The seven heads — Revelation 17:9-11|
The remembrance of Christ — Acts 20:7-11
The little horn — Daniel 7
America, Australia — Revelation 17 etc.
Many mansions — John 14:2
Our Lord entering the holies — Hebrews 9:12
Those causing divisions — Romans 16:17
The Lord will reign — Psalm 2 etc.
The Word when incarnate — John 1:5
A servant of the Lord — 1 Corinthians 4:16-17 etc.
Perpetual sleep — Jeremiah 51:39, 57 etc.
The last trumpet — 1 Corinthians 15:52
ἂνευ and χοωῖς — Matthew 10:29 etc.
The dead saints — 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
Michael the archangel — Jude 9
He led captivity captive — Ephesians 4:8
Priestly activity — Hebrews 2:17 etc.
Sanctified by the blood — Hebrews 10:29
Reverend — Psalm 111:9
The out-resurrection — Philippians 3:11
The laying on of hands — 1 Timothy 4:14
Alledged inaccuracies — 2 Samuel 24:13 and 1 Chronicles 21:12
Organisation in divine things — 1 Corinthians 7:23, Galatians 1:10
A castaway — 1 Corinthians 9:27
The day of atonement — Leviticus 23:26-32
Conversions in the Millennium — Psalm 2:12
His entrance on ascension — Hebrews 4:14; 9:11-12
Order of breaking bread
The sabbath — Romans 7:4-6, Galatians 2:19
Two or three — 1 Corinthians 14:29
The man-child — Revelation 12
Lamech — Genesis 4:23-24
His priestly character — Hebrews 4:14; 9:11-12
Christ a propitiation — 1 John 2:2
Sanctification — 1 Thessalonians 5:23
Sanctification of the Spirit — 1 Peter 1:2
Salt — Mark 9:50
God's faithful care — 1 Timothy 4:10
Captivity led captive — Ephesians 4:8
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 15. January 1898.
Q. Revelation 17:9-11. How are we to understand "the seven heads" and "seven kings?" Is it legitimate to take "the seven heads" as 1, Egypt; 2, Assyria; 3, Babylon; 4, Medo-Persia; 5, Greece; 6, Rome; 7, Israel in its apostate state? And is it correct that "the seven kings" can be, 1, Pharaoh; 2, Sennacherib; 3, Belshazzar; 4, Antiochus Epiphanes; 5, Herod; 6, Nero; 7, Napoleon; 8, anti-Christ? F.R.G.S.
A. One of the most important helps everywhere for right interpretation is a firm adhesion to the context. In the present case the object before us is the Beast or Roman Empire, which the Holy Seer beholds in its last form before it goes into perdition. The seven heads are doubly interpreted. They are seven mountains (or hills), whereon the woman sits (compare ver. 18). Rome is the seat geographically, not Jerusalem, nor the plain of Shinar. But they are seven kings, or differing forms of ruling power. The Beast is thus distinguished. There had been, 1, kings; 2, consuls; 3, dictators; 4, decemvers; 5, military tribunes; who held successively and constitutionally the imperium. And these five were fallen. The sixth was actually then in power — emperors. The seventh had not yet come; and it was to be transient. "And the Beast that was and is not, himself also is an eighth, and is of the seven; and he goeth into perdition." Thus the context fixes the heads, not only in connection with a Roman seat, but to the peculiar and complete changes of its ruling powers, explaining that the last is an eighth, and yet one of the seven. It is the imperial form, which had been wounded to death (Rev. 13:3), revived by the dragon as the resurrection-head of the empire rising up at the close against the risen Lord of glory. The introduction of other kingdoms or empires, south, north, and east, long before the Roman empire began, is out of the way imaginative; still more so the strangely unconnected episode, as that of the queried list of kings. Even in the heads, as here mistakenly separated from the kings, to make apostate Israel the seventh head of the Roman empire is a singularly wide if not wild conjecture. Hengstenberg followed by the late Dean Vaughan so took six of the heads, but the seventh to be the ten horns in a cluster! a not much happier guess than Israel, though somewhat more homogeneous. The context suffices to correct all such thoughts. The proposal was to explain the seven heads, which we have in vers. 9-11; then the ten horns, which follow in vers. 12-14.
Q. Acts 20:7-11. Does not this scripture indicate that the remembrance of Christ in His Supper should be kept prominent, and that speaking save in praise, etc., should rather follow? E.P.
A. Certainly the Holy Spirit records apostolic ruling and practice for our guidance, lest we should yield to the habits of Christendom. It was not "preaching" as in the A.V., but a discourse to the saints, prolonged unusually, because the apostle was about to depart on the morrow. Yet here as elsewhere no rigid rule is laid down, and an exception might be due to urgent need of a special kind. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." But undoubtedly it is well to learn from those given by the grace of Christ to teach us His ways in every assembly. Common sense, excellent for the world, is out of court for the church. We are called to walk by faith, not by sight, and are sanctified to obedience.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 32. February 1898.
Q. Can the little horn of Daniel 7 be the last Roman Emperor? Is he not rather the Jewish Anti-Christ? On the one hand the ten Horns are not the beast, nor is the little Horn which comes up among them, and destroys three of the first Horns. And as the Beast was destroyed because of the great words the Horn spoke, their distinction is clear on the other. Taking the little Horn as the Wilful King, or the Anti-Christ, he is the Beast's minion, and corresponds more with the Second Beast of Revelation 13. He has all cunning (eyes like those of man), pleases the Beast, and represents him, though a distinct personage. (condensed from) L.P.
A. It is quite true that John's Anti-Christ (or wilful king of Daniel 11:36 et seqq.), being the subordinate of the Beast as to earthly power, is the Second Beast or false prophet, the highest pretender to spiritual eminence and energy, answering to the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2. They are, one no less than the other, worshipped, and they perish together in the lake of fire (Revelation 19). But the Roman empire, or first Beast of Revelation 13, has a chief; and this clearly the little Horn, which came up after the ten, dispossessed three, and became the dominant power, to which the rest gave their kingdom as vassals. Daniel 7 alone gives the historic details. It is the once little Horn become great, whose pride and blasphemies brought judgment on the imperial Beast as a whole.
In the Revelation, which gives character rather than history, it is the Beast that said and did what its last ruler said and did. Compare Daniel 7:8-11, 20, 21, 24, 25, with Revelation 13:4-7. This solves the difficulty. The Revelation therefore does not distinguish this last Horn as such like Daniel, but attributes to the Beast in its last form what Daniel predicates historically of the little Horn. So true is this, that Revelation 17:11 identifies the Beast or Roman empire with the eighth resurrection head, which answers to Daniel's little Horn; and in ver. 12 takes no notice of the then fallen Horns. John speaks of the characteristic ten Horns. There is the clearest guard against confounding him with the second Beast, the lawless king in Judea (Anti-Christ).
There is no doubt that the Roman imperial Horn is said to have "eyes like the eyes of a man"; but this only symbolises his extraordinary intelligence and insight humanly. The second Beast pretends to give breath and speech to the inanimate, as well as to call fire from heaven in the sight of men — the crucial proof of Jehovah as God against Baal in Elijah's day. Again, it is certain that the Roman prince in Daniel 9 causes sacrifice and oblation to cease in the temple; so that his thinking to change times and laws was quite consistent with Daniel 7, instead of bringing the Anti-Christ into what belongs to the Roman power. But as they are confederates, it is easy to identify them mistakenly.
We must also beware of the still more prevalent confusion of the little Horn of Daniel 8 with either the Emperor in Rome or the Anti-Christ in Jerusalem. He is the enemy of both, being "the Assyrian" of the prophets in general, and the "king of the north," whose last doings and end we read of in Daniel 11:40-45. He is destroyed no less signally than the Beast and the False Prophet soon after their awful catastrophe.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 47. March 1898.
Q. What will be the position of the Continents of America, Australia, etc., with their populations in the coming crisis? Will they be under the Roman Beast?
A. I am not aware of any distinct reference to the continent of America in the scriptures. But in a general way it appears to me that "the waters" on which the great Harlot Babylon sits (as in Revelation 17), include its population on all sides of the world. It was, we do not doubt, peopled not only by migratory hordes of Chinese, etc. across Behring's Sraits, but by Icelanders, Norwegians, etc., who are believed on sufficient grounds to have made their way there little after A.D. 1000, and therefore many centuries before its discovery by Christopher Columbus, who opened it to the enterprise of Europe.
But it seems plain that the American or the Australasian lands and races cannot find themselves under the Roman Beast. For it, as I understand, is exclusively western, and does not comprehend even Greece or Macedonia, still less the properly Medo-Persian or Babylonish empires. Hence in Daniel 2 the gold, the silver, and the brass, are seen at the end when judgment falls, no less than the iron and clay, the symbol of the Roman empire. Compare also Daniel 7:12. It is an error to make the range of the Beast, and of his Jewish ally, the Anti-Christ, universal. We must leave room for a great adversary in the king of the north or the Assyrian, and for God, the chief of the Russian races, behind that king, and after him.
It may however be well to add that the late Mr. E.B. Elliott (in the Horae Apoc. ii. 73, fifth edition) imagined that there is a more direct allusion to the discovery of America, if not of Australasia, in Revelation 10:2 (latter clause). He naturally says little, and is somewhat indefinite, but as usual confident. It is the end of footnote,3 though the reference in the General Index might lead one to expect more. "Dr. S. R. Maitland thinks it strange that no notice should have been taken in the Apocalypse of the discovery of America, supposing it a prophecy of the history of Christendom. (Remarks on Christian Guardian, p. 120). If I am correct in my understanding of the vision before us, the supposed omission does not exist." This is all the notice I can find in his four large volumes.
Q. John 14:2. Does the Lord by the "many mansions" mean equality of reward for His labourers? M.L.
A. It is rather His unjealous love in giving all His own the place of intimate nearness to the Father which He alone was entitled to enjoy as the risen Son of God. On the contrary each will receive his own reward according to his own labour (1 Corinthians 3:8). In the kingdom, as we are taught in the parable (Luke 19), one is to have authority over ten cities, another over five. But the Father's house rises wholly above such differences, and His children alike share it with Christ. It is the answer, not to their services, but to His redemption, His infinite love and His glory, Who would have told us if it were not so. There was indeed room for all His own. He was far from holding out too sanguine a hope. He would at His coming have them with Himself where He was going.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 63. April 1860.
Q. Hebrews 9:12. Is it legitimate to infer that this verse speaks of our Lord as entering the holies as a separate spirit before He rose and ascended? Μαθ.
A. Not only is there not a tittle of scriptural evidence pointing in that direction; but other scriptures speak of His entrance, not in that transitional condition, but when become for ever high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Compare especially Hebrews 6:20. Nor is this all. For the verse itself precludes all but one entrance to this end, though all admit our Lord's presence in the disembodied state in Paradise. But the word here is that "by His own blood He entered once for all into the holies, having found an everlasting redemption." This is simple, plain and decisive.
Q. Romans 16:17. What sort of offenders is meant by "those causing the divisions and stumbling blocks," whom the apostle called the saints to avoid? Y.T.
A. They were as yet different from the separatists of Titus 3:10-11. "Heretic" as in the Auth. V. gives a misleading sense; for in modern usage it means "heterodox." This is not intended, but one forming a part or sect outside, to which schism ever drifts. Therefore in 1 Corinthians 11:18-19, the apostle says, "I hear there exist schisms among you, and I in some part believe it. For there must even be sects [heresies] among you, that the approved may become manifest among you." It is not that schisms must lead to heterodoxy, but that, if not judged, parties within (or schisms) naturally land in an outside party or sect. When this happens, disciplinary action is foreclosed. They have gone without. Such are perverted, and sin, being self-condemned to all who know what is due to the Lord, and what the assembly of God is.
But the case in Romans 16 is an earlier stage. It supposes self-confident and restless zeal inside, inconsistent with the teaching already learnt by the saints, and reckless of the pain, shame, evil, and danger created by striving after innovations without spiritual warrant. In accordance with the word is the amplest scope for every kind and measure of true gift; and gift ordinarily is apt to be over-estimated, as we see it was in Corinth and is today. But the self-seeking and self-important are never satisfied with the place of subjection which scripture claims from us in deference to our Lord. Hence the desire for popularity and excitement. "From among you own selves," warned the apostle, "shall rise up men speaking perverted things to draw away the disciples after them." For such men chafe under the protests and reproofs, urged by spiritual experience and insight into scripture, to save them from a course as dishonouring to the Lord as ruinous to themselves and any swayed by them.
Those in our day gathered to the Lord's name have laboured in and according to His word for near seventy years; about the same time it was from Pentecost till the canon of scripture closed and the apostle John died. Gifts various and great abounded then; as by grace in their measure they were not lacking in our day. Yet no man ever rose up so presumptuous as to organise what is called an "all-day-ministry." We have known offenders, some of them men of light and leading, who fell away now and then; but no one so much as proposed what on the face of it is outside the teaching of the apostles and their fellowship.* This was enough for ordinarily faithful men. Even the bold did not dare to canvass, still less to carry out, a device unauthorised by God's word. Our profession was to have left human associations and plans, no matter how many pious persons might sustain them. We took, and are resolved in divine mercy to keep, the only hallowed ground of obedience.
(*Indeed this is strictly what the apostle denounces in Romans 16:17. It is not open contradiction to what was taught, but over-stepping, or going along side, instead of being governed by it.)
We eschew therefore all definite authority but the written word. "What is the harm?" is the excuse of unbelief and disobedience. An apostle might choose a personal companion in ordinary ministry: so may a wise brother now; but no apostle ever arranged anything even resembling an "all-day-ministry." This settles the matter to faith; and one can but grieve over the want of faith which thought of action so unscriptural, borrowed by rash inexperience from the bustling spirit of the age. Where Christians do not own the Spirit's presence any more than subjection to scripture alone, such methods are natural. But how sad that any who professed to turn their back on such unfaithfulness should do the utmost to foist in among us an unquestionable departure from the word! For it has not the paltry merit of an invention, but is a plain imitation of a novel fashion even in fallen decrepit Christendom. "The time shall be," said the sorrowing apostle in his last Epistle, "when they will not endure sound teaching, but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers according to their lusts, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables." (2 Timothy 4.)
May grace preserve us from such an issue! If we are to be kept, it is and must be as sanctified by the truth. And sanctification of the Spirit from the starting-point is "unto obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." What then does the apostle prescribe, when there are those that cause divisions and stumbling-blocks contrary to the teaching we learned? He commands us in the Lord's name to "mark" and "avoid them." It is no question of "division" in the sense of people gone out, but that such innovating work habitually gathers a group of unsuspecting supporters, in opposition to what the mass of saints have ever believed and practised. Were there a scrap of modesty or active grace, the remonstrance of those whom scripture calls "chief men among the brethren" would have peacefully hindered the project; whereas to the self-willed that is only another incentive to go on at all cost. In such a state one's own way is dearer than anything else; and people are not wanting to back it. As the apostle adds, "They that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the guileless."
Tender conscience shows itself in readiness to obey the word of the Lord. Our bounden duty is, not to put such misleaders away, but to keep clear of sanctioning them in any way, till they abandon their wrong course and are content themselves to obey. There is holiness, not hardship, in that. "If any one think to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the assemblies of God." As long as the agitation continues, the wilful who persist ought distinctly to forfeit the confidence of the godly. More is at stake than the disorder of women's independence about a veil, though the apostle ruled this to be intolerable, even if they were prophetesses. Those that serve in the word are surely bound to submit to it themselves. It is no question of liberty to minister, which all own to be of God, but of a new-fangled license to organise the word of others; which is not only unscriptural but trenches on the Lordship of Christ and the ways of the Holy Spirit as revealed by the word.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 79. May 1898.
Q. It is acknowledged that the Lord will reign in Zion (Psalm 2, Psalm 99; Isaiah 2, Isaiah 8, Isaiah 12, Isaiah 24, etc.; Zechariah 2, Zechariah 8, etc.) Yet it is drawn from the N.T. that His or our especial scene of glory will be in heaven. How can this be? R.
A. Few truths are more important, whether one thinks of Christ or of the church. It is a question of the purpose of God, hidden in the ages and dispensations, but now brought to light formally and fully by the apostle Paul. Take Ephesians 1:9-11 as a grand unfolding of it, where we learn that for the administration of the fulness of the times (or seasons) God will gather together (or head up) in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; in Him in Whom also we obtained (or were given) inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.
This rises incomparably beyond the kingdom in Zion, or the yet larger dominion of the Son of man, both of which will assuredly be accomplished "in that day." It is even beyond all the promises to which the O.T. saints have just claim, and wherein no disappointments shall ever be. But grace gave to the apostle to reveal the divine counsel of setting Christ at the Head of all creation, the Heir as the Creator of all, now His (as the Epistle to the Colossians shows) on the ground of reconciliation. He is thus constituted the glorified Head over all, as we now know by faith. And "that day," which proclaims Messiah's reign over the land of promise with Israel renewed as His people, and all nations and tribes circling round Israel and subject to the Son of man, will make known the still more wondrous glory of our Lord over all things heavenly, angels, principalities, etc., with the church in the same glory His bride as now His body.
When this characteristic truth of the N.T. dawns on the soul, a crowd of scriptures confirm it. Thus in Matthew 6 our Lord taught His disciples to pray for "Thy" (i.e. the Father's) kingdom to come, as well as His will to be done on earth. The Father's kingdom is as distinctly heavenly as the Son of man's is earthly: so Matthew 13:41-43 clearly proves. The risen saints shine as the sun, which is not earthly, in their Father's kingdom; whereas the Son of man by His angels executes judgment on all offences and unrighteous persons in His kingdom as manifestly on earth. But it will be the day for His exaltation manifested on high as well as here below, being the Son of the Father and set by God over all things heavenly and earthly.
Then John 14 is unmistakable that our special hope of blessedness is not merely reigning with Christ, as all suffering saints shall, but that He is coming to receive us to Himself in the Father's house where He now is. And the great N.T. prophecy shows us (Revelation 21:9 to the end) the bride the Lamb's wife the centre of heavenly and universal glory; as the O.T. is equally clear that Zion will be for all the peoples of the earth, then owning Israel to be the seed which Jehovah has blessed and set at the hand of all nations under the great King, Himself Jehovah-Messiah.
So Romans 8:16-17, designates the Christians as God's children. "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ." This goes far beyond the earth; as Romans 5:17 cannot be limited to the millennial reign.
Again, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, teaches that we shall judge the world — nay more, judge angels. And 1 Corinthians 15:48-49, distinctly calls us even now "heavenly" in title, after the pattern of the Heavenly One, and points on to our bearing that heavenly image, as we have now borne the image of the earthly (Adam's ).
But instead of gathering up other intimations, look at the glorious type of that day furnished by Genesis 14 where Melchizedek meets Abram victorious over the foe in the hour of their short triumph, and pronounces him blessed of the most High God, possessor of heaven and earth; as he blesses the most High God Who had delivered his enemies into his hand. Christ is even now, as the Epistle to the Hebrews teaches, priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek; but He will exercise its privileges in the blessings of that day of blessing. One might add many a glimpse in the types of Joseph, and of Moses, as well as in that of the sanctuary. But enough is said to show the blank left by looking no higher than the earth for the Lord in that day. If nature abhors a vacuum, the Christian in hope awaits glory in the heavens for Christ and the church, while fully assured that the glory of Jehovah and the knowledge of it shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 96. June 1898.
Q. Does John 1:5 refer to the Word when incarnate as in vers. 9, 14? or to His action as light in the ages before? W.S.L.B.
A. I am not disposed to limit verse 5 to the Lord when He became flesh. As He was ever the object of faith for fallen man, so He appeared and spoke in testimony from the earliest days; and this was the action of divine light to faith, while the darkness apprehended it not, but liked better the deceits of the enemy and the spurious devices and imaginations of man far from God. The True Light, in coming into the world, sets every man in the light as never before; so that there was a vast increase of privilege, and hence of responsibility. It could not be otherwise, when such a One became Man and tabernacled here below, full of grace and truth.
Q. Is it true that a servant of the Lord, acting out of his own zeal without God's word, must be left free even of remonstrance beyond private? C.H.R.
A. Nothing can be more opposed to both letter and spirit of scripture. Of all who call on the Lord's name, Christ's true minister is bound to be the most submissive to His word. For with what face could he enjoin the saints to submit to the word, if he himself claimed exemption, instead of being an example in faith, obedience, and humility? All alike are sanctified by the truth, all chosen in sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, on the pattern of our Master, in its perfection. "If any one think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write to you are the commandment of the Lord. But if any one is ignorant, let him be ignorant." (1 Corinthians 14:37-38). Condemnation more cutting cannot be of those who pleaded their little gifts for setting up personal independency or some new thing.
No doubt, we are not bound to be hirelings of denominations, and should not seek to please men, as is done by adopting human methods. If the church is one, it does not admit of men's ways (1 Corinthians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 7:17; 1 Corinthians 11:1-2). We have to persevere in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, remembering that ministry means not mastery but service, the service of Christ, and of every one for His sake. But, even the greatest gift and highest office, if it went wrong, was liable not only to private remonstrance but to public rebuke. So we find Peter solemnly blamed before all for what many, and very probably the majority, must have thought the venial change of ceasing to eat with the Gentiles. To Paul it was dissembling, and an offence against the truth of the gospel.
Who of us ever heard so egregious and unfounded an assumption since the days of 1845? Then a like piece of ministerial irresponsibility was sought to be based on the metaphor of a shepherd. His place was to judge the sheep, not they him!
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 96. June 1898.
Q. How are we to regard such scriptures as Jeremiah 51:39, 57, Revelation 14:10-11? J.L.H.
A. The "perpetual sleep" is through man's day with which the O.T. was conversant. The Chaldean Babylon should never wake. And so it has been. Revelation 14:10-11 pierces more deeply as divine judgment on individual worshippers of God's enemy, and "for ever" has the unlimited force of the N.T. Christ has brought to light, not only life and incorruption, but the second death and everlasting judgment. "Seventy years" in no way measure Babylon's doom, but the chastening of the land and people of Judæa; and the rejection of the Messiah has again sealed their desolations till the day of Jehovah brings them deliverance.
Q. 1 Corinthians 15:52. What is the connection, if any, between the last trumpet here, and the last of the seven in Revelation 11? M.A.
A. The figure of the trumpet sounding, and of the final one, is common to both; but the connection of each is wholly different. In Revelation 11 it is the culmination of God's loud warnings of judgment, after both Judaism and Christendom had run their sad, sinful, and apostate course. The day of Jehovah follows. In 1 Corinthians 15 it is the close of the Christian testimony in the triumph announced by that figure when the risen Lord not only raises the dead saints but changes the living at His coming. "The last trump" seems to be drawn from what all in that day knew so familiarly, the final signal when, after preparatory tokens to guide, the last sound was given for a Roman legion to quit their old encampment and march.
Q. What is the difference between ἂνευ and χοωῖς, as both mean "without"? D.
A. The first expresses privation or non-existence; the second only separation or apartness. Thus on the one hand Matthew 10:29 denies the exclusion or non-existence of their Father's care in the least thing; 1 Peter 3:1 shows how unbelieving husbands may be won absolutely without the word by the pious conduct of saintly wives; and 1 Peter 4:9 would have hospitality quite without a murmur. On the other hand Matthew 13:34 and Mark 4:34 only assert that apart from parables He spake nothing then. So Matthew 14:21 and Matthew 15:38 may not deny the presence of women and children, as ἂνευ would, but do not count them. In John 1:3, John 15:5, χωρὶς alone suits: apart from Him did not anything come into being; apart from Him the disciples can produce no fruit. So Romans 3:21 does not negative the existence or importance of law, but shows that God's righteousness is now manifested apart from law. In Romans 4:6 ἂνευ (privation) of works would never do, but χωρὶς apart from them.
Q. What is the Lord's way of bringing the dead saints in company with the living ones into the kingdom at His coming? A.W.
A. The answer is given expressly in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. It was raised by the death of some believers at Thessalonica to the astonishment of their brethren. So full of immediate expectation were they as to be stumbled by the event. They had exceeded the error of those in Jerusalem who wrongly inferred that John was not to die, but to be found alive when the Lord came. The Thessalonians still more extravagantly assumed that no Christian could die before it. But neither the Lord in the Gospels nor the Holy Spirit when come gave any warrant for it. Again, the martyrdom of Stephen and James (son of Zebedee) was so publicly known, to speak of nothing else, as to prove its fallacy by the simple facts. Nor can we doubt that many had already fallen asleep both in Judæa and among the nations.
The apostle here therefore explains how the Lord will act at His coming. So far from unavailing sorrow and unintelligent disappointment, they should rejoice that God will bring with Jesus those put to sleep by Him. This will be for introducing the kingdom: but how? Are not the living to precede those that sleep? Certainly not. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with an assembling shout, with archangel's voice, and with the trump of God; and instead of being anticipated, still less of losing their place in the kingdom, "the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we the living that survive shall be caught up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord." He comes for the saints, dead and living, to be thenceforward for ever with Him; so that, when the moment arrives to come in His kingdom and in the execution of the judgment that precedes its establishment in peace, they all follow Him out of heaven, and are manifested with Him in glory. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:23, 51, 52; Colossians 3:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Jude 1:4; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:14.
Q. What do you gather from Jude 9? J.D.P.
A. We know from Daniel 12 that to Michael the archangel is confided by God the chief place of guardianship over Israel. He it is who "at the time of the end," when the final collision of the powers rages in and around Jerusalem, shall stand up for the children of Daniel's people. It was no new interest of his. Jude was inspired to recall the thrilling fact of the unseen world, that even so early as Moses' death there was a contention between him and the devil about the dead body. Doubtless the adversary's aim as ever was to deceive and destroy thereby; and it may be by setting up for adoration that relic of him whom when living he stirred them up to disobey, oppose, and revile. Even Michael railed not against Satan but said, Jehovah rebuke thee. Compare Zechariah 3. It is for the vilest to revile those whom God honours in any way. Jude helps to fill in the sketch drawn in Deuteronomy 34:6.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 127 August 1898.
Q. Ephesians 4:8. What means "He led captivity captive"? Did the Lord go anywhere but to Paradise after dying? Does Luke 16:23 mean, after death, a risen state?
A. Christ in ascending led captive the evil powers which held man captive previously. It had nothing to do with the O.T. saints or any others. The Lord after death went to Paradise where His Father received His Spirit. It was in Hades, not yet Gehenna, that the rich man lifted up his eyes, being in torments. The express object of the parable is to show the great and immediate change in the unseen state for the believer, no matter how at ease here. Resurrection or final judgment is not in question. The converted robber on dying joined the Lord in Paradise. Abraham's bosom, the blessed expression before, was not suitable for Him and His now, though both speak of bliss in heaven; and Paradise still remains for the risen and glorified by-and-by (Revelation 2:7).
Q. Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 8:4, Hebrews 9:12. How are these texts to be applied and held consistently with Leviticus 16 to which allusion is made? S.B.
A. The first text refers to the exceptional action of Aaron as representing first his own house, next the people, on Atonement-day. The second presents the normal place of Christ's priesthood on high. The third speaks of Christ's entrance there once for all, not by His personal perfection which would have been for Himself alone, but by His own blood in infinite efficacy, having found an eternal redemption. Leviticus 16 figures this and more even to the restoration of Israel by-and-by as a shadow, not the very image which the N.T. alone gives. Nor indeed does the Epistle disclose the union of the body with the Head; but it fully reveals that entrance of the Lord into heaven once for all, due alike to His person and His work.
Q. Hebrews 10:29. (1) Those persons guilty of renouncing Christ's sacrifice, and objects of divine judgment to the last degree, in what way can it be said that such were sanctified by the blood of the covenant? Also (2) 1 Peter 4:17, what is meant by the time is come when judgment must begin at the house of God, and the end of those that obey not the gospel of God? R.M.
A. (1) None can be compared for guilt with apostates; and apostates from the gospel are immeasurably worse than from the law. These are the persons in view here. If they now abandoned the infinite sacrifice of the Saviour which they hitherto had confessed, there was no other that could avail for their sins. None had real and everlasting efficacy but that one; and those who gave it up, after owning it, were absolutely resourceless. Only divine judgment awaited them which must be their perdition. Their guilt was despite of grace, and of the Holy Spirit its witness and power. Of course in their case it had been mere profession, and the sanctification but outward in separating them from their Jewish fellows who made the law (that is, their own righteousness under it) their sole dependence before God. They never possessed living faith in Christ; "they only received the knowledge of the truth," of which flesh is quite capable. And what flesh takes up it can as easily give up under trials, which only by grace lead the believer to purge himself practically as well as into a holy deepening acquaintance with God. "For the just shall live by faith," besides receiving remission of sins by Christ's blood.
So (2) the apostle Peter refers to the broad general principle of God, and particularly to Ezekiel 9:6. His house is the special sphere of His moral government; and if departure and disorder be allowed there, there His judgment must begin though it will extend to all mankind and the whole earth. If His people dishonour Him, they must bear the righteous consequences, while grace knows how to save those who are His. Compare 1 Corinthians 11:32. Yet the difficulty of the salvation here spoken of is great, considering their own utter weakness, the many trials in a world of sin, and the exceeding danger from a subtle and sleepless foe. Only God's power and faithfulness could bring His own through the wilderness. Now if this be so with the righteous one who calls on Him as Father and has Him guarding by His power (1 Peter 1:5), if he is saved with a difficulty insuperable save to God; how will it fare with the impious and sinful man? The warning is solemn, the argument plain and forcible, the condition inevitable. We may assuredly apply, as a general maxim, what our Lord said to His amazed disciples of the particular peril for a rich man and his salvation: "With men this is impossible, but with god all things are possible." It is by grace only that any sinful souls are saved, through faith; and this not of themselves, but the gift of God; not of works, lest any one should boast.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 144. September 1898.
Q. Psalm 111:9. What is the strict meaning of the word here translated "reverend?" Does it bear on the official title taken by so-called Christian ministers? J.S., M.D.
A. As the word in question simply means "fearful," "dreadful," "terrible," and is so translated elsewhere in the O.T., it will be obvious that it applies to God as manifesting His ways of old, not at all to its modern usage. There is no real ground therefore for charging the clerical class or its supporters with profane application of Jehovah's title, as is sometimes done. For they give or take the title in the quite different sense of respect paid to a consecrated class. As a matter of fact "reverend" seems a prefix of courtesy in use rather late, not legal or canonical. Its assumption was thus open to the officials of all denominations, without definite right or sanction. Hence as some pious dissenting chiefs despised what the more vulgar seized with eagerness, so the established clergy began sixty years ago to fall back on the more legal style of "clerk," or their distinct ecclesiastical status of vicar, rector, etc., as the case might be. The question was raised in the Courts of Law, and decided in favour of a dissenting tombstone inscription, in which a widow claimed it for her deceased husband. It was proved, it seems, that ancient usage gave "reverend" as a title to lawyers! before it was also accorded to men of ghostly pretensions; so that any exclusive application was invalid. But all such contention was clearly of the world. Therein titles of earthly and present honour have their place. But Christians are not of this world, as Christ is not. God set in the church as He chose; but apostles, prophets, teachers, etc., were not recognizable in the world. And the Lord had solemnly warned His disciples on this head. See Matthew 23:8-12, Mark 10:42-45, Luke 22:24-27. When the cross lost its power both in truth and in practice, flesh asserted itself unblushingly, and the offices of His servants in the church were turned into badges of rank in the world: a chaos which reigns everywhere really, but more or less conspicuously, to this day. Hence the haughtiest offender, even when flaunting his peacock feathers, proclaims himself "servus servorum Dei." Who can wonder that, when carnal vanity and worldly pride (arrogating the right to beat or anathematise fellow-servants) took the place of love and lowliness, hypocrisy and hatred came in like a flood over Christendom! Nor is there real escape from the evil save in unfeigned self-judgment by Christ's word, and cleaving with full purpose of heart to Christ's name, not as Saviour and Lord only, but as centre and Head.
Q. Philippians 3:11. What is its bearing? M.A.
A. The verse is not intended to raise the least doubt or uncertainty in the believer's mind, but to convey the deep blessedness of that glorious goal, the "out-resurrection" from the dead, as the apostle puts it here only. So incomparable was it in his eyes that, in the view grace gave him of it, he welcomed the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, being conformed to His death (as indeed he was to be literally), if in any way to arrive at that wondrous result of Christ's resurrection. He minded no labours nor pains nor shame meanwhile to win and know Christ thus. He would not have his own righteousness if he could, which is of law — nothing but what is by faith of Christ, the righteousness that is of God conditioned by faith: all of His grace, and in His righteousness, and according to Christ both along the way and at the end in glory.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 160. October 1898.
Q. 1 Timothy 4:14. How do you explain this? D.S.T.
A. That the apostle was God's channel in conferring a special gift of grace on Timothy for his work, as we know was done generally on saints not before landed on Christian ground (Acts 19:1-7), is plain and sure. There were prophecies preceding about Timothy, as a prophet or prophets designated Barnabas and Saul at Antioch. Only in the latter case no gift was conveyed. The laying on of hands by their fellow-labourers was no more than the sign of commendation to God's grace for the work given them to do (Acts 13:2-4, Acts 14:26), and was repeated (as we learn from Acts 15:40). Thus to Timothy a spiritual gift was imparted by the imposition of Paul's hands (2 Timothy 1:6), with the accompaniment of the elders (1 Timothy 4:14) who were incapable of conferring the Spirit in any way, but joined by the apostle in that act by way of fellowship. There is no question of "a gift" in Acts 13. Those called in this case had a higher place and a greater gift (see Acts 14:4) than the prophets and teachers, whom the Spirit directed to set them apart for His special mission.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 175. November 1898.
Q. 2 Samuel 24:13 and 1 Chronicles 21:12. Dr. Temple lately said on a public occasion that he had no doubt there were inaccuracies in the O.T., though the writers told the truth as far as they knew it! Still more recently he owned the statement, and referred to the verses above as an instance. Is it mistranslation, or what? W.C.
A. The superficial looseness and irreverent unbelief of the rationalists is too plain; but there is really a choice of explanations in meeting objections of this kind. 1. Numbers are apt to be mistaken in transcription; but this is the inaccuracy of copyists, not of scripture. In this case the Sept. (far the most ancient of versions) gives three years in 2 Samuel as in 2 Chronicles. 2. Difference of design explains away many an apparent discrepancy, the one statement being as true as the other, but not the same. Thus in the earlier book Jehovah is said to have moved David, whereas in the later Satan is the mover: very different aspects, but equally certain, and neither open to just exception. So we see difference in the sum given by Joab to David; in the first 800,000 of Israel and 500,000 of Judah; in the second 1,100,000 and 470,000 respectively. But the lesser number of Israel we find qualified as "valiant men," as those of Judah were given in a round number. Again, in 2 Samuel David bought "the threshing-floor and the oxen" for 50 shekels of silver; yet in 1 Chronicles he gave to Ornan for "the place " 600 shekels of gold. It was not the mere floor for the altar site, but the whole of mount Moriah for the house of Jehovah Elohim as well as for that altar. — It may be noticed too that details of interest are added in each of the accounts, but omitted in the other; and the language, not more notable for similar shades than for dissimilar, is equally striking. Nevertheless who doubts the later writer was familiar with the earlier writing? The one was no less inspired than the other. Had it been a human arrangement, the irresistible impulse would have been to make the two identical. But knowing them both to be inspired of God, neither priest, nor people, nor prophets, nor scribes, dared to lay a sacrilegious hand on either. Assured that Jehovah was the author through the instruments He chose, they left it to faith to receive if they could not explain all the difficulties, and to rationalists to call them "inaccuracies."
Q. 1 Corinthians 7:23, Galatians 1:10. What is organisation in divine things such as ministry?
A. It is arranging the ministry of the word in ways of men without God's will. As the Lord from on high gave the gifts, He controls livingly by His word. His servants are not left to their own discretion, but subject to His direction in scriptures open to all saints. Not only is there doctrine as to its source, character, and nature, but inspired history, that those who walk by faith might have an adequate unvarying standard from God. Well may we cherish the full liberty of the Spirit there laid down; and we cannot depart from the word for the fancied improvements of the age without presumption and error. How far are we from making it good as we ought, even in these islands small as they are, and with so crowded a population according to that holy precedent! Innovation is fatal; for, however pleasing to the superficial, it can only precipitate declension. One can understand per-fervid and erratic ways in those filled with zeal over perishing souls. But those who undertake to instruct the many and needy professors of Christ in Christendom ought assuredly to be patterns of obedience. With what face can they urge the word on others, if they do without it themselves? Do we believe in the sufficiency as well as in the authority of scripture? Is it rich enough in profit, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly fitted unto every good work? Can we add anything of value in God's eyes?
At the meetings called Conferences, prayer and praise, open assemblies, and testimony have scriptural warrant and just proportion. For the christian public a discourse or two at most would convey ample material for profit. But where quantity, not quality, of speech to professing Christians has its monopoly, how sad the principle! and what may not be the issue?
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 208. January 1899.
Q. 1 Corinthians 9:27: is it "a castaway," or only set aside as a servant? B.A.
A. The apostle means, that if a man failed to buffet his body and lead it captive (i.e. gave it licence to sin without conscience) no matter how he preached to others, he should himself be rejected or reprobate. God is not mocked. This was not his own case, though he puts it hypothetically of himself in order to give it the greater emphasis, as he was in the habit of doing. Without holiness no one shall see the Lord.
Q. Leviticus 23:26-32. Is there any good ground why the day of atonement should be interpreted of the judgment seat of Christ? J.S.
A. None whatever. Such an application is wholly incongruous with the Feasts of Jehovah, nor does the order of time favour it save superficially.
For as the earlier series was fulfilled in Christ sacrificed, our passover, with its accompanying feast of unleavened bread, and in the wave-sheaf, with the wave-loaves, there is ver. 22 following up all this, and hinting not only at that harvest which will clear the wheat for the heavenly garner, but at the righteous remnant left here below in the end of the age.
Then is given the later series beginning with the trumpets as a divine summons to awake God's ancient people, the atonement-day as the application of Christ's work in a way (as we know) even more applicable to them than to us by the scapegoat, and last the tabernacles, though there be the eighth day to connect the earthly with the heavenly at the end.
Here all flows on with the simplicity of truth, and in twofold order manifestly required and appropriate; whereas the interpolation of Christ's judgment-seat confuses, dislocates, and destroys what is most distinctive. Atonement-Day is in no way met by our being manifested to God and receiving accordingly. Nor will there be a day of affliction for the glorified in heaven, any more than a call to do no manner of work on pain of destruction. Both statutes are quite in harmony with Israel when they realise the Messiah's death for their sins.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 240. February 1899.
Q. Where in the Psalms or Prophets is justified the belief that there will be conversions in the Millennial age? J.C.J. (U.S.A.)
A. Almost everywhere that we find the work of divine goodness contemplated. Take Psalm 2:12: "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry … Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." All conversions past, present or future, are in this way and no other. They alone are the righteous who fear God then as now. The gospel, which actually goes out in indiscriminate grace, the apostle vindicates to the Jewish objector in Romans 9, Romans 10, by testimonies from the Law, Psalms and Prophets which anticipate that day. It will be the harvest. We are but a sort of first-fruits, though called to "some better thing," as Hebrews 11:40 speaks, as compared even with "the elders." But the ingathering great as to extent awaits that day. All must bow to the Lord, "King over all the earth," as well as "Head over all things;" but all are not converted even then, as Isaiah 65 shows, and on a large scale Revelation 20:7-10. They will previously have rendered but a feigned obedience. Compare Psalm 18:44.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 256. April 1899.
Q. Is it true that Hebrews 4:14, Hebrews 9:11-12 speak of Christ's entrance into heaven when He died, not on His ascension? R.T.
A. It is pure assumption, in order to scrape an appearance of evidence for the strange and unsound doctrine of propitiation made by Christ, not through the blood of His cross, but by His subsequent action as a separate spirit in heaven, by an unintelligent misuse of the types. Hence the pretence that Hebrews 4:14 and Hebrews 9:11-12 refer to His entrance on death as priest! whereas other passages in the Epistle speak of His entrance on ascension as Man! Whosoever is bold enough to draw such a line is on every principle of truth bound to prove his assertion. Those who deny it, as almost if not all believers hitherto, stand on the common character thus far of Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 6:20, Hebrews 8:1, Hebrews 9:24, Hebrews 10:12, with the two texts in question. No one denies the Lord's presence in Paradise immediately after death; no sober Christian has ever confounded this with His entrance after ascension on priestly function. Indeed one of the two texts maintains beyond cavil Christ's entrance once for all into the sanctuary, having obtained eternal redemption. This is the sole entrance which the Epistle contemplates or allows: if any one disputes this, let him try to give an adequate proof. Dean Alford's argument for simultaneity here is at issue with the doctrine of the Epistle. Indeed, ingenious as he was, he is unreliable often for orthodoxy. And as to Greek, think of a scholar coupling ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπε and similar cases with εἰσῆλθεν ἐφάπαξ … , αἰ. λ. εὑάμενος! The rendering of the A. and R. Vv., Green, Davidson, etc., is alone tenable: so the Vulgate, etc.
Q. Is it according to the scriptures for the bread at the Lord's table to be broken before giving thanks? or the wine to be poured out after giving thanks? AN ENQUIRER.
A. The Lord blessed, or gave thanks, before breaking the bread or any distribution of either this or the wine took place. Unity is thus better expressed than after breaking in pieces or pouring into two our more cups. It is not that the memorial is really impaired; but there is wisdom here as everywhere in subjection to scripture. Some talk of thanking for empty plates or cups; but the loaf is there, and so is the cup (as the vessel is called that contains the wine). Emptiness does not apply, whatever the order. The subsequent division is a mere matter of convenience, and unnecessary save where numbers call for it.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 272/303. May 1899.
Q. Is the sabbath part of the law to which the Christian (Romans 7:4-6, Galatians 2:19) died with Christ? or does Genesis 2:3 make it still binding as being before the law and even sin? R.C.
A. Undoubtedly the Christian is declared to have died to the law as well as to sin; and to both without qualification. Grace and new creation have taken us out of Adam's relationship. we are in Christ risen and in heaven, and are told expressly in Colossians 2 that none should judge us in eating or in drinking, or in respect of a feast-day, or a new-moon, or sabbaths. Having died with Christ, we are not, as men living in the world, to subject ourselves to ordinances. This does not hinder but help our enjoying the first day of the week, "the Lord's day" or resurrection, not as in bondage but in liberty, not only for the remembrance of Christ in worship, but for edification also, as well as in the outgoing of heart with the gospel to the lost and burdened. Hence we see how the Lord pointedly wrought His works of mercy on the Sabbath, breaking through the formality of the self-righteous Pharisee; while the devotedness, to which the resurrection of Christ gave so mighty an impulse, deeply offended the rationalism of the easy-going Sadducee. We may notice too how the N.T., while showing our precious place as associated with Christ expressed by the first day (wholly distinct from the sabbath) carefully avoids any reference for it to the law, or even to a fresh commandment. For we are not under law but under grace. Such is Christianity as a whole and essentially. The Lord's day falls under that principle.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 287. June 1899.
Q. 1 Corinthians 14:29. Does the restriction to "two or three" apply at present and always? Does it bear on what is commonly called an "open meeting"? H.G.L.
A. It is precisely then that this apostolic direction does apply, that is, when saints come together in assembly character (ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ). This is supposed throughout 1 Corinthians 14. See vers. 4, 5, 12, 19, 23, 26, 30, 34. It does not of course relate to a preaching, or a discourse to the disciples such as Paul gave day by day in the school of Tyrannus. It is the divine regulation of the assembly as such, where the Lord acts by the Spirit working in His sovereign grace. If any one speak there, it is as God's mouthpiece, or oracles. It is not enough that it be true, but, as Peter means by that phrase (1 Peter 4:11), what God would have spoken then and there, the truth intended by Him for the occasion. This would be impossible but by His Spirit. Yet inasmuch as His Spirit is now given, as for every other holy purpose, so for this specifically in the assembly, we are entitled to act on it, to look for it, and to repudiate any other speaking otherwise. "prophesying" in 1 Corinthians 14 is just the word which answers to that phrase in 1 Peter 4:11. If we believe God as to meeting "in assembly," we have the important word from the Lord that even prophesying is not to be overdone. "Two or three" is the limit. There might be not one, or only one, to speak so; "two or three" are allowed, but no more. For others to speak after "two or three" is such human licence as the apostle was correcting in the Corinthians church. Too much is injurious, and neither edifying nor orderly. We cannot speak rightly save in obedience. What the apostle wrote, he wrote for all saints as well as those addressed; and it is for us to recognise it as the Lord's commandment. Let all things be done in comeliness and order. Eagerness to speak, when the Lord gives no warrant but rather prohibition, is disobedience instead of pleasing Him. But man's spirit is as ready to invent rules arbitrarily as to neglect the rules laid down in the word.
Q. Revelation 12. Is the man-child caught up to God and His throne yet future? If so, how do we account for no mention of death and resurrection? C.R.
A. From Revelation 11:19 is a fresh start in the book, as the seventh trumpet in a general way brings us down to the end. This closes the first volume of the Revelation. The second, beginning with that verse which should introduce Revelation 12, tells us, not of "a door opened in heaven," but of "the temple of God that is in heaven opened." God's ark was seen now, the ark of His covenant, though there followed, not only lightnings and voices and thunders, but an earthquake and great hail also. Then were seen signs in heaven: the mother, not the bride, (with supreme government, reflected authority subordinate, and full power in man) yet in travail; and the dragon, wielding the power of the Roman empire, and seeking to devour her child destined to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But the vision omits that work which is the basis of redemption and divine right, and at once shows us Him caught up on high, whilst the woman flees into the wilderness for 1,260 days. It is a mystical presentation of Christ with Whom the church is hidden, as in O.T. figures, caught up to heaven, without date, save that the woman's flight into the wilderness is measures out, during which she is protected but has in no way the glory and power on the earth that is to be her portion. But heaven meanwhile is cleared of the great enemy and his angels; which is plainly future, and cannot be till after the rapture of the saints on high. The accuser of the brethren is not yet expelled. For the N.T. recognises that our wrestling is against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies. But Satan and his emissaries shall surely be cast down, never more to regain access there as now; and the contest for the earth is decided in due time, when He whose right it is shall unite heaven and earth and all things under His sway. Thus the ascension of Christ is mystically identified with that of the heavenly saints; just as what is said of Messiah in Isaiah 50 is applied to Christians in the latter verses of Romans 8. Still more easily is this understood in the symbols of a prophetic book like the Revelation. The signs being seen in heaven does not mean that the object in view is heavenly for the woman any more than for the countless crowd of Gentiles in Revelation 7. The mother is as clearly the earthly people, as the heavenly bride is the church.
Q. Genesis 4:23-24: what do we learn from these verses?
A. As Cain appears to be no obscure type of the unbelieving Jews who rose up against and slew Him Who deigned to be born of that people, and have since been left wandering over the face of the earth; so Lamech appears, in this song to his two wives, to represent the Jew in the latter day confessing his blood-guiltiness, yet looking to be avenged most amply at the end. Thus we know from the prophets it will be with Israel, when a land is brought forth in one day, and a nation is bought at once. For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her sons. Then shall the people, once so guilty yet kept, and henceforth truly penitent at the feet of Messiah, sing, O Jehovah, Thy mercy is for ever.
Q. Hebrews 4:14, Hebrews 9:11-12?
A. It ought to be added to the remarks in page 256, that those who do not distinguish between Christ as Man and as priest, but on the contrary lay the utmost stress on His priestly entrance as a separate spirit, to effect propitiation, quite fail to give the scriptural evidence such a theory demands. The statements of the Epistle to the Hebrews ignore any entrance in that character, save "once for all"; and this beyond fair question was when He ascended on high. They are accordingly not entitled to the distinction supposed in that answer to the query; for their theory supposes His priestly character in the separate state as well as when He ascended, and a (if not, the) most important exercise of the office before the ascension.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 302. July 1899.
Q. 1 John 2:2. Was Christ a propitiation "for the sins of the whole world?" Does John 1:29 teach this? Does 1 Peter 2:24 apply alike to all, believers and unbelievers? W.R.W.
A. It cannot be urged too plainly or often that "the sins of" is an interpolation, not only uncalled for, but an addition which goes beyond the truth and is therefore false, as all exaggerations must be. "For our sins" is in pointed distinction. "For the whole world" is ample ground of encouragement for preaching the gospel to those who are still in unbelief, without warranting the dangerous delusion that the sins of the whole world are gone. This would naturally lead to telling every body that he is forgiven, in open opposition to the general warning of scripture to all the unconverted. Hence it is not just to confound this last member of the sentence with 1 Peter 2:24, which rather coalesces with Christ's being a propitiation for our sins. He was our substitute; when men believe the gospel, we and they can say this of them. But He is a ransom for all, as He is a propitiation for the whole world. John 1:29 goes on to the complete taking away (not "bearing our sins") of the sin of the world, as will be manifested in the new heavens and new earth, like Hebrews 9:26. The sacrifice is already offered and accepted; but all its results are not yet come and enjoyed. It will be applied to the millennial age, and completely in the eternal day. To say that judging "according to works" does not mean "sins" is mere quibbling. The "works" of the unbelievers, of the wicked, are nothing but "sins"; for which, when raised, they will have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone, the second death.
Q. 1 Thessalonians 5:23: how do you explain sanctification here? M.
A. It is sanctification in practice, which all Christians admit and urge. The apostle prays that "the God of peace might sanctify them wholly"; and, not content with this general desire, "that their spirit and soul and body might preserved entire, blamelessly, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The whole man is comprehended, in virtue of the reconciling work on the cross; which awaits redemption in the full sense (Romans 8:23) at Christ's coming. It is the believing man inwardly and outwardly, the mind of flesh or old man already condemned, and all the rest, inner and outer, animated and directed by the indwelling Spirit of God. The higher faculty of man, his spirit, is named first, and the external instrument, his body, last; the soul, if we distinguish the words, is the seat of individuality, the "I" which uses both. It is a heathen notion, though favoured by many moderns, to place the "I" in the spirit; but scripture is distinctly adverse, and the error involves many serious consequences. As to this, Dr. Delitzsch's book is unreliable, though learned and lively.
Q. 1 Peter 1:2: what is meant by sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience?
A. It is sanctification in principle, a truth of deep importance, ignored everywhere in Christendom, by Protestants as well as Romanists, by Calvinists no less than Arminians. For by it is meant true living separation to God from the starting-point of faith, when one is "born of water and Spirit," in a new nature. This cries, as Saul of Tarsus did when converted, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? It is therefore as we see here, "unto obedience"; not only so but to Christ's obedience, not as a Jew under law, but as a child obeying its Father under grace, even though the sprinkling of the blood or justification had yet to be learnt, however soon it may follow. Hence we read in 1 Corinthians 6:11 "washed, sanctified, justified": the order of which is inexplicable to such as overlook the absolute setting apart, or personal sanctification, of believers from their first breath of new life as "born of God." The washing looks at our previous uncleanness, the sanctification at our separation to God, the justification at our resting on Christ's work of redemption, as the other two precede and go together.
If any one wishes to see the havoc done to scripture by a pious and learned man, though confounding these two sense of sanctification, both equally true and essential to Christian intelligence, let him consider Th. de Bèze's version of 1 Peter 1 and the notes in any of his five folio editions of the Greek Testament; in which he makes κατὰ = ex! ἐν = ad! and εἰς = per! It is a total and inexcusable falsification through prejudice. Verse 15 and 16 of the same chapter do exhort to actual day by day holiness or sanctification in practice. Popery and Puseyism confound justification with practical sanctification to the loss of the truth as to both. The great value of the truth, so generally found wanting, can hardly be exaggerated, Romish theology being utter confusion and that of the Puritan partial and onesided. Scripture alone is the truth which co-ordinates, and is worthy of all trust.
Again, the Authorised and the Revised Versions are fairly correct: elect "according to." But "by" is better than "through"; and "in" is equivalent to "by," as it here can only mean "by virtue, or in the power, of." And both agree in rendering "unto" obedience, which is alone right or possible on any sound principle. We are called to obey, as Christ obeyed, filially, and not in the bondage of the law like Israel; whilst instead of having the blood of victims as its sanction threatening death on failure, we have the sprinkling of His blood cleansing us from all sin.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 320. August 1899.
Q. Mark 9:50. Has "salt" any meaning beyond preservative purity? M.
A. Genesis 19:26 is clearly not the consecrating principle but judicial infliction. For Lot's wife disobeying at such a time became an abiding monument of divine judgment. So too, if Israel rebelled and fell under the curse, Jehovah declared that their whole ground should be brimstone and salt, like the overthrow of Sodom (Deuteronomy 29:23). The N.T. adds the awful figure of salt losing its savour, and hence, as proper neither for land nor for dung, to be cast out. Grace does effect not only love but separateness to God in the believer. Easy-going unbelief destroys all savour in those that bear the Lord's name without self-judgment. What must the end of this be? Not only unrighteousness but apostasy.
Q. 1 Timothy 4:10. does this apostolic sentence countenance universal redemption? L.C.H.
A. In no way. The reference is, not to Christ's work, but to God's faithful care of His creatures, His children especially, in providence day by day. Where is the propriety of reading the salvation of men's souls in the terms of the verse? where, the consistency with other scriptures, which declare that only those who believe shall be saved, and that the mass, being inpenitent and unbelieving, must perish? "For unto this we labour and suffer reproach [or, strive], because we have our hope set on a living God, who is preserver of all men, specially of faithful ones." It is God as appealed to in Job 7:20, and even more widely in Psalm 36:6. Compare Judges 3:9, Nehemiah 9:7, Obadiah 20. There is no mention or thought of Christ's death even in the way of purchase, still less of redemption. It is a living God as Saviour in present labours and trials; and this goodness of His is real toward every child of man, especially toward believers. Apply it to the salvation of the soul, and the comfort evaporates; for all are thus thrown into confusion and uncertainty. If those who are Christ's be only in degree more saved than such as reject Him and perish, theirs would be indeed a little and sorry salvation to the denial of life eternal and everlasting redemption. Any application of the kind would dishonour Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as it contradicts the scriptures. Indeed it would be nonsense to speak of saving the souls of all men, especially of the faithful. The fact is, the apostle treats of a wholly different subject: the sure ground of confiding in a living God for the path here below. As in wisdom He made all, so does He care for all compassionately, even in a sinful and ruined world, especially for such as look up to Him in the faith which strengthens them to labour and suffer with joyfulness.
Bible Treasury Volume N2, p. 335. September 1899.
Q. Ephesians 4:8. What is meant by "captivity led captive?" Can it imply (as some besides Romanists, Lutherans, etc. think) the O.T. taken then on high? Does Luke 16 bear on it? H.G.L.
A. The expression first occurs in Judges 5:12, where it means that Barak was called to lead captive those who had haughtily oppressed Israel. So also in Psalm 68:18 the risen and ascended Lord is celebrated in terms drawn from warfare as victorious over the mightiest powers of evil. There is no sound reason to doubt that in the Epistle the sense is the same, applied yet more loftily but within His mind Who ever looked on to Christ. Some have gone so far as to suppose an active force in the word αἰχμαλωσία. But there is no need to go beyond the ordinary usage, and the Hebraistic emphasis. That they had been captors before being thus emphatically led captive is no doubt true; but it is not expressed in the phrase itself, which simply but intensely expresses the completeness with which they were vanquished. Colossians 2:15 describes the same victory over him that had the power of death and his angels in a manner suited to that great Epistle. Their might is annulled in the cross, which seemed Christ's defeat but is the ground of His triumph. This was indeed a captivity led captive. And He who received gifts in man (or in that capacity) gave gifts to men.
It would be altogether harsh to imagine any reference to the saints before Christ. There ought to be proof from other scriptures that they were alluded to as at that time within the cortège of the Saviour's triumph. Certainly neither 1 Peter 3:19 nor 1 Peter 4:6 has the smallest bearing on it.
Nor does Ephesians 4:9 give countenance to any descent of the Lord to carry on high the departed saints. Granted, that the verse does not express His descent as the Son from heaven to become man; but it goes no farther than His descent when a man on earth to the grave. He tasted death, truly died, and was buried. Jehovah would not leave His soul in Sheol or Hades, nor suffer His pious One to see corruption. He that descended so low ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. But Ephesians 6:12 does present the solemn truth of spiritual powers of evil in the heavenlies, with whom, instead of being yet expelled, we have now to contend in energy of the Holy Spirit. Through these world-rulers of this darkness the Lord did pass victorious in His ascent through the heavens to the throne of God. Possibly the marginal alternative of "a multitude of captives" captivates persons of an imaginative turn of mind, who are under the delusion that such alternatives are more faithful than the text. Here it appears that it is not mere "multitude" which is the point, but the completeness of His victory over the enemy. Yet in any case there was a multitude.
Is it a plausible interpretation that the Holy Spirit would apply a figure from vanquished foes to the O.T. saints of God? And this, not referring to their evil condition when living in sins, but when turned to God from idols, or from iniquities off any and every kind, and even after they had departed from this life? Would it not be a strangely violent and ungenial account to describe them at the Saviour's ascension as "captives"? On the other hand, it is not only intelligible, but unforced and accurate, to speak of the spiritual hosts of wickedness as a "captivity" which Christ then "led captive." Him alone it became, and He alone was capable of it.
Luke 16:9 shows us everlasting habitations awaiting those who sacrifice the present in view of the heavenly future; as the story of the rich man and Lazarus (19, etc.) assures of the blessedness that follows on the death of the righteous, and the terrible lot after decease of the selfish man. It is not here after resurrection, but after death.