with remarks on the earthly calling of Israel,
and the heavenly calling of the Church.
Paper 15 of 20 'Plain Papers on Prophetic and Other Subjects'.
By the martyred remnant we mean those Israelites, who, in the coming crisis, will at first form a part of that Jewish remnant, whose experience and destinies were considered in our last; but who, instead of surviving the final troubles and entering on the earthly blessedness of millennial times, will be called to glorify God by a martyr's death. For those who do thus suffer, a higher destiny than that of the spared remnant is reserved. They will pass through death and resurrection into heavenly joys; and as far as the government of the earth is concerned, they will, in common with the Church and with Old Testament saints, share that glory with Christ. Of all this the ensuing pages will furnish Scripture evidence; but in order that the subject may be clearly presented, it is necessary in the first place to direct attention to the marked contrast that exists between the Church and the remnant: nor can this be understood, unless we apprehend the difference between Israel's earthly and the Church's heavenly calling — the earthly hopes of Israel, and the heavenly hopes of the Church.
That which, above all else, marks the difference between the Church and Israel, and indeed we may say between the Church and the entire population of the millennial earth, is, that the Church is blessed in Christ and with Christ: Israel and the millennial nations will be blessed by Him and under his sway. The Church is Christ's body — His bride, and participates thus in His exaltation to be head over all things both in heaven and on earth. As the body partakes with the head of all the vital energies by which the whole is actuated, so does the Church even now partake with Christ of His risen life, and receive from Him the anointing of the Holy Ghost: and as the bride participates in all that is possessed by her lord, so is the Church, the Bride, the Lamb's wife, to participate in His inheritance of all things. Her oneness with Christ is the great distinction of the Church.
There are many things in which those who compose the Church differ not from saints of other periods, whether past or future. True believers between the day of Pentecost and the descent of Jesus into the air, constitute "the church;" and these, in common with Old Testament saints and millennial saints, are chosen of God the Father, redeemed by the blood of Christ, quickened and regenerated by the Holy Ghost; they are all preserved by almighty grace, and destined beyond doubt to bear in resurrection the image of the heavenly, even as in nature they have all borne the image of the earthly. In these things the Church differs not from other saints. That which distinguishes the Church is her oneness with Christ. "At that day ye shall know (here, upon earth) that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." (John 14:20.) Of none but the Church could these words be spoken. Of no others could it be said, "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." (John 17:22.) Israel and the nations in millennial times will constitute "the world," who, by seeing the Church in the same glory as Christ, are to know that she is the object of the same love — loved of the Father as Christ Himself is loved. Israel and the nations will be happy, Israel pre-eminently so, under the reign of Christ and His glorified saints: but no distinction can be more marked, no contrast more striking, than that which exists between the Bride of the Lamb and the nations over which she, with her Lord and Bridegroom, is to reign.
Israel's distinctive calling is to earthly blessings. The proof of this has been exhibited in a previous part of this work. We only now recall the fact to the minds of our readers. Had Israel been obedient, wealth, power, fame, and prosperity, would have been the tokens of God's approval of their ways. By their disobedience, their idolatry, and especially their rejection of Christ, they have come under the inflictions of God's wrath, and that wrath has been manifested against them in all the heavy temporal judgments which have overtaken them. We refer now to God's dealings with them nationally, in His providential government of the earth. As individuals they are, of course, in common with all men, amenable to "eternal judgment;" and, if not saved "by grace" "through faith," that judgment will result in eternal ruin. But it is with God's dispensational dealings that we are now occupied; and Scripture leaves no room for doubt that, in this world, the wrath of God against Israel has been, is, and will yet be, manifested by the infliction of temporal calamities. Prophecy, on the other hand, proves that God's approbation of Israel, when nationally restored and saved, will be manifested in abundance of temporal prosperity and blessing. Israel's is an earthly calling: and with Israel, consequently, adversity on earth is a token of God's displeasure — prosperity a sign of His favour and His smile.
The Church having no present inheritance, except as one with Christ in heaven, present earthly trials and sufferings are not to her tokens of divine disapproval. Nay, they are as much her proper portion with Christ on earth, as the glory given by the Father to Christ, and given by Him to the Church, is her proper portion with Him in heaven. Hence the sufferings of the Church are her glory. "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church." (Col. 1:24.) "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake." (Phil. 1:29.) "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death." (Phil. 3:10.) "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also." (Rom. 5:3.) Christ esteemed it His highest glory that God should be glorified in Him in His endurance of the cross; (see John 14:31;) and the Church, being by the Spirit like-minded with Christ, esteems as her highest glory that she should be "counted worthy to suffer for his name."
Israel's calling and that of the Church being so different, it follows of necessity that their hopes also differ. Christ is the hope both of the one and of the other; but He is the hope of the Church as the One who will descend into the air, and receive her to Himself, and to the full consummation of her blessedness with Himself in heaven: He is "the hope of Israel," as the One who will further descend to the earth, delivering them from the yoke of the Gentiles, executing judgment on all who have oppressed them, and setting up on the earth His glorious kingdom, of which Jerusalem is to be the centre, and in which Israel, forgiven and purified, is to enjoy the most conspicuous, distinguished place. Such are the hopes held out to Israel by the word of God — hopes which, in their fulfilment, are inseparable from the execution of utter, destroying judgment on all who exalt themselves against God and oppress His people. "The day of vengeance" on God's adversaries is to be the day of Israel's deliverance, and the immediate prelude to Israel's exaltation and full blessing under Messiah's reign. It is impossible, therefore, for an Israelite, as such, to desire or invoke Jehovah's interposition, or Messiah's coming, for the fulfilment of Israel's national hopes, without invoking or desiring judgment on the wicked. The hopes of the Church, on the contrary, are quite unconnected with the thought of judgment on the wicked. She is aware indeed that judgment on the ungodly will ensue on her own removal from the earth: still, that for which she waits is not a state of earthly blessedness which judgment on the wicked is to introduce, but her own translation from amid the scene of evil to meet her Lord in the air, and to be "for ever with the Lord." This is a hope which the Church, or the saint, can both cherish and express without a thought of the wicked, or of the judgments to be executed upon them. These judgments succeed, and probably at some distance of time, the descent of Christ into the air; they are not the necessary preliminaries of that event, and that event itself is the Church's hope.
As to the true scriptural hopes of Israel, they are at present in abeyance. So long as the Church is being gathered by the Holy Ghost for her heavenly hopes and heavenly portion, Israel will remain under the judicial blindness which has rested upon that people for eighteen centuries. When the Church has been completed and removed to heaven, and God begins to turn His compassions toward Israel, it is by the remnant only, not by the nation at large, that the true hopes of Israel will be cherished. It is by the remnant that the sins of the nation will be bewailed and confessed — by them that the coming of their Messiah in judgment and glory will be invoked. The nation, alas! will be as far as ever from having "a broken and a contrite spirit." They will still be justifying themselves and despising others; and instead of desiring or invoking the coming of their Messiah, they will have received as their Messiah "the son of perdition!" Deceived by Antichrist at the first, and oppressed by him afterwards, they will persist in their rebellion against God and in their rejection of Christ., and, as shown in our last, they will themselves aid in persecuting their brethren, the godly remnant, many of whom will suffer even unto death. Those who are thus martyred will at first be undistinguishable from the spared remnant. They will have the same calling, the same exercises, the same trials, the same hopes. It is possible indeed that they may make more rapid progress than their brethren; and as the most faithful and decided are likely to be the first victims of persecution, it is probable that such will be their character. But it is their death rather than their life by which they will be distinguished from their brethren who survive the crisis; and as a martyr's death prevents their sharing the remnant's deliverance and subsequent earthly millennial blessedness, their faithfulness will be rewarded by a martyr's heavenly crown, and in this respect they will resemble the Church itself and be associated therewith. But as to their standing, calling, experience, trials, prayers, and hopes while on earth, they have part with their brethren who survive the tribulation, and enter on the earthly blessedness of the millennial reign.
It is well, ere proceeding, to gather up the points we have touched upon, and to present at a glance the differences between the Jewish remnant as a whole, and the Church of God now forming for association with Christ in His heavenly inheritance and glory.
1. The Jewish remnant, unlike the Church, will recognize the distinction between Jew and Gentile. For the Church this distinction is done away. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28.) "Where there is neither Greek, nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all." (Col. 3:11.) But when the Church has been caught up, and the Jewish nation and Jewish remnant are again in question before God, it is evident that the distinction between Jew and Gentile is again in force. Apart from Christianity and the Church, the distinction even now exists. The Jews are given up for their sins to Gentile oppression, and Jerusalem is to be "trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." These times will not have quite terminated when the voice of the Jewish remnant begins to be heard. You cannot listen to that voice, whether in the prophets or in the psalms, without finding that it recognizes to the full, what for the Church has no existence, namely, the distinction between Israel and the Gentiles.
2. Unlike the Church, the remnant does not possess the knowledge of salvation as an existing enjoyment. Salvation, as understood by a Jew, is not simply the salvation of the soul as now known to us, but the restoration to him and to his people of God's manifested favour and protection. This the remnant cannot enjoy while the mass of the nation are ungodly, and either in league with their ungodly Gentile rulers, or by them trodden. under foot. Accordingly, those who compose the remnant are represented in prophecy as using language indicative, indeed, of penitence — concern for God's glory — confidence in God's promises to their fathers, and in His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — as well as expressive of ardent desires for pardoning mercy and the hope of its being bestowed; but for that very reason their language is incompatible with any present assurance of salvation. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." "In whom we have redemption through his blood." "Giving thanks unto the Father, which has made us meet, who has delivered us, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." Such is the language of the Church. With the remnant "have" and "has" are changed into "shall" and "will." "He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities: and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:19, 20.) Our Lord says, speaking of those who received Him on His first appearance, "I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." "Who is among you," says the prophet, "that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of his servant, that walks in darkness, and has no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." (Isaiah 50:10.) Such is the prophetic description of the remnant. Even at a very advanced stage of their experience, when they confess, "If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" and yet can add, "But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared" — even then, it is the hope of forgiveness, not its actual enjoyment, which they thus express. They speak of waiting for the Lord "more than they that watch for the morning;" and the answer by which they are encouraged in this posture of expectancy is, "Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption: and he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities." (Psalm 130.)
3. The remnant, unlike the Church, regard the sufferings through which they pass as an expression of God's wrath against their sins. Their sufferings will, no doubt, be extreme. "It is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be delivered out of it." Of that period our Lord says, "Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved." It is in the midst of these unparalleled troubles that the souls of the remnant will be exercised. It is for righteousness' sake that they will suffer, both at the hands of their fellow-countrymen and of the Gentile oppressors: but being a part of Israel, and having through grace become sensible of Israel's sin, and of the justice of God's dealings with Israel, they will regard both their own sufferings and those of the nation as a part of the righteous retribution with which God visits them — the dregs, so to speak, of the cup of trembling and of wrath, which it is the lot of the nation to drink for their iniquities. This double light, in which their trials may be viewed, gives a very peculiar character to the experiences of the remnant. Sometimes, when their enemies and persecutors are in view, there is the expression of conscious rectitude on the part of the remnant, and an appeal to God to plead for them as sufferers in His righteous cause. At other times, when their own sins and the sins of the nation are under review, there are the most touching confessions of sin, and the acknowledgement that all they suffer is but what they have deserved at God's hands. Psalm 44 is a remarkable instance of the former. Isaiah 59 and Micah 7 are striking examples of the latter. In the psalm, the remnant, having glanced at the former deliverances which God wrought for Israel, and owned Him as their only present strength or resource, turn to the melancholy proofs of His having forsaken them, and cry, "But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies. Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy . . . . . Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people." These are their circumstances. "All this is come upon us," they proceed; "yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way; though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death." All their sufferings whether at man's hands or at the hand of God, have not induced them to forsake God and participate in the fearful idolatry around. Nay, more, it is for their refusal to participate therein that they suffer at the hands of men. All this they plead before God. "If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; shall not God search this out? for he knows the secrets of the heart. Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter." Then they invoke the Lord's interposition — "Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and oppression? . . . . Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake." Here, evidently, the thoughts of the remnant rest on their sufferings at man's hand for their faithfulness to God; and it seems inexplicable to them that God also should continue to east them off. In the other passages, the eye of the remnant is upon their own sins and those of the nation, and they can account thus for God's hiding His face. After a fearful picture of the moral state of the nation — their feet running to evil — making haste to shed innocent blood — their thoughts, thoughts of iniquity — wasting and destruction in their paths — the remnant are heard to say, "Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us; we wait for light, but behold obscurity: for brightness, but we walk in darkness . . . . . . We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; in transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression an revolt, conceiving and uttering, from the heart, words of falsehood." That this passage presents the utterance of the Jewish remnant in days to come, is evident from the fact that it proceeds to exhibit the answer to their cry, in the coming of Christ to execute judgment on His adversaries, and commence His glorious reign on the earth. (Isaiah 59:9-21.)
In Micah 7 there is evinced an equally deep and solemn sense of the evil state of the nation, along with the firm expectation of approaching deliverance, and meek submission meanwhile to the Lord's chastening hand. "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness."
4. Unlike the Church, the remnant desire and ask the destruction of their enemies, and exult in the anticipation thereof. It is thus that their promised deliverance is to be effected, and knowing this from God's word, they plead for its speedy accomplishment. This has been already touched upon, and will demand yet further consideration by and by.
5. While the Church looks forward to heavenly glory, and her introduction to it when she meets the Lord in the air, the remnant anticipate the rest and quiet and blessedness of the earthly department of Christ's millennial kingdom. They are "the meek," who are to "inherit the earth." In Old Testament prophecy, the invariable sequel to the sorrows and trials of the remnant, is the earthly blessing of the nation under — Messiah's reign.
In turning to what is revealed respecting the martyred portion of the remnant of Israel, we shall find that there are three books of Scripture — the Psalms, Daniel, and the Revelation — which treat specially of this subject. As to Daniel, its testimony may be at once referred to. It so manifestly treats of Jewish subjects, that our readers will naturally look for information there. But as to the Psalms and Revelation, it may be needful, ere quoting them on our present subject, to suggest some considerations as to the general character of their contents.
No book of Scripture, perhaps, is more prized by the believer, or of more real use to him spiritually, than the book of Psalms. No wonder that it should be so. As has been said, "What sorrows, trials, temptations, groans, prayers, meditations, joys, songs, shouts, and praises do we listen to in this wondrous book. It is the seat of the affections, — the heart, as it were, of the whole inspired volume. And how many exercises of spirit has it awakened in the saints? How has it soothed and raised the hearts of the Lord's people, regulated the motions there, and, like the prophet's minstrel, enabled them to take their easy and happy course again! Such has been, and still is, every day, the gracious ministry, under the Holy Ghost, of this harp of David, this harp of many strings."* These sentiments must find an echo in every Christian's breast. But this is not all. It is not the variety of the contents of this book which alone commends it to the believer. In all this variety there is what continually reminds of Jesus; and this is its great excellence — the secret of the charm with which it binds to its pages the eye and heart of the Christian. As has been said again, "How largely has the Spirit of God traced here the ways of the heart of Jesus! His cries, and tears, and praises, His solitary hours, His troubles from man, and His consolations in God, — all these are felt here in their depth and power. What was passing in His soul, when He was silent as to man, led as a lamb to the slaughter; what they who then surrounded Him did not hear, we listen to in this wondrous book. His thoughts of men, His worship of God, with all the incense of His various and perfect affections, are understood here. The New Testament tells us that He prayed and sung but this book gives us His prayers and songs themselves. And besides this, the whole mystery of Jesus, from the womb to the throne of glory, is rehearsed here in its joys and sorrows. We trace it as far back as the 'volume of the book.' We read of Him surrendering Himself before the foundation of the world. The deep silence of eternity is broken by His words! 'Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.' And from thence we see Him taking up our nature, hanging in infancy on His mother's breast; then in His life of shame, and grief, and poverty; and in His last sorrows, — the treason of His companion, the lying of the false witnesses, the deriding of enemies, the spear and the nails and the vinegar, and above all, the forsaking of God. This is all heard and felt here. And then we follow Him in His joys and songs in resurrection, and witness His ascension, and His welcome and honours in heaven. And at last we watch His return from thence to the judgment of the nations, and to His glorious headship of Israel and the whole earth. All this is told out in the Psalms, not merely, as it were, with pen and ink, but in living lines, in those fragments of the heart of the Lord which this book has gathered up." (Ibid) No wonder, we may again say, that the Christian should find such refreshment and edification in the perusal of the Psalms.
*Short Meditations on the Psalms; chiefly in their prophetic character.
But while this is true, and our christian readers can all bear witness to it, where is there a Christian who has not met with passages in the Psalms which he felt it impossible to adopt as the utterance of his own heart. The book is generally read as though its prayers and cries, its anticipations and thanksgivings, might properly be adopted by any believer of the present dispensation. As to much contained in the book this is doubtless true: but even those who thus read it, would hesitate to say of the wicked — yea, of any wicked persons whatever — "Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them." (Psalm 55:15.) Every Christian must feel that the Spirit of God does not lead him to such prayers and anticipations as the following: "Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth . . . . . . . Let them melt away as waters which run continually: when he bends his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces. As a snail which melts, let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun. Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath. The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked." (Psalm 58:6-10.) Christian reader, are these the anticipations which the Spirit of God leads you to cherish? We dare answer for you — No! You may not, indeed, have seen in other parts of Scripture the solution of the difficulty which such passages present. But you have felt the difficulty, and have wondered how such imprecations can be interspersed among such expressions of fervent, devoted piety as are found in the verses which immediately precede or follow the language under consideration.
And has it never occurred to you, dear christian readers, that in the gradual unfolding of God's purposes, dispensations have run, are running, and have yet to run their course, so widely different in their character, that what is simple obedience and for the glory of God in one dispensation, may be entirely foreign to the character of another? Abraham's slaughter of the confederated kings — Moses' breaking of the tables of the law, and execution of three thousand idolatrous Israelites by the swords of the Levites — Joshua's extermination of the Canaanitish tribes — and Samuel's hewing Agag in pieces before the Lord — were all acts of devoted faithfulness, and as such, acceptable to God under the dispensations in which they took place. But what intelligent Christian would think of serving God thus under the present economy? When the king of Israel sent a captain of fifty to take Elijah, and he, quailing before the well-known power of the prophet, implored him, saying, "Thou man of God, the king has said, Come down;" the prophet could answer him, "If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty." The prophet, we say, could answer thus; "and there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty." (2 Kings 1:9, 10.) All this was in harmony with the spirit and character of the dispensation then existing; but when the disciples of our Lord would have imitated Elijah's example, how did He receive the proposal? "Lord," said they, "wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." (Luke 9:54-56.) Here is full proof, that what God sanctions under one dispensation, may be so diverse from the spirit and character of another, as to be the subject of rebuke to those who desire to imitate it.
This principle of the difference of dispensations is the real solution of the difficulty which all feel with regard to the imprecatory passages in the Psalms. Precious as are its contents, and available (as all Scripture is) for the present use of the believer, it is not in applying to himself all that is written there, that the true use of the book will be found. "This book," as has been well observed, "may therefore be, as it ever has been, the companion of the saints, where often almost everything else would have been intrusive and uncongenial. But still, in using it, we should remember, that having the Holy Ghost in us, our experiences are to flow from that . . . . . . What joy of hope, what largeness of understanding, what strength of faith, should be ours! what sense of the divine love, when the Holy Ghost Himself is shedding that love abroad in our hearts! And as this is the due experience of the saints, as far as the book of Psalms reflects the heart of a righteous Jew merely, the saint now has experiences beyond it or beside it. The Psalmist says, for instance, 'My flesh trembles for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments,' - the saint now is to prove, that 'perfect love casts out fear,' and that he has 'boldness in the day of judgment.' The Psalmist prays, 'Let me not be ashamed of my hope,' — the saint is taught to know that 'hope makes not ashamed.' In ways like these, the saint now passes beyond the Psalmist; for we are now, in the strength of the Holy Ghost in us, to seek to walk in the warmer, brighter light of the New Testament. In Psalm 112 all earthly prosperity is promised absolutely to the godly man: but the apostle, quoting that psalm (2 Cor. 9:8-11) only states God's power to give prosperity, and prays for a measure of it on behalf of the saints at Corinth. So again Peter quotes Hosea: but he does not go on with Hosea, to promise the saints now, as the prophet promises Israel, that they shall have all blessing in the earth — but he exhorts them to behave as those who are only strangers and pilgrims while they remain on the earth. (Compare 1 Peter 2:10 with Hosea 2:21-23.)
"All this is perfect in its season, but strikingly intimates a difference in heavenly and earthly calling, promises, and hopes. And the going beyond the book of Psalms in our experiences, is like this going beyond the books of the prophets in our hopes and calling. For the hopes and calling of 'the one body in Christ' is the mystery hid from ages and generations. Earthly things and earthly people are the themes of the prophets. The full mind of Him who taught them, and who knew the end from the beginning, may at times overflow its proper channel; but still, the earth, its people, its judgments, and its glory, are the due theme of the prophets.
"Believers, according to the wisdom given them, may differently perceive the notices of the heavenly things in the Scriptures of old. We may expect differences in spiritual discernment. But the Church, which is being gathered for inheritance in heaven as one with the Beloved, is not to be expected to come within the mind of the Spirit in the Psalmist more largely than in the prophets. Saints find their sympathies in this book, and use it for their spiritual comfort, as the words of Jehovah to Moses and to Joshua are used for them by the Holy Ghost in the apostle. (See Heb. 13:5.) But the calling and glory of the Church is not the. subject of the book. The Jerusalem of the Psalmist is not that heavenly Jerusalem which is to carry the glory, and to bear the throne by and by, but the Jerusalem of the land of Israel. And the people in this book, generally, are her people, or that remnant in Israel, which the prophecies of Scripture so largely recognize. The prophets again and again tell us the fact, that this remnant will be brought through much exercise of soul. The Psalms give us this exercise itself. So the evangelists tell us of the fact of the Lord being much in prayer and solitude with God, whilst the Psalms give us His prayers and meditations themselves. These simple considerations may easily prepare us for hearing the voice of the true Israel of God in this book. They will, in their day, be led to find in it what will suit the condition of their souls, from the circumstances into which their obedience to God will bring them. For the Spirit of Christ, in full sympathy with them, has indited these Psalms for their use in that day." (Ibid)
These sentiments appear to us of the utmost importance for rightly understanding this precious portion of God's precious book. They afford, in the hands of the Spirit, the true key to unlock its difficulties and to unfold and apply its treasures. Let us now, commending these remarks to the spiritual judgment of our readers, turn to one of the Psalms, (Ps. 79,) which undoubtedly refers to the martyred Jewish remnant in days to come.
"O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps. The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth. Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them." This is not a mere invasion of Judea and Jerusalem by hostile armies — it is a persecution of God's servants — of God's saints — persecution to death — yea, to the death of such multitudes that we read of their blood being shed like water round about Jerusalem! This could scarcely be the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar — as we know from Jeremiah that the remnant of that day were preserved and well treated. Besides, the application of this psalm is to an epoch long subsequent to Jerusalem's first desolation. "How long, Lord? wilt thou be angry for ever?" is a plea which could not be urged when Israel was just beginning to be visited by God's wrath. "Might it not apply, then, to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and the Roman armies?" To this we answer, No; and that for two reasons. First, The Christians of that day, as is well known, escaped the horrors of the siege by a timely escape to Pella. Secondly, If they had been there and suffered in the siege, or afterwards, they could not have used the language of this psalm, such as, "Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name." The prayer of persecuted Christians would have been a prayer for mercy on their adversaries, not for vengeance. "May not the psalm express, then, the feelings of unconverted Jews either at that or some other time?" To this we reply, Do unconverted people, whether Jews or Gentiles, use such language as follows? "O remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us; for we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name, and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name's sake." This is not the prayer of unconverted people: and yet it is not to Christianity as now known to us that they are converted. Consider their next words, "Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God? let him be known among the heathen in our sight, by the revenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed." How different this from "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do:" or from Stephen's cry, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
Nor is it merely the revenging of blood already shed which they implore: there are those still living, who are in the extremity of distress, for whom deliverance is sought. "Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee; according to the greatness of thy power preserve thou those that are appointed to die; and render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord." It is evidently the cry of the surviving remnant when their brethren have been slain. They ask that the one class may be avenged, that the other may be delivered; and counting on deliverance, notwithstanding the depths of their distress, they anticipate the rest and triumph which are to succeed. "So we thy people, and sheep of thy pasture, will give thee thanks for ever; we will show forth thy praise to all generations."
The psalm we have now examined agrees throughout with all the marks by which we have seen that the Jewish remnant, as a whole, will be distinguished from the Church, the Bride, the Lamb's wife. It shows, moreover, that a large portion of the remnant will be slain as martyrs for God. Their death excludes them from participating, with their brethren who survive, in the earthly rest and blessedness of Messiah's reign. But are they losers by this? By no means. A martyr's death is for them the passage to heavenly glory, and to association with Christ when He shall reign over the earth.
Of this we have an intimation in Daniel 7. Our readers will remember the testimony of this chapter as to the character of Gentile rule in its last form, that of the dominion of "the little horn," whose blasphemies bring on the judgment which transfers the dominion of the whole earth from the four Gentile monarchies to which in succession it has been confided, to the Son of man, and to "the saints of the Most High." It will be found that in verse 18 the words just quoted are in the margin rendered "the saints of the high ones," i.e., "the high things, or places." It is really "the saints of the high places" — the heavenly saints. Of the little horn it is said, "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom." It has been common to suppose that the Church is here referred to; and there can be no doubt that the Church will possess the glory of which this passage speaks. But the Church is not the subject of Daniel's prophecy, any more than of the Psalms; and there is no need to confine the title of heavenly saints, or saints of the high places, to the Church. No one can question that Old Testament saints, who lived and died before the Church was founded, or so much as the foundation of it laid, in the death and resurrection of Jesus, will share with the Church the glory of reigning with Christ in His kingdom. And so of the saints whose blood will, in the approaching crisis, be shed around Jerusalem like water. They will be "saints of the high places;" owning the name of the Most High God in heaven, while the earth is yet in the hands of those who deny His claims and attempt to usurp His place. It will be for resistance to such blasphemous pretensions that they will suffer; and though they may not have looked for any portion for themselves above that of being delivered by Messiah's coming, and. blessed under Messiah's reign, they will, in result, share the glories of that reign. When the Ancient of days comes, judgment will be "given to the saints of the high places."
We quite admit that if Daniel 7 had been the only passage which treated of the subject, we should have had less confidence in applying its statements to the martyred Jewish remnant. But having seen in Psalm 79 that there will be such a remnant; having found in Daniel 7 that the little horn will "make war with the saints" — "wear out the saints of the Most High" — and that at the close of his blasphemous career these saints of the Most High, or of the high places, will "take the kingdom," and have "judgment given unto them;" we turn to the book of Revelation, and there find the full confirmation of what is taught with less precision in the Old Testament. Want of space compels us to leave for an ensuing number the remarks we had intended to make on the book of Revelation as a whole. We must now confine ourselves to the passages in that book, which, as bearing on the subject before us, we are about to present to the reader.
In Rev. 6:9, we have, on the opening of the fifth seal, intimations of a time of persecution, in that the prophet of Patmos sees "under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held." Unlike Stephen, or our Lord, who cried for mercy on their murderers, the martyrs under the fifth seal ask for vengeance, and herein resemble the martyrs of the Jewish remnant, after whose destinies we are now inquiring. "And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" Certainly this is more like a Jewish than a Christian appeal. In its place, however, it is perfect, and fully owned of God. "And white robes were given unto every one of them. And it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." Here are saints, martyrs, crying to be avenged on the dwellers on earth, but who are told that they must wait yet a little for the time of vengeance, until certain others to be slain, as they have been, have suffered death.
Rev. 11 affords the prophetic history of the "two witnesses," of whom the Lord says, "And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth." The place of their testimony is Jerusalem; for to what other place does this description apply — "the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified?" That Jerusalem was the place of our Lord's crucifixion, we need not affirm; and the literal Jerusalem in which our Lord was literally crucified is, in Isaiah 1:10, "spiritually called Sodom." As to its being spiritually called Egypt, the statements made as to the two witnesses show the most marked resemblance between its state, at the time of their testimony, and the state of Egypt during Moses' ministry and Pharaoh's reign. We are well aware that numbers of learned Christian men take the days in this chapter for years, and regard the sackcloth testimony of the two witnesses as symbolical of the testimony borne by the Waldenses and Albigenses, and others, during the dark ages; and who believe, in consequence, that their testimony is long since finished, and that their death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven in the sight of their enemies long since took place! Into the detailed discussion of such views we are not about to enter. But we would put it to those of our readers who are conversant with the history of the dark ages, whether anything in the humble path of Christ's witnesses in those days can be made to correspond with what is here affirmed of the two witnesses? "And if any man will hurt them, fire proceeds out of their mouth, and devours their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will." Let each day be made into a year — let the two witnesses stand for many thousands — let the language in which their power and their actings are described be understood as ever so figurative; still, what is there in the past history of the present dispensation to correspond in any degree with the predictions of this chapter? We are bold to answer, Nothing! and more than this, we are bold to affirm, that had there been among the Waldenses and Albigenses 'anything analogous to shutting heaven that it might not rain, or to causing fire to proceed from their mouths to destroy their enemies, or to smiting the earth with all plagues, they would so far have deviated from the true spirit. of Christianity, and failed to be faithful witnesses for Christ. Alas! there was among them sometimes the forgetfulness of that word of Christ, "they that take the sword shall perish by the sword;" but it issued in the fulfilment of Christ's declaration, not in their being proved invincible, as the two witnesses are in Rev. 11 till their testimony was finished. No, the dispensation must be changed, ere God's witnesses can rightly act in the spirit, or perform the deeds, attributed to the two witnesses in the chapter before us.
The subject of the chapter is the coming crisis, when the Church has been removed, and the present dispensation of perfect grace has come to a close. God will not yet, indeed, have taken to Him His great power to reign — but He is about to do so — and before He does, He raises up these two witnesses to testify in sackcloth at Jerusalem. It is the time of final Jewish and final Gentile apostacy, when the rulers of the Jewish nation will have made a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell; when "the prince" of Daniel 9:27 shall have confirmed a covenant with the Jews for the one reserved week of Daniel's seventy weeks — a covenant which, in the midst of the week, as shown in a previous paper, he violates, and sets up the abomination that makes desolate. During one part of this week, either the former or the latter half, or a portion of both,* the two witnesses prophesy; and God endows them with power to do so, and makes them invincible till their testimony is completed. When it is finished, they are permitted to be slain. "And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them and kill them." The identity of this beast with the little horn of Daniel 7 we have seen in previous papers. The connection of the two witnesses with the Jewish Remnant is too obvious to need pointing out. They are at least a part of that remnant, and of the martyred portion of it. The beast slays them. The dwellers upon earth rejoice to have got rid of them. For three days and an half their dead bodies lie unburied in the streets of Jerusalem, while festivities and merry-making and sending gifts one to another, evince the delight men have in their death. But the triumphing of the wicked is short. "After three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies beheld them." Thus we have, as to a part at least of the martyred remnant, the explicit assurance of God's word, that resurrection from the dead and ascension to heaven, are the destiny that awaits them.
*We express ourselves thus on this subject, because of having seen ground to hesitate as to what was expressly affirmed in our former edition, viz., that it is during the first half week that the two witnesses prophesy. The point is one of deep interest for students of prophecy, but it does not in the least affect the general principles of prophetic interpretation, or the general outline of prophetic events as here set forth.
Nor is this all. The beast has other victims of his persecuting rage, whose death is noticed in the book of Revelation. Rev. 12:11, and Rev. 13:7, 15, apprize us that there will be such; and in Rev. 15:2, they are seen as a distinct company, standing on the sea of glass mingled with fire, having the harps of God, and singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. These are the remainder, for whose death the martyrs under the fifth seal were told they must wait. What a victory is theirs! — a "victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name." But not only are they presented as a distinct company of victors in Rev. 15, in Rev. 20:4, we find them associated with Christ and His co-heirs, and with their brethren, the martyrs of the fifth seal, in the glories of the millennial reign. "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them." The "they" and "them" in this clause, doubtless refer to the great body of the faithful, the saints of all ages, including "the Church" and all the Old Testament saints — all, in short, who are raised or changed at the descent of Christ into the air. But the martyrs of the crisis are not excluded; and lest we should suppose they were, both classes of them are mentioned. "And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God." Compare this with what is said of the martyrs of the fifth seal, and you can scarcely fail to perceive that they are the same. But what of those for whom they were to wait. Ah! the number is now complete. "And (they) which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
Our space will only allow us to present to our readers this interpretation of the passages which have just passed under review. Let it be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, and the Lord give us understanding of His ways. Considerations, confirmatory of the view here presented, will naturally find their place in our next, which we hope may be devoted to the question of the interpretation of the Apocalypse as a whole.