Praise and Prayer
MUCH ON EARTH seems to be but a shadow of that in the heavens. We read of the ritual of messengers (Col. 2:18). The divine service of Israel seems to have human imitations, copied from that carried on among the celestials. The holy places made by hands were only representations of the true, where Christ has gone (Heb.8:23). We know that the popular idea of heaven, where all is in harmony with God, and the angels are all holy and happy, is false. The blood of Christ's cross will bring peace to the heavens as well as to the earth (Col.1:20). There is enmity there as well as here. It will be our precious privilege to broadcast conciliation to the heavenly hosts, just as it will be Israel's highest honor on earth to win the nations to the worship of God.
The glories of heaven are immeasurably greater than those on earth. This passes our comprehension, but it may help us to compare the two in other ways. Their physical features may be an index of the spiritual. God Himself appeals to the height of the heavens in order to show His superiority to man.
So loftier are My ways than your ways,
And My devices than your devices (Isa.55:9).
Who can measure the vast difference between the ways of God and man? Must not this also be an index of the distance between celestial and terrestrial glories?
Scripture speaks of the multitude of the stars. Abraham could not count them (Gen.15:5). Their number seems to be infinite. Many years ago a hundred inch telescope was set up on a mountaintop within sight of my home. It greatly increased the quantity of stars visible to man. Lately, another one has been erected not very far away, with a diameter of two hundred inches, four times as large. Although not yet in normal operation, tests have produced photographs of many more stars, never before seen by man. No doubt, with more powerful lenses even more stars would make their appearance. It looks as if they were numberless.
Man cannot number the stars, that is God's prerogative. He not only counts them, but all of them He calls by name (Psa.147: 4). What is on them all we are not told. But we know that there are sovereignties and authorities among the celestials (Eph.3: 10), just as there are on earth. Their messengers are greater than men in strength and power (2 Peter 2:11). They are able to visit the earth, while we can hardly leave its surface, much less fly to other spheres.
The Scriptures contain many indications of estrangement and conflict in the heavens. Satan's sneering and slighting remarks about Job show what some of the celestials thought of God's relations to mankind. They know of the enmity between man and the Deity, and eagerly grasp the opportunity of stirring it up and widening the breach between the creature and the Creator. Our glorious privilege, the most precious part of our allotment, is to bring these trouble-makers themselves into tune with God and restore the harmony of heaven. Not only Job, but the saints of this administration suffer much from the attacks of these malignant spirit forces (Eph.6:11-17). We do not attack them. All our armour is defensive, except the sword, which is a divine declaration. In the future, we will turn them from foes into friends. Through us, they, too, will be reconciled with God.
Our allotment is spiritual. Israel's is soulish and material. They will have food and shelter in the land as well as their political and religious supremacy on the earth. Why don't we also receive a portion to eat and a place to live? Of this, there is no limit, and the reason is plain. We will not need them. Bodies that are spiritual and immortal will be sustained and protected by other means than those employed by mortals. Perhaps a crude illustration will suggest the solution. In my youth, we used coal oil lamps, which needed to be continually supplied with oil, and the flame had to be protected with a chimney, and the wick trimmed of its ashes. If any of these were lacking it might go out. Now, however, we use electric bulbs. All they need is a connection with the powerhouse. Yet they burn much brighter than the lamps.
Even in our present life, all energy is indirectly supplied by the sun. Indeed, we may sometimes warm ourselves and enjoy the direct benefits of the sunshine, so that we need very little or no shelter from the elements. Without sunlight no vegetation would grow, and no animal could feed upon the fruits of the ground. At the same time, the earth hides the sun from us half of the day. Theoretically, if we could bask in the sunlight all the time it would double our vitality, and if we could bypass all the mediums through which it provides us with internal fuel, we might be many times as vigorous as we are. The difference might be compared with the telephone and the radio. One needs wires to conduct the impulses, the other, by using waves, does without. Our bodies need not be spirits, to enjoy these advantages, but they must be spiritual, rather than soulish.
Once we are in close and continuous touch with the universal Source of power and life, the curse of Eden will be cured, and even the earth-bound frailties of the human race will vanish. Having no blood, there will be no soul, no sensation, no suffering even possible, and no food could be assimilated if we had it. No cold or heat will affect our bodies, so we will need no house to shelter us from them. Our bodies will be vibrant with life because they will be spiritual. So it is that we are not promised a palace as a part of our allotment, or even a feast, for these things will be utterly unnecessary and unwanted, but would rather detract from the spiritual delight which will fill our hearts when we enjoy the riches of the glory of His allotment, embracing every spiritual blessing among the celestials.
Mankind has many enemies. Because of our sentimental association of heaven with nothing but felicity and angelic beings, we have well-nigh forgotten that all men's miseries originated there in the first place, and made us mortals and turned the earth and its life against humanity. Earth is indeed the stage on which God is revealing Himself, but the play is a tragedy written in heaven and directed from above. An angel it was that interfered and estranged us from our Creator, and so introduced death and sin and woe.
Until Satan came down and deluded Eve, there was no enmity on earth. Adam was not afraid of the animals he had named, and the ground gave freely of its bounty. But, as a result of the visit of the Adversary, the living creatures were estranged, and the very soil withheld its increase. The whole kingdom of nature, over which man was appointed ruler, revolted against his leadership. This led to his many miseries and disintegration and death. And it came because he hearkened to a heavenly rebel rather than to God.
When Adam was banished from the garden of Eden he was kept from returning by Cherubim and a flaming turning sword. It is generally supposed that these also were celestial beings, but their name and composition do not seem to warrant that. Although Hebrew words are seldom a combination of other words, Hebrew names are usually made up of two or more. So it may be that k-rub, as cherub is spelled in the original, denotes AS (for k) and MANY, for rub (as in rabbi), and means AS-MANY, or representative of a multitude. Who these many are is evident from their form, for it combines the heads of all animate creation. They have nothing about them that connects them with the celestials. They seem to represent various forms of life upon the earth. These now are wild, and keep man from enjoying his allotment down here.
We do not read of messengers, or angels, as such, until the time of Abram. Then they are often sent to his descendants, especially the nation of Israel. Still, it is remarkable that the first time one appears, it is to Hagar, the mother of Ishmael (Gen.16:7). Next they came to Lot (Gen.19:1). From these two sprang nations which were at enmity with the people of the promise. No messengers appeared during their sojourn in Egypt, but one was sent to call Moses to deliver them from its bondage. From then on until Malachi, which means My Messenger, they are continuously active on behalf of the people of the covenant. In this prophecy, John the Baptist and our Lord Himself are called messengers. They reappear during the ministry of our Lord and His apostles, practically vanish in Paul's epistles, and reappear in the remainder of the Circumcision writings. In the Unveiling they are all seen in myriads, and on many occasions.
The mission of messengers to the Circumcision was usually beneficial. They were ministering spirits, commissioned for service on behalf of those about to be enjoying the allotment of salvation (Heb.1:13). They were sent to Abram and saved Lot from Sodom (Gen.19). A messenger kept Abram from slaying his son Isaac (Gen. 22:15), and went before his servant to get a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24:7), and spoke to Jacob in a dream (Gen.31:11), and again at Mahanaim (Gen.32:1). A messenger of Jehovah appeared to Moses in the flaming thorn-bush (Ex.3:2), and went with Israel in their journeys (Ex.14:19; 23:20,23; 32:34), and drove out the nations in the promised land (Ex.33:2). Balaam was opposed by a messenger of Jehovah (Num.22). The Psalmist says,
those who fear Him, and He is liberating them.
In the land Jehovah's messenger often appeared, to save the people from their enemies. One came to Gideon (Judges 6:11), to Manoah, the father of Samson (Judges 13), and Elijah, the prophet (2 Kings 1:3). A messenger of Jehovah smote 185,000 Assyrians, when they came against Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35). A messenger of Jehovah often brought a message to the prophets, as to Zechariah (1:9). Later, even out of the land, Daniel was delivered from the den of the lions through their intervention (Dan.3:28).
In later revelation a messenger of Jehovah appeared to Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of our Lord (Matt.1:20; 2:19). A messenger announced the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah, his father (Luke 1:11). Gabriel was sent to Nazareth, to Mary, heralding the birth of the Messiah (Luke 1:26). One came to the shepherds, along with a multitude of the heavenly host, to celebrate His birth (Luke 2:9). In Gethsemane a messenger strengthened Him. At His resurrection, an angel rolled away the stone before the sepulcher and made it known to the apostles (Matt.28:2-7). The apostles were released from prison by a messenger (Acts 5:19). Even after the nations had practically rejected their message and James was assassinated, Peter was loosed from his prison chains by a messenger of the Lord (Acts 12:5-11). One even came to Paul on the ship on his way to Rome, and assured him that he must stand before Caesar (Acts 27:23,24).
The Unveiling is characterized by the fact that as a whole it was dispatched to John by a messenger (1:1). The messengers of the ecclesias were doubtless human, so we will pass over them. But the others are celestial. A strong messenger heralds the opening of the scroll (5:2), many of them join in acclaiming the Lambkin when He opens the scroll of Israel's allotment. Four messengers hold the winds of the earth, while another one seals the slaves of God, before they injure the land and the sea (7:1,2). Then all the messengers stand around the throne (7:11). The seven who stand before God sound the seven trumpets (8:2-6,8,10,12; 9:1,13; 11:15). Another one, standing at the altar, casts fire on the earth (8:3).
Then there is Abaddon, or Apollyon, the messenger of the abyss (9:11), besides the four who were loosed to kill the third of mankind (9:14). He is followed by the one with the opened scroll (10:1). Then Michael and his messengers battle in heaven against the dragon and his messengers (12:7). As a result Satan and his messengers are cast out to the earth (12:9). Then the eonian evangel is brought by a messenger (14:6), followed by one who announces the fall of Babylon (8) and by a third, who warns against the worship of the wild beast (9). Still another calls for the reaping of the harvest (15), whereupon one with a sickle appears (17), who is ordered to gather the vintage (18). The last seven calamities are poured out by seven messengers (15:1). One of these shows John the sentence of Babylon and explains it to him (17:1,7). Another announces its fall (18:1), and still another shows how it will be (21). Then one invites the birds of prey to dine on the dead of earth's armies (19:17).
Finally, Satan, the Adversary, the serpent who began the great tragedy of mankind by deluding Eve in the Garden of Eden, is bound by a messenger for a thousand years, and one of the messengers who poured out the last calamities on rebellious Israel, shows John the bride of the Lambkin, the new Jerusalem, which will have a messenger at each of its twelve portals (20: 9,12).
The present opposition of the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials is apparent from the part they play in Paul's perfection epistles. Near the beginning of Ephesians, the chief of the aerial jurisdiction is the spirit which is operating in the sons of stubbornness, not in those who are obedient to the faith. Their stubbornness may be largely the effect of his influence. In the last chapter, we are presented with a panoply with which to withstand these powers, and a sword in order to fight them (Eph. 6:10-17).
In Colossians, we have an important passage which, because of its figurative form, has been a stumbling block to the earnest but immature student of the Scriptures. Having learned that the kingdom is future and on earth, and that we are justified, which is much more than mere pardon, it is quite a shock to read in Colossians that we have been transported into the kingdom and have the pardon of sins (1:13,14). If we would only consider everything in connection with its context! This is not the future kingdom of the Son of David or the Son of Mankind. It is a present rule under the Son of God's love. Israel will be delivered from the armies of the nations. We are already delivered from sinister spirit forces, called the jurisdiction of darkness. In spirit, we already have a foretaste of our allotment in our rescue from the malignant spirit powers which hold all mankind in thralldom.
We are still subject to the superior authorities among men (Rom.13:1). They have been set under God. Should we resist them we withstand God's mandate, and will get judgment for ourselves. Human government is a divine institution and we should hear and obey. It is for our good, in suppressing evil. Even if it is such a failure, it is our duty to submit to it, in the Lord. Our own experience has been such that we have suffered some under unjust and unwise administration, but we have never been forced to violate our conscience. Although living through two wars in which conscription threatened to bring us into conflict with the authorities, God graciously arranged matters so that we could be subject without going contrary to God or man.
Not so with the spiritual powers, headed by the Adversary. Once we walked in harmony with the chief of the jurisdiction of the air, the spirit now operating in the sons of stubbornness (Eph.2:2). Ever since Eve listened to the serpent, the spirit world has sought to obtain control in the affairs of mankind. Individually and nationally the race prides itself on doing as it likes, but both men and nations often stand aghast at what they have done. Their best efforts often recoil on their own heads. Civilized man is inclined to thrust such thoughts aside as mere superstition. Strange to say, the primitive peoples, who live close to nature, seem more sensitive to these evil influences than their sophisticated superiors. In their crude way, they recognize not only that there are spirit forces, but that they are evil. In their ignorance, they seek to propitiate them.
Nevertheless, even among advanced peoples, there has been a revival of belief in the spirit world. It is usually called spiritualism, but it were better to call it spiritism. Spiritual always suggests something good, as opposed to the flesh. And this is the very thing in which men are led astray. They doubtless do contact the spirits, but they are bad, not good. They are free to operate in those who are stubborn, who do not obey God's spirit. They are the jurisdiction of darkness, not light. They do not enlighten, but deceive. Some of those who have had definite dealings with them have discovered how deceptive they are. But the most of mankind are influenced by them, yet hardly realize that they exist. They are far too clever for mankind to cope with.
It is from this thralldom that we have been delivered. As this personal rescue out of the dark dominion in which we lived, into the light of God's presence, is so much like that which Israel, as a nation, will experience when the kingdom of Christ displaces the kingdoms of this world (Rev.11:15), that it is also called a kingdom. But the King is the Son of God's love, a title that recognizes His universal headship, over the celestial spirit world, rather than over mankind on the earth. This is our present allotment. We will not be associated with Him in His reign over all these spirit powers until we are vivified. Negatively, however, we are freed from subjection to them, a boon very few of the saints fully appreciate.
THE CHIEF MESSENGERS
Some sects in Christendom make much of the ministry of angels. Indeed, nearly all consider that the place given them in the book of Hebrews is applicable today. Hence they rely on guardian angels, and even pray to those of higher rank. Thus they put them between us and God, just as the Circumcision, who had many intermediaries, priests, and prophets as well. Paul warns against this in his epistle to the Colossians. If we hold to our Head, we need no go-between apart from Christ (Col.2:18). Indeed, there is a sense in which our Lord is also a Messenger, for He, above all, has brought us God's messages, and He is superior to every celestial power.
The one occasion when we will enjoy the ministry of a Messenger will come at the close of our career. When God calls us above He sends the Chief Messenger, Whose voice will raise the dead and change and snatch away the living. While still on earth He went to Bethany with a message for Lazarus and his sisters concerning the resurrection, which is true of Him at all times. He is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25). In His presence, those who die shall live, and the living will not die. But how could He deliver it to Lazarus, who was dead? All that He needed to do was to cry out, Lazarus! Hither! Out! Had He not limited it to Lazarus, He would have emptied all the tombs of their dead.
So will it be when He comes for us. Just what He will say we do not know. Lazarus means helpless, which would fit us very well, but might easily include all the rest of the dead, who must not be roused until after the thousand years. He could not even use the word saints, for then the saints of the Circumcision would hear and rise before their time, for they are not due until seventy-five days after His coming to Israel. What term He will use to exclude these and include all who are members of His body, we do not know, but we will all recognize it when we hear it, either alive or dead.
Neither will it do to call them out, for few of them will be laid away in tombs. Instead, the command may be Up! for we will not merely be raised, so as to stand upright on the earth, but snatched away into the air in order to meet Him there. The central term, Hither! may well be used of us, for we all are to be drawn in His direction, into His very presence, not, however, bound in winding sheets, but free from every bond, even the gravitation which binds us to the earth. May it be the precious privilege of every reader of these lines to listen and to hear, even before he is laid to repose, the wondrous words that will waft us into His presence! Perhaps the shout we will hear will be, Members! Hither! Up!
Meanwhile, may we all join our apostle, in his inspired prayer for all the saints, that they may perceive what is the riches of the glory of the enjoyment of His allotment among the saints...in accord with the operation of the might of His strength which is operative in the Christ, rousing Him from among the dead and seating Him at His right hand among the celestials (Eph.1:15-23).
A. E. Knoch
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