Answer to Correspondence—You ask: “If the purpose of God was that Christ should come into the world to make atonement for sin, how could Israel receive an offer of the kingdom and the King, when the setting up of the kingdom was an impossibility until the work of the cross was accomplished?”
The setting up of the kingdom was not “an impossibility until the work of the cross was accomplished.” During the first four thousand years of fallen man’s history he was on probation. The last test which was applied was the sending of Christ into the world. He, the Shepherd of the sheep, entered by the door, the appointed way, marked out by prophetic testimony. Born King of the Jews, He was presented to Israel, bearing unquestionable credentials. The common people, in their selfishness, would have made Him a king, that they might have their slothful and godless souls surfeited with bread; but they had no desires after God, and He who “knew what was in man” would not trust them. The leaders from whom He should have received the kingdom were hostile to Him from the outset, and therefore the only crown they gave Him was one of thorns, the only throne He received at their hands was a cross. He could have taken the kingdom by power, as He will do in the coming day, but that would have interfered with the responsibility and probation of the creature, and therefore He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep dumb before her shearers, He opened not His mouth. This test, applied to man, brought to light the great truth that there was no good in the flesh, and that man would not have God even in grace and love.
This left room for the accomplishing of the purpose of God, and for putting everything on the ground of propitiation. The blessing of man no longer depends upon the creature’s fulfilment of his responsibilities, but upon the power of God witnessed in raising Christ from the dead. Even Israel will be taken up again on the principle of resurrection, though they will not live in the resurrection sphere, but in flesh and blood.
Another thing. Had the world received Christ, it would have proved man to be good at heart, and not a fallen, God-hating creature. But this is supposing an impossible case. Man was evil, and God knew it; and hence we find, all through the prophets, “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” Supposing man had received Christ, and propitiation still was a necessity on account of sins committed, this could have taken place at any time, for with the making of propitiation man had nothing whatever to do. Man’s rejection, scorn, spitting, scourging, was no part of that work. It was done between God and Christ alone. Man did not need to crucify Him in order that that should take place.
That it was done in connection with man’s rejection of Christ is true; for it pleased God to manifest in that one cross the enmity of the human heart and the love of His owns. Both are set before us in the death of the same blessed Person. But man being what he is, and God being what He is, no permanent blessing could have come apart from the work of redemption.