He Shall Save His People
SALVATION AND JUDGMENT
WHEN OUR LORD came into this world He came to save. This was the
meaning of the name given Him, Jesus, which according to its roots in the Hebrew language
Therefore, when Mary
was found pregnant by holy spirit (Matt.1:18), the messenger of the Lord said
to Joseph, Now she shall be bringing forth a Son, and you shall be calling His name
Jesus, for He shall be saving His people from their sins (1:21).
THE PROMISE OF SALVATION
promise is a most important declaration of Gods intention. It forms a solid basis
for all that is recorded throughout the book of Matthew. Indeed it must never be forgotten
in the midst of stern warnings and fearful events, least of all in the account of the evil
and darkness surrounding the rejection and crucifixion of this One Who came to save. The
promise remains alive and true even though it is left unrealized at the close of
In fact, by the end
of Matthew, even though unrealized, the great work of saving sinners from their sins had
been made certain of eventual realization by the death and resurrection of Christ. This
was the Lords own testimony at the passover meal, when He spoke of His blood
shed for many for the pardon of sins (26:27,28; see also Matt.20:28). In
addition, the truth was stated unintentionally at the very time in which it was being
established. While Jesus was being crucified the religious leaders of Israel scoffed at
Him, saying, Others he saves! Himself he cannot save! (Matt.27:42). The first
statement is absolutely true, and it is true because He did not save Himself. Thus
the opening clause of their mocking is transformed in grandest irony into the greatest
testimony to truth that they had ever spoken!
struggle and every sermon of warning and instruction recorded in Matthews account
lies the promise of salvation from sins. Behind every failure of Israel, the stubborn
resistance to the testimony of the Lord and the scheming and the cries for His
crucifixion, the promise still stands. He shall be saving His people from their
We recognize that
His people refers to the nation of Israel in the book of Matthew (cf
Matt.2:6; 10:5,6; 15:24). But the narrow viewpoint of Matthews account does not
restrict God in His operation of bringing salvation from sin to mankind. As Paul later
testified, in words much like those of the messenger, Faithful is the saying, and
worthy of all welcome, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
(1 Tim.1:15). Indeed Paul uses the language of Israels prophets to reveal that
every knee shall bow in the Name of Jesus, and every tongue shall acclaim with the avowal
of salvation: Jesus Christ is Lord (cf Isa.45:23; Phil.2:9,10;
The promise of
Matthew 1:21 focuses on one nation, but the point we wish to note now is that it is a
promise of salvation from sins, and a promise from God. The scope of this salvation will
eventually encompass all mankind (cf Rom.5:18; 1 Cor.15:22; 1 Tim.2:4;
4:10), but our concern here is the force of this promise. Is it possible that other
words and events recorded in Matthew can reverse this great declaration of chapter 1?
No! this promise
relating to our Lord and the purpose God had in bringing Him into this world remains in
operation and can never be set aside until it is fully realized. Jesus will be known and
praised by Israel as their Saviour, even as Paul also testified, thus all Israel
shall be saved (Rom.11:26).
SAVED FROM SINS
The promise of salvation
from sins can be traced through the Scriptures even as far back as Genesis 3:15,16, but
clearly stated with regard to Israel in a passage such as Psalm 130:7,8. And He
Himself shall ransom Israel from all its depravities.
prophesied Yahwehs new covenant with Israel: When I save you from all your
uncleannesses I will call to the grain and increase
it . . . . Then you will remember your evil ways and your actions
which were not good, and you will be disgusted in view of yourselves on account of your
depravities and your abhorrences. Not on your account will I be doing this, averring is my
Lord Yahweh, let it be known to you. Be ashamed and be mortified for your ways, house of
Israel. Thus says my Lord Yahweh: In the day I cleanse you from all your depravities, then
I will cause the cities to be indwelt, and the deserted places will be rebuilt
In pointing to Jesus
as Israels Saviour from their sins, the messenger was directly renewing the promise
of salvation given in the Sacred Scriptures. The fact that Israels depravities
continued in the face of many serious warnings and clear instructions from Matthew 3 up to
the crucifixion itself does not abrogate this promise. The reality of continued sin and
its dire consequences in the very presence of the Lord and His ministry can only make the
promise that much more marvelous and needed.
What is recorded in
Matthew is that the promise of salvation from sin is renewed in the Person of the Saviour,
Jesus. But the fulfillment of that promise does not come about. Yahweh had said through
Ezekiel, that He would cleanse Israel from all their uncleanness. But in Matthew we
find Jesus telling Israel what they must do to cleanse themselves. Before the Lord Himself
cleanses Israel, the fact that they are unable to cleanse themselves despite the very
presence of their Saviour must be established. The time had not yet come for the salvation
to be realized. But it will come, and when it comes it will be perceived and appreciated
that it was due to the faithfulness of God and not to the obedience of the nation (cf
COMMANDS, WARNINGS AND JUDGMENTS
The promise was salvation
from sins, but starting with John in the wilderness the message recorded in page after
page of Matthew is one of commands for repentance and warnings of indignation and judgment
to come. It is perhaps understandable, therefore, that the glorious promise of 1:21 has
become overshadowed in peoples minds by such stern and fearful words as the
vipers! Who intimates to you to be fleeing from the impending indignation? Produce, then,
fruit worthy of repentance (Matt.3:7,8).
the ax is lying at the root of the trees. Every tree, then, which is not producing ideal
fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire (Matt.3:10).
He will be
scouring His threshing floor, and will be gathering His grain into His barn, yet the chaff
will He be burning up with unextinguished fire (Matt.3:12).
. . . whoever
may be saying [to his brother], Stupid! shall be liable to the Gehenna of
Now, if your
right eye is snaring you, wrench it out and cast it from you, for it is expedient for you
that one of your members should perish and not your whole body be cast into Gehenna. And
if your right hand is snaring you, strike it off and cast it from you, for it is expedient
for you that one of your members should perish and not your whole body pass away into
the cramped gate, for broad is the gate and spacious is the way which is leading away into
destruction, and many are those entering through it. Yet what a cramped gate and narrowed
way is the one leading away into life, and few are those who are finding it
. . . many
from the east and the west shall be arriving and reclining with Abraham and Isaac and
Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens, yet the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into
outer darkness. There shall be lamentation and gnashing of teeth (Matt.8:11,12).
And do not
fear those who are killing the body, yet are not able to kill the soul. Yet be fearing
Him, rather, Who is able to destroy the soul as well as the body in Gehenna
Capernaum! Not to heaven shall you be exalted! To the unseen shall you subside, for, if
the powerful deeds which are occurring in you had occurred in Sodom, it might remain unto
today (Matt.11:23; cf verses 20-24; 12:41,42).
Every sin and
blasphemy shall be pardoned men, yet the blasphemy of the spirit shall not be
pardoned . . . neither in this eon nor in that which is
impending (Matt.12:31,32; cf verses 36,37).
Even as the
darnel, then, are being culled and burned up with fire, thus shall it be in the conclusion
of the eon. The Son of Mankind shall be dispatching His messengers, and they shall be
culling out of His kingdom all the snares and those doing lawlessness, and they shall be
casting them into a furnace of fire. There shall be lamentation and gnashing of
teeth (Matt.13:40-42; cf verses 49-51).
Now if the
blind should be guiding the blind, both shall be falling into a pit (Matt.15:14).
may be wanting to save his soul shall be destroying it. Yet whoever should be destroying
his soul on My account shall be finding it (Matt.16:25).
Now if your
hand or your foot is snaring you, strike it off and cast it from you. Is it ideal for you
to be entering into life maimed or lame, or, having two hands or two feet, to be cast into
the fire eonian? And if your eye is snaring you, wrench it out and cast it from you. Is it
ideal for you to be entering into life one-eyed, or, having two eyes, to be cast into the
Gehenna of fire? (Matt.18:8,9).
There shall be
lamentation and gnashing of teeth. For many are the called, yet few are the chosen
(Matt.22:14; cp 24:51; 25:30).
Progeny of vipers! How may you be fleeing from the judging of Gehenna? (Matt.23:33).
Jerusalem! who art killing the prophets and pelting with stones those who have been
dispatched to her! . . . Lo! left is your house to you desolate
Then shall He
be declaring to those also at His left, Go from Me, you cursed, into the fire
eonian, made ready for the Adversary and his messengers (Matt.25:41).
shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian
THE CRUCIFIXION OF THE SAVIOUR
The bleakness increases
after these fearful prophecies of Matthew 24 and 25, for the time of the crucifixion has
come. Every reader of Matthew should ask now if the question has not arisen before, What
has happened to the great promise of 1:21?
It has been shown in
chapters 3 through 25 that Gods people Israel are sinners and need to be saved from
their sins. Matthew 26 and 27 make this indisputable. But also, anticipating what is
revealed later, this darkest of all events recorded in this book becomes the basis for the
full and glorious realization of 1:21.
Jesus came as the
Saviour. His Name means Yahweh- Saviour. And every knee shall bow in that Name, and every
tongue shall acclaim the avowal of salvation, that Jesus Christ is Lord. None of these
warnings and none of the coming operations of wrath and judgment can keep Jesus from
saving His people Israel, and indeed all the descendants of Adam, from their sins.
THE TEACHING OF EVERLASTING HELL
Inestimable harm has been
done by taking passages like those above and stringing them together in such a way that
Matthew 1:21 is submerged in our thinking. And this harm has been greatly increased by
Bible translations which render the word Gehenna by hell, and the
word eonian by everlasting. Few concepts have so effectively
distorted the evangel of salvation, centered in Jesus Christ, as the teaching of
The book of Matthew
provides an especially good testing ground for this whole controversy concerning the
ultimate fate of mankind. It is filled with statements and phrases, most of which are the
Lords own words, which have been used to adjust radically the meaning of the promise
of salvation from sins given at the beginning of the book and long before in the Old
Testament. What the Lord speaks is so. But because He speaks of human sinfulness and
failure and the certainty of judgment does not move His great Name, Saviour, into second
place behind Judge or Condemner. It is necessary that He speak of indignation and judgment
upon the wickedness of Israel and the nations and all mankind, but salvation from these
very things must have the last word, because Jesus is the Saviour.
Is it possible that
One Who came to save sinners should end up saving but a few and becoming the great
Stumbling Stone for the rest to their eternal condemnation? All His roles, as Judge, as
Condemner, even as Stumbling Stone (cf Rom.9:32,33), can only serve to the end of
His manifestation as the Saviour.
It is proposed here
to examine the many passages in Matthew which are used so often in support of an unending
hell, whether of conscious torment or hopeless annihilation, considering them carefully in
their context and in the context of the whole of Scripture. It is especially pleaded that
the opening promise of this book, the words of Matthew 1:21, never be forgotten. Let these
words from a messenger of the Lord help shape our understanding of the many severe and
fearful warnings and predictions of the book.
This is necessary,
for not only future times of indignation and condemnation but also present evils pressing
on us from every side, easily distract our thoughts from the good news of salvation in
Christ. The very real dangers spoken of by the Lord and the very actual troubles in our
own lives must not turn our eyes from the One Who saves from them. The dangers and
troubles and failures, the sins and their judgment as well, all these must be, for
otherwise there is no reason for Him to be the Saviour. The fact of human sin and divine
judgment on wicked thoughts and words and acts should make the good news of salvation
continually more welcome and glorious to us. But to view the condemnation of sinners as
beyond the power and province of the Saviour is most shameful and exceedingly harmful to
our lives and growth in faith.
cannot be so if Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!
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