[* “The Future Apostasy” (in ‘Part One’) is used as a suitable accompaniment to “At The Cutting Edge”. This is because Responsibility Truths shown throughout the Holy Scriptures – particularly those having to do with the ‘resurrection of the dead’ - are often ‘cutting’ and offensive to those who prefer to disbelieve and reject them!
Many of Jesus’ teachings (doctrines) could be described as ‘Cutting Edge’; and, because of this, the religious teachers at that time were always trying to trap Him in order to find an occasion to undermine the importance of His teachings! Their question concerning the payment of tribute money was one of several good examples. Messiah’s controversial teachings were rejected by the vast majority of religious people at that time: and they ultimately contributed toward His death! Most people were looking for – “A Godlike warrior who would help them throw off Roman rule.”
Are circumstances any different throughout Christendom today? No! A suffering Messiah upon this earth is accepted; but a ruling Messiah upon this earth, is now being mainly rejected; and this is mostly due to the influence of Gnosticism!
All matter is supposed to be evil, and therefore we can now ascend – one at a time! – as a disembodied spirit, into the presence of God in heaven at the time of Death: a ‘body’ “flesh and bones” (Luke 24: 39) is no longer necessary! This, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is the teaching of Gnosticism; and it comes from evil spirits and the devil himself. How many regenerate believers today are affected by it? Multitudes!
“I have referred to the implications of a Paradise (or Hades) occupied now, and perhaps millennially, by Christians,” writes A. G. Tilney, “a striking, a startling, fact is this: not only is Hades not at present empty, but even after the Millennium (‘the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished’ may, unpalatable as it sounds, include Christians!) – even after the Millennium, a company of saved souls apparently issue therefrom, to be judged ‘according to their works,’ for ‘death and hades (that is, both compartments of the underworld, on both sides of the ‘great golf fixed’ of Luke 16) delivered up the dead which were in them’ (Rev. 20: 13).”
This is ‘the cutting edge’ and it explains what is involved in DEATH, RESURRECTION and the “SALVATION READY TO BE REVEALED IN THE LAST TIME” – “the salvation of SOULS”* (1 Pet. 1: 9): and it is the teaching of Jesus Christ, not that of Roman Catholicism! None of God’s regenerate people should be ignorant of this truth and the importance of it to them, for it carries with it far-reaching and age-lasting consequences.
* See also, Matt. 16: 25-27; Heb. 10: 39; Jas. 1: 21.
Without any further preamble, let us proceed with PART 1]
The Future Apostasy
By Robert Govett
“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ.”
Moses, before his people had entered into the land of promise, was inspired to foretell their falling away from Jehovah, the God of their fathers. And thus the Lord Jesus, at the sending forth of his Gospel into the world, foresaw and foretold that declension from it, and that open rejection of it, which have yet to be fulfilled.
Of these intimations, none is perhaps, more plain and full, than that offered to our notice in the first Epistle of Timothy.
“These things I write unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly. But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And confessedly great is the mystery of godliness. God was manifest in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the Gentiles, was believed on in the world, was received up in glory.”
“But the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall apostatize from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and to doctrines of devils speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry [and commanding] to abstain from articles of food, which God created to he partaken of with thanksgiving, by those who believe and recognize the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be cast away, if it be received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.”
“But refuse the profane and old-womanish fables: but exercise thyself unto godliness. For bodily exercise is profitable in some degree; but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (Greek) (1 Tim. 3: 14: 4: 8).
This passage has been commonly supposed to be fulfilled by Romanism, and still continues to be applied to it. Without in the least desiring to palliate the destructive doctrines of that corrupt system, I yet feel persuaded, that another form of evil is here presented; and would briefly offer some of the stronger proofs in this place; reserving others to the more minute examination of the prophecy further on.
1. A conclusive proof that Romanism is not the evil thus depicted by the Holy Ghost arises from the fact that the Church of Rome holds every article of the faith which is mentioned by the Apostle. It believes that Jesus is God manifest in the flesh, that he died, rose and ascended, with every other point of the faith that Paul has specified as that mystery of godliness from which the apostates of the latter day would fall away.
2. The abstinence from marriage and articles of food here supposed is essentially connected with the apostasy foretold; so that if any leave the faith, they must abstain from both marriage and meats; and those only who abstain from both, leave the faith. It is the listening to and receiving these principles of abstinence, that produce the apostasy. Wherefore, if any marry or use articles of food indifferently, they have not departed from the faith. But this is true of the great body of Romanists; therefore they have not apostatised from the Christian faith. And if now it be said, ‘At least it has its fulfilment in the monks, and nuns, and priests of the Romish church, for these abstain from both marriage and meats.’ I answer - First, these do not forbid marriage, but promote it in the case of others. And secondly, as noted above, they maintain all the articles of the faith exhibited by Paul. Therefore theirs is not either the abstinence or the apostasy contemplated by the Holy Ghost.* Much less do they forbid either marriage or meats as things evil in themselves which is the ground of the objection and of the abstinence supposed in the text.
* I would briefly throw into this note some objections to Mede’s interpretation of the passage. (1) He makes “spirits” equivalent to doctrines, and supports the view by quoting John 4: 1. But that passage is quite against him for the trial there supposed is a personal one; a trial which cannot be made of doctrines. How could transubstantiation be asked to confess if Jesus Christ has come in the flesh? (2) He makes (with others in the present day) “doctrines of devils” to be “doctrines concerning demons,” and then interprets the phrase of the Romish adoration of saints. Against which I object – First, that in the other instances in which [the Greek word …] is found in construction, it does not take the signification he supposes. Thus “doctrines of men” (Col. 2: 22) signifies “doctrines taught by men.” And in the 2nd Epistle to Timothy we have – “Thou hast fully known the doctrine of me” (2 Tim. 3: 10), which signifies, “doctrine taught by me,” not “doctrine concerning me.”
Secondly, the word “demon” never in the New Testament has a good sense; but the equivalent expression is always “evil spirit.” And by Augustine, Clemens Alexandrinus, Minucius Felix, Origen, Tertullian, Julian, Josephus, Eusebius, with others of the fathers, are regarded as evil beings.
Thirdly, personal apostasy from the faith here mentioned, supposes previous personal profession of it, and afterwards entire abandonment of it for some other faith or infidelity. But Romanists never have fallen away to any other faith; and as to their opinions concerning fasting and celibacy, since the Christian faith does not consist in these things, and is consistent with them, the holding them is not apostasy.
[The Greek words …] cannot be rightly translated “By the hypocrisy of liars.” (1) The sense of … for … is uncommon, and not to be resorted to without necessity. (2) The absence of the article shews, that the phrase … is to be taken adverbially. If it meant, “through the hypocrisy of liars” it would have been … . (3) … being an adjective, it cannot be fairly connected with a substantive not implied in the context, but must take as its substantive … that has just preceded. If men were intended, … must have been expressed. (4) As to the sense, this introduces unnecessarily a new class of deceivers: and men are made the means of the apostates giving heed to evil spirits, while it is not said that the liars themselves depart from the faith.
Can it be supposed, that all these obliquities of construction, and syntax, and meaning of words, must meet to give us the true sense of the passage before us?
I would now consider the prophecy before us in its real bearing, and shew the heresy against which it is levelled.
With all the early Christian writers, I interpret it of the Gnostics. These were persons who sought to incorporate Christianity with their false philosophy. Hence Paul’s caution, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit” (Col. 2: 8).
They attempted to explain the origin of evil by their own understanding, unenlightened by divine grace, and God’s Holy Word. It is not wonderful then that they erred.
(1) They maintained that matter was eternal, and the cause of evil, and that the Supreme God was not the Creator.
(2) From the Supreme God, who dwelt far from matter, there flowed forth, at different times, various beings inferior to Himself, whom they denominated Aeons. This view of theirs explains Paul’s twice repeated caution to Timothy and Titus, to give no “heed to fables and endless genealogies” (1 Tim. 1: 4; Tit. 3: 9).
The epithet “endless” used here by Paul, shews that not
the Jewish, but the Gnostic
genealogies were in question, for the Jewish genealogies were bounded, on the one
hand by the known pedigree of Abraham, and on the other by their own
times. The Gnostic genealogies of their
Aeons had no limit but their fancy; and hence some sects supposed thirty Aeons,
some three hundred and sixty-five, and others might, if they would, have made
thirty thousand.* To these Aeons, they gave the names of the Word,
Light, Life, Truth, the Only-Begotten. All these names,
* “I would therefore conclude [because the Jewish genealogies
were not subversive of the faith of Christian converts, nor were they foolish]
that what is here said of ‘endless genealogies’ may very probably relate to
their successive generations of aeons.” –
** The author’s very valuable note on the correct statement of the Origin of Evil will be found in DAWN, vol. 2, P. 129.‑Ed.
3. The Creator (or Demiurge, as they called him,) was therefore an inferior and evil being. He was also the God of the Jews, the giver of the Law and of the Old Testament.
4. Christ was the Son of the Supreme and Benevolent God, who came to deliver men from the tyranny of the Creator, the God of the Jews.
5. Hence it followed, that Christ, according to their theory, was neither born nor died. For how could he, who came to deliver men from the dominion of matter, voluntarily take upon himself that hateful thing, - the cause of sin? And as he had not a real body, he was not properly a man, and did not die; much less did he rise again. The resurrection, the atonement, and the general judgment were therefore denied.
6. From the same principles it likewise flowed naturally, that they accounted marriage, and wine, and animal food, evil. Denying atonement, they rejected animal sacrifice, as unworthy of a benevolent God; and refused therefore to take away life themselves. And against marriage ‘they spoke impiously under the pretext of continence, and blasphemed the creation and the Demiurge, the One Almighty God, and taught that marriage was not to be received, and that men should not introduce into the world others to be wretched as themselves, nor supply death with food.’* The practice that resulted from such awful principles, was of different kinds. Some lived lives of austerity and self-infliction, attempting to subdue the body and wear it out; that the soul might be free from the chains and pollutions of matter. Others ran to a frightful length in licentiousness; affirming that knowledge was every thing, and that souls purified, as theirs were, by the true knowledge of God, could not be defiled by any action, however evil it might appear to those who were still in ignorance.
* Clem. Alex. Strom. Lib.iii, 6. p. 531. Ed. Potter.
Some have thought, that the accounts given by the fathers of the lives and practices of the Gnostics are not to be trusted; but the New Testament describes men of just such characters as the ecclesiastical writers of the day testify the Gnostics to have been. Paul declares some to be magical deceivers; (…, 2 Tim. 3: 13)* as Simon of Samaria was, and as many of the Ephesians had been; while we also find travelling exorcists there attempting to dispossess a demoniac by the name of Jesus: Acts. 19. Titus is warned against men whose very “mind and conscience was defiled, who professed that they knew God [whence they took the title of Gnostics], but in works denied him, being abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate:” Titus 1: 15, 16. They were patrons of fornication and of every evil lust (2 Pet. 2). And it seems probable, from the apostle’s words, “by reason of whom the way of truth shall be blasphemed,” that the Gnostics really were guilty of some prodigious acts of wickedness, which came to be imputed to true believers (1 Pet. 2: 12-15). The Lord Jesus rebukes Thyatira for doctrines upholding uncleanness and idolatry: Rev. 2. Covetousness and hypocrisy also are imputed to them.
* “The seducers, or … were evidently
men who dealt in magic.”
7. From the same principles it followed, that they admired and praised the evil-doers of the Old Testament, as those who had manfully resisted the evil Creator or God of the Jews; and Cain and Korah, and Balaam and Judas, were the patterns they sought to follow.
8. It was the natural consequence of the same doctrines, that when Apostles came, publishing, either by word or by their writing, the truth, they denied the correctness of their teaching. Paul and others were, to their eyes, Jewish teachers, who, through prejudices of early life, had misunderstood their Master. They were the scientific and philosophical, who were able to detect the truth, and discard error in the mixed form in which it was presented by the half-taught. It was against this system, rather than Romanism, that both Paul and John wrote; if we will believe both outward testimony and internal proof. Paul assures us, that the mystery of iniquity was already at work in his day, (2 Thess. 2.), and this is the warrant for expecting to find, in the false doctrines afloat in that day, the types of those who shall prevail in the extensive abandonment of Christianity, now near at hand.
With this view we shall find not only the Epistles to Timothy to be in accordance, but the Gospel and Epistles of John, the Epistles to Titus, the Hebrews, and Colossians.
But let us examine more closely the prophecy which has been quoted.
In it the visible church is set forth as appointed to be “the pillar and ground of the truth.” It was the pillar of the truth, as supporting it, and bearing inscribed upon it, as it were, the doctrines authorized of God. It was the ground of the truth, as staying and steadying it against the adverse blasts of error. This testimony to the truth it gave in two ways; first, by the sacred rites it publicly celebrated; and secondly, by its very constitution.
In baptism it testified the death and resurrection of the Great Founder of the church; and the hope of the believer, as consisting in resurrection. In the Lord’s Supper it presented the emblems of blood shed, and of his body bruised for sin; thus witnessing the reality of his incarnation and death. But, moreover, it upheld, in the most solemn way, the truth that wine is a good creature of God, fit to be partaken of by the faithful, in direct opposition to the Gnostic doctrines of old; revived, alas! in our own day.
By the very constitution of the church, moreover, the lawfulness of marriage was upheld; for its elders, deacons, and widows (or deaconesses), must all either be married, or have once entered that state. Thus against deadly error, the Lord in his mercy set a double fence, to keep his flock from the Destroyer.
From the succeeding words, “And confessedly great is the mystery of godliness,” I think we may gather, that it was a subject of reproach by those opponents of the Gospel against whom the apostle was writing, that their doctrine made Christianity full of mystery, while the Gnostic theory was simple and easy of comprehension. ‘We confess, therefore,’ says Paul, ‘that the doctrine of the Godhead manifested in a human body is a great mystery; we deny not, that its successive steps are full of wonders. Let proud human reason call for that alone which it can understand: we are content to bow ourselves before this transcendent mystery!’
Observe, so closely connected are the mystery and the faith, that the apostle in another place says, “Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.”
But let us notice with care its six steps.
1. “God was manifest in the flesh.”*
* I take it for granted, that … is the true reading, both from external and internal proofs.
The Gnostics denied one or other of these terms: either the “Godhead” or the “flesh.”
The denial of either of these is the overthrow of the mystery of the
faith, and the bringing in of ungodliness.
Some then took one path in error, and some another. By most the
reality of the Saviour’s manhood (or flesh) was denied.
It was affirmed that his body was
a mere phantom, a delusion that imposed upon the senses of men; or else that it
was composed of celestial materials, and not like ours. All lowered the Godhead, believing that
Christ was one of the inferior Divinities (or aeons), that had sprung from time
to time from the Supreme God. Hence Paul
in this epistle speaks of “the man Christ Jesus,” and of Christ as the “one
opposition to the many aeons: 1 Tim. 2: 5. The same truth is affirmed in Heb. 2: 6-14, and from several marks, it appears, that
Jewish Christians also were exposed to this desolating heresy. Hence also Paul, speaking to the Elders of
2. God “was justified in the spirit.”
“In the spirit,” stands exactly opposed to “in the flesh,” we may not unnecessarily alter the form of expression. I regard then the phrase as referring to the human spirit of the Lord Jesus; the flesh and the spirit being opposed to each other more than once; thus – “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit” Col. 2: 5; 1 Cor. 7: 35.
The doctrine affirmed then will be, that Jesus being laden with the imputed sin of man, was under it accounted guilty, and gave up the ghost [animating spirit]. That in that state, as a disembodied spirit [soul], he was justified; or declared to have paid the penalty and to have made atonement for sin. And thus taken, the sentiment runs parallel with that of Peter.
“For Christ also once suffered for sins, the just one for the unjust, that he might bring us to God; being put to death indeed in the flesh, but alive in the spirit, in which he went and preached even to the spirits in prison:” 1 Peter 3: 18, 19.
Thus then Paul would give another contradiction to the Gnostic doctrine, that Christ did not die. Some of the Gnostics pretended that Jesus was a mere man, on whom the Christ (a mighty aeon) descended at the time of his baptism; at which time (and not before), he became, by union of the two, Jesus Christ. But all held that the Christ left Jesus before the crucifixion; and some forged the story, that Simon the Cyrenian was changed into the likeness of Christ, and suffered in his stead. In opposition then to this falsehood, which denied the atonement for sin, Paul affirms most strongly Jesus’ death for human trespasses, and that acquittal passed upon him while a separate spirit [soul*] in Hades.
[* See, Acts 2: 27. cf. Matt. 12: 40; Acts 2: 27, 34; Rev. 6: 9-11.]
3. “Seen of angels.”
This is commonly interpreted of the angels beholding our Lord
during his career on earth: of their singing praises at his birth, their
ministering to him after his victory over Satan and their attendance upon him
These, as we know, after being cut off by the flood, were cast into prison, “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day:” Jude 6; 2 Peter 2: 4.* To these angels, who had left the charge committed to them of God, in order to become men, and had mingled in the sins of the old world, God, by a mysterious mercy, sent the tidings of redemption, while they were reserved in cells of darkness: and “the Gospel was preached even to the dead, that they might be judged as men* in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” 1 Peter 4: 6.
* Observe, it is not “the angels,” but “angels,” in that passage.
This is a new mystery.
4. “Preached among the Gentiles.”
The expectation naturally to be formed
from reading the prophets was, that Jesus would be manifested in the body at
5. “Believed on in the world.”
Though the world lie in wickedness, yet some should believe; and that by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, mysteriously converting whom He will.
6. “Received up in glory.”
The Saviour’s ascension in glory, before His appearing in glory to the Jew and the world, was another mystery. The prophets foretold His kingly manifestation on earth: but that a long interval was to intervene between His first appearing on earth, and His return in glory - an interval to be filled up by His being seated on high on the throne of the Father, - this was the mystery.
If I rightly apprehend the matter, the three first of these mysteries are directed against the Gnostics; the last three against the Jewish teachers of the law. But whatever be the view taken by the reader, certain it is, that not one of the foregoing mysteries is denied by the Church of Rome. All are fully admitted by it. And these mysteries constitute, in their broad outlines, “the faith,” from which it is foretold that the latter-day apostates shall fall away. As long then as these mysteries of the faith are held by the Church of Rome, corrupt as she is, she is not that form of evil against which believers are warned in the present passage.
The Holy Ghost testifies, not in symbolic prophecy, but in express words, and those not presented to Paul’s mind alone, but announced in the assembly of the saints, that from these fundamental articles of the Christian faith, some [of the saints], shall apostatize. They will once have been [doctrinally sound] Christians, professing those foundation-truths but will afterwards wholly abandon and deny them, professing another and contrary belief. Apostasy is the abandonment of views and practices formerly held, for something plainly opposed to, and inconsistent with them. Departure from the faith is in one place called “shipwreck” of the faith (1: 19), and in another “overthrow of the faith” 2 Tim. 2: 18. Thus to leave Christianity for Paganism, as Julian did, was apostasy: for Mahometanism denies the foundations of Christianity, as exhibited in the apostolic summary before us.* He cannot be said to be an apostate whose opinions have never changed. Thus none could rightly call a Mahomedan born and bred, an apostate. Neither then can any one so denominate, with justice, a Romanist. His errors and superstitions have ever shut out the light of the way to God: but false as his views are, since he has never held otherwise, he is not an apostate. The apostate holds a new religion inconsistent with the foundation-truths of Christianity. Out of it springs the false Christ; all whose adherents, as we are assured, will perish beyond hope of redemption.
* Such is the meaning of the Apostasy in the Old Testament. As in Joshua 22: 19, 22; Num. 14: 9; Neh. 9: 26; Dan. 9: 9. Hence it is an unwarranted use of the term to speak of the failures of those who still profess Christianity as “Apostasy,” “the Apostasy of the Dispensations,” etc.
Moreover those who depart are “some,” not a whole system, but individuals leaving the
“They give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.”
To explain this we must turn to the Scriptures. There we are informed that evil spirits exercise vast control over the world. In the Saviour’s day they bore concerning Him witness, which He refused to receive from them. “Unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before Him, and cried saying, Thou art the Son of God:” Mark 3: 11; 1: 24-26; Luke 4: 33.
Again, in the damsel possessed by a spirit of divination, who “cried saying, These men are the servants of the Most High God, who show unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16: 16-18), we have an instance of a false spirit, or demon teaching. From passages such as these, I gather that, as of old deceiving spirits were abroad, misleading men to their ruin, so it will be in days close at hand.* For the Saviour teaches, that the last state of this evil generation (which consists of both Jews and Gentiles) will be sevenfold more possessed by Satan than at first, and that, too, after a time in which it would seem as if the evil spirit had totally abandoned his habitation.
* Since this was first written the fact has come fully to light. Spiritualism (or Spiritism is the very thing here foretold.
But how will these evil spirits or demons deceive men? How will men give ear to them? In the same way as in former times. By entering into and inspiring some, who thereby become false prophets: 1 John 4: 1. An example of this we have in the case of Barjesus, who was a sorcerer and false prophet, and withstood Paul and Barnabas, “seeking to turn away the deputy from THE FAITH:” Acts 13: 6-8. And where Paul gives believers marks whereby to discern the coming of the day of the Lord, and forewarns us of “the falling away,” or “the apostasy,” he bids the believers not to “be troubled, neither by spirit, [i.e. false spirit], nor by word, nor, by letter as from us:” 2 Thess. 2: 2.
The unseen originators of this scheme will be evil spirits; the human agents will be the false prophets whom they inspire; and the parties who give heed to them will abandon the Christian faith. As Ahab gave heed to his false prophets, inspired by a lying spirit, so will it be with these. “God will send them strong delusion to believe the lie, that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness:” 2 Thess. 2: 11, 12. These latter-day resisters of the truth are compared to the sorcerers, Jannes and Jambres, who by the miraculous aid of demons opposed Moses and Aaron: 2 Tim. 3: 8.
That by demons are meant evil spirits, we have the fullest proof. Let the reader only examine the passages in which the word occurs, and he will feel no doubt. They are servants of Satan or Beelzebub: Matt. 12: 43-45. They are the objects of the worship of the heathen, as opposed to the true God 1 Cor. 10: 20, 21.
But their character is farther given by the apostle.
They are, (1) “Speakers of lies in hypocrisy” and (2) “Having their own conscience seared.”
Probably two classes of agents are meant. Demons are spirits of Satan who never were embodied. The ‘seducing spirits’ are probably the spirits of men departed.
1. The demons will be speakers of lies in hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the pretending to better principles and practice than we really and inwardly maintain. Now demons are evil: they love sin, and rejoice to lead men into it. But they know that naked evil, set before those who have had the truth presented to them, would shock and repel men. Therefore their device will be to suggest to men the desire for something holier, purer, and more self-denying than Christianity. They will affirm, that their principles are the only ones capable of producing true holiness; knowing all the while, that they will lead to blasphemy against God, and the most unbounded licentiousness and violence among men, and aiming at this is the result of their plans.
Those inspired by them are the false prophets against whom the Saviour warns His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. “Enter ye in at the narrow gate.” “How (margin) strait (strict) is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life; and (how) few there be that find it! But* beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves:” Matt. 7: 13-15. In other words, the Saviour would seem to say:- ‘My doctrine is strict, and very self-denying, and few will in simplicity practise it. But remember, strictness and self-denial are not sufficient proofs that the doctrine comes from God; for the false prophets of the latter day will, in their system of falsehood, present the feature. They will offer to the world a strict and severe discipline, but it will be the device of Satan. They will come, speaking much of brotherhood and of the love that each ought to bear to his fellow; they will declare that their hearts are on fire to banish dissension and disputes from the world. This is the sheep’s clothing they will wear; and they will be men of much apparent sanctity and self-denial. But in their hearts they will be haters of the sons of God, and will persecute and slay them, if they can: for within they are ravening wolves.’ Thus it will be seen that the doctrine of self-denial and subjection of the lusts of the flesh is not in itself the production of love; but only as it is united to the love of Christ Jesus. These are they of whom Jude speaks as going in the way of Cain (Jude 11), seemingly devout worshippers of the true God, but really fiendish haters of the saints of God. And therefore John in his epistles insists so strongly that not knowledge, but love, is the mark of the sons of God. These are the parties, too, of whom it is written, as one of the signs of the Saviour’s approach, “And many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many.” Their appearance is to be at a time when there are the abounding of offences, and the diminishing of love: Matt. 24: 10-12.
2. But the demons are also “cauterized in their own conscience.” They are moral beings, discerning right from wrong and perceiving that God will judge them according to their works: yet, being without hope of recovery, they perversely oppose themselves to God’s designs, and have trampled duty under foot, till they are become insensible to the dictates of conscience. Now as they are hardened against compunction and repentance, they are the fittest beings to lead others onward to the same melancholy state with themselves. The
proof of their complete iniquity is, that not only they do wrong themselves, but they seek to pervert others from the truth knowing it to be such. The magnitude of the mischief and its terrible results in the fierce judgment of God upon men and upon themselves would stagger any but those thoroughly hardened, by the long continued action of sin for near six thousand years. As the angels of God are the fit agents to execute His purposes of good, so are Satan’s angels the fit agents for bringing to pass his designs of malice.
But what are the doctrines which will exercise so deadly an effect on men? They will
“Forbid to marry, and command to abstain from articles of food, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and recognize the truth.”
A prohibition is either partial or absolute. If it be only partial, the exception must be specified; or else it is to be taken absolutely. Thus, ‘Augustus forbad senators and knights to become gladiators.’ This was partial prohibition. But it would be false to say that Augustus forbid gladiatorship. The Emperor Honorius forbad it absolutely, or entirely put a stop to it.
The prohibition then of marriage, and of certain articles of food must, in this case, be absolute or unlimited unless the exception be specified.* Now as there is no exception specified, there really will be none when this is fulfilled; and therefore any partial prohibitions of marriage to certain parties, while it is permitted to others, cannot fulfil the prophecy before us.
* In logical language, a negative sentence distributes both subject and predicate.
Let us look, in order to clear the matter, at the prohibitions of Scripture. To forbid then, in Old Testament language, would be expressed by the words, ‘Command-not.’ “Jonadab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever.” “The words of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none:” Jer. 35: 6, 14. Would it be true to say, that in the Old Testament, God forbad wine? Surely not. Yet, if partial prohibition authorize us to affirm it, we may say so; for He forbad it to the Nazarites. The Romanists only partially prohibit marriage and meats.
Observe too the force of the word “forbidden” in another point of view. It
is not said “abstaining from marriage and meats,”
because the words relate to evil spirits, who have no power to partake of either. Had it been merely men who were spoken of, then, since both
the teachers and the taught must alike abstain, the second form of expression
would have sufficed. But now the teachers are of a
different nature from the taught; and the word “forbid” marks the teacher’s accredited
authority. So the Holy Spirit controlled
His inspired ones. “They were forbidden
of the Holy Ghost to preach
the word in
I gather assuredly therefore from the very force of the words used, that marriage will by these evil spirits and their false prophets be forbidden to all and each, as evil and unclean in itself, and defiling to every one. This is evident from the defence set up for it. “For every creature of God [as Eve was] is good.” Such a sentiment must be presented then by Paul in opposition to the contrary doctrine - that some things created are evil. Such was the Gnostic doctrine, that marriage universally was evil.
Therefore more than once the mind of God is given on that subject in this epistle and elsewhere. (1) The younger widows are to marry, and bear children: 1 Tim. 5: 14. (2) The female officers of the church were to be widows who had brought up children: vs. 9, 10. (3) The elders were to have been once married, and to have obedient children: 1 Tim. 3: 2-4. (4) The deacons were to have been once married: 3: 12. (5) And more especially, where the apostle is treating of the position of believing men and women generally, he says, “Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and love, and holiness, with sobriety:” 2: 15. Whence I conclude, that the doctrine was then afloat, that the state of marriage was so defiling, that there was no salvation in it. In opposition thereto, the apostle declares that this state shall not hinder salvation at all, if faith and the answering graces of the Spirit be found in the husband and wife. Similar to these Gnostic doctrines will be the views of Antichrist himself. “Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women:”* Dan. 11: 37.
* It is
generally taken for granted, that “the desire of women”
means Messiah; Whom, it is said, the women of
Next, they will require men to abstain from meats or certain articles of food not specified. If we may judge from the past, these will be especially wine and animal food.
Many of the Gnostics abstained from both these; and affirmed them to be evil in themselves, and defiling to those who partake of them.
Hence the question of partaking of wine, as well as the subject of marriage, is treated of by Paul in this Epistle to Timothy: and he gives directions concerning it to all the church officers, as before concerning marriage. It was, it is evident, the common drink of the country; and the Spirit of God requires of the elders, deacons, and deaconesses, only that they should not take it to excess: thus manifesting that it was fermented liquor:* 1 Tim. 3: 3, 8, 11; Titus 1: 7; 2: 3. To the saints in general similar direction is given: Eph. 5: 18. But moreover (what is especially worthy of notice), as Timothy before was in the habit of drinking water only, Paul recommends him to take wine, as conveying with it benefit: 5: 23. This command then was not a hint unconnected with the general scope of the epistle, but a fresh blow at the Gnostic deceivers and a lesson to us, that far from being evil, wine is worthy of being used by the believer.
* Having seen a teetotal perversion of the word … as though it signified that the person of whom it was spoken was to be “in the company of wine,” I beg to deny that such is ever the sense, either in classic authors, or as given in lexicons. It means “acting improperly under the influence of wine,” and the sense of … is that of “beyond,” not “beside of.” See Athenaeus.
As to the flesh-meat or animal food, it is known that the
Gnostics many of them rejected it as evil.
And it appears that false views were abroad among some of the less
instructed Christians, leading them to imagine that it was unfit for a
believer. Hence Paul says, “One believeth
that he may eat all things: another, who
is weak, eateth herbs [vegetable food]. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not:
and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth; for God hath received
him:” Rom. 14: 2, 3. Paul shows why the less instructed abstain from flesh, at the
same time giving the true view of the matter, imparted to himself by
revelation. “I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus,
that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved on account of
any article of food (…) thou no longer walkest
according to love. Destroy not him with
thy meat (…) for whom Christ died.” “For the sake of an
article of food (…) destroy not the work
of God. All things indeed are pure : but it is
evil for that man who eateth with offence [i.e. laying a stumbling block
before a brother]. It is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother
stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak”:
The eating of flesh-meat then, and the drinking of wine were things which were stumbling-blocks to some of the believers in that day, who esteemed them unclean. And Paul classes them both under the question of articles of food.
Again, “Wherefore if any article of food (…) maketh my brother to stumble, I will eat no flesh (…) while the world standeth, lest I make my brother stumble:” 1 Cor. 8: 13. It appears that the same false doctrines had found entrance among the Hebrew Christians, for among other indications, Paul writes – “Be not carried about with divers (various) and strange doctrines; for it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats (…) which have not profited them that have been occupied therein:” Heb. 13: 9. See also in confirmation, Titus 1: 14, 15; 2 Peter 1: 19; 2: 4.
The prohibition of these articles of
food will be as universal as that of marriage.
It will be Satan’s imitation of God’s work of old. To
Now it is the very wisdom of Satan to take up and use for his own purposes that which God has laid down. He imitates the work of God to overthrow it. The weapons of God’s armoury, as he knows, are the strongest. In commands concerning meats and drinks the law of old consisted: Heb. 9: 10. And abstinence from these things and from blood constituted the inferior and fleshly holiness of the Jewish nation. “Ye shall be holy men unto me; neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field: ye shall cast it to the dogs:” Exod. 22: 31; Deut. 14: 2, 3. This is the seeming holiness which Satan will set up before the eye of the world, and draw away thereby many from the truth. Against such a scheme of holiness as a thing external, and a matter of eating and drinking, our Lord cautions us:- “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man:” Matt. 15: 11-20.
The true view of the matter is then presented by the Spirit, as the corrective of the false doctrine. “Articles of food were created by God to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who believe and recognize the truth.”
That is, the very purpose of God, in creating articles of food, was to support the life of His saints thereby. God’s final end or intention in creation is the very one which they reject. The design of God ought to be the rule for His creatures: and if God gave animal food and wine for the sustenance and benefit of His saints, to refuse them as unfit is rebellion against the Most High. Especially is it so, after the Lord has condescended to teach us His purpose.
They are to be received with thanksgiving: for they are a benefit received from the Creator: a benefit designedly given, and not coming by chance. It is the condemnation of the Gentiles that they were “not thankful.”
They were intended for believers: for such only are thankful, and to such only are they working good. To all others they become (through their own wicked hearts) snares, leading them away from God. But, so exquisitely cautious and wise is scripture, that another word is added, to teach us yet more particularly for whom they are designed. God purposed them for “those that recognize the truth.” For some, as we have seen, did not perceive that anything but vegetable food was lawful; they therefore, as thinking animal food unclean, were to abstain; to them it was unclean. But to those who saw their liberty in the Gospel, all things were clean. In all these points here is an antagonist doctrine to that of the Gnostics. They held, that some things (as for instance, woman, and the vine) were the creation of Satan. They held that, in place of being received with thanks, they were to be cast away with abhorrence, as defiling and evil, a snare and a poison. They taught that, while these things affected not the profane herd, yet that by those who wished to be pure they must be refused, and that the perception of the truth would compel men to abstain from such sources of pollution.
But we advance more deeply yet into the question.
“For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it be received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
The error of the Gnostics struck at the root of the relation between God and the beings He has made. Twice therefore does the question of creation come before us.
“Every creature of God is good.”
Such was their doctrines that discredit fell upon the Creator, through their thoughts of His works, and their speeches concerning them. They denied that they were made for the purpose for which God really intended them. Still further they maintained (and the latter-day apostates will again maintain) that some creatures, are evil in themselves. Paul had before asserted that they were good to the believer: he now adds, that they were good in themselves. The latter-day deceivers will be at enmity with the Creator, and they will blaspheme Him through His works. This is worse than the heathen’s sin. They transgressed in not giving God His due glory, and in withholding thanks. These will shift the fault of sin from man to matter, and thus will impeach the Creator, and openly blaspheme Him for His work in creation.
This doctrine, and this only, that certain creatures are evil in themselves, brings the Creator’s character into question. To speak of creatures as they are in themselves is to touch upon them as they are God’s workmanship, and upon His original design in creating them at first. Paul therefore brings out both questions, and thus we are led back to the view presented at the first, which Paul here re-affirms. “God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was VERY GOOD:” Gen. 1: 31.
The present assertion of the apostle gives the reason why meats were to be used by the saints. They were good in themselves, and so could not defile any by the mere partaking of them. That which is good in itself must be good to us, if we rightly use it. The only room for abuse, in the case of things inanimate, is on the part of the rational creature who uses them. Therefore, the apostle, in order that they may be good to us, shows that thankfulness is required on our part.
That which is evil in itself must needs be relatively evil to us. This is the reason of the prohibition uttered by the apostates. Under the law, certain creatures were declared to be relatively evil, or unfit for the Jews. But now that partial prohibition being taken off, and Paul affirming that they were ever good in themselves, it follows that they are also good or clean to us.
By the expression, “Every creature of God is good,” is meant, not necessarily that it is good for food, but that it is clean to us; fit for our use, and a benefit. This is carrying no defilement of spirit: in opposition to the thought that it is evil and unclean. In short, the word ‘good’ is taken in a moral and spiritual sense, and not in its physical sense, as if referring to the bodily health of man.
Now such questions as these are never raised by the Romish doctrines of celibacy and fasting. They neither deny that every creature of God is good in itself, nor that it is intended for the believer’s use. No sort of food is held in abomination by them as evil; nor is marriage held to be unclean. On the contrary the creed of Pope Pius professes, “That there are truly and properly seven sacraments of the new law, instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord, and necessary for the salvation of mankind, though not all for every one; to wit, baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony; and that these sacraments confer grace.” Wherefore I conclude, that the apostle by the [Holy] Spirit is pointing at another doctrine than that of Romanism. The forbidding meats on any lower ground than because in their internal nature they are evil, does not come up to the apostle’s description. And as they are supposed to be evil in themselves, therefore they are necessarily forbidden to all persons who hold their views, and at all times; for circumstances cannot alter that which in itself is evil.
Observe now the different ground on which Jewish abstinence from certain kinds of food is set. These articles of diet are forbidden as unfit for them, because they are holy. “The camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof, he is unclean TO YOU.” “They shall be an abomination UNTO YOU.”
But the absolute ground of prohibition here supposed, is destructive
of both the Jewish and Christian revelations.
If any ask, Why marriage is lawful? we must refer him to the revealed account of the
Creation. If any ask - By what right we
take away the lives of animals for food? we must reply
by turning the inquirer to the grant made to Noah, “Every moving
thing that liveth shall be food for you: even as the green herb, I have given
you all things” Gen. 9: 3. If he affirms that both marriage and animal food are evil, he
cannot believe in Judaism any more than in Christianity. The God of the Jews sanctioned both these
institutions and Jesus upheld them also.
Especially is it observable that in John’s Gospel we have at
These Gnostic views, as being destructive of Christianity, are therefore the doctrines against which the Holy Spirit would warn us. For it is clear that, by holding opinions not inconsistent with the foundation-truths of the Gospel, men do not depart from the faith. It is also certain, that the Roman Catholic doctrines concerning celibacy and fasting are not destructive of any article of the Apostles’ Creed, or of any foundation-principle of the faith.
In short, as to the fact, Romanists do not forbid marriage or meats in the sense affirmed by the apostle; that is, absolutely. Nor secondly, as to the reason, does their prohibition rest upon the motive supposed by Paul. And motive is everything. Paul recommends abstinence from marriage and meats himself (1 Cor. 7: 1; 8: 13), but then the motive was holy. Here the essential difference is, that the ground of abstinence is impious.
If again we enter into the comparison of the two cases more closely, the difference will be yet more evident. In the Romish religion, there are two parties concerned; the clergy and the laity. The clergy on the one hand, abstain from marriage; but do not forbid it to others. The laity, on the other hand, if we consider them as forbidding marriage to the clergy, yet practise it to themselves. But the case supposed by the prophecy is, that the instructors (the spirits of darkness) forbid marriage, abstaining from it because they are unable to practise it. And that the disciples, both abstain at the word of their instructors, and dissuade all within the sphere of their influence from it, regarding it as evil in itself. The parties seduced must abstain from marriage; and only those that so abstain are seduced and leave the faith. The receiving these essential doctrines of the apostasy is the signal for their leaving the faith. They first give heed to the doctrine, then embrace it; and, as the result, leave the faith. Once they were [regenerate] Christians, so regarded by themselves and others; but on embracing these views, they desert Christianity. Their abstinence from marriage and meats is the manifestation of their change of sentiment.
But, as truth alone is my object, I hasten to admit an important point. Paul in the epistle before us sanctions marriage in a two-fold manner; first, to believers in general; secondly, to church officers in particular. Now, while Romanism does not forbid marriage to the first class, it does to the last: and therefore in it we may detect the commencement of the abandonment of the faith.
But the Gnostics maintained the absolute prohibition of marriage and meats, and were inconsistent with the truths - that God was manifest in the flesh, and justified in the spirit - that is, with the incarnation and atonement of our Lord. The true antagonist-doctrine to Romish corruptions on this head would have been our liberty, as the servants of Christ, from all traditions of men. This we find the apostle presenting in his epistle to the Romans.
No article capable of sustaining life and health is to be thrown away. “Nothing is to be refused,” or cast away. This command then is broken, when any break in pieces casks of beer or wine, and suffer the liquor to run down the street. All that is needed for any article of food to be fit for the believer, is his rendering thanks to God. The word of God has sanctified it: that is, the grant of the animal and vegetable kingdoms to man for his food, has made them ‘holy’ or fit for his use, if a believer. Beside this, there should be daily prayer and thanksgiving at every meal, recognising God’s bounty to us.
The whole question then concerns the ceremonial cleanness of marriage, and of certain articles of food. ‘Both are unclean,’ the apostates will say. ‘No,’ says the [Holy] Spirit; ‘be you but of a thankful spirit, and both things are clean to you.’ The present question is quite similar in its nature to that of the Corinthians – ‘Whether it were lawful for a believing husband or wife to live with an unconverted partner?’ In that case, Paul, using the very expression applied here, decides that “The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else are your [unbelieving] children unclean [to you]; but now they are holy;” 1 Cor. 8: 14. That is, the husband in the one case, and the meats in the other, are not unclean, or unlawful to the saint.
We now come to that which has formed the author's warrant for the present tract.
“If thou lay these things before the brethren, thou shalt he a minister of Jesus Christ nourished up in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine, whereto thou hast attained.”
The subject is of the highest moment: and it was one very likely to slip from the recollection of the church, when those opinions were not actually rampant before it. Yet, in being forewarned against the danger, lies, under God, the Christian’s safety, “Behold, I have told you before.” So that then, doctrines which will shake and overthrow the faith of others, will but root and ground his; and the rising up of this baleful doctrine will be but a proof, to his well-instructed mind, that ours is a God who knows the end from the beginning.
“The words of the faith” stand opposed to the teachings of the apostasy; and “the good doctrine” to “the doctrines of demons.”
“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth a little; but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
The presence of the article before “fables” shows that certain well-known fables were the object of the apostle’s warning. He had given a like exhortation at the commencement of the Epistle. Timothy was to “charge some not to teach false doctrine, nor give heed to fables, and endless genealogies:” 1 Tim. 1: 3, 4. Again he informs us, that a time was coming, when men, tired of the truth, would welcome these follies and falsehoods. “The time will come when they will not endure the healthful doctrine, but according to their own lusts they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will be turned unto fables:” 2 Tim. 4: 3, 4. These fables were “profane”; and foolish to a high degree, so as to be suited only for doting old women. The same class of doctrines he more definitely points out in the close of the Epistle, in a passage which is far more distinct in the original, than as given by the English version. “O Timothy, guard the deposit, turning away from the profane babblings and ‘Antitheses,’ or (contrasts) of the (system) falsely named Gnosis [‘Science’]* which some professing erred concerning the faith:” 1 Tim. 6: 20, 21. Here not only the apostle calls the system he is opposing ‘Gnosticism,’ but two of the most striking characteristics are set forth. First, its ‘profane babblings,’ or empty terms. It abounded with barbarous words that meant nothing, except to deprive the true God of his glory, as possessed of all perfections in Himself; while they distributed them among a number of imaginary beings, whom they named Achamoth, Yaldabaoth, Sigee, Bythos, etc.
* [See the Greek …] “The
oppositions of Science falsely so called, (…)
seems to point directly at the pretensions of the Gnostics, that we can hardly
doubt as to the meaning of
Besides these they had ‘Antitheses’ or contrasts. Gnosticism rested on the opposition between Light and Darkness, God and Matter, the Good and the Evil Principle. In order to prove that the God of the Old Testament was different from the God of the New Testament, they collected passages from both, containing opposite doctrines; these they called “Contrasts”; and thence would have their disciples to infer, that the Author of the one could not be the Author of the other. They looked with the eye of the infidel over the Old Testament, and finding things which they could not reconcile with their own views of goodness and truth, they blasphemed. They saw that the principle of the Old Testament dispensation was justice, and that the principle of the New Testament is mercy; but they turned God’s truth of differences of dispensation into falsehood, by their wilful misuse of it.
In the next epistle we have a similar warning - “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord not to contend about words, which is to no profit (but) to the overthrow of the hearers. Study to show myself approved unto God, a workman not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane babblings; for they will advance to a further height of impiety, and their word will eat like mortification.”
In the present passage, then, Timothy is exhorted rightly to
divide the word of truth. There is a distinction,
great and broad, between the Gospel and the Law: between the earthly
[*It was initially my intention to present ‘Part 2’ before ‘Part 1’ because of what Scripture teaches us relative to “THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD,” and the Intermediate State and Place of the “Soul.”. The reader (it is hoped) will then better recognise the errors of agnosticism now being taught through the Churches of God! To say a disembodied soul, now in the underworld of “Hades” (Matt. 12:40; 16: 18; Acts 2: 27; Rev. 6: 9-11, etc.), can somehow ascend into the presence of God in Heaven without a glorified ‘body’ of “flesh and bones” (Luke 24: 39), is, what the author describes as ‘the profane babbling of Gmosticism’! Should all the dead not be “waiting for … the redemption of the body” (Rom. 8: 8: 23b, R.V.), which will take place at the time of our Lord’s return, (1 Thess. 4: 16. cf. John 3: 13; 14: 3.)?
“SAFELY HOME,” at the end of the late Paul Neilly’s testimony, is therefore a good example of going beyond what Scripture teaches, and making the time of Death equivalent to that of Resurrection; and thereby deceives Christians into believing that ‘the resurrection of the just was PAST already’!]
** After explaining the meaning of the word ‘attain,’ and handing a tract on the “out-resurrection” which Paul - “if by any means” - wanted to “attain unto” (Phil. 3: 11), the instant reply I received was: “That’s Impossible”! Since resurrection is an act of God which will take place sometime in the future, a Christians’ ‘conduct’ – will be taken into account at the Judgment seat of Christ to determine if he/she will “attain” that resurrection which the Apostle Paul mentioned in Phil. 3: 11.
In Heb. 9: 27 we read: “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this [i.e., after the time of death] the judgment.” All dead saints must come into judgment after death; and the standard of their righteousness – not Christ’s imputed righteousness - will show who “are accounted worthy to attain to that world [age] and the resurrection from the dead” (Luke 20: 35). This ‘resurrection’ of which our Lord spoke, is a select resurrection of REWARD “from the dead” similar to that which Paul wanted to “attain unto”!
Daniel Steel, D.D., commenting on the Judgment in Heb. 9: 27, says - “The strength of this argument is immediately perceived by the Greek scholar when he sees that the word for ‘men’ is a term so broad as to comprehend the whole race. Then to make surety doubly sure, it is preceded by what the grammarians call ‘the generic article’, which must often be left untranslated in English, but means all the human race.” Christ’s Judgment seat will determine at what time the souls of the dead will vacate ‘Hades’ – the place of all disembodied ‘souls’.]
But this view fully confirms our position, that it is not Romanism, but Gnosticism, which the apostle is combating. For Rome’s power of error lies in confounding the Law and Gospel together; in leavening the new dispensation with the principles of the old, and not in contrasting the one with the other; as did the system which Paul opposed. Nor does Romanism deny the resurrection. She asserts it in her creeds. She corrupts the truth secretly, but does not violently overturn it.
Another of the features of Gnosticism
was austerity. On this Paul remarks,
calling its requirements of bodily self-denial by the name of “exercise.”
Such was the discipline used by the candidates for prizes at the
national games of
* Spoken of marriage: 1 Cor. 7: 1. To which I believe it alludes here.
I have gone through the prophecy which
especially bears upon the future apostasy, and have pointed out in how many
particulars it differs from the corruptions introduced by
* The fallacy then, in applying this prophecy to the Romish errors is the fallacy of turning a dictum simpliciter into a dictum secundum quid.
Though the present prophecy in Timothy be the most clear and definite declaration of the apostasy in the latter days from the Christian faith, yet it is not the only one. 1. At the close of our Lord’s sermon on the Mount, He gives distinct intimations, that the faith of His disciples will be tried by false prophets who will present a religion of self-denial. Jesus then manifests the future failure of those who shall profess themselves to be his disciples, while they obey not his words. The Saviour likens these to a house built upon the sand, assailed by a threefold attack of wind, rain, and flood: two aerial forces, and one earthly. The winds doubtless represent doctrine, (Eph. 4: 14) false doctrines, shaking the true faith. The descent of the rain represents, I believe, the energies of the spirits of darkness then cast out of heaven (Rev. 12.,) and exerting themselves to overthrow Christianity. The rains raise a river and the river beats against the house. This, I judge, signifies the current of the world’s persecution setting in against the [enlightened and obedient] believer, when Satan’s power and malice will swell the tide of human rage and violence against the Christian. It seems, from the Saviour’s comparison, as though the faith of half of those who wear the Christian name will give way before the trial. In this awful lesson, there is a word of exhortation to practise now, before the evil day has come, whatever we see to be Christ’s commands.
2. The apostasy is also presented as the ripening of the tares. At first, while both wheat and tares sent out leaves only, the two different plants were not distinguishable; but, as harvest draws on, the difference between the nominal [disobedient] and [obedient] real Christians* will become more and more evident; and the false principles long secretly held, will bear the fruit of utter apostasy. Matt. 13.
* Both classes are regenerate. Eternal salvation is not the issue here; it is a disciple’s work and fruitbearing with a view of being “accounted worthy” to enter the coming Messianic Kingdom. Luke 22: 28-30; Rev. 3: 21.
3. In the Jewish nation, just before the Saviour judges it, we find three forms of evil; (1) covert denial of civil authority; (this we see in the matter of the tribute money;) (2) denial of the resurrection; (3) and covert denial of the two natures in Christ: Matt. 22. But that which was then secret will be openly manifested at the close: 2 Peter 2: 3.
4. The salt of the Gospel will have lost its taste, and be .cast out to be trodden underfoot of men. The belief of Christ’s principles, and the practice of Christ’s commands gives the Christian his peculiarity of character. But the loss of these distinguishing features, by embracing the principles and practices of worldliness, will be followed by the Lord’s manifested displeasure, by the dissolution of the body that wrongfully bears his name, and by its exposure to the contempt of men: Luke 19.
5. Jesus is to be rejected by this generation before he appears as the lightning. And the generation is a moral one, existing to this very day, and composed both of Jews and Gentiles. In fact it answers to the world: Luke 17: 25.
6. The citizens, hating the nobleman who has been appointed king, will send an embassy, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” Then the king comes, and his enemies are slain before him: Luke 19.
7. The Gentile branches, not continuing in God’s goodness, will be cut off: Rom. 11.
But it is time that I should turn the believer’s attention to the form taken by these principles in the present day. I allude to Teetotalism. This contains within itself the very seed of the apostasy. But when I say ‘teetotalism,’ I mean that form of it which carries out the principles to their full length. Some abstain from wine, beer, etc. in compassion to their fellow-men, not believing that the use of these things wrong in themselves. This ground of abstinence is not attacked here. But teetotalism has reached its full development when it is affirmed, that ‘Alcohol, and wine containing it, are not the good creatures of God: that they are to be rejected with abhorrence, and that they are evil in themselves.’ Such statements come at once under the condemnation of the Holy Spirit in the prophecy now commented on.
In the mind of a thoughtful teetotaller, either Christianity must be overthrown, or teetotalism. For Jesus drank wine: (Luke 7: 33, 34; Matt. 11: 19;) made wine; (John 2.) and commands wine to be taken (Matt. 26: 27-29) by his disciples.
Now how does teetotalism meet these facts? It maintains that the wine used, made, and recommended by Jesus, was unfermented.* This is what is called, ‘Begging the question.’** But let it be granted. We are brought then to this dilemma. Either Jesus knew the teetotal doctrines, and the distinction of wines into alcoholic and evil, or non-alcoholic and innocent; or he did not. If he did not, then, on one important point of man’s duty towards himself and his fellow, the Saviour was ignorant; and he cannot have been the perfect teacher sent of God. I assume therefore, that, as he was sent of God, he knew the teetotal doctrines. Either then he made the teetotal distinction - or, he did not. To suppose that Jesus taught teetotal doctrines, but that the apostles and evangelists dropped all mention of them, - would suppose, that the Holy Ghost by whom the sacred Scriptures were indited, failed in his office of bearing witness to Christ. This therefore cannot be maintained.
* In all dictionaries I have consulted, wine is declared to be the fermented juice of the grape. They misuse words, then, who call unfermented juice, ‘wine.’ Sir Edward Barry on the ‘Wines of the Ancients,’ asserts the existence of alcohol to be the very essential and distinguishing principle of all wines.
** To prove it is impossible, from the very nature of the case. All probability is against it; for the difficulty in hot countries is, not to ferment the juice, but to prevent its fermenting. And though the juice of the grape might be kept from fermenting, yet the increase of expense and the necessity for peculiar accommodation, would render such liquor much more expensive. Neither would it I suppose be a desirable beverage. It was not therefore the ordinary fashion.
We must believe therefore, that Jesus knew the teetotal doctrines, and the distinction founded thereon, but did not make the teetotal distinction of wines. But if so, it is manifest, that Jesus was opposed to teetotalism.
He made wine by miracle. Would any teetotaller have done so? Would any have thought it worthy of the character of the Son of God, to use divine power for the purpose? without adding as a caution, ‘Observe, this wine which I have made, is not that deadly and poisonous beverage which contains alcohol, but is wholly pure from every particle of it.’ We might leave the reply with every thorough teetotaller, in full confidence, that he would utter a hearty, an indignant, ‘No!’
Would Jesus, if he approved of teetotal doctrines, have introduced wine into the most solemn rite of his religion?* Would any teetotaller have done so, and been silent on the vital distinction of wines into poisonous or innocent, according as they contain alcohol or not? But I go further. A thorough-going teetotaller would have cried shame even on such a reduced and guarded introduction of wine. He would have said – ‘What a favourable opportunity to impress upon the world the glorious doctrines of total abstinence!’ ‘My disciples, I have called you to a feast. The feast of the worldly and the drunkard are stained by the presence of alcohol; be it not so in your solemn feasts. Do you avoid all wines whether alcoholic or not. Drink only of pure water, fresh from nature’s thousand fountains.’ We might be content to, abide by the verdict of thorough-going teetotallers, whether such would not have been their feelings, such their words on such an occasion.
* Nay further, Jesus himself abstains from wine as a sign of his separation from earthly-joy, and declares that he will not partake of it again till the joy of his kingdom comes (Matt. 27: 29). Would not a teetotaller have rather considered that a part of millennial bliss would consist in no wine being made?
Jesus then knew teetotal principles, but acted and felt in entire opposition to them. He drinks wine, he makes wine, he presents it with a solemn command to his disciples, at His most sacred feast; and yet he never once makes that distinction in the use of wine which is the very life of teetotalism. Jesus then was not of teetotal principles. He was not neutral as regards them, but was actively, solemnly opposed to them. His Spirit has recorded for our instruction and example, his thoughts and acts concerning wine. If Jesus be God, the divine sanction is given against teetotalism. Therefore the followers of Jesus should be opposed to it.
In the minds of the thoughtful, consequently, who follow out things to their just consequences, either Christianity will destroy teetotalism; or teetotalism will destroy Christianity. For, from the above reasoning it is evident, that if teetotalism be true, Jesus was not sent of God. And if Jesus be sent of God, teetotalism is a device of Satan.
Teetotalism will join itself with the other Gnostic principles now afloat, and will then be consolidated into one fearful system, destructive of all faith in Christ, and ensuring the perdition of the soul. For what are the principles now abroad concerning wine, war, punishments - domestic, capital, and military - slavery and universalism, but the preparation for the Great Apostasy? Especially do I look upon what are called “Vegetarian” societies, (that is, societies of those who agree to abstain from animal food,) as containing within themselves the germ of the predicted abandonment of Christianity. I mean not, that such are their principles now: but, as it was in the origin of Temperance Societies, so it will be with them; their principles will advance - till they end in the denial of all revelation. For the Old Testament and the New alike sanction both the use of animal food and marriage. The denial of these institutions, as given by the true God, will issue in the entire abandonment of the true faith.
The reader can now judge whose views come up to the force of the expressions of the prophecy.
The apostasy of the latter days will be threefold, answering to the three-fold division in which God now regards the earth, as distinguished into “the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church of God:” 1 Cor. 10: 32.
1. The Gentiles will, by refusing marriage and animal food, break the “everlasting covenant” with Noah, on which the regularity of the seasons depends. For that covenant (Gen. 9.) contains a re-institution of marriage, a giving up of animals to be the food of man, and the appointment of capital punishment for murder; which therefore supposes sovereign authority lodged somewhere. But in the last evil days men will resist and put an end to authority, and capital punishments, beside the points already noted. Therefore, as this is the breach of Noah’s covenant, God is free to break up, by terrible judgments, the natural course and order of things. Then new and terrible scourges desolate the earth; as the Book of Revelation manifests. Therefore Isaiah discovering to us the state of things in the latter day, exhibits the earth as [now] under the curse, “because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant” made with Noah and his sons, and the creatures of the earth: Gen. 9: 16. Hence the prophet sees the earth overturned, and laid waste; “the curse hath devoured the earth.” As the blessing on Noah and his sons was “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth,” so now the curse undoes the blessing, and “therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left” Isa. 24: 6.
2. The same principles will produce
apostasy in the Jew. He will abandon the
law of Moses, and having received the principles of the false Christ, and been
beguiled by his false spirits, he will attach himself to the person of the
impostor-Messiah. If animal food and
marriage be unlawful, then the God of the Old Testament is not the true God;
and sacrifices of animals were cruel, and unworthy of the worship of the Most
High. He who entertains such views must
cease to be a Jew. And such cases of
apostasy the prophets foretell. Thus the
Lord says of his dealings with
3. Lastly, the reception of these sentiments will overturn the faith of many professing Christians, and they will go over to the false religion, or “the lie” of the Man of Sin. When then the covenant of Noah, the covenant of Moses, and the grace of the Lord Jesus are trodden underfoot, vengeance, hot and heavy, will launch the lightnings of the curse.
In conclusion, we observe, that the moral causes that will hasten the reception of Anti-Christ’s principles, are fearfully and thickly at work around us. To note these is the great practical lesson of the whole. I would offer to the reader's consideration three principal ones.
(1) The first is, mere formalism in religion, attended with inward weariness of the truth of God. In the latter day there is to be (alas! how true it is already!) “a form of godliness, but a denying of the power thereof:” 2 Tim. 3: 5. As the truth is not in men’s hearts, they will grow weary of it, and desire something new. They will seek for display and eloquence, and power in the preacher. Thus are they ready to listen to the new doctrines of the deceiving spirits. Because of their not loving the truth, but having pleasure in unrighteousness, God will in righteous judgment send them an energy of delusion to believe Satan’s lie: 2 Thess. 2: 10, 11.
(2) The second cause of apostasy is the want of a good conscience. Four times in the two Epistles to Timothy is this brought forward. “The end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, and out of a good conscience, and out of faith unfeigned; from which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;” 1 Tim. 1: 5, 6. Again, - “Holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away concerning the faith have made shipwreck:” 19. See also 3: 9; and 2 Tim. 1: 3. By these passages it is clearly taught, how necessary it is to live without defilement of the conscience, and to leave whatever we see to be contrary to God’s will. But alas! how many have defiled and evil consciences! Light has broken in upon them, disclosing many things in their business or profession, which they see the Lord reproves, yet they will not give them up; because of the loss of reputation, or of affection, or of worldly substance which they would occasion. To such the truth is unpleasant, because it condemns; and therefore falsehood is ready to be welcomed as a composing draught to an uneasy conscience. How fearfully close may apostasy from the faith be to a wilfully defiled conscience!
(3) Lastly, covetousness is presented as the ground of apostasy. “But they that wish to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all evil; which some coveting have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things!” 1 Tim. 6: 9-11. (Greek.)
It needs but little observation to be assured that covetousness is a sin much abroad in our day, and palliated or justified even by [regenerate] believers. “In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves (selfish) covetous;” 2 Tim. 3: 2. Apostasy then is not far off. These sins are as the electric force that is filling the air, and lading it with the heavy darkness and terrible might of the thunderstorm. May we be kept faithful to the Lord! And may not the writer exhort his brethren in the ministry to bring this subject before those of the saints who come within their sphere: for it is an approved subject of service to the Lord. “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ.”
How will the faith of those be shaken by the Great Apostasy, who have been led to expect that the world is about to be converted to Christianity!
APOSTASY – AND THE WORLD-CRISIS
“Are not these evils come upon us, because God is not among us?” – Deuteronomy.*
“These powerful lines are based also on the solemn command in (Hosea 4: 17): “Ephraim is wedded to idols; let him alone” – D. M. P.
Slowly our dreams dissolve, our visions fade;
Along the vast horizons of the world
The lamps by some invisible hand are dimmed,
While darkness gathers. Now on every side
Is heard a lamentable sound, the cry
Of stricken hearts expectant of a dawn
That never comes. Those sweet expectancies,
Which once sprang forth like rays of joyous light
New-issuing from a cloud, have died away,
To leave no trace. Its future all unknown,
The world seems caught within a net of fears,
Despondencies, and doubts. For men have lost
The confidence long cherished while they felt
God was their sovran master, moulding life
To some beneficent aim. Apostasy
Would thrust out God, and, in the vacant place,
Set grim idolatries, strange leagues, new creeds
Still to be tried, and, tried, found lacking still.
And so, in silence, God withdraws Himself,
And, so, the world rejects Him, leaves that world
To frame its fond illusions. “Ephraim
Is turned aside to idols: let him alone.”
‘Alone’: the very word is like a knell,
A sad prophetic warning. Cast adrift
From the great source of Being and of Truth,
Man – what is he? a shadow and a shame;
No light within, no grace to hold him fast
Against the imperious surge of strife and hate.
Not statesman’s craft, not pact not stratagem,
Nor all the proud accomplishments of time,
Have power to guide our steps. We falter, reft
Of One that reigns in equity and love.
“Children of men, return!” (that Voice is heard
Between the solemn pauses in events)
“Return at length, or perish in your pride.”
For who can stay the menace of the hour
Save the all-seeing Ruler, whose right hand
Is strengthened, as heretofore, to lead us safe
Through perilous tracts and valleys dark with death
To paths of calm? Barren were earth, indeed,
Disjoined from Him in whose inscrutable will
We find, at last, the peace that knows no end.
- E. H. BLAKENEY.
* * *
[BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION
Faith to go forward in the dark,
Faith, Lord Jesus, to embark
Once more on life’s wild, troubled sea,
In midst of earth’s calamity.
Faith to know that Thou dost still
Look down in mercy; at Thy will
Outstretched Thine arms, and fill’d with love,
Ready the hearts of man to move.
Faith to ‘press on’* with Thee our Guide,
For Thou art with us by our side;
Thou seest, what we cannot see;
By faith we follow only Thee.
* Phil. 3: 13, 14.
Faith to look above earth’s night,
Away from lawlessness and man’s might,
Away from struggle, sadness, war,
To Thee, the Bright, the Morning Star.
- HETTIE K. PAYNE.
The following testimomy by Paul Neilly, is spoiled by what his wife has placed at its end. Of course her beliefs, relative to what happens immediately after the death of a Christian, is not any different from what multitudes of regenerate believers accept today; and without any scriptural proof to support their popular theory!
Here is part of what was added:-
“I am home in Heaven, dear ones
Oh so happy and so bright!
There is perfect joy and beauty
In this everlasting light.
All the pain and grief is over.
Every restless tossing past
I am now at peace for ever
Safely home in Heaven at last.
Did you wonder I so calmly
Trod the valley of the shade?
Oh! but Jesus love illumined
Every dark and fearful glade.
And He came Himself to meet me
In that way so hard I tread
And with Jesus arm to lean on
Could I have one doubt or dread?
Then you must not grieve so sorely
For I love you dearly still
Try to look beyond the shadows
Pray to meet the Fathers will.
There is work still waiting for you
So you must not idly stand
Do it now while life remaineth
You shall rest in Jesus land.
When that work is all completed
He will greatly call you home
Oh, the rapture of that meeting
Oh, the joy to see you came!”
If Paul Neilly, our deceased brother in Christ, is now ‘safely home in heaven at last’; then he must have been able to get there by a different route than what was taken by his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ! See, John 20: 9, 17. cf. Acts 2: 27; Matt. 12: 40.]
The Testimony of Paul Neilly
From Surgeon to Patient
Just over a year ago I had an article published in the Life Times magazine. Unknowingly I was describing a medical condition that was to change my own life and perhaps also accelerate my promotion to a better place. None of us know what the future holds and if we did perhaps we would not be so complacent about life, death and eternity. My desire is to tell you my story and hopefully by God’s Holy Spirit to encourage you to reassess your position before God and ensure that you have made provision for the future.
Until this point in my life my daily schedule had been very busy and I, like others, had my fair share of frustrations. However, I was satisfied that I had arrived at where I wanted to be in life and had achieved most of my goals. I had a loving wife, three young children with a bright future, a career with many rewards and most precious of all I had the assurance of eternal life. Over recent months it has been my relationship with God that has been the pivot around which my life has rotated.
The Early Years
As a seven year old I couldn’t have realised how important the decision would be to ask Jesus Christ to be my own and personal Saviour. Even at that young age I felt convicted of being a sinner and was convinced that I needed to ask for forgiveness of my sins. It was on a Sunday afternoon during a Crusaders class in Lisburn that I was persuaded I needed to ask Jesus into my heart. I walked home after the meeting with my older brother and knelt down with my mother in our drawing room and prayed the sinner’s prayer.
My parents not only loved God but also served Him. My father had answered the call to be a Presbyterian minister and my mother had been persuaded, perhaps against her better judgement, not only to marry him but also take on the responsibilities of a clergyman’s wife. The three children that followed (Stephen, Paul and Mark) were affectionately known as salt, pepper and mustard. In my defence I was not very peppery but my younger brother certainly lived up to his name! As a result of my family background I was steeped in the importance of, not only knowing that there was a God, but also that each one of us needed to have a personal relationship with Him before we can expect to get to Heaven.
I am grateful to both my parents for my Christian upbringing and the godly example they set. But, to be honest, I never really enjoyed being a son of the manse. I would have preferred some degree of anonymity in church life but this was not to be. As the minister’s son I tended to put on a good show but underneath I had periods when only God knew how rebellious I was towards Him. Thankfully God remained faithful to me. My father was not only a minister but also had important links with the Lord’s Day Observance Society, subsequently becoming its Chairman. As a result I had quite a strict Christian upbringing and, at that time, I was quite resentful. However, I now appreciate the discipline I experienced and feel that it is a lack of discipline that is destroying both the Church as we know it and society in general. The Lord’s Day* is no longer respected and despite God’s instruction in the fourth commandment that we, our family and those who work for us, should do no work, Christians continue to do their own thing on the Sabbath. How can we expect our children to respect God’s law if we allow them to undertake school work or partake in sport on Sundays and we ourselves flout it by choosing to travel to holiday destinations or business meetings on this special day.
[* Presumably he means ‘the first day of the week.’]
I saw school and education as an interruption to what could otherwise be an enjoyable life. With my parents insistence that nothing in life comes easy I worked just hard enough to pass my examinations. It was not until I reached sixth form that I realised if I wanted to be the doctor in the family, which I believed was my calling, I’d better knuckle down. Recognition of the importance of hard work in reaching this objective nearly came too late. As a result I had to spend an extra year re-sitting two ‘A’ levels to achieve my goal. At last I started medical school in 1981 and there I met a lot of other people with the same aims in life. Most significantly I met many who had a love for Christ some of whom have remained dear friends. It was mainly the influence of good Christian friends that kept me on the strait and narrow in what was a rather hostile student world.* During my five years as a medical student I studied extremely hard but looking back on it I enjoyed every moment. My objective was not only to qualify as a doctor, which on its own was a daunting task, but also to become a surgeon.
[* NOTE. “Men are never faithful in crowds. Our nearest and dearest can fail us. What is wanted to-day are men and women, young and old, who will obey their convictions of truth and duty at the cost of fortune and friends and life itself. It is to disciples that Jesus says (Matt. 7: 14):- ‘Narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few be they that find it.’”]
I vividly remember attending a meeting for those in my
academic year interested in becoming surgeons.
It was made very clear that of the twenty-five or so in the room that
evening approximately only two would be successful in becoming consultant
general surgeons (although also a few would become specialist surgeons). I reckoned the odds were stacked against me
but, after ten years as a junior doctor, I was one of three doctors in my year
to become a general surgeon. I was
finally appointed as a Consultant General Surgeon with an interest in
Colorectal Surgery to
Along the way I met the girl who was later to become my wife. She was a nurse, and a Christian friend; Walter Boyd, who was also a doctor, introduced us. He spotted her walking home from work and reckoned she deserved a lift home. I sometimes joke that this was the beginning of the end and that the downward spiral continued until we finally tied the knot in 1989. Of prime importance Averil was a Christian and she has taught me patience and the importance of taking one day at a time in our Christian walk with God. After setting up home initially in Glengormley we now have 3 children; Hannah, Matthew and Samuel. At the time of my father’s retirement from full-time ministry we started attending Ballycraigy Congregational Church. There we were very blessed by the ministry of the Rev Tom Shaw whose pastoral care, in human terms, was second to none and continues to this day.
As part of my surgical training we
spent one year in
As a medical student and a junior doctor, having cared for
patients with terminal illness, it became my firm desire never to have cancer
myself, and to die a peaceful death in old age.
This hope extended to my wife and family but since the winter of 2001 we
discovered that God had different plans.
We were to experience problems that would turn our lives upside down. On 14th December after returning
from a pre-Christmas meal with friends my wife developed excruciating abdominal
pain and within 12 hours was on an operating table in
My personal hopes of a long and cancer-free life appeared to be dashed on 25th July 2002. After several months of symptoms I eventually conceded to having investigations. This included a colonoscopy and as a colorectal surgeon I was accustomed to performing this test. Being on the receiving end was however a different matter. I was given light sedation and was able to make the diagnosis of bowel cancer myself. To compound the issue I then had a CT scan, which revealed multiple tumour deposits in both lungs. If ever I needed God now was the time. Averil was unaware of the fact that I was having the test that morning. When she was called at home, being the astute person she is, she quickly came to the correct conclusion. The bottom had fallen out of our worlds. Both father and mother had developed cancer within the space of seven months and the likelihood was that I would be dead within the next year. Naturally we were distraught but on returning home we turned to God’s Word. Our text for that day was Daniel 12: 13 but more precious than the verse itself was the title in Spurgeon’s notes: Nothing to alarm us. We were obviously very alarmed but God was offering reassurance of his protection and indeed I am living proof that He has done so over the past year.
I was now on a conveyor belt, which at times felt more like a roller coaster with many ups and downs, both physically and emotionally. It was never a concern of mine as to why we should have been afflicted like this but rather it was my desire to know what God was going to achieve through it. I reckoned if anything good was going to come of this I would have to survive long enough to at least regain some degree of good health. I felt compelled to tell others of God’s mercy, not only by saving me, but also by promising eternal life to anyone who simply puts their trust in Him.
I was aware of Christian stalwarts and men of God in scripture who actually thanked God for the suffering they had experienced. I reckoned they must have been mad but having experienced something of ‘the shadow of death’ (Psalm 23: 4) myself I now recognise ‘the peace of God which passeth all understanding’ (Philippians 4: 7). As a direct result of what we have been through we have been blessed. It would not be true to say that life is now simply beautiful like a bed of roses but, if so, there are the thorns, which can make life very painful at times. However, for those who have put their trust in Him we have many guarantees of God’s provision for us. We have the reassurance that God is our refuge and strength in times of trouble and that, if we leave whatever is burdening us with Him, He will give us rest (Psahn 55: 22 & Matthcw 11: 28).
At times I didn’t know if I had any
future left here on earth.* Particularly as a result of the complications
associated with chemotherapy I have often had the heartfelt desire to die. On many occasions I have thought, as my
namesake Paul the apostle wrote, that it would be better to be with Christ (Philippians 1: 23 & 24.
However, God has given me more time to continue my responsibilities as a
husband and a father. He has allowed me
to fulfil all of my goals to this point. Initially I didn’t know if I would see
Christmas 2002. I did and, not only this
but, our family was able to go on holiday to
[* NOTE. This is mainly due to the fact that most of the divine prophecies - having to do with an inheritance upon this earth during the millennial era - are now being rejected and destroyed by false methods of interpretation! Accountable before God, are all those whom He has placed in positions of authority in His churches, to declare the whole counsel of God! See Ezekiel 3: 20; Acts 15: 22; 23: 6b; 24: 15, 16, 21; 26: 6, 7, 8; 28: 20, 23b. cf. 1 Cor. 6: 9; Gal. 5: 19-21; Eph. 5: 5:1-6, etc.]
Much more important than this God has given me a ministry which would otherwise not have happened. I have been able to return to work and can help my patients in a much more personal way than ever before. Having a worse medical condition than many of my patients I am better able to address, not only their physical, but also, their emotional and spiritual needs. I have had several opportunities to discuss spiritual problems with members of hospital staff and have been able to witness to God’s grace at both local and national medical meetings. I know that many people have now heard my story and trust that God can use this to His glory.
It is my hope that my story will encourage you if you are walking on your own to earnestly seek after Christ. The Bible tells that for those who seek Him they will find Him (Luke 11: 9) and that those who do not seek Him, the Bible tells us, are fools who will ultimately be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20: 15). One of the advantages of having cancer is that you often have time to prepare for eternity. However, many people die suddenly or unexpectedly and nobody knows when the Lord will return to take those who trust in Him to their reward in Heaven (John 14: 3). The Old Testament prophet Isaiah instructed us to seek the Lord while He may be found (Isaiah 55: 6) and Paul warns us that now is the accepted time to make this decision for Christ (2 Corinthians 6: 2).
Have you turned to God and asked for forgiveness of sin? Do you have the promise of eternal life? Not only that, but He has promised He will never leave you or forsake you in this life, as well as in eternity? I pray that you will answer God’s call and that you find Him as your own and personal Saviour.
It is now near the end of January 2004 and I write from Foyle Hospice, which humanly speaking should be my last port of call.
I arrived here via a short stay at Belvoir Park Hospital, where I had some Radiotherapy. Although Brain Metastases (Advanced secondaries) have now developed, I thank God that, though weak in body, I am lucid in mind and, reasonably so, in speech.
These past weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster, yet I have proved God’s unfailing and loving presence. He has allowed me to see my young family saved, and to learn that my story is being made known to a worldwide audience.
It is my prayer that it will be for His glory alone - and that many will come to know my Saviour through its challenge. Life is brief - It is time to seek the Lord, and there isn’t necessarily time to prepare.
I know God can yet touch me in response to the earnest prayers of His
people. However, he may wish to use me as a ‘corn of
Whatever, His will be done - I am content.
Yours in Christ,
- - - - - -