Two Views of the History of the Church (1)
The suggestions that follow as to the history of the professing church on earth pursue lines of illustration taken from two passages of Scripture. They do not expound those two passages but are made with the desire that the consideration of them will produce a walk in the ways and spirit suitable to that period of the church's history in which we are living. Both passages will be compared with the letters to the seven assemblies in Revelation 2 and 3.
In making this comparison it should be remembered that the book of Revelation doesn't present the church as the body of Christ, but rather as a vessel of testimony originally set in this position by God and responsible to Him about the witness that it renders. This is what is judged; not the body of Christ, but the testifying vessel in this present dispensation, a dispensation committed to man's responsibility. Hence what publicly takes the place of being the church remains even through the tribulation.
In this first article a journey of the apostle Paul will be considered in order to see the effects of neglecting or receiving the truths which were particularly entrusted to him. In the second article the life of Samson will be compared to the various phases of the history of the church with the objective of learning various moral lessons.
In following this line of comparison with Revelation 2 and 3, two things must be kept in mind:
Paul's sad remark in 2 Timothy 1:15 that, “all who are in Asia, … have turned away from me,” and
The historical presentation of the assembly of God in the Acts.
Men have said that Luke, in his desire to write with method to Theophilus, didn't know where to stop. Of course, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the Acts, but there is a measure of truth in what men say. Luke couldn't stop with his Gospel. The Man Christ Jesus ascended to heaven and so the Acts gives something of the historical consequences of His being there. Where do you stop a history? Man's ability to record history ceases when the present moment is reached but God knows the end from the beginning. Does the history of the assembly in Acts cease suddenly at the end of Acts 26, to be replaced with interesting details as to shipping and transport in the first century, followed by a detailed survey of things to be understood merely in terms of earthly significance? Surely not. God knows the end from the beginning and loves to bring us into communion with Himself in revealing it to us. Nevertheless He knows the character of our hearts. The history of the vessel of testimony must be presented in a mystical way and be interpreted with spiritual understanding. This is true of both Paul's voyage and of the addresses to the seven assemblies. God knew of the assembly's future and He desired to communicate it to us, but to do so in a manner which would leave full room for our expecting the Lord's coming at any moment.
The entire history is there. It doesn't stop at chapter 26 but continues thereafter in a mystical way. In 2 Timothy 1:15 they had turned away from Paul; they had not apostatized from Christ. In Acts 27 it is Paul personally and his counsel that are in view. Without being dogmatic we can trace the history of the assembly in relation to the way the unique truths committed to Paul, which characterise Christianity, have been treated by Christians to the present day.
The Shipwreck in Acts 27. Chapter Outline
1. Introductory. Julius in charge.
2. Ship of Adramyttium.
3. One day to Sidon. Paul allowed to see friends.
4. Sailing under shelter of Cyprus due to contrary winds.
5. Over the waters of Cilicia and Pamphylia.
Arrived at Myra in Lycia.
6. Ship of Alexandria. Bound for Italy.
7. Sailing slow at first due to wind, up until Cnidus.
Redirected down to Crete. Sailed in its shelter with difficulty.
8. Arrived at Fair Havens near the city of Lasaea.
9. much time spent.
10. Paul's counsel. Disaster ahead.
11. Centurion believed rather the helmsman and owner.
12. majority suggestion to leave for Phoenice, a better port.
13. Sailing. Gentle south wind. Confidence. Sailed close to Crete.
14. Not long after — hurricane. Euroclydon.
15. driven by wind
16. under shelter of Clauda, able themselves to master ship.
17. used helps, frapping the ship.
feared running aground at Syrtis (quicksands).
18. next day threw cargo overboard
19. third day threw furniture out
20. no sun or stars many days. All hope of salvation lost.
21. Paul's counsel.
(i) Should have listened to him earlier
22. (ii) Predicts no loss of life (God's promise)
26. (iii) Predicts they would arrive at an island
27. 14th night near midnight. Sailors perceived land was near.
28. they confirmed their thoughts by fathoming.
29. fearing rocks they cast four anchors.
30. sailors tried to flee under the pretext of taking out anchors.
31. Paul's counsel. All must abide in the ship.
32. soldiers therefore cut away ropes of lifeboat.
33. Paul's counsel. (i) Eat some food.
35. (ii) Broke bread.
36. All took courage.
37. All 276 numbered and accounted for.
38. When they had had enough food they threw the wheat overboard.
39. They did not recognise the land. Made their own plans.
40. Cast off anchors, loosened rudder, went with wind.
41. Ran aground where 2 seas meet. Prow stuck fast; stern broken.
42. Soldiers want to kill prisoners.
43. No, swim if you can.
44. The rest floated on what they could.
ALL GOT SAFELY TO LAND.
The chapter commences with Paul as a prisoner. It is remarkable that a characteristic feature of the man to whom the peculiar truths of the present dispensation were committed is that of physical suffering and difficulty.
Under law the mark of God's blessing was prosperity in material things. In the present day every blessing is spiritual (Eph. 1:3). Under law blessings could be seen. Today they are apprehended by faith. Paul endured physical privation. He represented a dispensation which is in faith (1 Tim. 1:4). As we trace through the chapter we must not forget that it is not merely Paul personally that is in view, but rather the features and truths peculiar to this dispensation, which were committed to him, and that are represented by him (Col. 1:25-26).
Although a prisoner he was allowed to see his friends (v. 3). The voyage started with full liberty for persevering in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles (Acts 2:42).
The first mark of decline was the cessation of that perseverance. They “set sail thence” (v. 4). The church departed from the teaching and fellowship of the apostles. All in Asia turned away from Paul. In leaving their first love they left Christ as Paul had presented Him. Paul preached “the glad tidings of the glory of the Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4). He preached Christ in glory. In leaving her first love, the church forgot her links with Christ in glory. She did not hold the head (Col. 2:19). As Head, He leads by affection (Eph. 5). This sense of His affection and the response to it was lost.
Ecclesiastical men today still revere the so-called church fathers. Their writings demonstrate the complete turning away from Paul, the leaving of all that pertains to Christ in glory. One who was required, as part of his early training in life, to read their writings, said of them, “the thought of the presence of the Holy Ghost animating living members, or His unfolding the riches or fulness of blessing, flowing from living union (with the Head), never crossed their mindsl.”
1 Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, Volume 14, p. 42.
The part of the voyage from Myra (v. 5), and before arriving at Fair Havens (v. 8), links with the phase of the church's history which was marked by persecution and suffering. The names Myra and Smyrna have the same root — myrrh, giving the thought of suffering. The slow sailing for many days (v. 7) would correspond with “ye shall have tribulation ten days” (Rev. 2:10).
“I know where thou dwellest” (Rev. 2:13). What a change was experienced by the church of God! Instead of persecution, acceptance by the world. Instead of difficult sailing, Fair Havens. The sense of being a pilgrim and a stranger was lost and was replaced by dwelling, “much time having now been spent” (v. 9). Instead of sojourning, settling down. Instead of crying to God on account of persecution, “the fast … was already past” (v. 9 ).
The entire course of disastrous consequences, of which this was but the beginning, was perceived by Paul (v. 10). He spoke of departure and never held out hope of complete recovery (see, for example, Acts 20:29-30; 2 Tim. 3). Nobody believed him (vv. 11, 12). The majority opinion held sway. They thought that if they kept at it things would get better. It was really comfort that they had in mind. Are things different today? Men still cling to the idea that the world will improve, that by the preaching of the gospel the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14); that by moral and social reform and political influence a kingdom will be formed that will never be destroyed (Dan. 2:44); that “by God's grace, by God's strength, we can change the world”; all with a view to settling down here. The heavenly side of Christian truth was and is rejected. Paul's counsel was and is rejected.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
Psalm 119 (17)
(Continued from page 254)
14. NUN — FISH
The name of this letter in Syriac, Chaldee and Arabic, denotes a fish, which appears to have been intended by its original form. This is also its common form in the Phoenician alphabet. Its numerical value is fifty.
Some have seen the idea of continuity in the meaning of this letter, while others regard the strength and energy of the fish to go against the current as being its significance.
Verses 97-120. The Importance of Bible Study
Section Fourteen. Verses 105-112: “The Word of God Gives Direction”
It is like a lamp
Verse 105: NOOR (or NEER) … “ … a light (lamp) (to my feet)”
The idea of giving direction is seen at once in this well known verse: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” We all realise that we need help and direction in our Christian life and walk day by day. How do we get this help and direction? Only through the Word of God.
For our Bible study we always need spiritual illumination: light given by the Holy Spirit so that we may see things as He sees them. The only light in the holy place of the tabernacle was the light shed by the lampstand, which is a beautiful type of the activity of the Holy Spirit.
Israel in the wilderness was guided by a cloud during the day and by a pillar of fire during the night. This again is a beautiful symbol of the Holy Spirit's activity.
We could say that a lamp is needed during the night and the light of the sun during the day. We need both! The difference in Hebrew between lamp and light is small. “Noor” means lamp and “Oor” means light, the difference being just a simple “n.” The “path” is the course we take when our feet actually execute our brain's directions. In every sense we are dependent upon His help, to direct our feet in His path, and then each day during times of prosperity (day) and times of adversity (night) we need the light that His Holy Spirit gives us.
It helps me make decisions
Verse 106: NASAVAT … “I have sworn … ”
“I have sworn, and I will perform … ” This sounds very much like making a vow. The Psalmist is also very sure of himself: “ … I will perform … ”
There is only one Man who could ever rightly have pronounced such words, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). And then: “ … I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do” (John 17:4).
I do not believe that it is right for a New Testament believer to make a vow. Unless we have not really understood the plague of our own hearts, we would not dare trust ourselves to be able to perform what we have promised. It is better to tell the Lord that we love Him truly, and want to please Him, but that we need Him to help us. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
It helps me endure
Verse 107: NAGAHNAHT … “I am afflicted … ”
The word for affliction (anah) here is the same as in verse 67, (see the verse), and means literally, “depressed.”
The writer feels very much afflicted. Does he think he is afflicted beyond his ability to endure? We have a wonderfully comforting promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “There hath no temptation (or affliction) taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
Just because we are Christians does not mean that we will be spared the afflictions and sicknesses and troubles of others. But God understands and gives us grace to bear and to endure. The Psalmist prays: “ … quicken me, O LORD, according unto Thy Word.” He does not know about that abundant life that the Lord Jesus Christ came to bring and to manifest, for that life is the life of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The New Testament believer has the Lord Jesus as his life and that is why we can say, “Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20. See also Col. 3:3-4). “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
It helps me offer praise
Verse 108: NADAHVAT … “ … free offering (of my mouth) … ”
“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God” (Ps. 50:23). A Christian is the only human being who can really sing and be heard in heaven. It is the redeemed who have every reason to sing. Even in the Old Testament we read of saints offering praise to Jehovah. How much more should we, New Testament believers, obey the encouragement in Hebrews 13:15, “By Him, therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name.”
When should a believer sing? On every possible occasion. Paul and Silas were able to sing praises even while suffering physical pain: “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25). Where should Christians sing praises? Wherever they find themselves. Why should believers sing praises? Because it glorifies God, and it is a testimony to others. Praises from the lips of redeemed persons are simply the fruit of the Holy Spirit's activity. Can He use your lips? Also in meetings when the assembly gathers together?
It helps me face life every day
Verse 109: NAFASHI … “My life (soul) (is continually … )”
The Hebrew word naphesh or nephesh can be translated soul, breath, body, creature, or simply life. The Hebrew text here has: “My life is in my palm continually … ” The life here encompasses everything I am and do each day. My total being: me! The believer is always practically in the very jaws of death! We have countless spiritual enemies in the powers of darkness. The verse is a Hebraism signifying a condition of extreme danger. Paul knew that in every city bonds and imprisonment awaited him. His attitude was expressed as follows: “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself … ” (Acts 20:24). “I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). As someone has said: “Paul could look tribulation, or persecution, or sword in the face; and, while he 'carried his soul/life continually in his hand,' in true Christian heroism in the most exalted triumph of faith, he could say in the name of himself and his companions in tribulation — “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors.” ”
Paul also said: “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31). But like the Psalmist who could say: “O Lord … teach me Thy judgments (v. 108), … yet do I not forget thy law,” (v. 109) he wanted to know what the Lord wanted him to do in every situation.
It helps me conquer evil and sin
Verse 110: NAHTHANU … “(The wicked) have given … ”
The fact of being surrounded by enemies continues in this verse. They are scheming and plotting and planning to make the believer stumble and fall. How much we therefore need the Word of God to direct us day by day and moment by moment.
The apostle Peter says: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist, stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). How then can we resist and overcome the enemy? Only by using the Word of God as the sword of the Spirit, and like our Lord Jesus Christ being able to say, “It is written.” If we do that, then we can join the Psalmist and give this testimony: “ … yet I erred not from Thy precepts.” The Lord will keep us, as we stay close to Him.
It will enrich me spiritually
Verse 111: NAHGHALT … “I have inherited … ”
The enemy seeks to rob us of any spiritual blessing or possession we may have. We have received an immense inheritance in and with the Lord Jesus Christ. The enemy cannot take away our salvation and the eternal life which we have in Christ, but we can lose our crown and our reward.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God … ” (1 Peter 1:3-5).
This is our inheritance as New Testament believers and it is heavenly, whereas the believers of the Old Testament looked forward to an earthly inheritance. How infinitely more blessed we are therefore! We can echo the words of the Psalmist: “ … for they are the rejoicing of my heart.” Peter continues in that first chapter, verse 6: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice (i.e. in that inheritance!), though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.”
It helps me do His will
Verse 112: NAHTAHT … “I have bowed … ”
We are back at verse 106 where he makes this solemn vow: “I have sworn, and I will perform … ” But in verse 112 it seems there is a noticeable advance. He is not so very confident of himself for he has learned to bow his heart before the Lord. There is no self-will or self-confidence any more. His heart and his entire being is in the hands of the Lord. As long as he remains in those hands he will be able to do the Lord's statutes. Remember, a statute is a divine direction to obtain man's obedience! The Lord is faithful to the end.
Eight Visions of a Young Man
Constructive Answers to Anxious Questions
For some, Zechariah's night visions have become a source of encouragement, especially in days that are difficult for the testimony. For many others, they have always been somewhat obscure or even mysterious. This article is intended to help the second group in the following way: we suggest that Zechariah and other faithful Jews were troubled by a number of questions arising from their particular situation. We formulate these questions and show how each of them was answered by a distinct vision. We will also try to show how these eight visions build on each other. They show, step by step, the way from the remnant's desperate situation at that time to the time when God's plans concerning Jerusalem and, more importantly, concerning the “Man whose name is the BRANCH” (Zech. 6:12) will be fulfilled.
1st Vision (Zech. 1:7-17)
What were the difficulties in Zechariah's day? God's throne was no longer in Jerusalem (1. Chron. 29:23). The Persian empire was in power. Comparatively few Jews had returned to Jerusalem and even those had stopped working (Ezra 4:24). Zechariah lived among this poor, feeble, and oppressed “remnant” (Ezra 5:1) which had very little to boast of: no display of power, no miracles, no sign of God's presence, not even the glory cloud. This brief sketch of the background may suffice to show that a first question arising must have been the following:
Is God not displeased in any way with the present situation, i.e. with the Gentiles suppressing the people of God? In other words, should God allow this sad condition to persist indefinitely?
The first vision (Zech. 1:7-17) provides the answer. The man on the red horse stops between the myrtle trees (speaking of revival: Neh. 8:15; Isa. 41:19; Isa. 55:13). The angle's message contains the following key elements: Jehovah is jealous for Jerusalem and Zion (v. 14). Furthermore, He is sore displeased with the Gentile powers (v. 15). Verse 16 contains the promise that He will again show mercy and, specifically, that His house shall be built. Jerusalem shall be chosen (v. 17). This answers the first question in a way that probably surpassed the expectations of many.
2nd Vision (Zech. 1:18-21)
Given God's affirmation of the first vision that He would show mercy again, the question arises:
But what about the Gentiles? How can Jerusalem be chosen and the cities overflow with prosperity (v. 17) if there are Gentile powers oppressing us?
The vision of the four horns answers their question fully. If these four horns of the nations have been allowed to rise against the land of Judah (v. 21) God will still have instruments to deal with them: four carpenters are ready (v. 20) to “come to affright them” (v. 21).
3rd Vision (Zech. 2:1-13)
Gentile dominion was not the only apparent impediment to Zion's restoration. Looking around in Jerusalem, a faithful Jew would mostly see ruins. Walls, gates and houses were in ruins, a state that persisted even until Nehemiah's time (Neh. 1:3). Further, only few people inhabited this city which made it appear even more desolate (comp. Neh. 7:4).
Will God take an interest in a city largely consisting of “stones, … dust” (Ps. 102:14) and ruins?
The man with the measuring line (v. 1) gives the answer. He is going to “measure Jerusalem,” i.e. take possession of it. This is reinforced by the angel's message stating powerfully that one day there will be so large a multitude living in Jerusalem that there can be no walls to it, except for the wall of fire which is Jehovah Himself (vv. 4, 5). Many who still found themselves in “the land of the north” or with “the daughter of Babylon” are invited to be, and will be, gathered (vv. 6, 7) after the Lord's appearing in glory (v. 8). Finally, Jehovah Himself will come (v. 10) and dwell in their midst (vv. 10, 11). He is presented as if He had already started His “journey” (v. 13), which would bring Him to them. Judah will then be Jehovah's portion and Jerusalem His chosen (v. 12). How full an answer to every heart that was troubled about the ruins of Zion!
4th Vision (Zech. 3:1-10)
We now pass from practical obstacles (Gentile dominion; a city in ruins; numerical weakness) to a moral one. Anybody aware of the moral state of the people had to ask:
How can this land be holy (Zech. 3:9)? Are we not all defiled? What about our guilt? Can Jehovah restore the land of a people that is defiled and therefore subject to Satan's accusations?
Very fittingly indeed, in the next vision, the high priest Joshua appears on the scene, being clothed with filthy garments1 (v. 3) and standing before the angle of Jehovah (v. 1). Satan does not fail to be present (v. 2) in order to accuse the people represented by their high priest. But the angle's message is different: “And he spoke and said unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from off him. And unto him he said, See, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I clothe thee with festival-robes” (v. 4). Iniquity taken away and festival-robes supplied instead: this is God's answer.
1 Joshua's iniquity appears to be representative and not personal. In other words, it speaks of the sins of the people, not of his own sins: the iniquity of this land shall be removed in one day (v. 9).
5th Vision (Zech. 4:1-14)
Moral guilt being (promised to be) taken away, the problem of practical weakness remains. Israel had no king but only a governor, namely Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2 and Haggai 1:1). Royal authority rested wholly with the Persian Empire. The troubling question therefore is:
What about our weakness? How can a testimony possibly be maintained under these circumstances?
The answer is framed in the vision of the candlestick (v. 2) and two olive trees (v. 3), the latter representing Joshua and Zerubbabel, the two leaders of the people or “the two sons of oil, that stand before the Lord of the whole earth” (v. 14). Verse 6 gives a very plain message to Zerubbabel: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts.” If the civil leader of the people had apparently insufficient power this would not frustrate the plans of God. It was not a time of outward display of power but “the day of small things” (v. 10). It was by the Spirit of God (v. 6) that a testimony (candlestick) would be maintained. Zerubbabel, despite apparent weakness, is one who is chosen to finish the work by grace (v. 7).
6th and 7th Visions (Zech. 5:1-4 and 5-11)
While the first five visions contain strong affirmations of Zion's restoration in its diverse aspects the last three deal with complementary issues. The first ones (visions 6 and 7) even have the character of a warning. A Jew having heard of the content of Zechariah's first five visions might have wondered:
Questions 6 & 7
But will God overlook the evil that pertains among us?
Even though “I will remove the iniquity of this land in one day” (Zech. 3:9) it will not be overlooked. Grace must not be turned into lasciviousness (Jude 4, Rom. 3:8 and Rom. 6:1). Zechariah therefore sees a flying roll (v. 2), being the curse (v. 3) that reaches the land because of moral evils against God (false swearing) and against one's neighbour (stealing). The result of any moral failure along these lines must be destruction (v. 4).
The seventh vision presents the woman sitting in the midst of the ephah and being personalised “Wickedness” (v. 8). This is suggestive of a system of idolatry. But religious evil can be tolerated no more than stealing or false swearing. Idolatry is traced back to Babylon (Shinar, v. 11), its source. As storks (v. 9) always return to their nests, idolatry is shown to have its origin and roots in Babylon. God does not overlook it but treats it as it is.
8th Vision (Zech. 6:1-8)
Another potential misunderstanding is guarded against in the final vision. If Joshua and Zerubbabel are accepted by Jehovah as “the two sons of oil, that stand before the Lord of the whole earth” (Zech. 4:14) the question arises:
Should we submit to Gentile powers at all? Is it not sufficient to respect the leaders God has given us? (Especially as God is “wroth exceedingly” with the nations anyway (Zech. 1:15).
Especially in the light of the 5th vision such a thought may have occurred to several of the people. How attractive it would have been to get rid of the humiliating yoke of the Gentiles. But the final vision guards against this idea by drawing attention to the agents (spirits, v. 5) operating behind the Gentile powers. They do not simply act according to their own ideas but “go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth” (!) (v. 5b). Therefore, for the time being, they are sanctioned by the Lord. In part (only the black horses having gone to the land of the north and thus fulfilled their mission), they have already set God's mind at rest (v. 8. J.N.D. footnote: “or 'have satisfied mine anger' ”). But until they have all accomplished what God has destined them to do, they have to pursue their course without deviating to the left or the right (v. 1).
How fully does God encourage His faithful ones in a day of ruin. And how carefully does He preserve from the misunderstandings that might otherwise arise. Thus, the way is open for the concluding scene: a Man whose name is the Branch, King and Priest on His throne. A sequence of the glories of the Lord Jesus is presented in verses 12 and 13. God's counsel and Zion's restoration find their centre in this Man: “Behold a man whose name is the Branch; and He shall grow up from His own place, and He shall build the temple of Jehovah: even He shall build the temple of Jehovah; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be priest upon His throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”
Still relevant today?
Finally, we would claim that Zechariah's visions, after more than 2,500 years, have not lost their relevance. Even believers who occupy a very special place in the Lord's heart (the church that Christ loved and gave Himself for (Eph. 5:25)) may draw moral lessons from these old visions.
Firstly, we may learn that when God's people are oppressed, He may not always intervene but He is far from being indifferent (compare vision 1). And it is just as certain that, for every opposing power, God has a suited instrument to deal with it in due course (vision 2). Further, we can be assured of God's keen interest in the weakest effort to be a faithful testimony to Him (vision 3). The Lord will provide for His people in view of their defilement and failure (if judged), as well as in view of the weakness of those involved (visions 4 and 5). However, we must never assume that God tolerates evil. Whether it be against our neighbour (vision 6) or against Himself (vision 7), He will judge it. Meanwhile, we are to respect God's ways of providence and to be aware that, although He moves behind the scene, He governs and directs all things perfectly according to His plans (vision 8).
Learning these lessons will help us to appreciate more what God has to say about the glories of the Man of His counsels (Zech. 6:12-13).
Studies in the book of Revelation (4)
(The Plumstead Conference, April 1995)
Continued from page 284
“And they cry with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb” (v. 10).
As to their knowledge of God, Psalm 48:10 says, “According to Thy name, O God, so is Thy praise” and the response of the various families in heaven and upon earth is in accord with the revelation of God to each of them. Here we come to an expression which is very important in Revelation, “To the Sitter upon the throne.” God is brought before us as the One who sits upon the throne. I think it occurs about eleven times in Revelation. However, it seems most important to press this again that everything rests upon the foundation of what has been accomplished at the cross.
Hebrews 10 teaches that in relation to the things of Old Testament times. There were sacrifices but they had just the value of looking forward to the finished work of Christ. Here there is a looking back to that work.
Another difference is that it doesn't appear that this crowd is singing. The Christian sings.
Nor do they address God or the Lamb directly, which is the particular position of the heavenly company in Revelation 5. In the three circles of fellowship, of worship, the twenty four elders who form the inner circle address the Lamb directly and sing. All the others praise the Lord only indirectly and they do not sing. I think that explains the moral position of that company of believers. Remember they are in relation with the throne which is in heaven but they are still on earth. Only the heavenly company is raptured into the heavens to stay there for ever. Here it is another company produced later.
The content of the preaching is in close connection with the end of the dispensation. The preaching of the gospel of grace today is in relation to heavenly blessing and the heavenly hope, the rapture, but the substance of the preaching of the kingdom is basically that the King is coming and will judge, and their hope and consideration is in relation to that. “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” That is their understanding. Nowadays, until the end of the dispensation, the gospel is calling us to heaven and that is totally different. Repent, believe and you will sing!
“Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Rev. 14:7). This seems to give an indication as to the contents of the everlasting gospel.
There could be no standing before the throne without the Lamb being connected with it as well. Which one of us, whatever we might be, would dare to stand before the throne of God? When Isaiah was before the throne in the Isa. 6 he almost withered away. Now here we have the throne of God and the Lamb and of the heavenly city in chapter 22 it is said, “the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it” (Rev. 22:3). Whether we are considering saints on earth or saints above, that holy throne is connected with the Lamb. The only way that Isaiah could survive was by the live coal from the altar touching his lips. So there must be redemption along with the throne if we are to stand before it.
“And all the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell before the throne upon their faces and worshipped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and strength, to our God, to the ages of ages. Amen” (vs. 11-12).
This section from verse 9 to the end of the chapter is clearly a millennial picture. It looks on to the day when this company which has suffered so much and has come out of the tribulation have God's tabernacle spread over them. The words that are used could not apply to a company who are still in the midst of trouble. “They shall not hunger any more, neither shall they thirst any more, nor shall the sun at all fall on them, nor any burning heat.” It is in contrast to their situation during the tribulation, out of which they have been brought.
In verse 11 the angels are looked upon as a separate entity while the elders and the four living creatures are associated with one another, as in chapter 5. We were reminded earlier that God has not put the world to come in subjection unto angels, “But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?” With Him, of course, there is associated the heavenly company, sharing in His rule. Here that point is reached, beyond the tribulation, where the elders and the four living creatures are looked at as being together.
The elders, but not the angels, fall on their faces. The elders have the intelligence of heavenly things and as soon as something happens they fall on their faces, which is true worship.
We read about the elders falling down six times. “And the four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat upon the throne and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever and cast their crowns before the throne” (Rev. 4:10). That is in respect of creation. “And when He had taken the book the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb” (Rev. 5:8). That is in relation to redemption. In Rev. 5:14 I think they go a step further. The reference in Rev. 7:10, we have before us here. Then Rev. 11:16: “And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty” etc. Clearly, this is in respect of the climax when the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. The last reference is in Rev. 19:4, and is the great hallelujah chorus: “And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.” That is after the judgment of Babylon.
Here in Revelation 7 there is a marked distinction between the voice of the Gentiles and the voice of the angels. In regard to the Gentiles, verse 10, they speak of “Salvation to our God.” That is salvation as they will know it in respect of the everlasting gospel. In verse 12 there is a sevenfold ascription of glory to God from the angels, “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might,” but they don't mention salvation because they don't need any.
In chapter 7 we have the same consideration as in chapter 5. In Revelation 5 the centre of the scene is the throne, and the Lamb is upon the throne ready to break the seals. Around the throne there are three concentric circles. The inner company, the inner circle of fellowship, is the four living creatures associated with the twenty four elders. They sing and they address the Lord directly, “Thou art worthy.” The second company, the second circle, is wider in dimension and comprises all the angels. So the angels are around the first company and obviously around the throne. The outside company is all creatures. Where are they? I am not sure. But definitely the angels form the second circle and it is the same here; they are around the elders and the throne. It is very interesting to compare this with the three circles of earthly worship and the results to God of Christ's work in Psalm 22. However, that is a little beyond the scope of our conference.
The company nearest to the throne are the four living creatures and the twenty four elders. The elders are not only the church but represent the company of Old Testament believers as well.
“And one of the elders answered, saying to me, These who are clothed with white robes, who are they, and whence came they? And I said to him, My lord, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they who come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (vs. 13-14).
In Rev. 21:23 and 24 we read, “And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon, that they should shine for it; for the glory of God has enlightened it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by its light.” Would you agree that the company of Gentiles we are reading about here in Rev. 7 is distinct from the Gentiles mentioned in chapter 21?
The special character of the company of Gentiles here in chapter 7 is that they have escaped the terrible judgments of the great tribulation period. They have God's light and have been spared by His grace to inherit the kingdom. In my opinion Revelation 21 is larger in scope. It includes all nations and among them will be those born during millennial times who will not all have God's life. It says in Isaiah that “the youth shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed” (Isaiah 65:20). There will remain some, if I may say, professing people during the Millennium time, and they will answer Satan's call to go against Jerusalem and will be destroyed. So the nations, globally, will be blessed by heaven through the presence in heaven of the church, the heavenly Jerusalem.
The question raised is exactly the question that is asked in verse 13, “And one of the elders answered, saying to me, These who are clothed with white robes, who are they?” This is a very interesting point. Is this a company of Gentiles that is distinct even in the millennial reign? Here is a company who have come out of great tribulation and they have known what it is to turn to God in the midst of their sorrows. They seem to have a special link with God and they are precious to the heart of Christ because they are fruit of His sacrifice. They seem to form a special group in the world to come and Scripture carefully regards it. This gives rise to another question, is this the same company as the sheep who are mentioned in Matthew 25?
That was in my mind because the terms used in the 25th of Matthew are very striking when He says, “Come, ye blessed of My Father.”
Are we all agreed that the sheep in Matthew 25 are the same company that are referred to here, who come out of great tribulation?
I don't think the Word will allow us to say definitely whether it is exactly the same company. There are certainly some moral comparisons. My general impression is that the company in Matthew 25 is larger than that going through the great tribulation. The criterion in Matthew 25 is listening to the messengers of the gospel, whereas here it is a specific company which went victorious through the great tribulation. That doesn't seem to be the case with all of those who inherit the kingdom in Matthew 25.
In Matthew 25 the test is not so much what they believed but how they behaved towards those who came preaching the gospel; whether they treated the messengers well. One of the things that is said about the company of Gentiles here in Revelation 7 is that they are clothed with white robes. Further down the chapter it speaks about their being clothed with robes washed in the blood of the Lamb, and that is clearly connected with redemption. This first expression, “white robes,” represents rather the character of their lives and the way that they conducted themselves towards those who came preaching the gospel of the kingdom. More generally “white robes” seem to represent an answer in practice to what saints have been given in blessing.
In Matthew 25 we have the outward character of these Gentiles and in Revelation 7 their inward character. We have heard about the white robes connected with righteousness. The second characteristic of this multitude is mentioned in verse 9: they have “palms in their hands.” The palm is a peculiar tree and the only tree mentioned in connection with the Millennial Temple in Ezekiel 40-41. It is a tree that speaks of righteousness. “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree” (Ps. 92:12). It is the only tree that grows without branches and if it is healthy it will grow straight like a pillar. After the redemption of the people of Israel they came to the place Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees, speaking of their redemption (Ex. 15:27). In Leviticus 23, in the feast of tabernacles, the palm branches speak of full joy after redemption and this is what we find here. These Gentiles have overcome the evil powers, not in their own strength, but because they were elect and have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.
In the French translation in Revelation 7:9 and 13 it says, “clothed with long white robes” and we see that even in their dispensation it is a necessity to be clothed before God. In Revelation 3:18 where the subject is Laodicea, those addressed are exhorted to buy white garments “that thou mayest be clothed.” In both cases the entire person is clothed with this long white robe. In Revelation 16:15 we find those that keep their garments that they may not walk naked and that their shame may not be seen.
We can say, Isaiah 61, verse 10, “for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” Clothing, garments, speak not only of the moral state of the person but also of his testimony. The first thing you see in a person is his garment.
That was the reason why there should not be steps up to the altar of the Lord, that the flesh should not appear.
In our standing before God we have been clothed with this robe of righteousness. That is a passive clothing. It is what God has done. But there is also an active clothing, where we have to do something about it, to wash our garments in the blood of the Lamb, and that is the active side.
We see the same thing in Revelation 19. The robe is given by God: “And it was given to her that she should be clothed …,” that is the passive thing. But the fine linen “is the righteousnesses of the saints,” and that is the active part of it.
In relation to the question of the palm, palm trees are also mentioned in 1 Kings 6 in connection with the temple of Solomon. The walls and the doors of the temple were carved with sculptures of cherubims and palm trees and half-open flowers. There was no representation of the palm tree in the tabernacle and it appears that it is an anticipation of the time of the Millennium. That is a further confirmation of the character of this crowd here.
Having Loved His Own Which Were In The World (5)
The Lord has been making known to His own how dear they were to Him. He has revealed His deep abiding love for each one and His desire that, appreciating His love, they would hold dear His commandments and His Word. To this circle of fellowship which He has formed He now speaks of what He would have them to be for Him in His absence.
He declares to them that He is the Father's True Vine. He and He alone was the One in whom the Father could find His full and unfailing delight. All that He said and did was devoted to the Father's pleasure. From Him only could the Father find fruit for Himself, yet as the figure unfolds He shows that there are also branches in Him to which the Father attends.
The Father is seeking fruit from those who are branches in the True Vine. It is a privilege given and jealously watched over by the Father. The fruit He seeks and values is the reproduction of the virtues of His Son. Therefore as a true Husbandman He removes what does not bear fruit and prunes and helps on what does, to increase yet more the fruit He delights to see.
The love that washed their feet and gave such words in discourse shows what it seeks: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” They are united to Him as branches to a vine. They need to consciously “abide” in Him that He might abide in them to bring forth fruit. Such abiding would result in much fruit. Love has given them a living link with Himself. They must receive everything only from Him that they might be here in His absence for the pleasure of the Father. The more they are like their Lord the more they bring forth fruit. The Father's way with each one of “His own” is that they might bring forth much fruit. This is Love's privilege; to be so like Him that the Father is glorified.
In this living circle of union where His words abide, there is liberty to make request and assurance about receiving an answer. The keeping of His commandments is the surety of abiding in His love.
The Lord is their example. How wonderful the love known in this fellowship: “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you … ” They were simply to abide in that love in the same dependant and obedient way that marked their Lord when He was here below.
As they abode in His love, so His joy would find a constant abiding place in them. Knowing His joy within would lead their hearts into fulness of joy. Obeying the commandment to love one another would knit and bind His own together with love even: “as I have loved you.” How intense their love for one another was to be! Love would give all for its friends. His love would cause Him to give His life for them. The keeping of His commandments was the proof of their being His friends, for that showed how much they valued Him.
(The brother who has written this series of articles
wishes to remain anonymous)
3rd October 1939
“Will you kindly let me know whether there is the slightest warrant for the assertion that the word “in” (eis) in the original Greek text conveys the idea of movement in the following passage quoted from the Gospel by John, Chapter 1, Verse 18.
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him.”
The authority of Liddell & Scott's Lexicon has been advanced in support of the assertion that the Lord moved into the bosom of the Father.
I know no Greek myself but as a Christian I am gravely concerned regarding the point raised.”
6th October, 1939.
“I think it is quite certain that in John 1, 18 the word “eis” means simply “in” and conveys no idea whatever of motion.”
9th October, 1939.
St. John 1. 18.
“Your letter with its query regarding the above verse has been handed to me by Dr. — who is regius Professor of Greek himself but considers that the problem belongs properly to my department of study (Biblical Greek).
In this he is quite correct, and in fact the answer to your question turns largely on the difference between Classical Greek (which he teaches) and the Hellenistic or late Greek employed in the New Testament (a difference sadly overlooked by the translators of our Revised Version). The view which alarms you derives its support from pressing the classical use of the preposition “eis.” It is in my opinion, with which Dr. — agrees, quite a mistake to force the idea of motion upon St. John 1. 18.”
5th October, 1939.
“Any one who thinks that the Greek words for “in the bosom” mean “into the bosom” is, let me assure you, as ignorant of Greek as he is of theology. Liddell and Scott's dictionary is of the classical language, BUT St. John and the other evangelists did not write classical Greek at all; they wrote more or less in the spoken Hellenistic Greek of that period.
Let your opponents consider the word before “eis ton kolpon;” it is “on” and “on” means “being,” the present participle of the verb “to be.” This is, of course, absolutely decisive for the meaning “in the bosom.”
“Eis” here (John 1. 18) certainly does not contain the idea of movement and it is a great pity that before spreading such absurdities people do not take the trouble to look up the elementary books dealing with the subject. It would save them from this sort of blundering and save other people a lot of trouble; you and me for example … ”
The next parts of the series on the Sermon on the Mount and Laodicea will appear in the September/October and November/ December issues respectively, if the Lord will.
From Our Archive
The Cross (2)
(A Gospel Preaching at the Grove City Conference)
Matthew 27:33-36; John 19:25-30, 38-42.
(continued from page 265)
In the nineteenth chapter of John we have this little company at the cross, and we have Jesus speaking to them. This was His concern for His loved ones, even there upon the cross. And those very persons that were sitting down in cold blood, having done all that they could: He was dying that they might be saved too, and He died that you might be saved, dear friend, even in spite of your attitude toward Him here tonight.
But listen, dear friend, the Lord is not forsaken in John's Gospel. It is just like what we have in connection with Abraham and Isaac. The father and the son, they go together. What a moment for this world, the nearing of the completion of the work that was not only going to save sinners like you and me, but the work that was going to clear sins out of the whole universe of God. And that's the work that I'm resting upon tonight for the forgiveness of my sins: that work which is going to clear the whole universe of sin. Jesus said, after having received the vinegar, “It is finished.” Three words in the English language, but they tell me that in the Greek language it is just one word. It wasn't the cry of a man whose life was ebbing out. Jesus didn't die like the two thieves; Jesus dismissed His Spirit. We sometimes sing, “The storm that bowed Thy blessed head.” The storm didn't bow His blessed head; He bowed His head in the storm. He was superior to it all. He was able to accomplish the work that He came to do. Once in the end of the age hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and there upon the cross of Calvary He was able to say “it is finished.” In the seventeenth chapter of this very Gospel, speaking to the Father - it's a privilege to hear each other praying, but what a privilege to listen to the Lord praying, — He said, “I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.”
Friend, we present to you tonight the Saviour who has completed the work that was necessary for your soul's salvation. You're not asked to add anything to what He has done; He's completed it to God's glory. Don't tell me that you expect something more than God expects! A little hymn says, “God is satisfied with Jesus, I am satisfied as well.” Will it satisfy your heart tonight, dear friend?
I read those verses from the end of chapter nineteen to show you the effect that it had upon two men, and I trust that it's going to have this effect in your heart tonight. In one of the verses we read towards the end of the chapter it says, “And after these things.” After what things? After Jesus had been crucified; after they had witnessed all that had been done to Him; after they had listened to the seven cries that came from His blessed lips upon the cross, beginning with “Father” and ending with “Father”; “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do,” and the last one, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.” After these things, something takes place.
Here are two men who were secret disciples; men who were not bold enough to come out and confess the Saviour. After these things they come out as witnesses of the Saviour. One of them was Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich man, a counsellor. Who are you, friend? You've perhaps gone to a high school; you might have had a good education. Here is a man who was in a high position — Joseph of Arimathaea, a rich man, a counsellor. He couldn't vote openly when the whole world was against the Saviour, but he associated himself with the Christ of God who had died and he begs His body.
Perhaps your parents are not quite sure whether you're a Christian or not. Oh, I trust, dear young friend, that after these things you've been hearing tonight, you're going to make it known, aren't you? You say, “What shall I say? What shall I do?” Listen, you perhaps know the verse, “The Word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” “The Word is nigh thee.” You needn't move from the seat where you are. “Even in thy mouth, and in thy heart.” That's not very far away is it? Right where you're sitting now you can confess with your mouth. It's a good thing to confess Jesus. You know what He says? He that shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before the holy angels. Would you like to be talked about in heaven, friend? If I thought they were talking about me in Buckingham Palace, where the Queen of my country lives, my chest measurement would be expanded.
Listen, you've got the privilege here tonight of being spoken about in heaven — Christ confessing you after you have confessed Him here as your Lord and Saviour. What a privilege. But mark what He says — the confessing with your mouth and the believing with your heart. God says, “Thou shalt be saved.” We can depend upon that, friend. You can depend upon God's Word, whatever He says to you. You can set your feeling to it, whatever God says, it is true.
We're coming to the end. I want to tell you about a true incident. In the centre of England there's a place called Worksop — it's in Nottinghamshire. Just outside Worksop, there's a little village called Wickworth. There was a young woman there, eighteen-years-old, brought up in a Christian home, and she knew the way of salvation, perhaps just as well as the preacher could tell it. She had gone away with some friends, like the prodigal did, and not only the prodigal but his brother too. You remember his brother said to his father, “Thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.” He seemed to have friends that his father didn't know anything about. I wonder if you've got some friends that your father and mother don't know anything about? They are not going to do you much good. This young woman, she had some friends too, that her parents knew nothing at all about; but they knew that the friends she had were keeping her away from the meeting. She was invited over and over again to the Gospel Meeting, and they did get her along this Sunday evening. The gospel preacher certainly reached her conscience and she was troubled about her sins.
Friend, it's amazing how near some people can get. The Lord had to say with regard to one young man — do you remember him? — “Thou art not far from the kingdom.” He was on the very threshold. Listen, you're on the very threshold here tonight. And this young woman, she sat in that meeting spellbound as she heard the story of the cross and of the love of Jesus. She was really affected and the preacher saw it. He spoke to her after the meeting. He said, “Now, what about it? Are you going to decide for Christ tonight?” You know what she said? She said, “No, not tonight.” She had made arrangements to go to a dance with this friend that she had taken up with. She went to bed on Sunday night and couldn't sleep. She was troubled, mightily troubled about this preaching which she had been listening to earlier in the evening. She lay, tossing in her bed. Eventually she got up. There was a voice speaking in her ear, and speaking so loudly that tears were rolling down her face. She was in such distress, that she was roaming up and down her bedroom, not knowing what to do. She had a Bible in her hand, because what the voice was saying to her was this: “Ezekiel seven and eight! Ezekiel seven and eight! Ezekiel seven and eight!” She couldn't find it for the blinding tears. I'll read it to you. Before I read it, let me tell you what happened. Her mother, who was sleeping in the adjoining room, heard the commotion that was going on, and she came in. Seeing her daughter in such distress, she was very anxious about it, and seeing the Bible in her hand and hearing her exclaiming, “Ezekiel seven and eight, Ezekiel seven and eight,” her mother took the Bible from her. She sat her daughter down in the chair and this is what she read: “Now will I shortly pour out My fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee; and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations.” Her mother turned to the chair where that young woman was sitting, and she was dead.
That's not something I've read in a book but an incident that I heard of at Whitwell just outside of Worksop. Friend, I say to you tonight, how long, how long is God going to suffer you? The number of times He has spoken to you! Is this going to be the last opportunity He's going to give you, in this meeting tonight? Oh, I say to you, be wise, be wise, friend. I'm coming to a close with this meeting. I'm going to take it no further. I say to you right now, don't wait until we've sung the closing hymn. Bow your head, bow your heart before the blessed God and tell Him how thankful you are tonight for sending Jesus to die for you. Take your place along side the cross and be able to say like the great apostle Paul, “Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Oh, may you come to Him tonight.
Friend, you're being prayed for. These meetings have been held up to the throne of God on your behalf. There's prayer ascending even at this very moment as we come to the close of our meeting. And I want to say to every Christian here tonight, don't let the devil in at the end of the Gospel Meeting. It's just then that he takes advantage, to get us all conversing together and the whole thing is confusing to anyone under deep exercise before God. Oh, let us not be ignorant of his devices, but let us prayerfully and quietly leave this auditorium, and leave it with the solemn thought that there might be someone like that young girl, that we just mentioned, here tonight. Someone that may be saying NO to the Saviour, and going to their bed, and perhaps being found dead in the morning. I know what people say: it could happen to anybody but you. My friend, don't be so sure. Make sure of this, that you get right with God before it's too late. Trust the Saviour and trust Him NOW, and make it known. Openly confess Him. Make it known to every one in the auditorium.
Friend, Christ was out in the open for you. He was crucified there in the midst of a mocking crowd. Are you afraid to confess Him as your Saviour in the company of Christians? My word, how easy He's made it for you! — hard for Him, easy for you. Don't miss the opportunity. Trust Him, trust Him NOW, and go on your way rejoicing — for His Name's sake.
Now we're going to sing together hymn number thirty-five. We're going to sing two verses of it, and I want to give you the opportunity afterwards, dear friend, of making known to us that you're going to trust the Saviour tonight. Don't put it off. Don't be out of this blessing. God wants you to have it, and it's here for you tonight. “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me, see on the portals He's waiting and watching, watching for you and for me.” We're going to sing the first and the third verses. “Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing.”
Listen, before we close in prayer I want to give you every opportunity that we can. If there's anybody here tonight that would like to openly confess Christ as their Saviour for the first time, you do so! Is there one? We want to do everything in our power to put you into the way of salvation. I commend you to God in prayer.
The Blood of Christ: Its Great Value
Every animal sacrifice of the Old Testament adds its voice of strong insistence that apart from the shedding of blood there can be no true relationship with God at all. Sin has caused a total barrier that only the blood of a perfectly acceptable sacrifice can remove. All of this pointed to God's one great provision of the New Testament: “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, … But with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18).
What infinite value is in that blood, and what infinite blessing has been secured by it for the sake of innumerable sinners saved by the grace of God! Let us consider some of the dreadfully devastating effects sin has caused, and the wonderful value in the blood of Christ that is sufficient to fully remove them all.
1. The contamination of sin has rendered us all unclean. For this reason cleansing by the blood of Christ is an absolute necessity. Only His blood can cleanse us in the eyes of God from such filth. Every believer may have the firm assurance that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
2. Because sin is an offence against God, an insult to His supreme power and authority, therefore we require forgiveness; and forgiveness is impossible without a basis of truth when we have offended the Creator of heaven and earth. This perfectly satisfactory basis is “the precious blood of Christ.” In Him “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). But “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). God forgives because He sees perfect virtue in the blood of Christ.
3. Sin has also brought all mankind into bondage: it has enslaved us. Therefore redemption is another great necessity. God's Word says concerning believers, that in Christ “we have redemption through His blood” (Eph. 1:7). That signifies the complete setting free and bringing back by virtue of a price paid; that price the bloodshedding of the Son of God. Only God can measure the greatness of that price, but believers can certainly appreciate the marvellous liberty it has brought them.
4. The guilt and stigma of sin is another of its dreadful consequences. For this we require justification. “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:9). The true believer is “now justified by His blood.” He is completely cleared from every charge, and righteousness is imputed to him, that is, it is put to his account, though he has no righteousness of his own. It is a perfect justification because of the perfection of the value God sees in the blood of Christ.
5. Because sin has also affected us by involvement with a world of evil, a separation from this involvement is necessary. This is sanctification, or being set apart. We could never accomplish this, for we were hopelessly enmeshed and beyond all human help. God has accomplished this wonderful work for believers, again by the blood of His beloved Son, setting us apart to Himself from the world and its evil associations. “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate” (Heb. 13:12).
6. Sin has also caused enmity toward God, and though the need then for peace was great, no human effort could accomplish this. Not that God was our enemy, but we were His enemies. Only concerning Christ, the Son of God, could it be said, “having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20). This is the only basis of peace for sinful mankind, and therefore all who receive Christ receive peace with God.
7. Closely connected with this is the fact that sin has caused distance between mankind and God. Humans in their sins do not like to think of being near to God. But nearness to God is what people need, and this too is accomplished only by Christ Jesus, through the shedding of His blood. Scripture says concerning true believers, “But now, in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).
8. Because sin has caused the false service of dead works in our outward conduct, this required the blood of Christ to purge the conscience in order that one may do true service to God. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14).
9. Because sin has made man an idolater, worshipping almost anything but the true God, only the blood of Christ could change this, and transform one into a true worshipper of God. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19). Apart from that precious blood shed, one can never enter God's presence as a true worshipper of the living God. But what a transformation, from idolater to worshipper!
These are some of the wonderful reasons we have for profoundest thanksgiving to God for “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” and all of this is applicable to all of those who have truly received Christ as Saviour.
L. M. Grant.