The morning star — Revelation 22:16
That blessed hope — Titus 2:13
Partakers of the divine nature — 2 Peter 1:4
Those who die in their sins — 2 Peter 2:1
Gentiles are not under law — Romans 3:19
A woman shall compass a man — Jeremiah 31:22
Die with Jesus or Lazarus? — John 11:16
My servant — Isaiah 42:19
The Rhemish version — Hebrews 11:21
Is it restoring grace? — Luke 15
Revelation — 1 Corinthians 14:21-31
Tribulation — Revelation 7
Besetting sin — Hebrews 12:1
Swearing — James 5:12
Assembly — Acts 7:38
Bible Treasury Volume 3, p. 32. February 1860.
Q. Revelation 22:16. Is it to the Church the Lord presents Himself as the morning star? If so, when? Is it on earth, after all the judgments?
A. The difficulty of F.C. will be entirely removed, I think, by the consideration that Revelation 22:6-21 forms no part of the prophetic visions, but simply the concluding remarks of the book. The argument, that, because it is after the judgments, would prove too much, because it is after the account of the millennium and even of the new heavens and earth. Nobody would contend, I suppose, that the Church must remain on till then. To me it rather shows how independent the Church's hope is of the predicted judgments; for after these have been all stated, the Spirit recalls the saints to the coming of Christ as the joy of our hearts. That is, He thereby guards us, it seems to me, against the inference that the Lord cannot come before the events of prophecy happen.
Q. A mislaid note enquires whether "that blessed hope" is equivalent to, or distinct from, "the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."
A. I apprehend that the form of the phrase in Greek (one article to the two connected substantives) does not at all of necessity identify them, but only joins them in a common class. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:1, where the same construction occurs. Yet none would maintain that "the coming or presence of our Lord Jesus Christ" is the same thing as "our gathering together unto him." They are meant, I think, to be regarded as associated together in the mind of the Holy Ghost, though in themselves distinct objects. It may help some to a better understanding of Titus 2:13, if they bear in mind that the true sense is "the appearing of the glory" — in contrast with the grace which has already appeared. (Ver. 11.) "That blessed hope" seem to me still nearer, and more personal, to the heart. (Compare 1 Timothy 1:1.)
Bible Treasury Volume 3, p. 48. March 1860.
Q. 2 Peter 1:4. J.V. desires to know what is meant by being "partakers of the divine nature," and how and when this is effected. Does any other Scripture speak of it?
A. Our partaking of the divine nature is a real thing. "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." All are born of God. Christ is become our life. He is that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us. And hence it can be said, "Which thing is true in him and in you." But that life was the light of men. Christ was the image of the invisible God. This life was a true, moral, subsisting thing, which could be communicated. There is a divine power in it which contains and unfolds all things that pertain to life and godliness. It is faith which lays hold, by the power of the Spirit of God, on that which is life — that is, Christ. We are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Christ is the Word — the expression and revelation of all that is in God; and we, in knowing Him, are renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created us. The Word, as a testimony, is the seed of life when brought into the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost; because it is the revelation of Christ, by the word, by faith, in the power of the Holy Ghost, the operation being the operation of God. But it is by the revelation of Christ. Hence, we are said to be "begotten by the incorruptible seed of the word." (1 Peter 1, and James.) "Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures." And so it is expressed here. Grace and peace are to be multiplied, "through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us by glory and virtue, whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by him we might be made partakers of the divine nature." It is not a law to flesh, calling them to walk rightly where man already was; but a call by glory and virtue to get on to this new place of peace in which Christ is, and that by the revelation of Him glorified, and the assurance of our portion in it. But thus, by divine power, it is livingly communicated to the soul. But this is the glory of the divine nature in a man, into which we are to be formed. But we are livingly formed by its revelation in the power of the Holy Ghost now. It is the real communication of the divine nature. Only Peter looks at it, even in its affections, desires, qualities, as under the impress of the revelation of Christ, rather than as the simple fact of life. But all Scripture tells the same truth. For every nature has its own character, knowledge by which it lives and is formed; its tastes, and spirit, and objects, which make it what it is, though its existence is the first and wonderful truth.
Q. T.E. asks if it is right to say of those who die in their sins, that they were redeemed by the blood of Jesus. The purchase of a slave, he remarks, is never called his redemption, unless he is bought for the express purpose of being set free.
A. T.E. is arguing from the application of our English word "redemption;" not from the meaning of the original, which simply means "bought," and is so translated in 2 Peter 2:1, of the lost, and in 1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Corinthians 7:23, of the saved. The same word occurs upwards of twenty times in the gospels, and is applied to the purchase of land and cattle, food and raiment, etc. In fact, only in the Revelation is it rendered "redeemed;" and even there, the same word bears the sense "buy" exactly the same number of times. It fill thus be seen that the argument fails. For if in Greek the same word is translated either way, it is clear that the term in itself does not involve the ultimate destiny of the purchased, or the purpose of the purchaser. But the passage already referred to in 2 Peter is decisive, that false teachers, enemies of the flock of God, are said to deny the Lord (δεσπότην) that bought or redeemed them. The difficulty is owing to a not sufficiently large view of God's ways and of Christ's work. The reader will do well to view John 17:2, and Hebrews 9, 10. It is the difference, on the one hand, between Christ's authority over all flesh, and His giving eternal life to the elect; and on the other hand, of His tasting death for every one, and His bringing many sons to glory: in both, a twofold-relation to man generally, and to the saints.
Bible Treasury Volume 3, p. 64. April 1860.
Q. Many Bible-students hold, and perhaps rightly, that Gentiles are not under law: if so, what is the meaning of Romans 3:19. "We know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law; that.....all the world may become guilty before God." Does not all the world here include Gentiles? Is not the precious argument in Romans 6 in regard to law and grace, applicable as well to Gentiles as Jews? In Romans 7, although the Spirit by Paul is speaking "to them that know the law," I apprehend such as had been Jews. Are we not to understand the lessons here given, so replete with joy and peace to the believer, — death to the law by the body of Christ, and union to Him in resurrection, "married to another," — as involving a principle equally bearing on Jew and Gentile? If so, how can it be shown that the Gentile in unbelief, and within the hearing of the word of God, is not under law? A SCOTCH READER.
A. Our reader has not perceived that the apostle had already dealt with the guilt of the Gentile in Romans 1, and of both Jew and Gentile in Romans 2. As he says in Romans 3:9, "we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin." The Jew would have especial difficulty in submitting to a sentence so levelling. Therefore St. Paul proceeds to fortify the proof of Israel's utter ruin by quotations from the Psalms and prophets in verse 10-18, on which he reasons in verse 20. "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law." He clearly means that the Jew is therein addressed; and therefore the very law of which he was so proud was the unsparing witness of his moral condition. No Jew but would admit the wickedness of the Gentiles; the mass of Jews would deny that they themselves were hopelessly gone from God. Hence the force of these Jewish Scriptures; which, having that people in view denied a single righteous man among them. If there was not one good Jew (and nobody could overlook that the Gentiles were deplorably bad,) the conclusion was obvious: every mouth was stopped, and all the world guilty before God. This text, then, cannot be understood without limiting "them who are under the law" to the Jews. (Comp. Romans 2:12; 1 Corinthians 9:20, 21.) "Every mouth" and "all the world" do include Gentiles as well as Jews, because they embrace those without law, no less than those under law. The principle, again, of Romans 6, Romans 7 applies equally to all believers; but the actual, personal deliverance from law in the death and resurrection of Christ necessarily belongs to such as were once under law. Both Jew and Gentile had been alike lost, and, believing, were alike saved; but they were each brought out of a different position.
Bible Treasury Volume 3, p. 80. May 1860.
Q. Jeremiah 31:22. An inquirer asks what is the real meaning. Is there any ground to apply it, with some Jews and many Christians, to the Incarnation? W.J.E.
A. I do not see either analogy in other occurrences of the phrase, or anything in the expression itself, or scope of the context, to give such a turn to the passage. The point is the marvellous change God will effect in the virgin daughters of Israel after all her backslidings and when reduced to the lowest ebb of weakness. "A woman shall compass a man" — a male or male of might. It is a most emphatic figure to set forth the strength which shall be made perfect in weakness as regards the Jews in the latter day. The ancient versions give little help, especially the Septuagint and Arabic, which are singularly far from any just sense. The Syriac and Vulgate agree with the Authorized Version, which is quite correct. It is a question of interpretation, not of the rendering.
Q. John 11:16. Did Thomas mean die with Jesus or Lazarus? E.J.
A. I think the comparison of verse 8 with 16 makes it plain that Thomas expected nothing but death for the Lord from the enmity of the Jews; and proposed, as He was decided to go into Judea, that the disciples should share their Master's fate. No doubt there was love in such a resolve; but how blind is unbelief to look for the Saviour's death at the very moment when He was about to be marked out Son of God in power by raising a dead man from the grave! How blessed, on the other hand, to hear our Lord say, in the midst of the sufferance of evil, "Let us go to him!" It was in the power of One who is the Resurrection and the Life. "Let us also go, that we may die with him" is the best that affection can do, short of the faith of resurrection-power.
Bible Treasury Volume 3, p. 96. June 1860.
Q. Isaiah 42:19. Who is meant by "my servant here?" E.
A. Israel, I believe. The beginning of the chapter refers, beyond a doubt, to our Lord — the latter part to the people. The misapplication of verse 19 to Christ arose out of two things — the assumption that "my servant" must have referred to the same in both passages, and the notion that µL…vum] means one who is morally perfect. As to the first, the context need leave no doubt that Israel are referred to, in contrast with the heathen idolaters, Israel called out to be the witness of the true God. To this position of favour and responsibility, as God's friend in the world, (though, alas! unfaithful in it, "deaf" and "blind") the word meshullem* applies, not to the absence of sin. The change from Messiah to Israel in Isaiah 42 is not nearly so abrupt as the substitution of Messiah for Israel is in Isaiah 52:3, 4.
(* Mussulman is said to be derived from this word, or its equivalent in a kindred dialect.)
Bible Treasury Volume 3, p. 112. July 1860.
Q. Hebrews 11:21. What ground is there for the Rhemish version and note?
A. The difference between the Hebrew copies and the sense given by the Septuagint is simply a question of the points (i.e., between jF,m' , a staff, and jF,mi , a bed, both derived from the root h:fg: which means to lead as well as to stretch.) There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the "bed" in the Old Testament, nor of the "staff" in the New Testament. The staff was in his hand while he bowed himself down upon the bed's head. Aquila and Symmachus gives κλινης, while the LXX. have ῥάβδου. Indeed, so far there is a difference; the Rhemish is stronger than the authorized in excluding from Genesis 47:31 anything but the absolute and supreme worship of God. "Israel adored God, turning to the bed's head," whereas the English Bible simply states that he bowed himself, doubtless in worship, upon the bed's head. This, then, is not the question, which is, whether the Septuagint, or rather Hebrews 11:21, intimates that Jacob also paid relative honour to Joseph's sceptre, as a figure of Christ's royal dignity. Now, waiving for the moment the question to whom the rod belonged, it is admitted in the Rhemish note to Genesis 47:31, that "Jacob, leaning on Joseph's rod, adored, turning towards the head of his bed." This shows that the Rhemish translators perfectly understood the real force of προσεκύνησεν ἐπι τὸ ἄκρον τῆς ῥάβδον αὐτοῦ. How came they to know that Jacob so leaned? The Hebrew does not say so, but the Greek. How came they, then, to misunderstand the same Greek words in Hebrews, quoted from this very passage? The only true answer is, that they sought the appearance of Scripture sanction for their idolatry. But God has caught them in their own craftiness; for the words cited prove that they know the real meaning of the Greek, justify the authorized version, and retort the charge of corruption on their own heads. The truth is, that the Greek will not bear "worshipped the top," but "upon the top," as every version known to me has it, save the Vulgate, or those made from it. As to the meaning, it is clearly leaning on it, as the Rhemish Annotator himself confirms in his note to Genesis 47:31. The reader may compare 1 Kings 1:47, where the Septuagint has προσεκύνησεν ὁ β. ἐπὶ τῆν κοίτην, the Vulgate, adorat in lectulo suo, and the Douay "adored in his bed." Now, the construction is precisely the same as in Hebrews 11:21.
Another thing seems plain — that if by leaning on the top of the rod is meant that Jacob worshipped the rod, equally so by turning to the bed's head must be meant that he worshipped the bed. But, as in the latter case, (Genesis 47) the Douay version understands that Jacob adored God, turning to the bed's head; so in the former case, (Hebrews 11) they ought to understand that he adored God, [leaning] upon the top of the rod. But it would be intolerable, even to the Romanist, to suppose that Jacob adored the bed. Consistency, however, requires it. The grammatical construction is imperative. Either he adored both rod and bed; or he worshipped God, leaning upon the top of the staff and turning toward the bed's head.
It may be added, that there is not the least ground for making the rod of staff to be Joseph's. It was Jacob's. With his staff he had passed over Jordan once a poor outcast, as we are told by himself (Genesis 32:10) when he returned with two companies and feared before Esau. Now, in Egypt, before Joseph and his sons, even though he were next unto Pharaoh, and, leaning upon the staff, which had been the companion of his own weary wanderings, the dying pilgrim worships the God whose faithfulness he had proved all the way through. What more striking than the faith which could bless the children of his now exalted son, seeing the true worth of Egyptian splendour in the light of the glory of the promised land; and what more affecting than the worship of his happy heart, as he leaned upon the witness of his many toils and sorrows!
Bible Treasury Volume 3, p. 128. August 1860.
Q. Luke 15. What is the proper intention of this chapter and particularly of the prodigal son? Is it restoring grace, or salvation? Is the best robe only given then? A.
A. I have no doubt that the application of this chapter of the saint's failure and restoration is a mere fancy and that the truth intended is God's grace to the sinner. It is well to observe, that the notion, Calvinistic as it is, which makes so much of the circumstance that the sheep was a sheep of the flock before it strayed, etc. really would prove Arminianism, if it proved anything; because it is certain that — sheep, money, or son — all were LOST. If therefore these parables were meant to teach restoring grace, they would equally teach that the child who departs from the Father is "lost" and "dead," after having been in the place of a son and before he is brought back. But take the parables, not as provision and instruction for disciples, but as the expression and vindication of divine grace in Christ's receiving sinners, and all is plain. The general truth of departure from God, and privileges abandoned or abused, is set forth in the straying of the sheep, the loss of the money, and the wretched, far-off penury of the prodigal. The previous relationship of the prodigal is not the point the Lord is illustrating, any more than the question which curious minds often raise, about the ninety and nine just persons who needed no repentance. The real point was, whether the blessed Lord was right in receiving sinners; and what He demonstrates is that such is the very way and delight of God in grace. Hence, restoration of erring saints is quite beyond the mark, and as the prodigal sets forth such souls as the publicans and sinners, so the self-righteous elder son as clearly portrays men like the murmuring Scribes and Pharisees. Not that I would deny also a dispensational bearing of mercy towards the poor Gentiles, spite of Jewish pride and opposition. But the grand point is, I am persuaded, the joy of God in the salvation of the lost, be they who they may, closing with the relationship into which grace brings, rather than what sin spoils. Is the best robe, is divine righteousness, never the portion, till the saint has dishonoured Him and turned to Him once more? Such thoughts are not only unfounded, but in truth, if pressed, they tend to sap the foundations of grace. In a word, whatever applications may be made and more or less allowable, it is clear to me that the Lord is here showing, not how communion, once interrupted, is restored, but the full free grace of God towards the lost.
Bible Treasury Volume 3, p. 175. November 1860.
Q. 1 Corinthians 14:21-31. Is verse 30 an injunction to the second prophet to wait till the first has held his peace, or to the one speaking to be silent, because of something revealed to him that sitteth by? W.N.T.
A. The first was the notion of Grotius; but to me it is clear that the latter is the true thought. The point appears to be the paramount importance of a revelation. (Compare ver. 6, 26.) Ordinary teaching must yield to it. It is not supposed that the first prophet was speaking by revelation.
Q. Revelation 7. What is the meaning of this tribulation? If it be not the Church, properly so called, which comes out of it, of what other saved Gentiles does the Spirit speak? Is it of those converted during the millennium? Whence come the rebel Gentiles at the close? (Revelation 20.) D.
A. The great tribulation of Matthew 24 (and Mark 13) clearly identifies itself with Jeremiah 30 and Daniel 12, and is limited to the case of Jacob. This has a larger sphere, and is not even confined to the Roman earth. There are Gentiles spared, spite of association with idolatrous Jews, whom the Lord will judge at His coming. (Isaiah 66.) That the saved here are not the Church is clear, from many considerations. They are contrasted, in their whole condition, with the crowned elders. "Before the throne" is not necessarily to be taken physically but morally. (Compare Revelation 14:3.) The singing of the 144,000 there applies to those on earth. The English Version goes too far in making God dwell among them: the true meaning is, that He will be a tabernacle over them, as the cloud of old overshadowed Israel. The sun not smiting them would tend to show they are on the earth. Nor does the temple set them in heaven: at least, there is no temple in the New Jerusalem. They are saved by Him that sits on the throne and the Lamb; which connects them with the time of introductory government, though not of the millennium. They give no motive for their praise, as the elders did in Revelation 4 and 5 — a mark of the intelligence of the saints who are properly heavenly. Their blessings are relief from sufferings, or being led by the Shepherd's care to refreshment. In a word, their relationship with god as before the throne takes them out of association with it, according to the true character of the strictly heavenly saints. Even the angels are round about the throne: not so these. But they are certainly separated pre-millennially. They are in relationship with God, on the ground of the place He takes as introducing the First-begotten into the world. Hence they pass through the time of temptation which shall come upon all the world, instead of being kept from it, or called afterwards. I do not see that the object is to state heaven or earth, but to reveal the character of relationship. As the elect perfect number of Israel would be sealed, so there would be a countless multitude of Gentiles spared in the time the throne of God held its place above, after removing the glorified saints, and before the First-begotten is brought again into the world. But this is a totally different subject from the nations at the end of the thousand years. These latter multitudes come into existence during the millennium, and have not eternal life. They render a feigned obedience to the King of nations; but there is no godly fear. So that they only want the temptable seduction of Satan to be led captive at his will. There is therefore no real difficulty.
Bible Treasury Volume 3, p. 208. January 1861.
Q. What is our besetting sin in Hebrews 12:1? Is not unbelief the sin which so easily besets us all as saints? If what is popularly known as "besetting sins" was intended, would it not have been expressed thus — and the sins which do so easily beset us? If we believed everything said in the word, would we not be strong and unconquerable? W.G.
A. I agree with the querist, that the popular application does not seem to be the thought intended. Neither is it to be restricted to the particular sin of unbelief. Cares, etc., may weigh down the Christian in his race; lusts of any kind may entangle his feet. All these are to be cast off, and only can be by looking away unto Jesus.
Q. What does James 5:12 take in? Is not swearing or taking an oath, for any purpose or in any place, positively forbidden by this Scripture? And ought not a Christian, in a court of justice, as well as in his daily walk amongst men, to let his yea be yea and his nay nay, lest he fall into condemnation.
A. The passage in James 5, as in Matthew 5, refers solely, in my judgment, to the question of light, irreverant asseveration or imprecation, so common among men, and especially in that day among Jews. No form of judicial oath, it will be noticed, is referred to. It is a question, in Matthew expressly, of our communication, not of a declaration before a magistrate. The Lord was silent before the high priest, till adjured. The oath in such a case is the solemn intervention of God's authority in those who are His ministers in the world.
Bible Treasury Volume 3, p. 320. August 1861.
Q. Acts 7:38. — Is the word "church" right here? ENQUIRER.
A. Certainly not, if the reader thereby gathers "the Church of God" as unfolded variously in the Epistles to the Corinthians, Ephesians and Colossians. The meaning is clearly the assembly of Israel in the wilderness. Hence "assembly" or "congregation" would be a better rendering, as avoiding ambiguity and leaving the reader to infer from the context what assembly is meant. The word itself is capable of other applications, as in Acts 19, where it is applied to the meeting of the Ephesians. It is technically used in Greek authors for the legislative assembly to which the citizens belonged.