[From the first three chapters of the Author’s Book: “By Faith”, pp. 1-33]
“If we would please God, we must believe first of all that God IS; however that is not all. We must look ahead to all that God has said and promised, and believe that in all things, He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
“What then? We take it that the believer in order to please God must accept the Spirit’s revelation of the things to come; for He is the Spirit of prophecy.”
R E. Neighbour
“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure:”
- (Hebrews 11: 17-19).
THE OFFERING OF ISAAC
The first section in Hebrews, chapter eleven (vv. 4-16) terminates with an inheritance beyond the Flood - that is, an inheritance beyond the Great Tribulation, in the Kingdom Age. In verse seventeen there is a new beginning in the chronological framework, which carries us once again through the same period, but from a different perspective. This section begins and ends at the same two places as the first section - the shedding of blood, and the Messianic Era. In this section, as in the first section, Old Testament characters with their individual, peculiar experiences are used in an overall, typical framework to teach great spiritual truths.
The offering of Isaac is recorded in Genesis, chapter
twenty-two. This is the second of five
consecutive chapters which set forth in type the complete history of
Overall Scope of Genesis 21-25
In Heb. 11: 17-19 the offering of Isaac is specifically stated to be a “type.” It is a type of the offering of God’s Son 2,000 years later. Thus, in Genesis, chapter twenty-two, “Abraham” is a type of God the Father, and “Isaac” is a type of God the Son. It follows then in the other chapters in this overall framework of events in Genesis that the “wife of Abraham” (chs. 21, 23, 25) is a type of the Father’s wife, the nation of Israel, and the “bride” secured for Isaac by Abraham’s servant (ch. 24) is a type of the bride presently being secured for Christ by the Holy Spirit.
1. The Birth of Isaac (Gen. 21)
Isaac was born in a supernatural manner at a set time. Sarah was barren and beyond the age of childbearing, but God intervened, restored unto Sarah “according to the time of life,” and “Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him” (Gen. 17: 1-7, 16-21; 18: 10-14; 21:1-7).
The birth of Jesus occurred in a supernatural manner at a set time (Gal. 4: 4). “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1: 18). God Himself became flesh in the person of His Son - the God-Man (John 1: 14).
2. The Offering of Isaac (Gen. 22)
Abraham was instructed to offer his son for a burnt offering
upon a particular mountain in the
God offered His Son at Calvary on a
particular mountain in the
3. The Death of Sarah (Gen. 23)
Following the offering of Isaac, the wife of Abraham, Sarah, died.
This typifies the fact that following the offering of Jesus,
the wife of God the Father,
4. The Bride for Isaac (Gen. 24)
Following the death of Sarah, Abraham sent his servant, Eliezer, into a far country to obtain a bride for Isaac. After Eliezer’s journey had been prospered the Lord, he returned to Abraham’s home with the bride.
This typifies the fact that following the setting aside of Israel, God the Father sent the Holy Spirit into the world (far country) to obtain a bride for His Son. After the Holy Spirit’s mission has been completed, He will return to the Father’s home with the bride.
The Remarriage of Abraham (Gen. 25)
Following the completion of Eliezer’s mission in the far country, Abraham again took a wife. Abraham’s second wife, Keturah, was far more fruitful in childbearing than Sarah.
This typifies the fact that after the completion of the Holy
Spirit’s mission in the far country, God will again take
Faith Approved Through Testing
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt [test] Abraham ...” (Gen. 22: 1).
It had taken approximately sixty years for the Lord to bring
Abraham from a life of Idolatry in
All his previous experiences, trials, and testings had worked together
to prepare Abraham for the events recorded in this chapter. In his response to the Lord’s testing at this
point in his life, Abraham could draw upon his experiences in
Every new development in Abraham’s life throughout his entire pilgrim journey was for a purpose. Nothing came to pass in a haphazard manner. All events in chapters twelve through twenty-one anticipate events in chapter twenty-two. Events in chapter twenty-two, in turn, anticipate events in chapters twenty-three through twenty-five. The offering of Isaac in chapter twenty-two forms the acme toward which all preceding events moved, and events in this chapter must occur before the events in succeeding chapters. Isaac must die before Sarah can die (chs. 22, 23). Sarah, in turn, must die before the bride can be obtained for Isaac (chs. 23, 24). And the bride must be secured before Abraham can remarry (chs. 24, 25).
Throughout history God has always moved His people through
various experiences, trials, and testings for particular reasons; and His
dealings with Christians today are no different. Christians are to “count it all
subjected to various testings, knowing “that the trying [approval through testing] of your faith worketh
patience” (James 1: 2, 3; cf.
Through all the various trials and testings which Christians encounter, God has one great purpose in mind:
“And we know that all things work [‘are working’] together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [‘foreordain’] to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he [Christ] might be the firstborn among many brethren [Christians, following the adoption]” (Rom. 8: 28, 29; cf. Rom. 8: 17-23; Heb. 2: 10).
Christians today bear the “image of the earthy”; but God’s great purpose looks beyond this earthy image and the present trials and testings to that future day when Christians will bear the “image of the heavenly,” occupying positions of power and authority with Christ as sons of God in the coming kingdom (Rev. 2: 26, 27).
The Offering of Isaac
“And he [God] said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt‑offering upon one of the mountains which 1 will tell thee of” (Gen. 22: 2).
Isaac was a grown man at this time. The word translated “lad” (Heb. naar) in verse five is used elsewhere in the Word of God to describe
men who have attained their majority.
The word is used in Gen. 41: 12 to describe Joseph at the age of twenty-eight. The word is used in 2 Chron.
13: 7 to describe
Rehoboam after he became king, and Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he
began to reign (1 Kings 14: 21). This same word is
also used to describe the two men who accompanied Abraham and Isaac on their
journey to the
God commanded Abraham to offer his only son for a burnt offering upon a particular
mountain in the
God’s Son, 2,000 years later, was offered upon a particular
mountain in the
The mountain in the
For the first time in Scripture a
human sacrifice was involved. There are
only two such sacrifices under the direction of the Lord in all Scripture, and
both occurred on a particular mountain in the
Following God’s command to Abraham concerning the sacrifice of his son, there was no remonstrance nor delay. “Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt-offering, and rose up, and went into the place of which God had told him” (v. 3). Abraham, through various experiences, trials, and testings, had been brought to the place of complete obedience. Abraham set his son aside for a sacrifice and was perfectly willing to slay his son, in accordance with God’s command.
God’s Son was set apart for a sacrifice by the Father and was
to be slain upon a particular
After two day’s travel, on the third day, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the mount afar off. From that point Abraham and Isaac left the two men who had accompanied them thus far and travelled the remainder of the way alone. Abraham laid the wood on his son, and he himself carried the fire and the knife as they proceeded toward the mount (vv. 4-6).
The “wood” which Isaac carried toward the mount foreshadowed the Cross which Christ carried toward the mount. “Wood” in Scripture symbolizes humanity, pointing in Gen. 22 to man’s sin, which made necessary both the wood which Isaac carried and the Cross which Christ carried. The “fire” and the “knife” which Abraham carried toward the mount symbolize God’s judgment upon sin and the Word of God respectively. God was about to judge sin upon the mount in accordance with His revealed Word.
God’s judgment upon sin throughout Scripture is emblemized by “fire.” (Note the flaming sword at the entrance to the garden in Eden following Adam’s sin; the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the cities of the plain by fire from heaven; the tabernacle worship; Elijah’s experience with the prophets of Baal; judgment during the coming tribulation; the judgment seat of Christ; the Valley of Hinnom; the lake of fire.) Judgment, in turn, is always administered in accordance with God’s revealed Word, “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6: 17; cf. Gen. 3: 24; Judges 7: 18; Heb. 4: 12; Rev. 1: 16; 19: 15).
The great truth brought out here sets forth two inseparable facts: 1) Sin must be judged; 2) the Word so states! In Gen. 22 God judged sin in accordance with His revealed Word (cf. Gen. 3: 21; 4: 4), and 2,000 years later on Calvary’s Cross God also judged sin in accordance with His revealed Word. In the case of God’s Son dying at Golgotha, it was not only God judging sin in accordance with His revealed Word, but it was God judging sin in the person of the Living Word Who was “made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1: 14).
Abraham and Isaac went together alone to the mount. The two men who had accompanied them from Gerar remained a sufficient distance from the mount that they neither had part in nor witnessed the scene on the mount.
God the Father and God the Son went together to
As Abraham and Isaac journeyed toward the mount together, with Isaac carrying the wood and Abraham carrying the fire and the knife, Isaac observed that there was no lamb for a sacrifice. He then said to his father “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering” (v. 7)? Abraham responded, “My son, God will provide himself a Lamb for a burnt-offering” (v. 8). This statement cannot refer to the ram caught in a thicket (v. 13), for Abraham knew nothing of this ram and believe that he would actually have to slay his son. Abraham’s response to Isaac looks beyond the offering of Abraham’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Note the statement of John the Baptizer in John 1: 29: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” In essence, John not only answered Isaac’s question [“Where is the Larnb?”], but he also identified the One to Whom Abraham referred [“God will provide himself a Lamb”].) God provided the Lamb, and the Lamb was God Himself in the person of His Son.
Isaac in the type offered no resistance as he was bound and placed on the altar upon the wood. He willingly allowed himself to be the sacrifice.
God’s Son, likewise, in the antitype,
offered no resistance as He moved toward
As Abraham “stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.” he was stopped by the angel of the Lord; and a “ram caught in a thicket by his horns” was provided as an offering “in the stead of his son.” The ram died in Isaac’s place. The wages of sin (death) were satisfied via a substitute (vv. 10-13).
The wages of sin today, likewise, have been satisfied in the person of a Substitute. God has provided Himself a Lamb. The Lord Jesus Christ has paid the required price to atone for man’s sin, and God is satisfied with the price which His Son has paid. Man can either receive Jesus Christ Who paid the wages of sin on his behalf, or man can pay the penalty himself. The Lamb has died, but the death of the Lamb is insufficient without the proper application of the blood (Ex. 12: 6, 7, 12, 13).
Death - Burial - Resurrection
Abraham possessed God’s promise that “in Isaac
shall thy seed be called” (Gen. 21: 12).
From the time of Abraham’s call in
It is apparent that Abraham also understood many things about the prophetic significance of the offering of his son on the mount. Gal 3: 8 reveals that the gospel (comprised of three parts: Death, Burial, Resurrection; 1 Cor. 15: 3, 4) had been proclaimed to Abraham. Abraham knew that the events of his day foreshadowed events of a coming day, which provided a second reason why Abraham knew that God would have to raise Isaac from the dead. This fact is set forth in the word “figure” (Heb. 11: 19). The Greek word translated “figure” is parabole, from which we derive the English word “parable.” A parable is one truth placed along side a previous truth to help explain the previous truth. The offering of Isaac was placed along the gospel which had been previously proclaimed to Abraham. The gospel, in turn, looked beyond the offering of Isaac to the offering of Abraham’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, 1000 years later. Abraham received his son from the dead in a parable - truth set forth in the offering of Isaac which was placed alongside previously revealed truth (the gospel). The gospel message announced that God’s Son would be raised [out] from the dead, and, in this manner, Abraham that his son (a type of God’s Son) would also be raised from the dead.
According to the Record, Abraham, in God’s sight, actually offered up his son. Note the words in Heb. 11: 17, “By faith Abraham, when he as tried, offered up Isaac.” Isaac then, to complete the type, was raised from the dead on the third day. Note in Gen. 22: 4, it was on the third day that Abraham “lifted s eyes, and saw the place afar off.” Isaac had been dead for two days and was raised on the third day. God provided a ram, and the ram was to be slain in order that Isaac might live. Not only do we have substitutionary atonement, but we also have resurrection. The ram not only died in Isaac’s stead, but the ram also died so Isaac (who was looked upon as dead at this point in the account) could 1ive. That is resurrection.
There is no mention of Isaac’s coming down from the mount with Abraham. Of course, we know from Gen. 22: 5 that Isaac undoubtedly returned with Abraham. But to guard the overall type within Gen. 21-25, the Record is silent on this point. The next appearance of Isaac within the framework of these five chapters is in Gen. 24: 62 as he comes forth to meet Rebekah at “eventide.” This is after the death of Sarah (ch. 23), after the completion of Eliezer’s mission in the far country (ch. 24), and immediately before the remarriage of Abraham (ch. 25).
All of this in graphic, unblemished detail foreshadows the
experiences of Christ in the antitype.
Following His resurrection, He, as Isaac, was removed from the
scene. He ascended into heaven. And the next appearance of Christ will be the
same as that foreshadowed by Isaac in Gen. 24: 62. Christ, as Isaac will
not reappear until that time when He comes forth to meet His bride at “eventide” - at the end of the present age. This time follows both the setting aside of
Just as surely as the day arrived when Eliezer completed his mission and Rebekah was removed from the far country, the day will arrive when the Holy Spirit will complete His mission and the bride of Christ will be removed from the far country (earth). And, just as Isaac came forth and met Rebekah between his home and her former home, Christ will come forth and meet His bride between His home and her former home. Then just as Rebekah went to Isaac’s home and became his wife, the bride of Christ will journey into heaven with her Bridegroom and become the wife of the Lamb (cf. Gen. 24: 61-67; 1 Thess. 4: 16, 17; Rev. 19: 7-9).
Then will follow the antitype of Abraham’s remarriage
All these things were decreed in the councils of eternity during
a time before the ages even began. And
the Lamb dying on
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying ‘Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever’” (Rev. 5: 12, 13).
* * *
The Rights of Primogeniture
“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come:”
[“Esau, being the firstborn son, held by right of birth the privileges before described as belonging to the firstborn. He did not have to win or buy these rights; they attached to him by birth according to the will of God. Yet it was incumbent upon him to retain them.
“But he held them in such small esteem that he readily bartered them away in exchange for a passing gratification of the palate. It was not that other food could not easily have been obtained, for he had come into the encampment. The fact is, as recorded by God, that he “despised his birthright.” …
“To warn one against losing what he does not possess is a futility that we dare not attribute to the Spirit of the Lord.
“But real believers, being born of God and being called to His kingdom and glory, fulfil the facts of Esau’s case. …”
G. H. LANG: Firstborn Sons, pp. 103, 104.]
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentence, though he sought it carefully with tears (Heb. 12:14-17).
Esau and Jacob were twin brothers. Esau, having been born first, was recognized as the elder and thus the one in line to receive the blessing of the father reserved for the firstborn. But Esau forfeited the rights of primogeniture, and his younger brother, Jacob, received the blessing in his stead. Esau received a blessing from his father, but it was far inferior to Jacob’s blessing; and it was not connected in any manner with the rights belonging to the firstborn, for these rights had been forfeited.
Esau’s forfeiture of the birthright was foretold before he was even born. At a time prior to the birth of Esau and Jacob, the Lord had told Rebekah, “the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25: 23). In order for this to come to pass, the elder would have to forfeit the rights of primogeniture, and the younger would have to receive the blessing in his stead (cf. Gen. 27: 37).
When the time arrived for Isaac to bestow his blessings upon Esau and Jacob, he set about to bestow the blessing of the firstborn upon Esau, contrary to what the Lord had revealed to Rebekah. But Isaac could not bless Esau as the firstborn, for Esau had forfeited these rights. And, although Jacob used deceptive means to obtain his father’s blessing as the firstborn (Gen. 27:18ff), he was merely taking what rightfully belonged to him.
The faith of Isaac in Heb. 11: 20 centers around God’s promise in the Abrahamic covenant. This convenant had been confirmed to Isaac (Gen. 26: 3-5), and the Lord had specifically told Isaac, “unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father” (v. 3). In-so-far as the promises in the Abrahamic covenant were concerned, Jacob was the only one recognized as Isaac’s seed. Esau, because he was Isaac’s son, received a blessing - as Ishmael, because he was Abraham’s son (Gen. 17: 20, 21; 21: 13) - but this blessing, as Ishmael’s, was completely outside the scope of the Abrahamic covenant and the rights of primogeniture.
The forfeiture of the birthright by Esau and the blessings bestowed upon both Jacob and Esau by their father are recorded in Gen. 25: 27 - 27:40. These experiences of Jacob and Esau form the last of five major warnings directed to Christians in the Book of Hebrews; (12: 14-17). Even though it had been revealed before the birth of Jacob and Esau that the elder would serve the younger, Esau, through a wilful act of his own, forfeited the rights of primogeniture. And within this forfeiture lies the warning to every Christian concerning the possibility of a [regenerate] Christian, in like manner, forfeiting his birthright.
Every Christian is a firstborn child of God and in line to receive the inheritance belonging to the firstborn. But it is evident from the clear teaching of Scripture that every [regenerate] Christian will not receive this inheritance. The Christian’s present [eternal] salvation is not an inherited salvation and has nothing to do with the rights of primogeniture, except that of placing the Christian in a position where, at a future date, he can either receive or be denied the inheritance belonging to the firstborn.
The birthright in-so-far as Jacob and Esau were concerned involved an earthly inheritance. And the birthright in-so-far as Christians are concerned involves a heavenly inheritance. Esau forfeited his earthly inheritance, and the clear teaching of Scripture attests to the fact that Christians, in like manner, can - [during the millennial reign of Christ] - forfeit their heavenly inheritance.*
[* See at the end: ‘Being Saved and Inheriting Differ’ – a selected writing by G. H. Lang.]
The word translated “birthright” is prototokia in the Greek text. Prototokia is a plural noun which should properly be rendered, “the rights of the firstborn.” This word points to the fact that the birthright consists of a plurality of rights.
1. Firstborn Sons -
In the Old Testament the inheritance belonging to the
firstborn in the camp of
(a) The firstborn was to be ruler of the household under and for the father. He held the position of
authority among sons in the family. In the blessing bestowed upon Jacob, he
was placed as “lord” over his brother (Gen. 27: 37). When Joseph’s
brothers were seated at the table to dine with him in
(b) The firstborn
was to act as priest of the family.
(c) The firstborn was to receive a double portion of the father’s estate. If there were six heirs in the family, including the firstborn, the father’s estate was divided into seven equal parts. The firstborn received two of the seven parts, and the remaining heirs in the family received the other five parts, which were divided equally among them (Deut. 21: 15-17).
2. Firstborn Sons - Christians
In the New Testament the inheritance belonging to the firstborn (Christians) is foreshadowed by the triple inheritance bestowed upon the firstborn in the Old Testament. Christians, presently constituting “a royal priesthood, an holy nation” (1 Peter 2: 9), are to be made “kings and priests” and receive a double portion of the Father’s estate.
(a) The firstborn is to be made a ruler.
This was God’s purpose for the creation of man in the beginning (Gen. 1:
26-28) - a purpose
which will be realized in the coming age: first, through Jesus Christ (God’s firstborn Son); second, through the Church [of the firstborn] (God’s firstborn son, following the adoption); and third, through the nation of
Christ is the “second man,”
“the 1ast Adam,” Who has paid the price to redeem what the “first man,”
the “first Adam,” forfeited in the fall.
The time when
the purchased possession will be received and God’s purpose for the creation of
man realized in its completeness awaits the Messianic Era.
Christ will rule from the heavens over the earth; overcoming Christians, constituting the Church in its
ultimate manifestation - the “church of the firstborn [‘called out firstborn ones (sons)’]” (Heb. 12: 23) - will rule from the heavens with Christ; and [the nation of]
“And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write ... And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Rev. 2: 18, 26, 27).
“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write ... To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3: 14, 21).
(b) The firstborn is not only to be a ruler, but he is also
to be a priest in the coming
There is a present existing priesthood in which all believers participate equally, and Christ is our great High Priest, ministering on our behalf in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle in heaven. Although Christ has already been made a Priest “after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 6: 20), He has not yet entered into this priestly office, for the Melchizedek priesthood has to do with a combined Kingly-Priestly function of Israel’s Messiah. Christ has already been anointed King, as He has already been made a priest after the order of Melchizedek. But the time when He will become King and exercise a Kingly-Priestly office - the Melchizedek priesthood - is yet future.
The ministry of Christ today is
patterned after the order of Aaron not that of Melchizedek. His present ministry in the heavenly
tabernacle is being performed on the basis of shed blood - the blood which He
the priesthood of Christ must undergo
a change. (Note the word “unchangeable”
in Heb. 7: 24. This is a translation of the Greek word aparabatos, which means, “without a successor,” i.e. “unchangeable
with respect to a successor,” which was not possible in the Aaronic
line; v. 23.) Christ’s ministry in the Holy of Holies will
continue throughout the present age. At
the end of this [evil]
age the present priestly ministry of Christ in the sanctuary will be completed,
and a change in the priesthood will then occur.
At that time Christ will come forth from the
tabernacle in heaven and appear to
Melchizedek appears only two times in all the Old Testament Scriptures (Gen. 14: 18; Psa. 110: 4), and both passages are Messianic in their scope. In turn, Melchizedek appears in only one book of the New Testament. The Holy Spirit has inscribed the name “Melchizedek” nine times in the Book of Hebrews (5: 6, 10; 6: 20; 7: 1, 10, 11, 15, 17, 21); and teachings surrounding his appearance in this book are to be understood in the light of what is revealed in the Old Testament, for all New Testament Scripture is simply an expansion of God’s previous Revelation, beginning with Genesis.
1) Melchizedek in Genesis (14:17-20)
Melchizedek met Abraham returning from the battle of the
kings, and blessed him. Melchizedek was
a king-priest. He was “king of
Following the battle of the kings in Gen. 14, Melchizedek brought forth bread and wine and blessed Abraham. Two thousand years later, the One Whom Melchizedek foreshadowed partook of bread and wine with His disciples immediately before His crucifixion (Matt. 26: 26-28). He then stated, “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (v. 29). This statement from the lips of Jesus clearly reveals that between these two times - between events surrounding the crucifixion and events surrounding the kingdom (a period covering the entire present age) - He will not bring forth bread and wine after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek’s ministry in Genesis centered around his blessing Abraham; the antitype of this ministry will centre around the One Who is greater than Melchizedek blessing the descendants of Abraham.
The day when Israel will experience this blessing at the hands of their Messiah is clearly revealed to be: a) following the battle of the kings (following the treading of the winepress, where the battle will be fought between Jesus [God’s True King] and the man of sin with his allies [Satan’s false king, with the “kings of the earth, and their armies”]; Rev. 14: 14-20; 19: 17-21), and b) during the time the tabernacle of Israel’s Messiah is in Jerusalem (during the time Jesus is seated on the throne of His father, David, in Jerusalem). Thus, the typology in Gen. 14: 17-20 can only be millennial in its scope.
When Jesus exercises
the Melchizedek priesthood, He will be the great King-Priest in
2) Melchizedek in Psalms (110: 1-7)
During the present age the Son is seated at the Father’s right
hand in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle in heaven. He is to occupy this position until His
enemies are made His “footstool” (v. 1).
The time when His enemies will be brought under subjection (made His
footstool) occurs at the end of this present age. In the coming age, Jesus will exercise a rule
which will issue forth from “
Christ is said to exercise a priestly office “after the
order of Melchizedek” (v. 4) during the time He rules from
3) Melchizedek in Hebrews (chs. 5-7)
Hebrews is a book which aligns itself with the age to come. After four introductory verses, the first chapter is composed almost entirely of Messianic quotations from the Old Testament, establishing a foundational premise for the remainder of the book. And the book itself is built around five major warnings, beginning with chapter two, which find their ultimate fulfilment in the coming age. The things revealed about Melchizedek in chapters five through seven, interpreted in the light of both the Old Testament and the Book of Hebrews as a whole, likewise, have to do with a future ministry of Christ in the age to come. These things can refer to no other period in the ministry of Christ, for the totality of Revelation concerning Melchizedek in Genesis and Psalms is Messianic; and so must the corresponding Revelation be in the Book of Hebrews.
The Writer of Hebrews introduces Melchizedek by quoting Psa. 110: 4 (5: 6). He then states that there are numerous things which he would like to discuss concerning the antitype of the Melchizedek priesthood, but the ones to whom he is writing are not mature enough to understand. Teachings of this nature have to do with “strong meat,” and the recipients of this epistle could only take “milk” (vv. 10-14). These teachings are further associated with the “hope” set before Christians, and the salvation of the “soul” (6: 19, 20), which have to do with [the time of Resurrection and] the coming age, not the present age.
The present ministry of Christ, our High Priest, is connected with the tabernacle; and the present ministry of Christians, as priests, is also connected with the tabernacle. Christ ministers in the Holy of Holies on our behalf, and we approach God through Jesus Christ on the basis of His blood on the mercy seat. However, when Christ comes forth from the tabernacle to exercise the Melchizedek priesthood, His ministry will no longer be connected with the tabernacle. And the priesthood of Christians, at that time will, likewise, no longer be connected with the tabernacle, but will be connected with Christ’s priesthood. We will reside in sinless, glorified bodies in a city which has no temple (1 Cor. 15: 51-57; 1 John 3: 2; Rev. 21: 22). As Christ will reign as the great King-Priest, Christians will reign as joint-heirs with Him in the capacity of kings and priests.
(c) The firstborn in the family is not only to be a ruler and a priest, but he is also to receive a double portion of the Fathers estate. This double portion undoubtedly has to do with both spheres of the kingdom heavenly and earthly.
The “kings and priests” who reign with Christ will rule from the heavens over the earth. Inheriting with Christ really means possessing both, for the Father has promised His Son, “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen [Gentiles] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psa. 2: 8). This earthly inheritance and possession is open only to God’s Son and those who rule from the heavens as “joint-heirs” with Him. Thus, a rule from the heavens over the earth will incorporate this double portion.*
[* NOTE. The “double portion, which overcomers will inherit, refers also to the two “kingdoms” of God: the first upon this restored earth (Rom. 8: 19-21); and the second - after “the elements … shall be dissolved (2 Pet. 3: 10) - in “a new heaven and new earth” (Rev. 21: 1.) – Ed.]
Warning: One’s Birthright can be Forfeited
There are two classic examples in the Word of God concerning the forfeiture of the rights belonging to the firstborn. One is the account of Esau, and the other is the account of Reuben.
1. Reuben and the Birthright
Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, was in direct line to inherit the rights of primogeniture; but because of one grave sin committed during his life, Reuben forfeited these rights. Reuben’s sin, resulting in the forfeiture of his birthright, was sexual impropriety of a nature which dishonoured and shamed his father: “Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine” (Gen. 35: 22).
Because of this one sin, years later when Jacob called his twelve sons into his presence shortly before his death to relate what would befall them “in the last days,” Reuben heard the words:- “Thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch” (Gen. 49: 3, 4). The tribe of Reuben, as Jacob prophesied, did not excel. From this tribe came no judge, no king and no prophet. That which Reuben lost, he lost forever. But he himself remained a son of Jacob and was blessed in measure, but not as the firstborn.
Reuben’s birthright was divided among three of his brothers.
The tribal rulership was bestowed
During the Kingdom Age the status created by Reuben’s sin will
still abide. The King will be of the house of
Esau and the Birthright
Esau, as Reuben, forfeited his birthright. In Esau’s case the entire inheritance went to his younger brother, Jacob. Esau forfeited his birthright to satisfy a fleshly gratification. He sold his birthright to his younger brother, Jacob, for a single meal (Gen. 25: 27-34).
Since the rights of the firstborn had ultimately been promised to Jacob (Gen. 25: 23) some doubt that Esau ever actually possessed these rights. However, Esau was no pretender to the rights of the firstborn. The Greek word translated “sold” in Heb. 12: 16 is inflected in a tense implying that the article sold belonged to Esau alone, and he was fully aware of his actions when he sold his birthright to Jacob.
In Gen. 25: 34 we read that Esau “despised his birthright.” The Greek word in the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament translated “despised” implies that Esau regarded the birthright as a paltry, a mere trifle. Esau regarded the birthright as practically worthless, and sold his rights as firstborn with the thought in mind that what he was selling was of no real value. It was only later, at a time when it was too late, that Esau realized the value of what he had sold. As in Reuben’s case, the forfeiture of the birthright did not affect his sonship, but it did affect forever his relationship to Isaac as firstborn.
After Jacob had been blessed as the firstborn in the family, Esau, apparently for the first time, realized the value of what he had lost. Esau then tried to retrieve the birthright, but the Scripture records that “he found no place of repentance.” After Esau realized the value of the birthright and the finality of what had occurred, he pleaded with his father, Isaac, to change his mind and bless him also. Esau cried out to Isaac: “Hast thou but one blessing, my father: bless me, even me also 0 my father.” And it is recorded that “Esau lifted up his voice, and wept” (Gen. 27: 38).
The word “repentance” means to change one’s mind. Esau sought to effect a change of mind on the part of his father, but “he found no place of repentance,” i.e., “he found no place for a change of mind.” The American Standard Version of the Bible (1901 ed.) has possibly the most accurate rendering of Heb. 12: 17 to be found in any of the translations presently appearing on the market. This verse in the American Standard Version reads, “For ye know that even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place for a change of mind in his father, though he sought it diligently with tears.” Isaac could not change his mind. The birthright had been forfeited and was beyond Esau’s grasp forever.
3. Christians and the Birthright
Within the minds of many Christians is the thought that after a person has received the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour it makes little difference how he conducts his life, for all Christians will inherit with the Son when He receives the kingdom. Nothing could be further from the truth. To reign with Christ is contingent upon identifying oneself with Christ and sharing in His rejection and reproach during the present day and time. If all Christians are to rule and reign with Christ in His kingdom, what does the scripture mean when it states, “If we suffer [‘patiently endure’], we will also reign with him: if he we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2: 12)? If a Christian lives an undisciplined life, following the carnal nature (typified by Esau’s attitude toward the birthright) rather than the spiritual nature (typified by Jacob’s attitude toward the birthright), fails to occupy until the Lord comes (Luke 19: 12, 13), or fails to use the talent or pound entrusted to him by the Lord (Matt. 25: 14-30; Luke 19: 15-24), that Christian will also fail to occupy a place in our Lord’s kingdom.
Every Christian is presently a firstborn child of God awaiting the adoption and inheritance belonging to the firstborn (Rom. 8: 16-23, 29; Heb. 2: 10; 12: 23). The adoption and inheritance are both future, and both can be forfeited, for one is intimately associated with the other. A Christian’s relationship to the Father as a firstborn child awaiting the adoption cannot be forfeited. But a Christian’s relationship to the Father as a firstborn son participating in the rights belonging to the firstborn can be forfeited. As in the account of Esau and Reuben, once this forfeiture has occurred, the rights belonging to the firstborn cannot be retrieved.
In that day when we all stand before the judgment seat of Christ there will be two classes of Christians: 1) those who have retained their rights as firstborn, and 2) those who have forfeited their rights as firstborn.
Christians retaining the rights of the firstborn will exercise these rights as “joint-heirs” with the Son in the kingdom. But Christians who forfeit the rights of the firstborn will find themselves in the same position which Esau and Reuben found themselves, following the loss of the rights belonging to the firstborn. Such Christians will seek a place of repentance. That is to say, they will attempt to have the Judge change His mind and bless them alongside the others who did not forfeit the rights belonging to the firstborn. But they will find no place for a change of mind. It will be too late. The birthright will have been forfeited. The blessing pertaining to the inheritance awaiting the firstborn sons of God will have been forfeited, and those who forfeit this blessing will occupy no position among the “kings and priests” who reign over the earth with the Son. Christians in that day, as Esau in the type, when they at 1ast realize what has been lost, will lift up their voices and weep.
“Behold,I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3: 11).
* * *
Heavenly and Earthly Blessings
By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff (Heb. 11: 21).
To properly understand the significance of the blessings Jacob bestowed upon Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, one must turn to the Book of Genesis. This book contains the exact sequence of events which God would have man to know concerning the lives and times of these individuals, and apart from this sequence of events Heb. 11: 21 cannot be correctly interpreted.
The key to a correct understanding of New Testament Revelation always rests on understanding what the Old Testament has to say about the matter. The instructed Christian, studying any part of the New Testament, will continually find himself turning back to the writings of Moses and the Prophets, God’s Own commentary on the subject. All individuals and every event, place, or object associated with these individuals carry spiritual significance and appear in an orderly arrangement, setting forth great spiritual truths concerning various aspects of God’s dealings with mankind during the ages through the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Teachings drawn from the framework of events surrounding Jacob’s blessings bestowed upon Ephraim and Manasseh are built around three key points:
1. The time of the birth of Ephraim and Manasseh (before the famine).
2. The time when Ephraim and Manasseh received their blessings (after the famine).
3. The fact that the younger (Ephraim) received the blessing reserved for the firstborn.
This study - a study in proper distinctions and divisions of
the Scripture concerning God’s plans and purposes for both
Before the Famine
The birth of Joseph’s two sons is recorded in Gen. 41: 50-52.
These sons were born in
Manasseh, Joseph’s elder son, was associated with the father’s
house; and Ephraim, Joseph’s
younger son, was associated with “fruitfulness” in the
The future blessing of the Church as
the firstborn - typified by Ephraim’s reception of the blessing belonging to
the firstborn - stems from the fact that
During the time allotted (present age) for Christians to bring
During the present age God is dealing with the Church, and He
will not resume His national dealings with
[* Luke 21: 34-36; Rev. 3: 10.]
God’s dealings with
the Sixty-ninth Week and the Seventieth Week of Daniel’s prophecy there is an
interval of time lasting approximately 2,000 years. During this interval the chronometer marking
off the complete 490 years of Daniel’s prophecy is idle, for
During the Famine
A time of famine is coming. It came during Joseph’s day following a time of plenty, and it will come again following a time of plenty. The famine during Joseph’s day covered all lands, and the coming famine will, likewise, coverall all lands (Gen. 41: 54; Luke 21: 35). When the famine covered all the land during Joseph’s day, his brethren reappeared, and he dealt with them. This typifies the fact that when the Tribulation covers all the land during the coming day (Day of the Lord), the Jewish people will reappear - no longer set aside - and be dealt with by their Brother.
1. Joseph’s Day
During the time of famine in the Genesis account, Joseph’s
brethren found themselves in a position in which they had nowhere to turn but
to the disseminator of corn in
Joseph’s brethren did not know him, but he knew them. Joseph then, through predetermined events and circumstances, brought his brethren into a position in which they were forced, in his presence, to acknowledge their guilt concerning their prior treatment of him. He then revealed himself to his brethren and became their deliverer from the time of famine.
2. The Lord’s Day
It will be during the coming Tribulation that Jesus’ brethren will
again come into view and be dealt with by God on a national basis. During the Tribulation,
Jesus’ brethren will not know the true identity of the God of their fathers upon Whom they will call, but He will know them. He will then, through predetermined events and circumstances, bring His brethren into a position in which they will be forced, in His presence, to acknowledge their guilt concerning their prior treatment of Him. Jesus’ brethren, as Joseph’s brethren, will acknowledge their “offence” during the coming time of their “affliction,” the time of Famine, the Great Tribulation. And Jesus, as Joseph, will reveal Himself to His brethren and become their Deliverer from the Great Tribulation (Hosea 5: 15 - 6: 2).
Following the Famine
The account of the blessings bestowed upon Ephraim and Manasseh is recorded in Gen. 48: 14-20. This account, within the chronological framework of events surrounding Joseph and his sons, is placed after the time of famine. The bestowal of these blessings follow Joseph’s dealings with and revelation of himself to his brethren, and is projected into that time when Joseph’s brethren went forth proclaiming his “glory” and the fact that he was “governor” over all the land of Egypt (Gen. 45: 13, 26).
Thus, that which is foreshadowed by the blessings bestowed
upon Ephraim and Manasseh has to do with events and conditions following the
Great Tribulation and Christ’s revelation of Himself to
Jacob had adopted Joseph’s two sons (48: 5, 6). They would, thus, be blessed as his sons, for they were his sons; and they would partake of the inheritance and each receive full portions along with Jacob’s other sons. In this manner Joseph realized the double portion of the father’s goods - part of the birthright forfeited by Reuben (Gen. 48: 22; Joshua 16, 17; 1 Chron. 5: 1, 2; Ezek. 47: 13; 48: 4, 5).
Even though Joseph’s sons each
received full portions, they were to be blessed with the thought of the double
portion in mind. One was blessed above
the other, receiving the blessing belonging to the first-born. In this respect Jacob is a type of God the
Father, and Joseph, his son, is a type of the Father’s Son, Jesus. Manasseh and Ephraim, adopted by Jacob,
When it came time for Jacob to bless Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph placed Ephraim opposite Jacob’s left hand and Manasseh opposite Jacob’s right hand. The right hand was to be placed upon the head of the elder, and he was, in this manner, to receive the blessing belonging to the firstborn. (Note in this respect that Christ, God’s firstborn Son, is today seated at the Father’s right hand.) However, Jacob placed his right hand upon Ephraim, the younger son, and his left hand upon Manasseh, the elder. And in this manner Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons.
Jacob knew that he was bestowing the blessing belonging to the firstborn upon the younger son (v. 19), and we read in Heb. 11: 21 that Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh in this manner, “by faith.” To bless the sons “by faith,” Jacob had to know the mind of God in the matter and act in accordance with God’s revealed will. Faith is simply believing what God has to say. Thus, it is evident that God had previously revealed certain things to Jacob concerning Ephraim and Manasseh. This same truth holds concerning Jacob’s prophecy surrounding each of his sons in chapter forty-nine. The words of Jacob concerning his sons constitute the Revelation of God concerning these sons.
Both Ephraim and Manasseh were to become a people, but Ephraim, the younger, was to become greater than Manasseh, the elder. This holds true not only concerning Ephraim’s and Manasseh’s descendants, but also concerning that which is foreshadowed by circumstances and events surrounding Ephraim’s and Manasseh’s experiences leading into their individual blessings.
The Sons of God
[* That is, at the time of Christ’s return and the Resurrection, when the bodies of the dead are redeemed: “Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for Sonship, - the redemption of our body:” (Rom. 8: 23). Hence the importance of attaining unto that ‘better’ and ‘out- resurrection’, (Heb. 11: 35b; Phil. 3: 11). See also Luke 21: 35; Rev. 20: 4-6.]
1. Classification of Sons
The expression “sons of God” is not used in Scripture to distinguish between the saved and the unsaved. Rather, this expression is used referring to special creations of God, or to individuals or nations adopted from one of these special creations. Outside of any reference to Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, the expressions “son of God,” “sons of God,” “my son,” or “my sons” are restricted to these two senses in Scripture.
Angels are sons of God because of “creation.” Every angel is an individual creation of God, and there is no procreation within the angelic realm itself. The fall of Satan and the angels who followed him produced no change in their status as sons of God, simply because this fall produced no change in the fact that they were special, individual creations of God. Fallen angels are called “sons of God” in Gen. 6: 2, 4, and Satan is placed among un-fallen angels in Job 1: 6; 2: 1, with the expression “sons of God” covering the entire group.
Christians, on the other hand, although special creations of God and in a saved state, are not presently sons of God. Christians are children of God awaiting the adoption into sonship.
Thus, in the human realm only a certain segment of mankind
falls under the classification “sons of God” (the nation of
2. Firstborn Sons
The word “firstborn” carries the thought of supremacy.
to Pharaoh through Moses, “
God presently has two firstborn Sons (Jesus, and
The word “firstborn” in Heb. 12: 23 is from the same root form of the Greek word translated birthright (“Esau ... sold his birthright”) in Heb. 12: 16. This word in verse twenty-three has reference to the firstborn who, unlike Esau, retain their rights and privileges. This is the same word used relative to Christ, “the firstborn among many brethren,” in Rom. 8: 29. These “brethren” are synonymous with the ones to be adopted in verse twenty-three of this same chapter, and, retaining their rights of primogeniture, they will reign as joint-heirs with Christ in the coming [millennial] kingdom.
3. Awaiting the Adoption
There is one place in the Book of Romans (8: 14) and one section in the Book of Galatians (3: 26 - 4: 7) where Christians are called “sons” of God in a present tense. In all other instances the expression is, or should be, rendered “children” of God (ref. John 1: 12; Phil. 2: 15; 1 John 3: 1, 2). However, neither the verse in Romans nor the section in Galatians teaches that Christians have been adopted into sonship, for both, if rightly understood in the light of their respective contexts and related Scripture, are used in a future sense.
a) Romans, Chapter Eight
The verses immediately preceding Rom. 8: 14 have to do with individuals (Christians) either walking after the flesh or walking after Spirit - following the old man or the new man (vv. 1-13). The verses immediately following Romans 8: 14 state that we are presently “children” awaiting the adoption (vv. 15-23). Consequently, in the light of the con text and related Scripture - which clearly teaches that we are presently children, not sons - it appears evident that Rom. 8: 14 must be understood in the sense that the ones, as the first part of this verse states, who are “led [presently being led] by the Spirit of God” are the ones who will be adopted, i.e., placed in the position of “sons.” These are the ones who will be manifested as the “sons of God” in verse nineteen, synonymous with both the “many sons” who will be brought into glory in Heb. 2: 10 and the ones who will comprise the “church of the firstborn” in Heb. 12: 23.
The great burden of Scripture has to do with God’s intentions to replace the “sons of God” presently ruling under Satan with a great host of individuals He is about to place in the position of “sons” via adoption. Angels ruling under Satan have disqualified themselves, and they are to be deposed; Christians are presently in the process of qualifying to rule, and they are to be established in these positions. Christ has already shown Himself fully qualified to replace Satan, and Christians who qualify will hold positions under Christ, presently held by angels ruling under Satan.
b) Galatians, Chapters Three and Four
Gal. 3: 26 – 4: 7 is a section which deals with our position in Christ (3: 26-28), the adoption (4: 5), and the heirship (3: 29; 4: 7). The expression “in Christ” sets forth a positional standing, not what we are personally
and actually here and now. “In Christ” all distinctions of the human race have been blotted out. There is neither male nor female, bond nor free, etc. But personally and actually these conditions exist. “In Christ” we have been seated together in heavenly places, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion” (Eph. 2: 6; 1: 20, 21). But personally and actually we are here on earth, Jesus is at His Father’s right hand, and these heavenly powers (synonymous with the powers in Eph. 6: 12) still possess dominion. “In Christ” we have been blessed with all spiritual blessings and have received the inheritance “reserved in heaven.” But Personally and actually the reception of most blessings and the entirety of the inheritance are yet future (Eph. 1: 3, 11-14; cf. 1 Peter 1: 3, 4). The same is also true of the sonship in the section in Gal. 3: 26 - 4: 7. We have already come into this position “in Christ,” but personally and actually the adoption and the heirship are yet future. This is the clear teaching of related Scripture, and Scripture does not contradict itself.
Placement and Position of Sons
Sons of God have held, continue to hold, and will always hold the main positions of power and authority under God over this earth. During prior ages, continuing into the present, angels have held these positions. But God is about to bring into existence a new order of sons; and this order of sons will, during the coming age, occupy positions of power and authority presently held by angels, for “unto the angels hath he [God] not put in subjection the world to come” (Heb. 2: 5).
In time past
The future adoption of Christians, as in
The double portion of the Father’s
estate, to be possessed by the Church [of the
firstborn], has to do with both spheres of the
kingdom heavenly and earthly. The blessings in store for Christians are
heavenly, but these heavenly blessings will include an earthly “inheritance” and “possession,” for Christians [who overcome] will
be joint-heirs with Christ; and
the Father has promised His Son, “Ask of me, and I will give thee the
heathen [Gentiles] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psa. 2: 8,
2: 26, 27). This earthly inheritance and possession -
completely separate from
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne” (Rev. 3: 21).
Being Saved and Inheriting Differ
By G. H. Lang
But the question of the application of these warnings is
surely settled, and their impressiveness greatly deepened, by their repetition
in letters to other churches. Different
indeed in spiritual condition and apprehension were the churches in
[* See 1 Cor. 6: 9; Gal. 5: 21; Eph. 5; 5.]
The Galatian christians were shifting their standing before God from
the sole ground of His grace working in Christ Jesus to the ground of
ceremonial observances being meritorious for salvation. Knowing that this falling away from
confidence in the grace of God would involve their forfeiting the moral energy
which that grace alone supplies, and that consequently the flesh would soon
assert its old supremacy, the apostle addresses them thus: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are
these, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife,
jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness,
revellings, and such like: of the which I forewarn you, even as 1 did forewarn
you, that they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
(ch. 5: 19-21).” Can anything be
plainer than these repeated and emphatic words, “Of the which I forewarn you
(not carnal unregenerate professors among you; but “you,”
all of you who form the churches of
The passage is noteworthy inasmuch as it shows that this line of teaching formed part of Paul’s oral instruction to the churches: “of the which I did forewarn you”; presumably when with them, since we know nothing of an earlier letter to them. And, secondly, it is to be observed that the stress is here laid upon the practice of such evils. A believer may be suddenly tempted, and may without premeditation commit one of these sins. He will be blameworthy, for by watchfulness and prayer we may ever find grace to help in such an hour of need. But in such an event immediate repentance secures, through the blood of Jesus, immediate pardon, for “if we (believers) confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1: 9). But such as deliberately turn to these wickednesses and persist in the indulgence, how do they stand before God?
One great school of theology has asserted that these passages which we are considering declare the final perdition of such; which involves the idea that really saved people, justified, possessors of eternal life, the children of God, may forfeit all this standing and relationship and be finally lost. But this teaching seems so obviously to conflict with numerous and explicit assertions of Scripture, such as declare the everlasting security from God’s wrath of those who are in Christ Jesus, that not unnaturally many others have rejected it. Yet it must be confessed that this latter school of teachers does not know how to give due weight to these many and awful warnings. At the most these can but apply them to persons (unregenerate professors) to whom by no fair exegesis can the passages be made to apply.
The radical error in the matter has been to confound terms that differ. By both schools “inheriting the kingdom” has been wrongly taken to mean simply being saved from hell and so “not inheriting” has been wrongly deemed synonymous with everlasting perdition. But once it is seen that receiving [eternal] salvation from wrath is one thing, and that rising to the glory of rule in the [millennial] kingdom is another thing, and is an attainment that follows, then the Gordian knot is untied; for it at once becomes a possibility to forfeit the kingdom by personal misconduct,* whilst yet retaining eternal life by the pure grace of God, exercised on the ground of the merit of Christ alone.
*And to incur in addition abundantly severe chastisement, proportionate to the offences, and sufficient, if apprehended, to deter from carnality. But this is not our present theme, and we do not pursue it (Luke 12: 46-48; e.g.)
And this contrast gives much force and clearness to the
exhortation found in Ephesians 5: 3, 6, where we read: “But fornication, and all uncleanness,
or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becometh saints; nor
filthiness, nor foolish talking, or jesting, which are not befitting: but
rather giving of thanks. For this ye
know of a surety, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who
is an idolator, hath any inheritance in the
* “Notice the perfect ‘are saved.’ not ‘are being saved’, because we have passed from death unto life: salvation is to the Christian not a future but a past thing, realized in the present by faith.” Alford in logo.
This call is not addressed to the dead, that is, the unregenerate (2: 1), but to the living but sleeping Christian, one who has shut himself off from the present enjoyment of fellowship with Christ by having gone among the godless as his sphere of interest, and who is thereby risking future fellowship with the Lord in His kingdom. To come out of the tomb is the only way for Lazarus to get into the sunshine.
In view of this mass of testimony that a christian can sin, and can do so after the fashion contemplated, and in view of sad corroborations in practical life, what exegetical violence must be employed to make 1 John 3: 9, declare that a child of God cannot sin, and so cannot bring himself within these solemn warnings. Yet we have heard the words used for that purpose. But thus is John thrown into conflict, not only with other apostles, but with himself; for he has but a little before pointed out what is the resource of a believer if he should sin (ch. 2: 1); while to such persons as “are forgiven,” and who “know Him who is from the beginning,” and “are strong” because “the word of God abideth in them,” so that they “have overcome the evil one” (2: 12-14), he gives the direct warnings that they must guard against such evils as a love of the world and compromise with idolatry (5: 21). It is not incumbent upon us to attempt here an exposition of the verse in question; but it is a duty to protest that it must not be forced into antagonism with other inspired writings, nor be misused to break the force of sorely needed warnings. For any such wrong use as we have indicated the words must be held to teach that a christian cannot sin at all; which would carry the consequent assertion that no person who ever commits a sin is born of God. Surely the words should be read in the light of and in harmony with Romans 7: 16-25.
Considering how almost universally these searching appeals have been neglected or misapplied it can be perceived why once and again the Spirit exclaims “be not deceived,” “let no one deceive you.” The gross liver is unfitting himself for a realm into which nothing unclean can enter (Rev. 21: 27), and they are equally out of sympathy with the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom. 14: 17) who give place to the subtler moral defilement of enmities, strifes, jealousies, and the like, enumerated in Galatians 5: 20. And seeing how widely these conditions obtain in the house of God, were it not well that these deep-acting and vigorous correctives were freely administered to the Lord’s people? Thus might some be moved to amend their ways and their doings, to the present good of all, and to their own ultimate advantage in the kingdom.
(G. H. Lang’s “Firstborn Sons,” pp. 112-116.)