Two or three — Matthew 18:18-20
The Christian being dead — Romans 6
Deceiving one's self —
Eternal life —
Justification from sin — Romans 6:7
The new man —
Crucified with Christ — Romans 6
Ye are dead —
Ἐν ὑμιν before — 1 Corinthians 6:2
The Spirit of Christ and of God — Romans 8:9
When brethren wish to begin a breaking of bread — 1 Timothy 4:17
Quick and dead — 1 Peter 4:5-6
The hour of temptation —
Premises for preaching the gospel —
Honour or pay? — 1 Timothy 5:17
Temple of the tabernacle … — Revelation 15:5
The great city — Revelation 16:19
εἰσ τὸ διηνεκές — Hebrews 10:1
προσφέρω — Hebrews 10
The ascension — John 20:17; Matthew 28:9
Bible Treasury Volume 11, p. 47. March 1876.
Q. Matthew 18:18-20. In a company of 40 or 50 saints gathered to the Lord's name, can "two or three" be said to constitute the assembly to the exclusion of the rest? Is the decision of a few to be regarded as that of God's assembly, and binding not only on all the rest, even if their consciences are distressed, but on all assemblies elsewhere, even though some of the grounds taken are now acknowledged by the few themselves to be unfounded? Is a hasty act thus done to be viewed as ratified in heaven and irrevocable? G.W.Y. (Hamilton, Canada.)
A. Such a pretension is intolerable. It is not only without an atom of scripture but directly opposed to the nature and truth of God's assembly, where exclusion, e.g. is not binding unless carrying with it the consciences of all. In peculiar cases there might be of course near relatives or friends, perhaps even partisans or accomplices more or less, whose opinions ought not to be given and if given ought to be rebuked rather than heeded. But as a rule discipline according to the Lord must and does carry the simplest as well as the spiritual with it. Where will or personal feeling works, it would destroy weight, and such persons are not in a state to guide the assembly. It might be that the condition of those gathered might show such a lack of conscience, destroyed by error or given up to self-will and laxity, that godly souls might be forces, after due waiting and solemn warning in vain, to withdraw from the meeting as no longer God's assembly. This is possible no doubt, but a very delicate and extreme case. But the notion of two or three out of the forty or fifty constituting the assembly, and staying in with those whose protest they ignore and despise, is a snare of Satan to force their own will, and is a return to the Popish principle that the clergy are the church. I do not believe that such a decision is bound in heaven or binding on assemblies on earth or individuals; though it does not therefore follow that hasty action would be right, either as to receiving elsewhere the one wrongly dealt with or as to the withdrawal of those aggrieved by it. Prayer and humiliation would be the resource, not agitation nor separation. The Lord knows how to interfere and correct what is amiss; for it is the merest superstition that a wrong or mistake by an assembly is to abide unrescinded. And if the assembly deliberately accepted such a principle as that "two or three" could make up their minds and go through the form of putting away, for instance, contrary to the judgment of the rest, yet binding it on the consciences of all, it is evident that neither the discipline nor the assembly is really according to scripture; and, after due testimony if the evil were persisted in, both should be disowned as not of God.
Indeed the truth is more stringent far. For the putting away to be valid must be through God's action on the consciences of all (allowing for such exceptions as have been stated); and the action of a few, if ever so right in their thoughts, against the consciences of others is no longer the assembly's act. Not even two or three godly men who do not go with the action can be rightly ignored. The rest are bound to wait. The majority is a human principle and essentially different from the assembly where God dwells and in which He acts to glorify the Lord. As the rule, it is when action is precipitate or excessive that it fails to carry the consciences of all. Nor is haste a slight fault in such cases. It is flesh, and not of the Spirit; it breeds parties, no less than excess does, which produces re-action in the saints, and leads to sympathy with the evil-doer who is thus wronged, instead of all the godly uniting in their horror of his evil. If a few were ever so right in their judgment, yet forced it on spite of others who conscientiously differed, it would not be of God, as being a practical denial of His assembly. Hence one must not push things beyond their conviction as before God. Nothing is rightly done unless they prove themselves clear in the matter. Grace thus turns the godly exercise of extreme discipline by the assembly into exercise of soul and positive blessing in their humbling of themselves before God. Human will, whether in one or in many, brings in terrorism or wheedling, confusion and every evil work, self-exaltation and party-spirit, to the utter destruction of waiting on God by faith, subjection to the word of the Lord, and the gracious and holy uniting power of the Holy Ghost.
Q. 1. Romans 6. Does scripture anywhere, in speaking of the Christian being dead, separate it from his having died in Christ?
A. 1. Not so: the ground is that we died with Christ, buried with Him by baptism to death — His death. Thus are we become identified with Him in the likeness of His death. Therefore also we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin.
Q. 2. Is it not possible to deceive one's self, by applying this doctrine to a sort of holding yourself in the place of a dead man, so as to be afraid really to do anything, lest it should be your own life acting.
A. 2. One may of course turn even this truth into bondage; but it is far easier to make our death or having died with Christ the mere fact of knowledge about it; and this might, not to say must, soon land one in light and careless ways, as being powerless.
Q. 3. Is eternal life not a thing but a Person (Christ)? and is it true that a Christian has no life, inasmuch as Christ is in heaven?
A. 3. Eternal life is a thing that we have, though we have it only in the person of Christ; but it is our life here as Christians, with its mind and affections, quite as real and much more important than the natural Adamic life of man.
Q. 4. Is it true reasoning to argue that because Romans 6:7 says, "He that is dead is justified from sin," it must be the new I that is spoken of as dead, inasmuch as no one could say that the old I is justified?
A. 4. The most that can be allowed is that justification from sin supposes a sinner, though now a believer. It is of course the same person, but one who being a believer has passed from death into life, and has died with Christ.
Q. 5. Can you understand a distinction being made between the new I and the new MAN, and would you say that the former is spoken of as dead, and the latter not? Does scripture use the expression new I at all?
A. 5. I can understand the distinction, "the new I" being the soul as now born again, but referring to what was, "the new man" being only what is by and in Christ. But metaphysics are best avoided in christian teaching.
Q. 6. Does Romans 6 teach that the old man was crucified with Christ, but that the new I DIED with Him? Is there such a distinction between "crucified" and "died?"
A. 6. That our old man was crucified with Christ is what the chapter says; and that he who died with Christ is justified from sin, that is, the believer, not whilst he did not believe.
Q. 7. Is it profitable to ask a Christian, "Are you dead?" since scripture says, "Ye are dead?" Does it not tend to throw one one feelings and experiences?
A. 7. Such a query to an unestablished soul would inevitably lead to an inward investigation. But he who rests simply on Christ might be led to weigh and learn more thoroughly what death with Christ implies, and what becomes him who died with Him. Scripture assumes that the Christian has thus died.
Bible Treasury Volume 11, p. 64. April 1876.
Q. 1 Corinthians 6:2. Ἐν ὑμιν is by competent scholars translated "before you." May not this decide the meaning of the world and even angels being judged? That is, not by the saints as assessors with Christ but as witnesses in whose presence the judgment takes place.
A. Wetstein has shown by sufficient examples that νεσθαι ἐν is a technical phrase for being judged at such or such a tribunal: Aristides de Soc. i. p. 128; Platon. ii. pp. 214, 261. Polyb. v. 29. Plut. Themist p. 123. Cat. p. 349. Lysias c. Philost. and Diod. Sic. xix. 51.
With κρ. therefore ἐν is quite distinct from ἔμπροσθεν or ἐνώπιον and beyond controversy confirms instead of enfeebling what had just been laid down as an axiom of common christian knowledge, that the saints are to judge the world and even angels, not merely to be present when their judgment proceeds before the Lord. So Raphelius and Kypke, the last explaining the idiomatic use of ἐν from a company of judges in the midst of whom the case is disposed of. But the truth is that the preposition branches out from a mere local or material idea of inclusion into various applications characterizing what is spoken of, and so even meaning "with" or "by," as grammars and lexicons will show. κρίνεσθαι ἐπί is much more to be "judged before," as anyone can see in the preceding verse 1: ἐν ὑμῖν should be distinguished from this, as it unquestionably is the strictly proper phrase for the closer sense of "by you." It is not the final judgment, that of the dead, which is in the hands of the Lord, the Son of man (John 5), but of the quick, judging akin to the sense of reigning. (See Matthew 19:28; Revelation 20:4) Even now angels are ministering spirits sent out for service on account of those who shall inherit salvation: how much more when the saints shall be glorified and reign with Christ!
Bible Treasury Volume 11, p. 80. May 1876.
Q. Romans 8:9. What is the difference between the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God? and how can one have the former, and yet not have the latter? E.C.
A. It is not a question here of new birth: this one might have as in Romans 7, and yet have no power but be wretched also. If one have the Spirit of God indwelling, one is in the Spirit and not in the flesh; one is in the Christian place of liberty and peace. It is not said that one could have the Spirit of Christ here spoken of and not have the Spirit of God; on the contrary, the Spirit of Christ is supposed to be the Spirit in practical power forming us according to Christ; so much so that if one has it not, one is not of Him (αὐτοῦ), one is not Christ's in redemption power. The Spirit of God might work in or at least by a man who professed Christ without life, as we see in Judas. (Matthew 7:22; Hebrews 6:4-6.) But this is not His dwelling in the believer; it is not the Spirit of Christ.
Bible Treasury Volume 11, p. 160. October 1876.
Q. 1 Timothy 4:17. (1) Is an elder or bishop the question when brethren wish to begin a breaking of bread where there is none? (2) Ought they to cease when trial, weakness, or scandal exists?
A. (1) Wherever brethren are found alive to the glory of Christ and of their own privileges as His members, they are not only free but bound to meet together and consequently to remember Him in the breaking of bread, the symbol of His death for their sins in divine love and of their unity as His body. They are of course bound to begin in fellowship with those already breaking bread if reasonably near them. It is deplorable to make the sign of fellowship in a new place the occasion of disturbing it in an old; but those in the old locality are not entitled to put any obstructions or delays in their way but such as approve themselves to every godly soul elsewhere. No one, no assembly, has authority to hinder members of Christ from gathering to His name and remembering Him in the Supper and all other acts of the assembly. Scripture amply proves that none should wait for a bishop or bishops first, even when apostles were there to choose such. But it was the rule to begin meeting as God's assembly without them. The qualities suitable for them only developed or were seen in time. It was on a subsequent visit, if the apostle did not spend long enough time, that they were chosen; and sometimes a delegate like Titus at Crete was directed to do so. But in every case assemblies preceded bishops.
(2) Even if a few believers have been hasty in meeting or any element in the meeting is not what one could desire, it would be a grave act to seek or counsel their dissolution: we do not see an apostle venturing on any step like it. And we cannot, we ought not to, without scripture. The state of an assembly might be such as to keep some away, as that of Corinth did Paul; but this is a very different thing, for even so, he is most careful to remind them of their place, privilege, and responsibility as the assembly of God in that city. All this aggravated their failure, and gave him a hold in the Lord's name on their conscience.
Q. 1 Peter 4:5-6. "Quick and dead:" is it moral, or physical? The same in each verse? G.W.G.
A. The physically "dead" are meant in both verse. Christ is, and is ready, to judge quick and dead. Only as glad tidings wree preached (though not in the same way or fulness) in times past to men (living then, though now) dead, as well as to men living now, it was to this end that they might be judged as regards men in flesh, but live as regards God in Spirit. The Jews were apt to slight the judgment of the dead, through their pre-occupation with the judgment of the quick at the appearing of the Messiah. Hence the apostle is the more careful to show the believers from among them, not merely as in 1 Peter 3, the judgment which awaits those formerly disobedient who are kept in prison awaiting their final doom, but the twofold end of the good news in the promises proclaimed to men in the past — either judgment as men in flesh responsible for their works, or living according to God in Spirit because the word was mixed with faith and issued in righteousness and holiness of truth.
Bible Treasury Volume 11, p. 224. February 1877.
Will you do me the favour of clearing up one or two of my difficulties?
Q. 1. The hour of temptation (which you take to embrace a longer period than the crisis of the great tribulation) is to come upon all the world (the whole habitable world) to try them that dwell upon the earth (apostate Christendom): why upon the whole earth if only try Christendom?
2. Again, the "great multitude" are of "all nations, kindred, people and tongues:" do you judge that Christendom has no representation in all this? that is, that she comes into the tribulation and is utterly cut off thereby?
Do you think the expression "the great tribulation" embraces all the Apocalyptic judgments, and touches every member of the human family on earth, save the ten tribes who are brought under the Lord's rod in the land?
In what form does the great tribulation come upon the heathen nations — being far away from the seat of the beast?
May the "great multitude" of Revelation 7 be substantially identified with "the righteous" of Matthew 25:37?
3. Also will you be kind enough to say whether the Jews will rebuild the temple, or a certain part of it in unbelief, to be destroyed after the abomination of desolation has been set up therein? If not, are we not driven to conclude that Ezekiel's temple will be erected by unbelieving Jews, on the divine pattern (somewhat a difficulty), and the idolatrous image be sustained there before the glory of the God of Israel comes into it? Does Ezekiel 63:7-8, 9, throw any light on this, "the place of the soles of my feet they shall no more defile, nor their kings, nor by the carcasses of their kings in their high places. In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations?"
4. What countries are "Gomer and all his bands, the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands?" Being in confederacy with the king of the north, I suppose they are eastern powers. But in Smith's Bible Dictionary the writer seems to identify them with the Cimbri of the north and west of Europe during the Roman Empire (Denmark, between the Elbe and the Rhine, and Belgium), the whole of the British Isles at one period, and now the Gael of Ireland and Scotland, and the Cymry of Wales. W.R.
A. 1. I consider that "they that dwell on the earth" is here, at least, rather a moral expression than a designation of apostate Christendom. It is opposed to dwellers in heaven, and not merely a distinction from some other part of the world.
2. Christendom seems to be not included in the vague and general mass of nations on whom "the great tribulation" is to fall, having its own special description and judgment, as Babylon, etc., just as it is also distinct form the Jews and from Israel in this chapter. The Jews will pass through a tribulation severer than this, but also more circumscribed, as we may gather from Matthew 24 and Mark 13, compared with Jeremiah 30 and Daniel 12. The scourge is the Assyrian, or king of the north, rather than the beast who is the support of the false prophet, king in Palestine. But it is plain that the Apocalyptic period as a whole is a time of trouble increasing in intensity and over many spheres, extending to Gentiles as well as Jews; and as the everlasting gospel will go out far and wide, so I think the surviving fruit of that last mission will be seen in "the righteous" or sheep of Matthew 25 when the Son of man comes and reigns over the earth. That apostate Christendom will have the sternest doom of all, is plain from 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.
3. Undoubtedly the Jews will build in unbelief the temple in which the lawless one or Antichrist is to sit as God. But we have no reason to suppose that God would deign to own it, or that the temple as described by Ezekiel is not distinct. We must remember that it is the habit of scripture to regard "the house" as having a continuity of character, however often destroyed and rebuilt. In Haggai it is not "the glory of this latter house," but "the latter glory of this house."
4. "Gomer and all his bands" are north-eastern; but possibly the Cimri, etc., may be some of the race that migrated westward. "The house of Togarmah" of the north quarters I presume to be the Armenian stock, as the latter people say themselves. They will follow Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, that is, the last head of the Russian Empire. (Ezekiel 38, Ezekiel 39.)
Bible Treasury Volume 11, p. 239. March 1877.
Q. Is it traversing the truth of the Holy Ghost's presence in the church and His distributing to or by whomsoever He will, for a brother to have the room, used to break bread in, for preaching the gospel, either doing it himself or asking another?
I quite understand the saints saying, "We wish our room used only for 'open' meetings;" but are they free by the word of the Lord to allow it for meetings that rest on individual responsibility? Does this encroach on the truth that saints gathered to the Lord's name own the guidance of the Spirit who dwells in the church — the house of God? S.
A. It is evident from scripture that the difficulty could not even have occurred to the early saints. For the original breakings of bread were in private houses, the owners of which simply gave the use of a room for that purpose. The gospel may have been preached, as it was certainly freely elsewhere, within doors or without, to a few or to multitudes. The simpler are our thoughts as to both, the better. The same principles lead to the same practice under such circumstances still. It is never wrong to meet or to preach in a private house. And if brethren hire a larger and more central room to meet in more conveniently, they are perfectly free to give the use of it when not wanted for assembly purposes to one or more brothers in whom they confide to preach or lecture in. It is happy when one of known gift and good report accepts the responsibility, preaching in the room or finding one to do so, and thus closing what might otherwise be a source of question and difficulty for the meeting. The church of course neither teaches nor preaches, but owns and honours those who have the seals of such gifts from the Lord. So we see Paul choosing Silas and declining to have Mark at one time, however he might commend him later. This shows the action of a principle wholly distinct from the assembly and the working of the Spirit by one or another in it. It is mischievous to set one against the other; and there is no reason why the same building or room should not be used at one time for the assembly, at another for individual ministry. If there was no brother of such gift or moral weight as to command confidence, they might decline lending their room; if there was, to refuse would be their shame. But the Lord would soon find another room for His workman and work. Only the assembly might and must suffer for their lack of grace and wisdom. It is evident that anything which tends to sever the assembly from interest in the gospel, is to be deprecated. It promotes the divisive feeling of those who have no heart, save for their own work, be it ecclesiastic or evangelic. Wisdom and grace will hold to both firmly, and resist the narrowness which, if allowed, can only end in cliques with their leaders, schisms, or even worse.
Q. It is alleged that in 1 Timothy 5:17 the word "pay" should stand instead of "honour," and that those who were charged with the care of a local church received stipends. Is this correct? S.B.
A. The word τιμή in the text does not mean "pay," but "honour" as its radical and primary signification, that is, the due expression or payment of esteem or worship as the case might be; hence the dignity, or prerogative, of one so honoured; and even the office, authority, or rank; and the present, or offering, commonly given in such cases. It was also used for the worth or price of a thing; for an assessment or even penalty, compensation or satisfaction. But "pay" in the sense of stipend or wages as expressed in general by μισθός, which, in strict application, would have been scouted by every christian heart is used in a free or simple way by the Lord in Luke 10, and by the apostle in 1 Timothy 5, not as a standing fee. (Cf. John 10.) Later Greek, such as in the LXX or the Greek Testament, gives ὀψώνιον, military pay or rations, as may be seen in Luke 3, Romans 6, 1 Corinthians 9 and 2 Corinthians 1, to which the curious can add Esdras 4:56, 1 Macc. 3:29, and 14:32. As to the phrase, see what Josephus (Antiq. IV., iv. 114) says of Balak, ἀποπέμπει τὸν Βάλαμον μηδεμιᾶς τιμῆς ἀξιώσας, and in Classic Greek we read in Dem. περὶ στεφ., ed. Reiske, 297, 16, ἅπαντας ὁμοίως ἡ πόλις τῆς αὐτῆς ἀξιώσασα τιμῆς.
It cannot then be fairly doubted that the English version is justified, and that salary or pay is not the prominent or even true idea, but "honour." Still that there is included every loving consideration of the elders taking the lead or presiding well seems plain from what follows, but this is rather as honorarium than as stipendium. On the one hand it is degrading to the service of Christ when it is made a question of the earning of a trade or profession; but on the other it is a dishonour to the saints who reap the fruit of unremitting and unselfish care in spiritual things if they do not mark their sense of it, not merely where the servants are needy, but in the reciprocity of loving regard where no such want exists. The payment of "honour," nay, "double honour," might be questioned where there was not the apparent desire to prove it. The apostle had enjoined on Timothy, in the preceding verses, to "honour widows;" here he claims honour doubly for elders that take the lead well. That "double" was used for indefinitely great in good or evil, one sees in Matthew 23, Revelation 18:6, as in Isaiah 40:2. The "especially" (μάλιστα) is incompatible with a fixed salary, as indeed is all scripture. The general principle is equally true of those who teach (Galatians 6:6), and of those who preach. (1 Corinthians 9.) Acts 28:10 seems to distinguish the attentions paid during the stay at Melita from the provision of requisites on departing.
Q. In Revelation 15:5, we have the expression, "Temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven:" what is the meaning of it? T.B.M.
A. It was not merely "the tabernacle," but of the "testimony" which was opened in judgment; nor yet the ναός, house or "temple" only, but this "in heaven," the fullest possible expression of the highest source from which the wrath of God was coming forth on the apostate earth before the Lord Himself appeared.
Q. What is "the great city" spoken of in Revelation 16:19? It is not "Babylon," as we see from the same verse, nor can we connect it, I think, with Revelation 11:8. T.B.M.
A. "The great city" I should connect with Revelation 11:8, which distinguishes it from the city which has rule or kinship over the kings of the earth, "great Babylon." The one may be more the expression of worldliness in its Jewish form, the other in its Gentile confusion, unless we take the former for the proud centre of the world's civilization in general, as we may understand, "the cities of the nations" in a subordinate degree.
Bible Treasury Volume 11, p. 288. June 1877.
Q. 1. Do the words, εἰσ τὸ διηνεκές, in Hebrews 10:1 refer to the sacrifices as continually offered, or to the inability of such sacrifices to perfect in perpetuity those who offered them; that is to say, Do the words refer to the offerings, or to the offerers?
Q. 2. Why is it that we have in this chapter (passim) προσφέρω, to offer, and προσφορά, an offering, and not ἀναφέρω, to offer up, especially as we find from verses 10, 11, 12, that is attributed to the offering, προσφορά, which we should have supposed could only be by ἀναφέρω, offering up, when only it would be a sacrifice (θυσία)? We have both, "no more offering for sins" (προσφορά), verse 18, and "no more sacrifice for sin" (θυσία), verse 26. W.L.P.
A. 1. The connection of εἰς τὸ δ. is not the same in verse 1 and 12. In the former it is with the Jewish ritual, and means that they kept offering unbrokenly the same sacrifices year by year, sacrifices unable at any time to perfect those that approached. In verse 12 the connection is with the continuous, or unbroken, session of our Lord at God's right hand, as having offered one sacrifice for sins. It is well known that Lachmann punctuated so as to connect εἰς τὸ δ. with the clause after in verse 1, and with the clause before in verse 12; but I am satisfied that he unwittingly perverted the sense in both. "Continuously" can run well in the first with "every year," not with "never," or "not at any time;" as again, in the second it is only possible to take it with the preceding clauses by supposing some ellipse as ἀσκοῦσαν ἡμῖν, with Œcumenius and Theophylact, which is not only needless, but weakens what follows. Tischendorf has evaded the difficulty by inserting a comma in neither.
A. 2. The reason why προσφέρω is employed in Hebrews 10 seems to me the need of a more general word than ἀναφέρω, which had been used in Hebrews 9 in distinction from προσφ. wherever it was intended to express the actual bearing of sins. Where a substantive is wanted for this, θυσία is used, which is as specific as προσφορά is general. Hence, where προσενέγκας is defined by ὑπέρ ἁμαρτιῶν and θυσίαν, it is as strictly sacrificial as if it had been ἑαυτὸν ἀνενέγκας, or τὰσ ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν ἀνενέγκας.
Bible Treasury Volume 11, p. 320. August 1877.
Q. John 20:17; Matthew 28:9. Is it true that there was a private ascension on the day the Lord rose, fulfilling Leviticus 16:17, besides the public one forty days after? So say some, to avoid the difficulty; and this they try to sustain by the reception of the Holy Ghost on the first occasion, as distinguished from His descent on the day of Pentecost. H.T.
A. There is not the slightest ground to suppose an ascension previous to that which is described in Acts 1. A little intelligence as to John 20:17 removes the difficulty, without having to recourse to a supposed private ascension. Ἀναβαίνω is the abstract present, a common enough usage, not only in Greek, but in our own and other languages, often of the greatest value to remember in exposition. It is really ignorance to infer from the present that the action must be either actually going on, or so imminent as to follow immediately. The present may be used in the New Testament to convey certainty or permanence, but still more frequently perhaps an action eminently and emphatically characteristic as here. Take πορεύομαι ἐτοιμάσαι τόπον ὑμῖν in John 14:2; take ἔρχομαι and εἰμί in the next verse, or ὑπάγω in verse 4. Here, too, mysticising commentators tell us that this ἒρχομαι is begun in Christ's resurrection, carried on in the spiritual life, further advanced when each by death is fetched to be away with Him, fully completed at His coming in glory, when they shall for ever be with Him in the perfected resurrection state. All this style of drawing ever so many applications out of a word, which here means but one, the last of these alleged comings, enfeebles scripture, and injures the saint. So in verse 17 there is no need to change μένει (abideth) into μενεῖ (shall abide), with some of the old versions, or to understand it, with Euthimius Zigabenus, as the Spirit's then abiding in Jesus, who was among them. It really expresses permanence from the time He comes to abide, not an abiding going on then. In 1 John 1:7 we have examples of much moment doctrinally, and for the blessing and even peace of souls, where, from the structure of the sentence, as well as the truth declared elsewhere, we know that καθαρίζει means the cleansing efficacy of Christ's blood, without question either of repetition or of a continuous process. So again, in Acts 2:47 τοῦς σωζ., and in Hebrews 2:11, οἱ ἁγιαζ., is not the historical present or fact, but the character or class. This is made certain in the last case by comparing Hebrews 10:10 with 14, where we have the perfect and present used of the same persons — the one the fact and date, the other the abstract character.
The Lord then in John 20:17 meant, not that He was at that moment, or that day, ascending, but that this was the character of what was before Him; not staying to reign over Israel and the world, but going up to heaven, the model Man there, according to whom the children of His Father and God, now owned as His brethren, were to be formed in and according to the truth. (Compare John 17:19.) It was to be a new order of sanctification, which the believer, even if a Jew, once separated to Jehovah from the Gentiles, needed no less than the Gentile; a heavenly separateness, not fleshly, or monastic, nor mystic, but sanctification in truth. So we all, says the apostle, looking on the glory of the Lord with unveiled face, are transformed according to the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit. And this seems to be the significant reason why Mary Magdalene was not permitted to touch the Lord. It was not in bodily presence He was to be known by the Christians, but ascended to heaven; and she who had known Him according to flesh must now know Him so no longer. She thus stands in contrast with the women in Matthew, who were permitted soon after to hold Him by the feet and pay Him homage, the type of those out of that nation who shall have Him to their joy reigning over them here below, and hence as seasonable a pledge in the first Gospel, as the Jew taken out of the earthly hope to know Him above suits this part of the fourth. Indeed a similar truth is taught in Thomas, who, absent on the resurrection-day and unbelieving, was caused in the most sensible way eight days after to learn and own the Lord risen from the dead. So will the Jew yet see and confess Jesus to be the Lord and God in a day still future. But "blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed." So the Christian knows Christ.
With this falls in Leviticus 16:17, which sets forth our Lord's presence on high ever since He ascended, and not some imaginary appearing there on the day of resurrection. When He comes out, it will be for the reconciliation of all things, as well as the forgiveness of Israel. We enter in spirit where He is meanwhile, identified with Christ, the great high priest, instead of waiting, like God's ancient people, till He come forth. While He is there, the Spirit is come out to dwell in us Christians and baptize us into one body, giving us liberty to enter in boldly through the rent veil. The people meanwhile wait, but will have the blessing when the Lord comes out.
Thus the right view of these scriptures very simply illustrates and confirms the truth of the gospel and the prophetic word; so that we need not take up anything strained or fanciful to vindicate their harmony. On the day the Lord rose He breathed the spirit of life into the disciples, and the Holy Spirit acted in this as in new birth. The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost was power from on high.