Thursday, October 27, 2011

God's Single Plan Through Israel For The World

I find it really amazing that anyone who reads the New Testament [Covenant] doesn't realize that Jesus did not come to start a new religion, or church. Jesus had no intention of founding a 'church' because there already was one, namely the congregation of God which consisted of the faithful, believing, obedient remnant of Israel. Jesus' intention was therefore to bring reformation to Israel, not to found a different community altogether. He came as "THAT PROPHET" mentioned by Moses, who would be like unto him; and as such bring the provisions of the New Covenant to the Israel of his day. The prophecy specifically states that those who would not listen to him would suffer the consequences; in reality be cut off from the Israel of God; and those who accepted the message that he brought, would be recognized as the true members of the Israel of God; the ecclesia - called-out assembly - congregation of God.

However, before Jesus came on the scene in Israel; John the Baptist had begun his ministry as a prophet sent of God announcing an imminent judgment upon the nation of Israel; urging her to repent; warning that her status as God's - YHVH's covenant people would not be enough, to deliver her from the coming disaster. John had told Israel that if she did not repent, her God would create children for Abraham from the very stones. From one point view; this treated Israel as a whole as if she were pagan; needing to repent as would a proselyte if he/she wished to be included among the covenant people of God - YHVH. In first century Judea anyone collecting people in the Jordanian wilderness as John the Baptist did, was symbolically saying: THIS IS THE NEW EXODUS. Anyone coming from a priestly family, as John the Baptist did, offering a baptism for the forgiveness of sins out in the desert, was presenting a clear alternative to the Temple. Anyone inviting those who wished to pass through an initiatory rite of water baptism; was symbolically saying: HERE IS THE TRUE ISRAEL THAT IS TO BE VINDICATED BY God - YHVH. By implication, those who did not join in what John the Baptist was setting forth, and rejected his message and baptism were forfeiting the right to be regarded as the covenant people of God - YHVH. The believing remnant of Israel; those who were baptized through the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist retained their status as the Israel of God - YVHV; and as a result they were prepared to accept the message that Jesus brought with authority; speaking the words God had given him to proclaim. The result was that this believing remnant now constituted the true Israel of God; becoming a part of Jesus "ecclesia" - called-out assembly - the congregation of God as God's household [a term used for Israel]. As with repentance, so with faith: Jesus' call carried the implication that those who followed him, followed his way of being Israel, and were thus constituted as the true Israel of God - YHVH; whom God - YHVH was calling forth to have a place in His coming Kingdom. That is why Jesus promised the 12 apostles ruler-ship over the 12 tribes of Israel; which will include those physical descendents of Israel who will live over into the new age; after the coming of Jesus the Messiah; when he comes to sit on the throne of David at Jerusalem as the King of Israel.

Now the amazing news, the mystery Paul reveals is that believing Gentiles have been grafted in to the Israel of God by a new and living way; and that way is through belief in the lord Jesus the Messiah of Israel, whom God sent to bring them into fellowship with Himself and to become a part of the Israel of God. In Paul's allegory in Romans 11:17-24 the olive tree represents Israel as the people of God. The cultivated olive (kallielaios) is Israel, from which some of the branches were broken off  - Jews who refused the baptism of John and who rejected Jesus as their Messiah, and as a result lost their status as God's people, while shoots of a wild-olive (agrielaios) tree - Gentiles were grafted in their place (the inclusion of Gentiles as now becoming a part of the Israel of God - YHVH).

So we see the stock remains the same; it is only in the branches that changes occur. So Israel, the people of God, is a continuous entity (OT use of the olive is a symbol for Israel), but its membership is subject both to the exclusion of native Israelites and the inclusion of the alien stock of Gentile believers. It is interesting that in ancient horitculture the grafting in of wild olive branches to a cultivated olive tree was a devise used to rejuvenate an otherwise unproductive cultivated olive tree. We see in Jesus the embodiment of the remnant of the Israel of God and when we come to be in him we are automatically included as members of his body and as a result seen of God as a part of the Israel of God. In Israel - Jesus there is salvation - deliverance in every sense of the word. We, as members of the body of the Messiah, are Messianic believers and as such recognize Jesus as the coming King of Israel; who will take his place on the throne of David in Jerusalem upon his triumphant return; and we will co-rule and co-reign with him as immortal spiritual Israelites ruling over the physical nation of Israel with the 12 apostles ruling over the 12 tribes of physical Israel, and eventually that will include rule over all the world, as the nations come up to Jerusalem to keep the feast [Tabernacles - ingathering, Zech:14].

If we are not now and will not be a part of the Israel of God, why the future Temple? why is Jesus seated on the throne of David as the King of Israel? why are the 12 apostles to rule over the 12 tribes of Israel; are they different than ourselves as believers? Perhaps if the early "ecclesia - church - assembly" had not given up recognizing Jesus death during the Passover season this knowledge would not have been lost. It's time to recognize that we are as believers, individually and collectively part of the Israel of God ("the stock remains the same"), and as a result Jesus is indeed our Messiah, God's anointed King of Israel, to whom we belong as he is the head of the "ecclesia", the congregation of God, the household of God [all terms that relate to Israel],

Listen to how Peter talks about those who make up the Israel of God: 1 Peter 2:4: So as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but chosen and priceless in God's sight, you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus the Messiah. For it says in 1 Peter 2:6-8: "Look, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and priceless cornerstone, and whoever believes in him will never be put to shame." So you who believe see his value, but for those who do not believe, the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and a stumbling-stone and a rock to trip over. They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. verses 9-10: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, A HOLY NATION [THE ISRAEL OF GOD], a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. You once were not a people [not a part of the Israel of God], but now you are God's people [Israel has always been known as the people of God, even now to this day]. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy. Indeed we have been shown mercy to be included in the Israel of God because of the sacrifice of the lord Messiah of Israel, Jesus.

Those of physical Israel who rejected Jesus; God's sent one; who as THAT PROPHET brought the message about the coming Kingdom of God; and the revelation of the New Covenant, which was ratified by his shed blood on the tree, are as a result, no longer considered to be a part of the Israel of God; even though they can claim natural descent from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Gentiles, on the other hand who accept the message of the Messiah of Israel, and believe in him as the one whom God has sent, are now considered in God's sight to be members of the Israel of God; and have the opportunity to do now what Israel did not do as they should have done; to proclaim the message of the living God to all the world, and show forth to the world what blessings evolve from living according to God's revelation given through His son Jesus; and to anticipate the coming Kingdom of God under the ruler-ship of His son and our saviour the lord Messiah Jesus.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Contemplating Our Commission

A Reflective Exegesis of Matthew 28:19-20a
by Al Maxey

There are several locations where one may find our Lord's so-called "Great Commission," with each rendition being somewhat unique -- Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8. Nevertheless, the commission of the Lord Jesus is quite obvious: unto all those instructed in the eternal truths of the Kingdom befalls the divine imperative to share this saving knowledge with the rest of humanity, as they have opportunity, as they go forth into the world about them! As those who themselves have been discipled, they are to disciple others. Some refer to this as "exponential evangelism" --- disciples making disciples making disciples ... etc. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus Christ commands, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations" (NIV). There is only one Greek imperative in the Great Commission. The other three statements are each participial clauses. The phrase "make disciples" in the above statement by Jesus Christ is the single imperative. Thus, it is the only part of the commission that is stated as a direct command.

Although many translations render this Greek verb (matheteuo) as "make disciples," some choose a different wording. The KJV, for example, has: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations." The Message has: "Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near." Young's Literal Translation has, "Having gone, then, disciple all the nations." The charge of our Lord Jesus in this passage is quite literally: "While going, be ye disciplers." Thus, as we go about our journey through life, we are to be instructing, training and discipling those with whom we come into contact. That first participle is from the Greek verb poreuomai, which simply means "to go, to pass from one place to another, to journey, travel about." So, while we journey through life we are to be about the business of discipling. In other words, we should take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way to encourage others to become pupils of Jesus Christ; learners of our Lord; students of the Savior. Our commission, then, is to disciple the people with whom we come into contact; instruct them in the truths of God's kingdom, that they may come to the point of conviction and acceptance of these saving truths, and thus be brought into a saving relationship with the Lord through an active (demonstrative) faith.

Those students of Christ who reach that point of conviction, and who desire to accept the free gift of God's grace offered through the atoning blood of Christ Jesus, are to be immersed, an action evidencing their saving faith. Who do we baptize? That's right -- disciples, or more accurately: those who were being instructed or discipled by us. Notice what Bro. H. Leo Boles wrote on this passage from Matthew's gospel account -- "Those who are 'discipled' are to be baptized; they were not to baptize 'all the nations,' but those of 'all nations' who were 'discipled.' ... Only those of the nations who are made disciples by preaching the gospel are to be baptized" [A Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, p. 564]. Indeed, what possible benefit is there to immersing one who has NOT been discipled in the teachings of Jesus Christ?

Both prior to conversion, and also subsequent to conversion, disciples of Christ are to be instructed in the teachings of our Lord. Thus, while we journey through life discipling others, we are also instructing them in our Lord's teaching. "To disciple a person to Christ is to bring him into the relation of pupil to teacher" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 595]. After these students of Jesus have been brought to the point of personal commitment and acceptance, and have demonstrated the same by their immersion, we are to keep on "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20, NIV). In other words, our training and instruction is to be never-ending. For as long as we live we are to be engaged in discipling others, and we ourselves are to be the recipients of continued discipling. "To disciple a person to Jesus Christ is to lead that one to become a follower of Christ, to be a learner in His school, to be obedient to His commands, to become a Christian. To 'make disciples' means to give all kinds of instruction for entrance into the church of our Lord" [H. Leo Boles, p. 564]. "Those persons who are 'discipled' to Jesus, and who have then been baptized, are to be taught 'to observe all things' which train and develop a child of God. There are three things that are commanded in the commission to be done, namely: (1) make disciples, (2) baptize those who are discipled, (3) teach them to be obedient to all the commands of God" [ibid, p. 565].

Some brethren suggest that the participial phrases depict the means whereby one is made a "disciple." I could not disagree more! The first participial phrase, which speaks of our "going," or of our journeying through life, is indeed tied to the "discipling" of others -- as we are going, we are discipling (or, since they both appear as aorists, we should say: as we go, we disciple). However, the last two participial phrases are tied to our obligation to those whom we have discipled in the teachings of Christ. Those who have been instructed in His truths, and who are ready to commit their lives to Him, are then immersed. As converts to Christ they are then the recipients of continued training and instruction ... as, indeed, we all are. "The syntax of the Greek participles for 'baptizing' and 'teaching' forbids the conclusion that baptizing and teaching are to be construed solely as the means of making disciples" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 597]!! "Baptizing and teaching are not the means of making disciples," but rather "the response of discipleship is baptism and instruction! Thus, baptism and teaching are not coordinate -- either grammatically or conceptually -- with the action of making disciples" [ibid].

Dr. John W. Ritenbaugh, in the Forerunner Commentary, asserts, "As they go, they are to make disciples. Teaching and baptizing do not make a person a disciple, though they play a part. Just because a person is baptized does not mean he is converted. Nor does it mean he is a member of the Church of God or part of the Family of God. Just because he has been taught the way of our God does not mean that he has fully accepted and committed himself to what has been taught." This biblical scholar goes on to note that the Lord places the emphasis on the discipling of others, who, when they reach the point of accepting faith with regard to these teachings, will evidence that faith in an act of faith known as baptism. They will then submit to the further instruction that comes for all committed disciples of Christ as they seek daily to walk within the light as He is in the light. Naturally, in our early encounters with those whom we hope to disciple, we seek to impart only the very basics, so that they might come to appreciate who Jesus is and what He expects of our lives. But, we dare not leave these students/disciples at this basic level. Therefore, we soon intensify our discipling efforts with them so as to "make disciplined followers" of our Lord; men and women who are willing to fully commit to living lives of dedicated service to Him, a commitment given public expression in baptism.

Far too frequently, I fear, we have sought to make immersion the imperative in the Commission given by our Lord Jesus (and this is especially true of those within the legalistic, patternistic factions of the Churches of Christ). Yes, Christ's "instructions include an imperative surrounded by three participial clauses" [Dr. Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 718]. This is a textual truth none will deny. The imperative, however, is "make disciples." Then we baptize THEM (i.e., disciples of Christ Jesus). Baptism is not what one does to make a disciple; baptism is what one does who is already a disciple!! "The 'them' who are baptized are those who have been made disciples" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 597]!! At some point, those who are students of the Lord will come to a point of faith and conviction about those truths being learned. Their faith will lead them to accept His free gift of grace, and that faith will be evidenced not only in their willingness to turn from their former course to a walk with Christ (which is repentance), and a confession of Him as their Lord, but also in a symbolic act (baptism) showing their connection, through faith, with His death, burial and resurrection. A disciple who has been brought to a state of saving faith in God's saving grace will have no hesitation in manifesting this faith in the manner requested by our Lord Himself. One of the first public proclamations of a committed disciple will be baptism, and that will be followed by a life devoted to additional evidentiary acts of faith (i.e., loving one's brethren, acts of benevolence, sharing the good news, etc.). Their instruction in the will of the Lord for their lives will also continue throughout the remainder of their lives, so that they might grow in their understanding and appreciation and even application of His Will.

Those who are devoted to foreign missions often regard the word "Go," in the Great Commission, as the imperative. It is not. Indeed, there is nothing in that term itself that suggests we are required to "go abroad" to make disciples. "Because 'going' is a participle, we could read 'as you go' (essentially: 'on your way'), implying that one need not cross cultural boundaries to fulfill this commission" [Dr. Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 718]. "Jesus does not command, 'Go!' -- the participle is merely auxiliary to the main verb. The heart of the commission resides in the one word matheteusate," which, of course, means "make disciples" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel, p. 1172]. "In the Greek, 'go' -- like 'baptizing' and 'teaching' -- is a participle. Only the verb 'make disciples' is imperative. Some have deduced from this that Jesus' commission is simply to make disciples 'as we go' (i.e., wherever we are) and that it constitutes no basis for going somewhere special in order to serve as missionaries!! There is something to this view!!" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 595].

There are countless misconceptions associated with the Commission of Christ to His disciples. Some people perceive it as the "origin of the sacrament of baptism." Others suggest that since the charge to teach these immersed disciples follows the command to make disciples and to baptize them, that this is therefore a mandate for infant baptism. Scholars have argued for this view vigorously for centuries. It is also believed by many that the "baptismal formula" is specified in this passage -- i.e., we must baptize "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." A few commentators (R.C.H. Lenski being chief among them) even suggest that if these words are not uttered over the candidate precisely as written, then the entire baptism is invalidated. I have encountered this same thinking among the legalists within my own faith-heritage!! Just recently a father failed to "utter the formula" prior to baptizing his son, and I had someone approach me after the baptism and say that she wasn't sure the baptism "took." Many scholars, especially within the Catholic Church, see this passage as one of the strongest supports for the doctrine of "the Trinity." Still others argue that since the word translated "name" is singular, this is instead a strong argument against the Trinity. Some suggest the Commission was only for the apostles; others argue it is for all disciples. In short, there have been innumerable debates, and much division, over this passage for centuries. In my view, it all misses what our Lord sought to convey that day.

Simply stated, our Lord has called each of us to a life of discipleship and discipling. We are lifelong students of the Master, who seek to encourage others around us to also become lifelong students of the Master. It requires no extensive theological training, no expensive missions to a distant land. It simply states: as you are going about your daily walk, wherever you may be, seek opportunities to share your faith with those about you! Introduce them to Jesus, help them learn of Him and His message of love and grace, help them to grow to the point of conviction and commitment to Him. When their faith compels them to renounce their former walk and to begin that journey with Jesus, encourage them to manifest that commitment of faith through the symbolic act of baptism, which is a public testimony to both them and those about them of their acceptance of the atoning work of God's Son. Then, help them grow in their understanding and appreciation of, and compliance with, the commands of Jesus Himself (which aren't burdensome, but which are simply characterized by an active love for God and each other). Brethren, our Commission really is just that simple. Sadly, our sectarian squabbles have caused us to lose sight of this, and our perception of the Commission has become more a mandate to proselytize the world to our parties and patterns. The countless denominations, factions, schisms and sects is the pitiful result. May God awaken us to His true intent and purpose! May He help us to lay aside LAW, and to embrace LOVE. By so doing, we will find fulfilling the Commission of Christ to be as natural a response as breathing ... and just as life-sustaining.

A Lordly Lampectomy

A Study of Revelation 2:4-5
by Al Maxey

I receive a great many requests from the readers of these Reflections for special studies from God's inspired Word. I have an entire file folder filled with these requests, and want to assure you that I will make an effort to do an in-depth study on every legitimate request sent to me. I only ask the patience of those readers who have written; I will respond .... it just may take some time. One such request for a more detailed study comes from a brother in Texas, who wrote, "I know you have plenty on your plate, but would you consider commenting on the statement in Revelation: 'I will remove your candlestick.' Thanks, and may God continue to bless your efforts."

Revelation 2:5 (KJV)
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen,
and repent, and do the first works; or else I will
come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy
candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

In the above warning by Jesus to a congregation in need of spiritual refocusing, the KJV speaks of the possible removal of a candlestick. In England, in the 17th century, it was normal practice to light a "candle" and place it on a "candlestick." This was NOT the case in ancient Palestine, however. They used oil lamps, which were then placed on lampstands. Throughout the NT writings the KJV translators changed "lamps" and "lampstands" to "candles" and "candlesticks." Most newer, more accurate, translations have corrected this inaccuracy, including the New King James Version. The actual Greek word employed here is luchnia, which W.E. Vine states "is mistranslated 'candlestick' in every occurrence in the Authorized Version" (Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). This word appears twelve times in the New Covenant writings (seven of which are in Revelation). It simply means "lampstand." "We regard this word as every way more congruous than 'candlestick.' Candlesticks are not only a modern and mean article of furniture, but they were never used in the temple or tabernacle at all, and they suggest anything but the sacred and elevated idea that is here intended" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22).

Perhaps the reader noticed the KJV employs the word "his" in the statement, "I will remove thy candlestick out of HIS place, except thou repent." This seems to reflect the theological perspective of a few that the "candlestick" was representative of the local Bishop over the church. Thus, this translation appears to be suggesting the church in Ephesus would be punished for its failure to repent by having their Bishop relocated to another diocese. Very, very few biblical scholars adopt this interpretation. Indeed, it is not even based on an accurate rendering of the Greek. The pronoun translated "his" by the KJV translators is actually feminine in form, rather than masculine. The New King James Version, by the way, corrects this theological imposition upon the text.

Most feel the figure employed by Jesus -- a golden lampstand -- represents a congregation of His people (Revelation 1:20 --- "the seven lampstands are the seven churches"), and has its antecedents in the prophecy of Zechariah (4:2, 11) and the golden lamps and lampstand of the Jewish sanctuary (Exodus 25:31-40). We may also find an allusion to the statement of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14-15). The people of God are to be lamps placed upon a lampstand so that they may "give light to all." A lamp covered, rather than clearly visible, is completely ineffective. We are to be "the light of the world" and must, therefore, be clearly on display to those engulfed in darkness (Matthew 5:14, 16). A congregation whose light is hidden runs the real risk of having that lampstand removed. This is the warning of our Lord to the believers in Ephesus.

That Which The Lord Commends

In many ways, the saints in Ephesus were doing a fine work for the Lord. Indeed, Jesus commends them in several key areas. From all outward appearances, one might think this was the ideal community of believers. He speaks of their many "deeds" and their "toil" on His behalf (Rev. 2:2). The second of these terms is the Greek word kopos, which signifies "wearisome, exhausting labor; to work to the point of collapse." William Barclay notes, "It is the kind of toil which takes everything of mind and sinew that a man can put into it. The Christian way is not for the man who fears to break sweat" (The Revelation of John, vol. 1, p. 62). "The church in Ephesus was not just a working church that fulfilled a minimum of responsibility, but one that toiled: worked unto weariness. It was not, as many churches are today, merely content with keeping house for the Lord, with its activity virtually limited to church-going. Its members knew what it was to suffer actual fatigue in their work for Christ" (James M. Tolle, The Seven Churches of Asia, p. 27).

Our Lord also commends them for their "perseverance" (vs. 2). This is the Greek word hupomone, which means "to bear up under; to patiently endure; to persevere; to remain in the face of toil, suffering, trouble, affliction, persecution instead of fleeing" (Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 845-846). Jesus uses this word twice with reference to the saints in Ephesus (Rev. 2:2 and again in vs. 3). "It means staying when the burden is heavy; it means holding one's own in the face of every difficulty" (Ray Summers, Worthy Is The Lamb, p. 110). "Hupomone is not the patience which sits down and passively bears things, the patience which allows a tide of troubles to sweep over its bowed head. The word would be better translated triumphant fortitude. It is what has been called 'masculine constancy under trial,' that triumphant fortitude which can transmute suffering into glory" (William Barclay, Letters To The Seven Churches, p. 20). This Greek word signifies "the characteristic of a man who is unswerved from his deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the NT, p. 644). The Ephesians were a band of believers who "endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary" (Rev. 2:3).

Jesus further commends them for their stand for Truth --- "You cannot tolerate wicked men; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false" (Rev. 2:2). Paul had specifically warned the Elders at Ephesus that such "evil men" would arise among them (see Acts 20:28-31a). The church in Ephesus obviously heeded this warning. There were those who came in among them claiming to be apostles; the Ephesians examined them carefully ("put them to the test"), discovered them to be false, and rejected them. The Nicolaitan heresy was also unable to gain a foothold here at this time --- "You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate" (Rev. 2:6). These were disciples who put into practice the command of 1 John 4:1 -- "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." Paul told these brethren decades earlier, "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11). They were doing just that!

"These believers were not only competent but militant in their stand against false teaching" (Hal Lindsey, There's A New World Coming, p. 46). "They could not bear in their midst the company of evil men who were morally or ethically base in their character. This attitude toward evil men is commendable; if they will not be transformed, let them be transferred!" (Homer Hailey, Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 121). "It is worthy of special attention that this church is praised for its intolerance" (William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors, p. 77). About fifteen years after the Revelation was given to John (96 A.D.), Ignatius wrote in praise of their continued intolerance of false teaching and wicked men --- "I have heard of some who have passed by you, having perverse doctrine; whom you did not suffer to sow among you, but stopped up your ears, that ye might not receive those things that were sown by them" (Epistle to the Ephesians 2:10).

That Which The Lord Condemns

So, what was the problem in Ephesus? Why was this seemingly ideal congregation of believers given such a stern warning by our Lord? Why was their very existence as one of His "light bearers" in jeopardy? Jesus tells them that unless they repent, He will remove their lampstand out of its place. Repent of what?! The Lord indicates, in vs. 5, that they have "fallen." But, from where? From what? The answer is found in the following statement:

Revelation 2:4 (NASB)
But I have this against you,
that you have left your first love.

The above statement is variously phrased in the differing translations and versions on the market. The KJV, NKJV and ASV agree with the above rendering ("you have left your first love"). Others have: "You have left the love you had at first" (NWT) ..... "You have abandoned the love you had at first" (RSV) ..... "You have lost/turned aside from your early love" (NEB, NAB) ..... "You no longer love Me as you did at first/in the beginning" (LB, TEV, SEB, Williams) ..... "You do not love as you did at first" (Phillips) ..... "You have forsaken your first love" (NIV, McCord) ..... "You have left (abandoned) the love you had at first -- you have deserted Me, your first love" (Amplified) ..... "You don't have as much love as you used to" (CEV) ..... "You walked away from your first love" (The Message).

The Greek word aphiemi, which appears in the above verse, means "to depart from, forsake, leave behind." This verb appears in the aorist tense in this passage, which indicates they had departed from this love at some point in their past. A couple of things should be considered here: (1) Who or what was this "first love," and who or what was its object? (2) What was the cause of their losing it? As to the first concern, it can be quickly seen from the various translations cited that there is a diversity of opinion among scholars as to the nature and object of this love. Although many views exist, the two major positions are as follows:

Love For CHRIST --- The original Greek text does not have the word "Me" in the phrase, although, as one can see above, some have added it, assuming the object of the love to be Jesus. Some commentators "see the 'first love' as a reference to their inner devotion to Christ that characterized their earlier commitment, like the love of a newly wedded bride for her husband" (John R.W. Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church, p. 27). God told His people that He remembered fondly "the devotion of your youth, and the love of your betrothals" (Jeremiah 2:2). Some feel this love, from which the Ephesians had fallen, had been replaced by a mere sense of duty. They continued to work zealously, even tirelessly, for Christ, but without love in their hearts. Paul's remarks in 1 Cor. 13:1-3 would be appropriate here.

Love For ONE ANOTHER --- "The majority of commentators take the 'first love' to refer to the original Christian love the Ephesians had for one another" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 434). In Ephesians 1:15 Paul had praised this "first love," referring to it as "your love for all the saints." This had apparently waned over the years, however. "This first fine rapture of love for the brotherhood is gone" (William Barclay, The Revelation of John, vol. 1, p. 64). My own personal conviction is that this is the love from which these brethren have fallen, and for which the Lord calls them to repentance; they have forsaken that love for one another.

"Without brotherly love a church must become extinct" (Dr. Isbon T. Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John, p. 450). "The fervor of their original love -- their 'love for all the saints' (Eph. 1:15) -- had waned. And nothing -- no amount of good works or sound doctrine -- can take the place of agape in a Christian community. Unless there was a change of heart, that church's days were numbered; its lampstand would be removed" (The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 1683). Brother Homer Hailey, in his commentary, notes: "The lampstand's purpose or place was to uphold and dispense light, but without the motivation of true love it fails in its purpose and therefore no longer has a right to exist" (p. 123). "Our Lord Jesus does not desire the prolonged continuance of a Church whose love is on the decline. A cold Church does not and cannot represent Jesus in the world; it is no longer accomplishing the object for which Churches are formed, and therefore there is no reason why it should continue" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22). Jesus declared, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). "The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light" (1 John 2:9-10). We are to lift high the light of love, but if our "love light" is hidden, then we are not fulfilling our function as lampstands, and we are in danger of having our lampstand removed.

The question is put to each of us, both individually and collectively, by The Expositor's Bible Commentary: "How many churches today stand at this same crossroads? Do we sense the importance to Christ of not only honoring His name by our true confession, but also reflecting His life by our loving relationship to others?" (vol. 12, p. 435). We must never abandon brotherly love. To do so is potentially fatal. So, why did the saints in Ephesus fall away from this love? What happened?!

Position One --- Assuming our Lord's reprimand has reference to lack of love for Him, the cause may well be that they had lost focus. Perhaps they had become so intent upon their many works, labors, duties and "religion" that they had lost sight of JESUS. As The Expositor's Bible Commentary so correctly observes, "Loving devotion to Christ can be lost in the midst of active service" (vol. 12, p. 434). "Their religion had become a lifeless, mechanical, ritualistic thing, to be done out of a sense of cold duty, rather than of glorious privilege motivated by love" (James M. Tolle, p. 31).

"Day after day they went through the right routines, said the right words, dished out the right spiritual platitudes --- and shriveled a little more inside! As their love for Christ began to wane, they more and more served out of a sense of duty. In their own estimation, their acceptance by the Lord depended on their performance for Him. This opened the door to legalism. Jesus tells the Ephesians to remember that love is the only acceptable motivation for Christian living. He urges them to repent of their loveless Christian duty and to get off their 'works trip,' returning instead to the love which they had when they first came to know Him, when they were flushed with the wonder and excitement of their new relationship with Him" (Hal Lindsey, p. 46-47).

Position Two --- Assuming our Lord's reprimand refers to the second position enumerated above (lack of love one for another), the cause may well be that in their zeal for orthodoxy they had lost the ability to love those with whom they differed. "Perhaps their zeal for orthodoxy in exposing false apostles had developed into a hypocritical, censorious spirit. This would remind us of those in the church today who have developed an unloving, suspicious, fault-finding, hypocritical keeper-of-the-orthodoxy complex" (James M. Tolle, p. 31). "Certainly no amount of orthodoxy can make up for a failure to love one another" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 434).

"The zeal in opposing the false teachers might naturally lead to divisions and a slackening of love toward some of the brethren" (Dr. Isbon T. Beckwith, p. 450). "The loyal spirit of defense of the truth had bred an attitude of spite toward those in error. It should be remembered that the essence of the gospel is God's love for erring humanity. Any attempt to make the gospel effective which distorts this central fact is a distortion of the gospel itself" (J.W. Roberts, The Living Word Commentary: The Revelation to John, p. 38-39). "It may be that the church at Ephesus was so busy heresy hunting that it had lost the atmosphere of brotherly love. It may be that a hard, censorious, critical, fault-finding, stern self-righteousness had banished the spirit of love. H.B. Swete writes on this passage: 'Patience and unremitting toil in His cause are not all that Christ requires, and, indeed, are of little value, if love be absent!' Strict orthodoxy can cost too much if it has to be bought at the price of love" (William Barclay, Letters to the Seven Churches, p. 21).

"In the first days the members of the church at Ephesus had really loved each other; dissension had never reared its head; the heart was ready to kindle and the hand was ready to help. But something had gone wrong. It may well be that heresy-hunting had killed love, and orthodoxy had been achieved at the price of fellowship. When that happens, orthodoxy has cost too much. All the orthodoxy in the world will never take the place of love" (William Barclay, The Revelation of John, vol. 1, p. 64).

Some of God's people today, both individually and congregationally, are in imminent danger of a divine visitation from the Great Physician for the purpose of a lampectomy. The light of their love has grown dim. Preoccupied with legislating law and hunting heretics, they have lost sight of their true purpose for being. In so doing, their very being is threatened. Brethren, it is time to refocus. It is time to tap back into the oil of the Holy Spirit, trim our wicks of that which is useless, and begin shining brightly once more .... letting a world engulfed in darkness behold the beauty of LOVE as evidenced in God's grace. "May you prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15).

What Is Jesus Looking For?

What Is Jesus Looking For?
A Comparative Assessment of Followers
as seen in Matt. 7:21-23 & Mark 9:38-41
by Al Maxey

A preacher who lives in Indiana wrote me the following email this past week: "Dear Brother Al, I have a question about two passages of Scripture, and I thought maybe you could tackle it in a Reflections article. This past Sunday I preached on Matthew 7:21-23, a text that suggests there will be people who actually preach, cast out demons, and even perform miracles in the name of Christ, yet Jesus will say to them on that last day, 'Away from Me. I never knew you.' After my sermon, a member of this congregation came up to me asking how I would reconcile that passage with Mark 9:38-41. I would like to say that the difference between these two is to be found in the context of these two separate teachings! In Matthew, Jesus is speaking of the final judgment; in the Mark text, Jesus is speaking of a sectarian spirit among His disciples. But, I'm not really confident this explanation truly reconciles the differences found between the two messages. Do you have any insights on this one?!"

What seems to trouble many people the most about these two passages is that in both cases we find mention made of individuals who were apparently believers, and who were engaged in good works in the name of the Lord Jesus! Yet, in one passage the Lord accepts the person, while in the other He rejects them! Why such disparate assessments of disciples who were seemingly engaged in the very same activity, and seemingly for the very same purpose? Certainly, context is always a significant factor in any effort to understand a passage. In the Matthean passage, Jesus is wrapping up His Sermon on the Mount and is informing the people once again of the types of individuals who will ultimately be admitted into God's eternal kingdom (a theme that's found throughout Matthew 5-7). In the Markan passage, however, Jesus sought to counter a growing sectarian spirit among His very closest disciples as they were being prepared by Him to share the Gospel of Grace in a world infested with an insidious intolerance and a growing isolationism among religious exclusivists! So, failing to perceive the significance of these separate contexts can indeed adversely affect one's interpretation of the two passages, and could even lead one to believe the two might be, in some ways, contradictory.

In both passages we see that Jesus is trying to get His disciples to realize that the parameters of divine acceptance and/or rejection are established by the Lord, not by man! In both cases, the perceptions of men were wrong with respect to who was and who was not "in favor" with God! In one case, some felt themselves to be so "religious" that they simply couldn't imagine being excluded from the kingdom, whereas in the other case there was a disciple who wasn't within "the favored inner circle of fellowship," and therefore was deemed by those within that circle to be excluded from the kingdom of God as well. Both these perceptions were false. It is God who determines who is "in" and who is "out," and the basis upon which that fateful determination is made is really the central teaching of both passages! One deals with our perception of ourselves, while the other deals with our perception of others. Both human perceptions are fatally flawed, thus leading those who hold them to false premises. Jesus steps into both situations, reestablishing the divine parameters of acceptance and rejection. Let's examine both passages briefly in light of this perspective.

The Matthean Text

As one reads the words of these pitiful, misguided disciples who were facing judgment in Matt. 7:22 ("Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?"), one cannot help but think of the "ego trip" of the Pharisee in our Lord's following parable: "God, I thank You that I am not like other men -- robbers, evildoers, adulterers -- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get" (Luke 18:11-12). We are informed by Luke that our Lord Jesus gave this particular parable for the benefit of "some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else" (vs. 9). Our self-evaluations are very often quite inflated. We view ourselves as the spiritual elite, the favored of the Father, the "deserving" ones. It is unthinkable that God wouldn't want me! After all, look at all the wonderful things I do for Him!! He owes me!!

Jesus does not deny that these people of whom He speaks at the end of His Sermon on the Mount were hard workers. Nor does Jesus deny that what they were doing constituted "good deeds." From all outward appearances these people were the ideal disciples! But, that was the problem -- it was all "outward appearance." Inside, where our Lord was searching, there was nothing commendable! "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence" (Matt. 23:25). "You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead mens bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness" (Matt. 23:27-28). Yes, they were putting on a fabulous religious show for those about them ... in fact, it was so good a display that they even fooled themselves! What they failed to realize, however, is that God is not as interested in what we do, as He is in who we are!! "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7). It's not so much what we do, as why we do it. "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I'm nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2). "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name?" Yes, you did; but where was your love for Me?! This was the indictment against the church in Ephesus in Rev. 2 -- "I know your deeds, your hard work ... you have persevered and have endured hardships for My name ... Yet, you have forsaken your first love" (verses 2-4). Jesus calls them a "fallen" church, and says that unless they repent their lampstand will be removed (vs. 5). "But, Lord, Lord, didn't we _____ in Your name?" [For a further study of the Lord's assessment of the disciples in Ephesus at the end of the first century see: Reflections #69 -- A Lordly Lampectomy - See:

R.C.H. Lenski, commenting upon the tragic plea of "Lord, Lord" by those mentioned in Matthew 7, wrote, "Mere prodigality in the use of such an address is not a ticket of admission" [The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel, p. 305]. Some even today seemingly think that a mere profession of being one of "the favored few of the Father" is sufficient to assure eternal acceptance. This is especially true when such a profession is supplemented with preciseness of practice of perceived precepts and patterns. "Lord, Lord, did we not sing without instruments? Did we not forbid eating in the building? Did we not drink from only one cup?" To which, sadly, our Lord may well respond, "Who are you people?! I never knew you!!" Dr. Paul Kretzmann correctly observes, "A mouth-Christianity can never be a valid substitute for heart-Christianity" [Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 1, p. 40]. Augustine (354-430 A.D.) declared that when Christ Jesus told these people, "I never knew you," this was just another way of really saying, "You never knew Me!" Jesus knew the hearts and minds of these religionists, but, sadly, they had no clue as to the heart and mind of the Savior. They knew religion, but they had yet to learn relationship, and it is the latter the Father seeks from His children. They knew law, but not love; they possessed facts, but not faith! John Wesley (1703-1791) observed that writing good books and preaching excellent sermons "is no proof that a man has saving faith" [Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, via e-Sword].

Yet another truth we learn from this passage is that the Lord may well bless the efforts of those whose hearts are far from Him. In other words, souls may be won to a relationship with Jesus by those who have yet to move past the confines of a mere religion. "This verse teaches that spiritual results can be effected by unspiritual men" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, p. 285]. Jesus does not dispute their claim to be casting out demons and working miracles. His concern was that they had no heart-connection with Him. They were going through the "religious motions," but it profited them nothing! Paul spoke of those who gave all their possessions to feed the poor, but did so without love (1 Cor. 13:3). Were the hungry benefited by these actions? Yes, they were! Good was done! But, "it profits ME nothing" if my heart is wrong. This can also be true of those who preach and teach -- the hearts of those who are lost may be touched by those preachers and teachers whose own hearts remained untouched ... or worse!! Paul spoke of those who preached Christ "out of love ... from pure motives ... from good will," but he also spoke of some who preached Christ "out of selfish ambition ... from envy and strife" (Philp. 1:15-17). Nevertheless, he said he rejoiced "that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached" (vs. 18). In other words, the lost may be reached, even though the ones reaching them are themselves lost! Paul understood this danger, as he wrote, "I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:27). Dr. Adam Clarke observed that in the Matthew 7 passage it is as though our Savior was saying, "You held the Truth in unrighteousness, while you preached My pure and holy doctrine; yet for the sake of My own Truth and because of My love for the souls of men, I blessed your preaching; but you yourselves I could never esteem, for you were destitute of the spirit of My Gospel, unholy in your hearts, and unrighteous in your conduct" [Clarke's Commentary, vol. 5, p. 98]. "The gift of prophecy (i.e., preaching) is worth nothing without the grace of love. There have been several great preachers gifted with the mighty power of spiritual eloquence who yet knew not the Lord themselves; whose own hearts were cold, while they kindled love in the hearts of others" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, p. 292].

One final, critical point really ought to be made with regard to this Matthean judgment passage --- "It may be observed that these men laid the whole stress of their salvation upon what they had done in Christ's name, and not on Christ Himself; they said not a syllable of what Christ had done and suffered, but only of what they had done" [Dr. John Gill (1690-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible, via e-Sword]. Frankly, brethren, I fear this will be the fate of many on the day of judgment. Too many have lived their lives completely focused on seeking to merit/earn their salvation by what they have done in service to God, and how precisely they have sought to keep commandments. "But, Lord, Lord, did we not DO _____ in Your name?" How tragic that these people will learn too late that it's not about what we can do for Him that ultimately matters, but rather what HE has already done for each of us!! Salvation is a GIFT, it is not WAGES due. It is for those whose hearts are filled with faith and love, not for those who sought to keep forms and laws. The ones who cried out at the judgment and pointed to their works, should instead have done what the publican did in our Lord's parable: "Standing some distance away, unwilling even to lift up his eyes to heaven, he was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful (i.e., propitious) to me, the sinner!'"

Let me give you a current example of the very mindset that brought those words of rejection from our Lord in Matthew 7. A young preacher (he's still in his 20's) for a small Church of Christ in Austin, Arkansas (his name is Jonathan Whitehead) placed an article on the Internet on August 27, 2011 that he had written. One of my readers brought this article to my attention, and asked me for my opinion of it. The statement that troubled me was this: "The responsibility of redemption is placed into the hands of the sinner." He also pointed out that Jesus did NOT "pay the debt" for our sins, but that WE pay that debt through obedience to His law (repent, confess, be baptized). I was appalled by this teaching ... although not too surprised, for it is the ultimate end of the progression of legalism!! I wrote Jonathan and told him that surely he was not actually teaching what it appeared he was teaching. I asked him if he would clarify what he had written. He wrote back saying, "I don't believe that there's any clarification needed, as you have completely understood my position!" Thus, this man will one day appear before the Great Judge and make his appeal for salvation based upon his own effort. After all, "the responsibility of redemption is placed into the hands of the sinner." May God wake this young preacher up before he infects others with this lunacy!! Psalm 49:7-9 points out that the redemption of our souls is very costly, and we should cease trying to secure it by our own effort. We are saved by grace; it is a free gift. We receive this gift by faith. We then live our lives in grateful acknowledgement of that gift, a gratitude daily displayed in evidentiary acts of faith.

The Markan Text

In Mark 9:38-41 (the parallel passage is Luke 9:49-50) we find the apostle John relating an incident to the Lord Jesus. The apostles had apparently come across someone who was "casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to hinder him because he was not following us" (vs. 38). In other words, this disciple was not in their group, and thus, even though he was successfully casting out demons in the name of Jesus, they sought to hinder his work for the Lord because he wasn't "one of them." Is it possible this other disciple's heart wasn't devoted to the Lord? Is it possible that he was similar spiritually to the type of people our Lord spoke about in Matthew 7? Yes, that is certainly possible, although the text nowhere suggests this. That is a determination our Lord will have to make, for only HE can judge the inner recesses of a person's heart. From the perspective of the apostles, however, there was nothing whatsoever to indicate this other disciple was in any way other than what he seemed to be: i.e., a servant of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, the only reason John and the others sought to hinder him in his work is that he wasn't in their own group -- he wasn't "one of them!" I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard someone say of another disciple of Christ, "Oh, that man/woman isn't ONE OF US." By this, of course, they simply mean, "He or she isn't Church of Christ." They are not part of "the one true church," so naturally we can't have anything to do with them. In fact, we often perceive our mission in life to consist of HINDERING him or her in their work for the Lord (even though their work might be more successful than our own ... remember: some of the Lord's closest disciples, which probably included some of the apostles, were not able to cast out demons on one occasion -- Matt. 17:14f; Mark 9:17f; Luke 9:37f -- whereas this disciple was able to do so).

Within this passage, however, Jesus does not rebuke the unknown disciple who was not "of the group" that traveled with them; rather, Jesus rebuked John!! In this passage it was not the heart of the other disciple that was at fault, it was the heart of John. The noted Greek scholar, Dr. Kenneth Wuest, declared that what John and the others (remember, John said "we" sought to hinder him) should have done was "welcome him as a brother" [Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 1, p. 189]. "The words, 'He does not follow with us,' are a frank confession of jealousy" [ibid]!! "In intolerance and legalistic conduct there is often a good amount of presumption and jealousy. We have no right to expect all to serve the Lord in the same way, since gifts and ability are diversified. If others cannot bring the services and sacrifices for Christ which we think proper, we have no right to question the sincerity of their Christianity" [Dr. Paul Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 1, p. 217]. "Here's a warning against that exclusive spirit, which is eager for its own ends rather than for Christ's glory, and which would limit the exercise of His gifts and graces to its own system or school" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 16, pt. 2, p. 8]!! "Many, in every single period of church history, have spent their lives in copying John's mistake. They've labored to stop every person who will not work for Jesus in their way from working for Jesus at all" [C.E.W. Dorris, A Commentary on the Gospel According to Mark, p. 221].

"It is clear, from this passage, that the influence of our Lord Jesus was far wider than was known by His own immediate friends, and that His work was, even during His lifetime, advancing in directions of which they were not aware. ... In the view of a bigot, one who does not work in his own way is censured and condemned as unfit to work for God at all. The Lord Jesus proved His superiority to human infirmity by permitting and by encouraging various types of service which His followers would have forbidden" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 16, pt. 2, p. 15-16]. We far too frequently want to exclude other disciples based upon our own personal or party preferences, perceptions or practices. If you're not "one of us," then ipso facto you are not "one of His." This is nothing but godless sectarianism!! The Family of our Father is much vaster than the number of factionists found in any one schism of any one movement with Christendom. The One Body universal is made up of all disciples everywhere who are simply in relationship with the Father through faith in the Son. If the Holy Spirit has plunged you into an intimate relationship with the Lord (1 Cor. 12:13 -- see: Reflections #353 -, then you are saved ... and you are my brother/sister!! Wherever saints are serving others lovingly in the name of our Savior, we find "the church" in action --- whether they are part of your own particular heritage or not!! We need to "get over ourselves" and start realizing what the true basis of our unity and oneness and harmony really is --- it is not a pattern, it is a Person; it is not law, it is love. The type of love that manifests itself in a cup of water given in the spirit of Jesus to those thirsting; a loaf of bread given to those who are hungry; a warm embrace to those who are lonely (cf. Matt. 25:31-46). In both the Matthean and Markan passages, Jesus sought to shift our focus off of ourselves and our religious rigidity, and place it back where it rightfully belongs: on a relationship with HIM, and with all others who are IN HIM. May God help us to refocus, and then to forge forward in faith as One Body in Christ Jesus!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Great White Throne Judgment

The Great White Throne Judgment: A Biblical Mystery Explained
by John Ross Schroeder

The book of Revelation describes a resurrection in which billions will be judged. How will Jesus Christ judge them? Will He consign them to an ever-burning hellfire or instead give them their first real opportunity for salvation?

The Great White Throne Judgment: A Biblical Mystery Explained

Jesus Christ described a resurrection in which people who lived and died centuries apart will rise from the grave together.

A wise man said many times, "The Bible is like a jigsaw puzzle." One has to piece together God's Word properly. Each passage has its proper role in enabling us to correctly understand biblical doctrine. The apostle Paul aptly described our part in this process as "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy:2:15, emphasis added throughout). More modern translations usually render the phrase "correctly handling."

Another way of understanding this important principle is reflected by the biblical saying, "Here a little, there a little" (Isaiah:28:10, 13). Clearly one scriptural passage of and by itself usually does not fully convey the complete truth about any specific biblical teaching. Normally, it should be carefully compared with other passages dealing with the same topic.

Neglected, misunderstood and misinterpreted

Few passages in the entire Bible, if any, have been more neglected, misunderstood and misinterpreted than Revelation:20:11-15, which refers to what is commonly known as the Great White Throne Judgment. Here misinterpretation happens principally because a crucial principle of Bible study (mentioned above) has been carelessly overlooked by theologians whose understanding has been darkened by erroneous doctrinal beliefs.

The timeline of Revelation 20 summarizes a number of crucial occurrences in the latter part of God's overall plan for saving mankind. We may gain essential supplementary details from other scriptures. But first let's look at Revelation:20:11-15 in its entirety:

"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books [plural] were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life [not death]. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades [the grave] delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one, according to his works.

"Then death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."
An erroneous doctrinal assumption

Mainstream Christianity wrongly assumes that the White Throne Judgment described here consists of condemning many millions who never converted to Christianity during their lifetimes to an ever-burning hellfire. Yet vast numbers of those who died in past ages never even heard of Jesus Christ. They had no real opportunity to experience Christian conversion or to be saved.

Wholesale condemnation of many millions would be directly contrary to God's very nature. The apostle Paul states in 1 Timothy:2:3-4, "For this is right and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (New Revised Standard Version).

We should also recognize that most everyone who died in past ages—even those who did hear of Christ—never truly knew or really understood biblical truth, or ever had the opportunity to do so. And if they never had an opportunity for salvation in the past, would not a just God give them an opportunity in the future?

Although Revelation:20:14-15 clearly demonstrates that there is indeed a lake of fire for the punishment of incorrigible sinners, this passage does not indicate an ever-burning hellfire. The apostle Paul plainly tells us that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans:6:23)—not an eternal existence of interminable suffering in hellfire.

Contrary to those who teach that death merely means separation from God, death in fact means a complete cessation of consciousness (Ecclesiastes:9:5, 10). (For a much more complete explanation, request or download our free booklet Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach?)

Now let's consider what our Savior actually taught concerning Revelation:20:11-15.

What did Christ personally teach?

Who is the actual author of the great resurrection just prior to the White Throne Judgment period? John plainly tells us in his gospel account that Jesus said, "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in their graves will hear His [Christ's] voice" (John:5:28).

Several scriptures show that God the Father has committed all judgment of human beings to His Son (verses 22, 30). So Jesus Christ Himself is the one who will exercise judgment during the time described in Revelation:20:11-13. The Father remains in heaven until that time arrives for Him to usher in the glorious, everlasting panorama of joyful never-ending existence described later in the last two chapters of the Bible.

Few realize that important collateral passages—clearly explaining events that will occur during the White Throne Judgment—are found in Matthew's gospel account. Consider carefully what Christ actually taught: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! [These were cities of His day.] For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon [earlier cities], they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you" (Matthew:11:21-22).

Consider this remarkable statement for a moment. Jesus talks about a future judgment in which the people of His day and age will be judged alongside those of the long-dead cities of Tyre and Sidon, destroyed centuries earlier!

And how will they be judged? Revelation 20 clearly states that those resurrected will be judged "according to their works," the things they actually did coupled with the opportunities they had to know and understand God's truth. But again, will God condemn these ancient peoples who never once had the opportunity to know or respond to God's truth?

During this future judgment period they will have a sufficient period of time to sincerely repent of past deeds, be baptized and receive God's Holy Spirit. Ultimately, those who do prove obedient to their Creator will inherit eternal life in His Kingdom. In sharp contrast, those who continue to reject God's truth and stubbornly refuse to repent will be sentenced to suffer "the second death" (verses 14-15)—again, it is a death, not an eternal existence in a lake of fire.

The ultimately encouraging fate of Sodom

Let's continue in Matthew's account: "And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades [the grave]; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day" (Matthew:11:23).

Can we grasp what Christ is really saying here? Firstly, recall the unlawful deeds of these ancient peoples: "But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord" (Genesis:13:13). Yet during His human life Jesus Christ told a prominent city in Galilee that it came up short even when compared with ancient Sodom!

Jesus continued: "But I say unto you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the Day of Judgment than for you" (Matthew:11:24). Again, Christ spoke of a future judgment, comparingthese ancient peoples of Sodom with the citizens of Capernaum during His generation.

The only conclusion one can reach is that the resurrected men and women of Sodom, who had died almost 2,000 years earlier, will be given an opportunity for salvation during this future period of judgment!

God is merciful toward all those who are willing to really repent. Christ said that the men of ancient Sodom would have repented during their previous lifetime had He done the great miracles there that He performed in Capernaum many generations later. So why didn't He do those works for those of Sodom? Because it was not yet time for them to be offered salvation.

A resurrection of people from different periods in history

Jesus Christ's next statement is even clearer and more specific. Notice it: "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here" (Matthew:12:41). The ancient Ninevites and Jonah had lived and died more than eight centuries earlier. Yet Jesus plainly states that they will rise up in the future with those of His generation!

Jesus then alters the focus of his comparison to just one well-known individual of ancient times. "The queen of the South [i.e., the Queen of Sheba] will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it [by comparison with her own], for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and indeed a greater than Solomon is here" (Matthew:12:42). The Queen of Sheba and Solomon lived almost a thousand years earlier. But again, Jesus says she will rise with those who lived in Jesus' day and heard His words!

Clearly Jesus is describing a resurrection in which people who lived and died centuries apart will rise from the grave together, learn God's truth for the first time and have the opportunity at last to repent and receive God's gift of salvation! What a remarkable and little-understood truth!

In these passages Christ referred primarily to ancient gentile (or non-Israelite) countries. But what about the peoples of Israel; past, present and future? Can they be saved?

The apostle Paul answers, "And so all Israel will be saved" (Romans:11:26). But again, how can that happen when so many of them never even had the opportunity to hear God's truth?

The prophet Ezekiel explains what will happen. "The whole house of Israel" will be part of a great resurrection in the future occurring just after the close of Christ's millennial reign. Read about this resurrection of physical bodies brought back to life in Ezekiel's remarkable vision recorded in Ezekiel 37. The participants will then be given an opportunity for salvation during the White Throne Judgment period.

The surprising truth about the resurrections

But a thousand years beforehand, at the time of Christ's second coming, true Christians will be resurrected to eternal spirit life as the first-fruits of God's salvation. They will then assist Jesus Christ in ruling the nations during the 1,000-year Millennium and the White Throne Judgment period to follow (1 Thessalonians:4:16; 1 Corinthians:15:51-52; Revelation:5:10; 20:4-6; Romans:8:18-19, 23).

As important as Revelation 20 remains in helping depict God's overall plan for humankind, this crucial chapter cannot be fully understood without clarifying and supporting passages in other parts of the Bible.

The great mercy of God defies the limits of our imaginations. Paul wrote: "Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in. And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer [Jesus Christ] shall come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob [Israel]; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins'" (Romans:11:25-27).

Hebrews:13:8 tells us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Today He remains deeply concerned for the salvation of all peoples. He is the Captain of their salvation and the Author and Finisher of their faith (Hebrews:2:10; 12:2). And as we have seen, He will personally carry out an important part of the latter phase of God's plan for the salvation of humanity during the Great White Throne Judgment period!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The High Cost of a Free Gift

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. - Ephesians 2:8

The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. - Romans 6:23

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. -2 Corinthians 9:15

Life itself is free- life abundant and eternal. In his letter to the Romans, Paul speaks of justification, righteousness, and life as "the free gift" and "the gift by grace" (5:15-18) and declares that while "the wages of sin is death ... the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Salvation is offered only as God's free gift to men. It must so be received.

All who propose to bargain with God for a place in his Kingdom will be disappointed. The gifts of God are not for sale. To Simon of Samaria, who supposed, that the gift of the fullness of the Spirit could be purchased with money, Peter replied, "Thy money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money" (Acts 8:20).

Salvation is God's gift to undeserving men. We have but to ask to receive. "If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink," said Jesus to the woman of Sychar, "you would have asked him, and he would have given thee living water" (John 4:10). The last invitation in the Bible is our risen Savior's gracious appeal, "Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17). "...take...freely!" The water of life may be had for the taking. What good news for impoverished sinners!

Does salvation, then, cost nothing? Indeed, nothing in all the universe has cost so much. It cost the Father the sacrifice of his uniquely begotten Son, in whom He was well pleased, on Golgotha's tree where was "laid on him the iniquity of us all," that he who was without sin might be "made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in hum ... the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God."

It cost Jesus the patient pursuit of the path of obedience; finally unto death, even the death of the cross where "he bore our sins in his body on the tree" and "his body was made an offering for sin," putting him into the grave and drawing from him the anguished cry that marked the wretched bitterness of the cup of his Father's appointing, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" Not all the angels of heaven can declare the cost of the glorious salvation which God in grace offers as is free gift to undeserving sinners.

But though salvation is God's gracious gift to spiritual paupers, the acceptance of the gift, like its provision, is costly. It costs the renunciation of self and of much that men hold dear. Paul, who gladly paid the cost, expressed it in such statements as, "I am crucified in Christ ... To me to live is Christ ... What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Indeed, I do count all things but loss for the priceless privilege of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him...." One cannot accept Christ and his salvation on lesser terms than the complete surrender of self to him. No man can accept Jesus as Savior of his entire being without accepting Him as Lord of his life.

The Gospel of Christ, though a comfortable Word, is in a sense "a hard gospel." Jesus warned His hearers that the cost of discipleship is dear. In Luke 14:25-35 is recorded an instance in His ministry which seems virtually to be ignored in this day of easy discipleship:

"There went great multitudes with him: and he turned and said unto them, If any man come to me and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple" (vv. 25-27). Count the cost, warned Jesus, and be sure you intend to finish (vv. 28-30). Salt is good only as it retains its savor (vv:34-35). The price of discipleship is high. "What king," asked Jesus, "going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first and consults whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an ambassador and desires conditions of peace" (vv:31,32).

The "condition of peace" granted by a king to a lesser king who dared not meet him in battle was total submission. The lesser king became his vassal, paying tribute, with himself and all his possessions subject to the command of his lord. "So likewise," said Jesus, "whosoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple" (v. 33).

The lordship of Jesus over self, life, and possessions must be acknowledged if we are to know him as Savior. All must be surrendered to Him who gave his all for us. He who said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden," said also, "Take my yoke upon you." We cannot find rest for our souls in him unless we take his yoke upon us. "Whosoever shall fall upon this stone," said Jesus, "shall be broken" (Matthew 21:44). Casting ourselves upon the Rock of our salvation involves a painful breaking of self. But the alternative is fearful: "On whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." We must fall and be broken, or be fallen upon and forever crushed.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to preach "repentance and remission of sins in his name" (Luke 24:47). There is no remission apart from repentance. And repentance involves the whole of life. It is concerned, not merely with sorrow for the past, but even more with our intention for the future. It is the abandoning of our own selfish way to go God's way in obedience and fellowship with him.

We cannot accept Christ as Savior apart from a definite change of mind, heart, and will; involving the whole of life; and all our affections and intentions. There must be full surrender to the lordship of Christ, a sincere acceptance of his yoke.

Only a dying man can be saved "just like the dying thief." This does not mean that God has different plans of salvation for different people, according to their circumstances. It means only that, at whatever point in life one comes to Christ for salvation, the whole of life from that point onward is necessarily involved in his decision and must be surrendered to the lordship of the Savior. Had the thief on the cross met Jesus in the midst of life rather than as a dying man at the gates of death, he would have been confronted with the grave demands of Jesus which he frequently declared as the irreducible terms of discipleship for all who would know and follow him. There can be no reception of Christ as Savior apart from a full commitment of oneself to Him.

Salvation costs men nothing ... and everything.

The Christian, to be sure, begins his new life in Christ as a babe. He needs time and nurture for development. He has much to learn in his new life. He lacks understanding and may stumble frequently, displaying spiritual immaturity in many ways. But the windows of his heart will be open toward the Sun of Righteousness, and the basic orientation of his life will be towards God. He will acknowledge, however imperfectly, the lordship of Christ over his heart and life.

A long lifetime will not suffice to teach us all that is involved in true discipleship. But though at best our devotion and obedience will be quite imperfect, they nevertheless must be real and sincere if Jesus is to be our personal Savior. Solemn indeed are the words of Jesus, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends; if we do whatsoever I command you" (John 15:13,14) "He that saith, I know him, and keeps not his commandments," declares John, "is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4). Submission to the lordship of Jesus is not optional for men who would know Him as Savior.

It costs to follow Jesus. The emblem of our faith is the cross. There was one for Jesus. There was one for Peter. There is one, too, for everyone who would follow Jesus. "If any man will come after me," said Jesus, "let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26).

The gift of salvation is costly. It cost God more than heaven can declare. It cost Jesus the cross. It costs everyone who receives it the total submission of self in the acceptance of the rightful claims of Jesus on the lives and souls who would be his for time and eternity.

-From "Life in the Son" by Robert Shank, with edits where necessary by Keenan Lyon

The Father's house

The Father's House: John 14:2
by Keenan Lyon

This passage is commonly misinterpreted, so let us endeavor to find the scriptural meaning of "Father's house." The word "house," with Father, or God, or Lord, attached, in some places denotes the tabernacle; in other places the temple; and still in others the church, because God is specially present, and these in a special manner belong unto Him. So Jerusalem, owing to its Theocratic relationship, containing the throne of David, being the capital of the Messianic king, being the place where God will dwell again, etc., is called "the house of the Lord," Psalm 122, Zechariah 8, etc., just as Nebuchadnezzar designated the city Babylon (Dan 4:30) "the house of the Kingdom."

It is His "habitation" or "dwelling place," because it is specially covenanted to Him, Psalm 132:13,14 "For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for His habitation. This is My rest forever; here will I dwell for I have desired it," etc. Here it is that God will again through his Son; who is also the promised seed of David to occupy (according to oath) David's throne; manifest his ruler-ship. In the prophetic delineations, this idea of "a house," "a dwelling-place," etc., is inseparably connected with that of the Kingdom; that is, it is the house of the Kingdom in which the regal representations are exhibited, and to which all must look for the central place of dominion. It must not be separated from the Kingdom; it being the head of the Kingdom and designed for its establishment and perpetuation. So closely are the two united, that the Kingdom itself; flowing out of this "house"; is called "the house" that was found and left desolate by Jesus (Matt 23:38 etc.) "the tabernacle of David fallen" and in ruins, or the royal house of David (called "house" and "mine house" i.e. adopted as God's in 2 Samuel 7:1 and 1 Chron:17:11-27).

To express ourselves more accurately, "the house" of David becoming God's "house" in virtue of His Son being incorporated to constitute the Theocratic King contemplated, it and the Kingdom are associated (compare to Genisis 41:40) ideas, with which Jerusalem as the place of special royal manifestation and residence is annexed; the one virtually and necessarily recalling the other. This, therefore, explains why in the prophecies they are interchangeably used; the one suggesting and being contained in the other. The word "house" linked with God, naturally suggests a particular relationship; that He in some manner is identified with it; and this is fully sustained in the position that Jerusalem will occupy (Zech:8:3) in the restored Theocratic arrangement.

Let us closely follow the guiding of Scripture and see the result.

Turn e.g. to Micah 3:12 and Zion shall "be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest." Here the once favored city of God and the Kingdom is described as fallen. "But (Micah 4:1-3) in the the last days" all this is to be changed; a restoration is asserted of the same Zion, the identical Jerusalem and mountain, and notice, it is expressly affirmed, when this restitution takes place, to be God's "house," in the expressions, "the mountain of the house of the Lord," "the house of the God of Jacob," with the location definitely fixed in the words: "for the law shall go forth of Zion and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (comp. Isa. 2:1-4 "the mountain of the Lord's house," etc.) No wonder that Jews acquainted with prophecy understood Jesus by "the Father's house" to refer to these very predictions where it is geographically portrayed (for evidence, see, e.g. the opinion of the disciples, who heard Jesus, indirectly or rather directly given Acts 1:6)

Just as Jerusalem is called "the throne of the Lord" (Jer. 3:17), being "the city of the great King," "the city of our God" (Ps. 48:1-2) "the holy mountain" and "the mountain of the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 8:3) "a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord and a royal diadem in the hand of your God" (Isaiah 62:3) because "the delight" of God and married to Him (i.e. intimately united to Him) - so Jerusalem is designated "the house of God," etc. The word "Father" joined to it specially recalled the fact that God the Father is there as promised; that the Father is the One who bestows (Daniel 7) "the throne of the Lord" upon the Son; that He (by covenant) acknowledges David's Son as His Son ruling in His might so that the Theocratic Kingdom then established is properly named the Kingdom of the Father and also of the Son (comp. e.g. Matthew 26:29; Revelation 11:15; 2 Peter 1:11, etc.). Hence the apostles and early Christians, placing these predictions in the future at the Second Advent, and well knowing that God the Father would again dwell om and "rejoice in Jerusalem" when "the new heaven and new earth" (Isaiah 65:17-19) were created, thus making it His Habitation or House, could not interpret Christ's language in any other way than as applicable to that period.

Let us notice that Jesus gives this promise of the Father's house after the determination of Judas to betray him, and in view of his approaching death (see my previous article on how John's gospel reconciles with the rest of the New Testament); now if we turn to Luke, we find substantially the same promise given in other phraseology which corroborates our interpretation. In Luke 22:29,30, Jesus appoints unto them a Kingdom as the Father appointed unto him, etc., which when compared with Matthew 19:28 and other Scripture is, "when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of his glory." The spirit or intent of the promise is thus confirmed, and this will be strengthened by considering the numerous promises given to the righteous of inheriting, dwelling in, abiding in Jerusalem, this Lord's house in the future, and of their securing such extraordinary exemption from evils and the reception of positive blessings such as can only be attributed to the state of believers after the Advent.

"The Father's house" and "the Lord's house" established at the Second Advent are one and the same.

An overwhelming stream of prophecy indicates the identity; and Jesus sustains it in the most delicate manner by calling it, in view of the relation that he sustains in the Theocratic order, "the Father's house," which the prophets, in their relationship, did not directly employ, but substituted "The house of the Lord," "The city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel," etc. The only correct method of dealing with the passage under consideration is to regard it as in unison with the previously given statements concerning "the Lord's house," which is to be witnessed and realized in all its glory in the renewed earth.

The Oriental usage must be observed in this connection, which represented a Kingdom under the figure of a "house," with the evident idea of presenting the notion of a paternal government a relationship of parent and children in the headship and obedience, etc. It is only necessary to direct attention to Heb:3:2, 5,6, where it is asserted that Moses was faithful in his "house," or government or headship, which "house" we, if persevering to the end, shall become, i.e. having reference to our associated ruler-ship with the Messiah - the Christ, being exactly equivalent to Luke 12:32, etc. The tabernacle of God, the tabernacle of David incorporated as his, is this house, and it is restores here upon the earth; for God dwells in it as Ruler, the Sovereign Head; it being a Theocratic house. Note that a "mountain" denotes a Kingdom (see Isaiah 25:6,7; Daniel 2:35; Ezekiel 17:23; Isaiah 41:15)

While we are inclined to think that "mountain" is sometimes used for Kingdom, yet it is also employed to designate the ruling authority, the places of power and authority, the high places of a Kingdom. And thus it seems to be employed n Isa. 2 and Mic. 4, or otherwise we have a redundancy in the expression, namely, that the Father's house is already the Kingdom as established at Jerusalem, and the mountain must be descriptive of the ruling authority, which is thus exalted above all others. Thus, e.g. the barren woman "dwelling in a house," Psalm 113:9. Remember that in this Jerusalem; this "house of the Lord"; which belongs to God in virtue of its Theocratic relationship, there is to be another "house" or "building," called "a spiritual house," 1 Peter 2:4-10; "God's building," 1 Cor:3:9; "house of God," 1 Tim:3:15; 1 Pet:4:17. This "house" is incorporated with the other, forming, Eph:2:19-22, "an Holy Temple in the Lord," "for the habitation of God through the Spirit."

In this "house are "many mansions":

This idea of mansions simply says that this is the house the saints will dwell in, possessing stations of honor and glory. We should notice that the disciples are encouraged with the hope of being specially near to Him in the very place of royal manifestation, which is explained in other passages as sitting upon thrones and judging the twelve tribes of Israel, agreeably to the Theocratic ordering. "Many" gives an assurance of sufficiency, and, perhaps, of "grades" agreeably to 1 Cor. 15:40, 41. These "mansions," while "many," still are only designed for a certain class, namely, the elect. This is a peculiar, separate, exalted people specially formed for His name, who are associated with Christ in the administrations of the Theocratic Kingdom. These are now in process of being gathered out of the nations.

"If it were not so, I would have told you"

Here Jesus appeals to his own truthfulness. Observe the force of this reference: (1) It takes for granted that the disciples after having preached this Father's house after having identified it with the Theocratic Davidic Kingdom; understood the nature of this house and anticipated places of honor and glory in it. Hence the expressive: "If it were not so," i.e. if you believed wrong; if your faith and hope were erroneous, etc. (2) Jesus confirms them in their expectation of the ultimate restoration of this Theocratic "Father's house," in the words: "I would have told you." By this expression He affirms that He would not, as a faithful Teacher, leave them, if misapprehending the truth, under a mistake. He would enlighten them. The honesty of Jesus is involved in this matter.

"I go to prepare a place for you."

By this going Jesus embraces His death and ascent to heaven; and includes the provision made for salvation, such as securing his own power over death (i.e. becoming David's immortal Son, capable of meeting and fulfilling the terms of the covenant) to rescue others, his acknowledgement by the Father in exaltation, etc. By thus preparing a place for you, he evidently refers to the same inheritance that Peter speaks of (1 Peter 1:4-7) "reserved in heaven," but "ready to be revealed in the last time," "at the appearing of Jesus the Messiah - the Christ;" or, to the New Jerusalem, the special home of the ransomed, which John tells us (Revelation 21) at the creation of "the new heaven and new earth - new order of things," "comes down, from God, out of heaven," and which, joined to, the earthly Jerusalem, giving to the latter its inexpressibly great glory.

No one doubts that the New Jerusalem state, whatever it denotes, is related to this "Father's house." But when the time comes for this Father's house (Theocratic capital) to be restored in its contemplated grandeur and predicted splendor, this New Jerusalem "descends out of heaven from God," upon an earth from which the curse is repealed, forming - owing to its preparation; the great object of attraction, power, honor, and magnificence identified with that "house." The stations, places or mansions, determined previously, are bestowed upon those who are worthy of them.

Jesus is not only the Divine Architect of the New Jerusalem, but in the full and complete preparation of the place for the Redeemed is included the creation of the New Heaven and New Earth - the new order of things, the restoration of the Theocratic Kingdom, the making of all things new. By going in the way appointed, He is the recognized authority to receive the Kingdom for which He makes preparation in heaven itself and completes it at His return. He is even engaged in preparing, i.e. qualifying, testing, etc., the believers for the places intended for them in the Father's house.

"I will come again and receive you unto myself: that where I am there ye may be also":

Being present personally, speaking of departing personally, the Coming again must also allude to a personal Coming or return ("I am to come back"). When Jesus comes again, He remains upon this earth; the Bible closes with leaving him, the saints, and the New Jerusalem here, and it is an unwarranted adding to the scriptures, a violation of an oath-bound covenant, a removal of him from his inheritance, throne of glory, and Theocratic Kingdom, to say that he is taken away, or goes away again to restore the Theocratic Kingdom, and as the saints are associated with Him in ruler-ship, they then receive the portions assigned to them in the "Father's house." Hence, 2 Thess:2:1, 2, etc., "the Coming of our Lord Jesus the Messiah - Christ and our gathering unto him," are united. This Coming is itself dependent upon the completion of certain preparatory measures, such as the end of the ordained times of Gentile domination. Then when all things are ready, "The Christ - the Messiah" comes, sent by the Father, one with the Father, to accomplish and perfect the Father's will, and in the place, selected in preference to all others, where the Theocratic Presence alone is vouchsafed, there will he receives his believing brethren that they may ever be with Him.

The possession of this "house" is conditional on that Coming; so all the prophets, all the sacred writers. In the intermediate state the saints are waiting for the period of manifestation, when the reward, the crown, the inheritance, etc., is bestowed by the Theocratic King and they forever enter the enjoyment of their several "mansions" in "the everlasting Kingdom," of which the glorious "Father's house" forms the crowning head, adorned and ennobled by the descended New Jerusalem with which it is evermore One. Thus the Scriptures harmonize, making covenant promises, predictions, and doctrines consistent one with the other, referring to one period, one place, one great Kingdom, one magnificent royal city (the Old and the New in union) and one mighty King of kings swaying lordly dominion, as David's Son and Theocratic Ruler, over all the earth restored to the the favor and blessing of the Father.

The Reorganization of the Kingdom at Mt. Sinai

The organization of the Theocracy was affected before the Jewish nation entered Palestine. The appointment of officials, the giving of laws, the commandments to destroy the enemies of God, etc., were issued at Mt. Sinai. It is eminently suitable that the reorganization of the same should be effected in the same place.

Taking it for granted that the Theocracy will be again reorganized in its Theocratic-Davidic form, so that God in the person of David's descendant again condescends to dwell with the Jewish nation, and act in the capacity of an earthly ruler, we may suggest, that if such is the divine order, no place on earth could be selected more suitable or better adapted for such an arrangement than Mt. Sinai, and its adjoining territory. It is a place so isolated, separated from other countries, that such a work undertaken would, for a time, at least, attract but little attention among other nations. It lies at the same time contiguous to the inheritance of David's Son, which at the time will be sorely pressed by the Antichrist with its confederated power. The Holy Land occupied, as it then will be, by the forces of enemies, and all other lands having their kingdoms or civil power in full sway, forbids in them a peaceful, previous arrangement as indicated; and hence this locality, surrounded by its sandy deserts, under no special civil jurisdiction, occupied only by wandering tribes, is well adapted to secure, as it once did before, uninterrupted facilities for a preliminary national organization. Besides this, it is a place already highly distinguished, having enjoyed the presence of God, and having witnessed the entrance of God and people into the desirable Theocratic relationship, being honored by the camp of the elect nation, and the manifestations of the King, made memorable by the giving of the law, and expressly pronounced, in view of its associations, to be "holy."

In all respects, therefore, considering that the nations will then be hostile to the Saviour (in fact arrayed against him), it is of all places the one most suitable to be used for such a purpose. The question is, do the Scriptures give us sufficient intimations to believe this is the case? We shall present the reasons for holding to such a belief, premising (1) that they are not nearly so indistinctive as predictions relations to the First Advent; and (2) that, if mistaken in this particular, it cannot affect our main leading argument, which is independent of the discussion of minor points relating to the order or introduction of the Kingdom, upon which differences of opinion are reasonably to be anticipated.

Dan 2:44 particularly declares that "in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom." That is, previous to the final ending of Gentile domination, and of the horns that arise, that this kingdom will be already commenced and organized.

In considering this subject, some preliminary matters must be duly regarded, namely that the most prominent students of prophecy are now agreed that the Second Advent, to be appreciated, must be comprehended in its several phases, being at first secret, hidden to carry out certain purposes, and finally open, revealed. The reasons for this will be given in a future article.

We should also observe the following: (1) that dispensations may, as the Jewish and Gospel overlap each other for some years; (2) that this Theocratic Kingdom is reorganized before the times of the Gentiles are ended; (3) the breaking and consuming process upon which the Kingdom immediately enters, is expressive of a previous organization - for it is evidently an intelligent organized force that is set in motion against the kings of the earth and their armies.

The Bible seems to declare that Jesus, the Messiah, at His Second Advent, will especially exhibit two acts or phases in this Coming, and between these two, He and his saints will pass the intervening period at Mt. Sinai. That he comes "as a thief" for the removal of the saints is clearly taught, and that He also openly comes with these saints on the Mt. of Olives (Zechariah 14:4) is unmistakably announced. But he and his saints are also represented as being at Mt. Sinai. A comparison of Scripture shows, that when the saints are removed by the power of resurrection and translation, they do not remain in "the air," but are conveyed to Mt. Sinai, where, as at the establishment of the Theocracy, positions are assigned, the kingship and priesthood inaugurated, the instructions given preparatory to the ushering in of "the dispensation of the fullness of the times." After all the preparations are completed, and the time has come for "the manifestation of the sons of God," and the deliverance of the Jewish nation, and the destruction of Antichrist; this associated body of Rulers with the King of kings at their head (Rev. 19) present themselves to the confusion of all enemies, and to the joy of the ancient elect nation.

Let the reader ponder the 68th Psalm, and its references to Mt. Sinai. This Psalm, allowing its prophetic character, was never fulfilled, as is generally supposed, at the appearing of God in the wilderness at the institution of the Theocracy.

The Psalm is Messianic, and relates not to the past but to the future. This is proven by the direct reference and application of a portion of the Psalm to the Messiah - Christ. This is done by Paul in Ephessians 4:9, where he applies it as significant of results produced by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The Spirit thus gives us a key to its interpretation. Its reference to the future is evinced by its allusion to the resurrection (v. 20); the great slaughter and complete overthrow of all enemies (v. 1-3, 14, 21-23, 30); the restoration of the Jewish nation (see v. 22 and notice force of "again") although oppressed by a multitude ("sea"); the restoration of Theocratic rule (v. 24-35); the kings of the earth bringing presents, and the extended, world-wide dominion exerted (v. 29-35).

On the other hand what here delineated to occur corresponds fully and accurately in every respect with the predictions pertaining to the ushering in of the Millenial age or the Messiah's - Christ's Kingdom. Then, we know, the enemies will indeed be removed as here described; then the exaltation, the purity, beauty, rejoicing, safety, and power of the righteous will be witnessed as here portrayed; then the dwelling of God with man, the exertion of supernatural power, the power of delivering from death, the restoration of the people, the universal dominion, the reorganization of the nation under rulers, king coming to present their allegiance and worship at Jerusalem, nations submitting themselves, the praise and glory manifested; all this, as here predicted, will come to pass. Hence seeing that the general tenor of the Psalm does not suit the history of the past, in the non-fulfillment of large portions of it, but faithfully describes the future, and this the more readily because this Advent accords with what is ascribed to the Messiah - Christ at his Second Coming.

We are content to receive it as it reads, believing that as Sinai at the inauguration of the Theocracy witnessed the presence of the Theocratic King, so when God's Son and the son of David comes to restore the Theocratic rule "even Sinai itself is moved at the presence of YHVH, the God of Israel" (v. 8), and in view of His surroundings it can be said (v. 17) "the chariots of God are twenty thousands or thousands of heavenly powers); the Lord is among them as in" (or simply, "in" or "so Sinai among the holy mountains,") "Sinai in the holy place."

Accepting of the Psalm as a prophetic announcement of the future, it is impossible, without violence, to rid ourselves of the persuasion that at the future Advent the Messiah will appear not only on the Mt. of Olives, but antecedently on Mt. Sinai, where evidently the gathering together occurs, with which gathered body Christ is afterward accompanied.

Rabbi Greenbaum renders the verses: "The earth quaked, also the heaven dropped at the presence of God; yea this Sinai, at the presence of God, the God of Israel." Sinai was even esteemed holy before the giving of the law and the only reason that can be satisfactorily assigned is that pertaining to its foreknown Theocratic usage, making it a special favorite of God. What a distinguished place Mt. Sinai will be in the future ages! The place of God's marriage (so according to Oriental usage, the inauguration of a Ruler), with the Jewish nation; the place where Jesus marriage takes place before the bridal procession proceeds to Jerusalem. God in view of this, may, as we anticipate, adorn the wilderness and make it a place of resort. We cannot help but feel that Elijah will again, under far different circumstances, visit this place. This prophet visited Horeb (note that Horeb stands in the shadow of Mt. Sinai, but can be used interchangeably in Scripture as e.g. Deut:1:2,6,19, and 4:10,15, and 9:8, and 29:1) when persecuted (1 Kings 19), and in "the mount of God" found special nearness to God, and realized that, amid the general defection, God had reserved for Himself a people. How changed the relations, and what a glorious reservation he will there meet! If faithful our glad eyes will behold the same, and our glad hearts will associate with those "myriads."

Let us take Deut:33:1-2, which embraces the blessings pronounced on the several tribes, and which from other predictions we know shall only be fully realized at the restoration of the nation at the Second Coming of its King. Now these blessings are introduced by a by a description which, however applicable in some particulars to the giving of the law, was never verified in the past. For we read: "The Lord came from Sinai and rose up from Sier unto them, He shined forth from Mt. Paran, and He came with ten thousands of saints; from his right hand went a fiery law to them," etc. Such a Coming with myriads of saints is only predicted of the still future Advent

Lederer renders it: "Jehovah is coming from Sinai, and rises unto them from Seir; He beams from Mt. Paran, and comes (out) from the myriads of saints, from His right hand (the) fire statue unto them," etc. This "fiery law" or "fire statue" is also, as every one can see, a distinguishing characteristic of the Sec. Advent with the saints, being expressive of "judgments."

Hos. 2:14 deserves special attention, and the connection evidently shows the time of fulfillment to be in the future. If the student observes two things he cannot fail to catch its spirit. (1) The elect now gathered being engrafted, and thus become identified with the true Israel, are inseparable with this period of blessing; (2) the time of this marriage is Pre-Millennial. Take note of Psalm 74:14.

In Hab:3:3 we have another allusion. The prophet tells "God came from Teman (or the South) and the Holy One from Mt. Paran," at a time when an overthrow of enemies and a deliverance is experienced on a scale so great that the past sinks into insignificance before it. Even Judges 5:4,5, may in the mind of the Spirit be far-reaching; and many predictions respecting "the wilderness" may have a deeper, more significant meaning than is usually attached to them.

Let there be such a restoration of Theocratic rule inaugurated at Mt. Sinai, and it imparts new force to Isa:35:1 "the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them and the desert shall rejoice," etc., or to Isa. 32:15,16 "the wilderness (shall) be a fruitful field," "then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness," or to Isaiah 35:6 "for in the wilderness shall waters (i.e. people) break out and streams in the desert." In view of the apportionment of the stations, etc., in the Kingdom at such a time and place, it may even be questioned whether the planting in the wilderness of those several trees mentioned by Isaiah 41:19, 20 is not to be interpreted of the assignments of rank, etc., in this Theocracy, seeing that the Spirit likens in other places the saints to "Trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord" (Isaiah 61:3), and men and rulers are thus designated. The specific mention of rejoicing, shouting, singing, etc., in the wilderness at some period still future is seen, if this idea is accepted, to be highly appropriate, and what under the circumstances is to be anticipated. Surely "the grace in the wilderness," Jer:31:2, which is yet, as the prophecy indicates, to be realized by the Jewish nation in an unexampled restoration; the pleading in the wilderness, Ezek:20: 35-36 still future with that people; the speaking comfortably to His people in the wilderness, His:2:14; this, with similar intimations, should teach us that the wilderness, just as in the beginning, is an important feature strikingly associated with the re-establishment of the Theocracy.

Isaiah 63: 1-6 cannot possibly be applied to the First Advent of Jesus. But at his Second Advent numerous passages expressly mention wrath, vengeance on enemies, and a fearful slaugter and supper. It is therefore a description only applicable to the Second Advent, as the early Church taught. But the prophet in vision sees him coming from the direction of Mt. Sinai, asking: "Who is this that comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?" Indeed, when we come to compare Scripture with Scripture, we have the route taken by the mighty King from Mt. Sinai until He arrives at Jerusalem clearly pointed out. Prophecy distinctly mentions Mt. Sinai, Paran, the Wilderness, Mt. Seir, Edom, Teman or the South, Bozrah, giving us a direct route from Sinai northward to Palestine. This does not occur by chance, but is descriptive of what shall truly take place. Having the Might One with his saints manifested at Sinai, and also by way of the wilderness of Paran on through Idumea, it seems to us faithless not to accept of these things. Especially when we find an under-current of prophecy, which serves to bring them out in more distinctive proportions.

So in the Second Advent, when the locality is once stated that is amply sufficient, and all other predictions imply it. This at once opens a wide field for reference which can only be indicated. Thus e.g. take Isaiah 63:1-6, and notice in connection the vengeance, the Redemption, etc. This compared with numerous parallel passages presents us additional points of identification. Several passages not before specified, may briefly be suggested: Isaiah 42:11, is remarkable, as the context indicates that "new things" are to be performed, introducing Millennial blessedness and glory, worthy of "a new song." Notice verse 11; and its manifest allusions to the desert of Arabia Deserta, to the rocky country of Arabia Petraea, etc., and surely the careful student of the Word must be impressed that same deep reason underlies such references. What other reason so applicable as the one advocated by us? For all we know, such references as Zechariah 9:14, going "with whirlwinds of the South;" as Psalm 126:4, "as streams in the South;" and similar phraseology, may contain allusions which a fulfillment will render expressive in this direction. The student will not overlook Isaiah 9:1; Isaiah 59:16-20.

Thus, e.g. in "the new thing" (Isaiah 43:18-21), which God is to perform, He "will even make a way in the wilderness, rivers (notice its figurative meaning) in the desert. I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the deserts, to give drink to my people, my chosen. This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise." Here we have intimated under impressive figures the blessings that will result from a re-formation of Theocratic rule out of a people expressly raised up (and gathered) for this purpose, and this is done in the wilderness, the very place where the Theocracy was originally instituted.

Psalm 46, according to the title refers to "the hidden ones or virgins," and is highly expressive of this period (comp. Isaiah 26:20, 21; Jeremiah 2:3; Luke 21:36). Even the "fleeing to the mountain" of Psalm 11:1, if we are to receive some renderings, may refer to this withdrawal. The passages which speak of the removal and hiding of God's people just before the last great tribulation breaks forth might be used as illustrative of this period. Here, indeed, they would be in safety and honor. The world will be more or less unconscious of this gathering, the days of Noah repeating themselves, and persistent unbelief in such a preparation existing until too late. The secrecy of all this, is plainly implied, even in the meeting of the Bridegroom and those that were ready, which no one of the world will witness. Those taken to Mt. Sinai are the "first-fruits" of the harvest; specially belonging to the Lord; the harvest itself; "the great multitude"; follows later in the divine order. Various passages relating to this subject are worthy of consideration, such as Isaiah 16:1-5; Isaiah 34,35,13. When these things are realized, men will be amazed to find how largely and minutely, all this has been described in the scriptures, and yet how little it has been noticed and appreciated, just as the things relating to the First Advent were overlooked.

The saints, that body of "peculiar people" and en-grafted, thus constituting the "holy nation" (and thus forming "a river," in the figurative language of Scripture) gathered to Mt. Sinai, and associated with Christ in the formative reorganization of the fallen Theocracy, would fulfill in the most impressive manner such predictions. Then again, if we turn to Isaiah 40:3, it is extremely doubtful whether we have more than a mere typical fulfillment in John's mission.

Let the reader notice (1) that this cry in the wilderness, etc., is taken to inform us from the approach of a mighty conqueror, and is expressive of irresistible power and a triumphant march; (2) that the preparations are suitably completed, and "the glory of the Lord shall be revealed" so that "all flesh shall see it;" (3) that before the march of Jehovah, all flesh being as grass, opposition shall be overcome; (4) and the results of this triumphal appearance in deliverance and rule.

The offer of the Kingdom at the First Advent necessitated a typical representation of this act in the wilderness (and hence applied to John), but owing to the foreknown unbelief and sinfulness of the nation both the Kingdom and the real preparatory acts here predicted were postponed. Jesus did not exhibit himself as the King of Israel - the Messiah; his glory was concealed under humiliation; the time had not yet arrived for such a triumphal passage; he himself locating it in the future at his Second Coming. Admit such a re-establishment of the Theocracy at Mt. Sinai in the wilderness; consider the route from there through the wilderness to Judea, and then the prophecy shines forth with a clearness and vividness that is startling. "The Voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God"; the completeness of the preparation, the majestic march revealing the glory of the Lord, the helplessness of his enemies contrasted with his power, the reward bestowed, the blessed rule and safety experienced; all evince such an exalted condition of manifested Kingly authority, etc., and connected with, as a starting point,the wilderness, that is only to be fulfilled in the future.

Such passages include the idea, that the authoritative manifestation of Theocratic rule is exhibited, before it issues forth from the desert. It is a form ready for action before it emerges from the wilderness. Considering the formation of the Theocracy with its added hosts of kings and priests in so isolated a place, secluded from the observation of the nations, and its sudden and overwhelming appearance, it may be a question whether Jesus had not this initiatory stage in view when he told the Pharisees, "the Kingdom of God comes not with observation," seeing that it is not only divinely instituted, but this is done in a secluded manner and place, so that when it appears it is already so organized as to be irresistible.

Take, e.g. Daniel 7, and there is something remarkable in the structure of the prophecy, which on any other hypothesis baffles interpretation. The investiture of the son of Man, David's son Jesus with the Kingdom, and the bestowal of judgment or ruler-ship upon the saints associated with him, is done by the Ancient of Days, for the Kingdom is given by him, to the hon of Man and his saints. But this is done here on the earth - as the representation in its entire scope demands - even while the Anti-Christian power, so arrogant and hostile, is in existence and holds sway over the nations.

The prophecy implies on its face a perfectly free unembarrassed, and even unexpected by the enemy, accomplishment of preliminary arrangements pertaining to the Kingdom. Admit that Sinai and the wilderness is the locality where the Ancient of Days invests David's son and His own with Theocratic power, and bestows upon him and the saints the covenanted dominion, and the difficulty vanishes. The prophet looks in vision at the horn, and then, looking away from him, turns to gaze upon the prophetic picture presented at Mt. Sinai without specifying the locality; thus passing from one to the other without a commingling of them. Although the investiture (i.e. the public official recognition in the presence of holy intelligences) is on the earth, yet it is effectually concealed from the interference and annoyance of the powerful enemy which it is to destroy. Such an explanation, to say the least, is more natural and reasonable; if the Theocracy is indeed to be restored in David's son; than that usually given, which, against the Coming of the Ancient One and the evident description of scenes witnessed on earth, makes this a transaction in the third heaven. When the Theocracy was originally established, it was done amid the most solemn and glorious manifestations, and Mt. Sinai was purposely selected for the same; ow when the same Theocracy is to be reorganized in the most august manner under the leadership of the King specially provided, is it not reasonable that (instead of third heaven or the air, etc.) it should be effected in precisely the same place and with exhibitions of splendor and power far more impressive than any hitherto given. Is it not also suitable that such an arrangement when taking place on earth, should receive the most solemn outward official sanction of the Most High God?

This subject may also throw light on such passages as 1 Thess:5: 1-5, "But you brethren are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief," etc. Consider that this was addressed to Thessalonian brethren and includes them. Now if they are thus raised up, brought to Mt. Sinai, and made part of that reorganization, preliminary to the terrible scenes following, and even with Christ participate in them; will it not be preeminently true that being the acknowledged "children of the day" they cannot possibly be "in darkness." Again, the Passover is only partly fulfilled, the Lamb has been slain, the eating of its flesh in faith has been going on fr centuries (showing forth His death until He come), but the Passover itself we are told by Jesus (Luke 22: 15, 16), is to be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. In this Sinai arrangement, preparatory to "the day of vengeance," Jesus the mighty King will indeed by a refuge, etc.; and no evil will befall them. These are all indicative of a visible manifestation and ordering in behalf of the covenanted Theocratic Kingdom.

Let the student carefully examine the structure of Isaiah 16:1-5, and it is self evident, however we may give it an inchoate fulfillment, or make it typical, that it has not yet been fulfilled, seeing that in the immediate connection (v. 5) the throne is to be established, the Ruler is to sit upon it in the Kingdom of David, producing righteousness by His reign, which has not yet been verified. "Send ye the Lamb, the Ruler of the land, from Sela of the wilderness unto the mount of the daughter of Zion." The Chaldea makes it allude to "the Messiah, the Anointed of Israel." This, with the hiding of certain ones, the overthrow of the oppressor, the establishment of the Kingdom of David with the Ruler (after He has come "from Sela of the wilderness" to Jerusalem) reigning in it makes it to coincide with the other Scripture adduced. The Lamb is put for Jesus the Messiah - Christ, and the word fully identifies, in the future coming of the Lamb, in his wrath, his marriage, his war, his throne, this Lamb with the ruler-ship that he shall exert over all the earth from the established throne and Kingdom of David.

Isaiah chapter 41, and the connected chapters: Who is this "righteous man from the East?" Let any one look at the majesty, power, and glory declared of him, at the numerous promises descriptive of the same applied directly to the Messiah at his future Coming, at the Spirit's application of portions of the prediction expressly to the Messiah - Christ, and we are forced to the conclusion that the usual reference of this "righteous man" to Abraham or to Cyrus is utterly untenable; although, as some do, we make Abraham or Cyrus merely typical of the Messiah - Christ, having a double fulfillment, etc. The trouble with interpreters is that they cannot explain how this "righteous man," if Jesus, comes "from the East." But we have to bear in mind that the term "east" has a wide range, and is applicable to Arabia Deserta, Idumea, etc., from whence Jesus comes, as we have pointed out. Hence the applicability of these predictions to Jesus, as the ancients held (e.g. Barnabas, Tertullian, Augustine, etc.), can be received in every particular. As the approach of Jesus and His saints will follow the route of the Israelites, and hence the coming to Jerusalem will be literally from the East, it is well to notice that the approach from Jericho and Bethany will be really grand. It is the very rout taken in the triumphal entry of the Gospels, and indicative of this future triumphal entry.

This removal to Mt. Sinai, and the union there consummated of Theocratic relationship (likened owing to its intimate, enduring, and permanent character, to a marriage), satisfactorily explains some allusions to the future marriage, which many writers ignore or fail to conciliate. Notice: In Matthew 25:1, the Bridegroom is coming and the invited ones who are watching go with him to the marriage, the rest being left; in Luke 12: 36, the exhortation is to wait for the Lord "when he will return from the wedding;" in Rev. 19 a marriage is announced preceding this overthrow of Antichrist; in Revelation 21, a marriage follows the removal of God's enemies. And how reconcile the exhortation to watch for Bridegroom coming to the wedding and the warning to watch for him Coming from the wedding, and both these with Revelation ? If we keep in view how the figure of the marriage relation is employed to denote a variety of unions, and then notice this Theocratic union formed at Mt. Sinai previous to the open Advent of Jesus and His saints, and previous to the overthrow of the Anti-Christ powers, we have the key of an easy solution. The one (Matthew) refers to the thief-like coming followed by the union at Mt. Sinai (likened to a marriage) and specially addressed to Jews and others; the one (Revelation 19), refers to the union at Mt. Sinai, and is the same as "the married wife"; the other (Revelation 21) follows the overthrow of Anti-Christ, and is the marriage of the Messiah - Christ to the New Jerusalem. Thus several phases int he Second Advent, with respective unions entered into, are presented before us; the reconciliation being found complete in the order as presented to us.

The fact is, it helps us to see how a number of things, which must transpire the marriage of the Messiah - Christ to the New Jerusalem, must take place. Thus e.g. how and where the judgment of believers is consummated, so that their respective stations in the Kingdom are assigned. It teaches us that that special preparedness for the direct establishment of the Kingdom is of a supernatural nature, and done under the divine auspices at Mt. Sinai, and hence we cannot possibly receive the suppositions e.g. of the Catholic Church that it, through the Apostolate established, is doing this work.

It evinces that Jesus, in more aspects than is generally supposed, is a "Prophet like unto Moses." It shows that in the great work specially delegated to Moses, for which he was particularly commissioned by the Almighty, namely, to erect and organize a Theocratic government, in this Jesus will follow his footsteps, and evidence the same work, only on a grander scale. The non-repentance of the Jewish nation, its rejection of the Messiah, caused the postponement of this, the mighty work, to the Sec. Advent; then will it be performed, and in the identical place, too, where Moses stood forth the head of the nation. The supernatural, which necessarily accompanied the setting up of a Theocracy, will again be manifested in the gathering of the people; in the august inauguration; in the march to Palestine; in the encounter with the enemies of the Theocracy; in the establishment at Jerusalem, and in the advancement and progress of its power over the nations of the earth. The investiture of the Sovereignty of the world is so magnificent a feature that it justly, in view of its magnitude, design, the worthiness of the person invested, etc., demands a manifestation of it here on earth, and this it receives at Mt. Sinai, where gain a scene will be enacted, which will present an overwhelming sense of the majesty, power, and glory of the Ruler. But in the reinauguration there will be this great difference, that while the saints will undoubtedly be deeply affected by the wonderful investiture, yet they will not be affected by fear, as the Jewish nation, and pray that the glorious manifestations may cease, for prepared by previous glorification for this service, and realizing their dearest Friend is the person of the Ruler, they have, as Paul says, "boldness in the day of judgment;" for the scene before them, and in which they participate, is not one of death, as the Jews apprehended, but one of salvation, joy, blessedness, and glory. When the covenants are so vividly remembered and exalted by fulfillment, then such Psalms, as the 98th will be verified. "The world's greatest tribulation is the hour of the Christian's most magnificent deliverance." When the year of the redeemed and the day of vengeance both come, Jesus, the Theocratic King, will be glorified and admired by his own (Isa. 63 compared with 2 Thess. 1: 5-9). The Theocracy is established over "a willing people," who will exult and rejoice will fullness of joy in their King and Redeemer. Vengeance does not touch the saints; and when Jesus appears "a polished shaft hid in God's quiver" (Isa. 49: 2), "in whom God will be glorified" when employed against His enemies, these saints themselves, by association of ruler-ship and Theocratic power conferred on this "mount of God," shall participate in its execution, Ps. 149: 6-9; Rev. 2:26, 27, etc.

Paraphrased from The Theocratic Kingdom by George N. H. Peters

Posted by Keenan Lyon -