went out from under me, and I felt that I was gone, I said, ĎThe Lord's got me, and I'm glad of it.í You were right, Chaplain, that day you came to my tent first. I never really gave up my belief, or had any rest in my life trying to live without faith. And now I believe I shall live nearer the Lord than ever, and have more comfort in Him."

 

He was confident that he should soon be restored to health, and that he should use his new strength in the Lordís service. I had pleasant interviews with him as he talked of his plans in Christís service, and he gave convincing evidence of his Christian love and faith. But the shock of the amputation was severer than he at first supposed, and he soon sank away to his final rest. The prodigal had returned to his loving Fatherís home.

 

2

 

It is probably safe to say that the subject of Rapture has never been thoroughly thought out. Some one aspect (whichever it may happen to be) is seized upon, and studied, and supposed to be final; so that when a general purview of all the Scripture is made, it plunges the inquirer into complete confusion, and robs him of all certainty.

 

Letters in the June Morning Star reveal the fog. "After reading so many articles on the tribulation and pre-tribulation point of view, I have been sorely tempted to maintain a neutral ,attitude" (H. COOKE). "Both views appear to have Scriptural support ; and it is difficult for an impartial student to arrive at a decision between them. In fact, so conflicting ,and confusing are the ideas suggested by the various passages bearing on the subject, that the present writer would welcome a carefully-thought-out exposition of the whole matter from both standpoints" (L. A. LONG). And the fog is only deepened by the fact that these writers never seem to have heard of a possible reconciliation of the conflicting views.

 

Surely the day must come when unbiased believers, anxious to do justice to all (even apparently contradictory) truths and with a solemn awe of their mental responsibility before God, will see that both sides have solid Scriptures; that both can actually prove the presence of saints - some in and some out of the Tribulation; that - as the God-chosen figure (Mark 4: 29) compels - the Field is reaped solely according to the ripeness of the Grain; and that any merely automatic removal either pre or post robs watchfulness of all practical consequence and therefore of all sanctifying power. "One is taken, and one is left: WATCH THEREORE."

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