Questions and Answers
WE are often asked certain questions which we invariably answer by reference to articles in the back issues of Unsearchable Riches. We find that some recurring questions have already been dealt with so satisfactorily in the magazine that we can hardly improve on what was said. The questions which come up most often are certainly on basic matters, and worthy of frequent review.
The questions come from our readers. The earlier questions were answered directly by A. E. Knoch. Later answers are selections taken from various back numbers of the magazine or in our other publications. Generally they will be from articles by Mr. Knoch, and in some cases we will edit them slightly in order to make them more directly and briefly responsive to the question. This is necessary, of course, since what was written was not originally in reply to a question.
It would be most discordant to do so for two reasons. "Adelphos" is translated uniformly "brother" in the A.V. although it occurs 346 times. And so with other versions as far as we know. On the other hand, brother is used for no other Greek word. If it were allowed in a C.V. this rendering would be more discordant than any other version. No concordant Bible student would so translate it or define it.
On the other hand, "anepsios" means cousin in its one occurrence. In the Septuagint it is used for the Hebrew bn dud, which is translated, in Num.36:11, as the son of an uncle. The daughters of Zelophehad could marry them, but they certainly could not marry their own brothers. In the Septuagint it occurs thrice, with this meaning always.
This question shows that someone has been thinking. No righteous judge on earth would declare a guilty man "not guilty"--how much less the God of heaven--yet we are told continually that He does. How is this possible?
Justify means to pronounce one "not guilty." In Romans 3:20 we learn that "by works of law no flesh at all shall be justified in His sight." Rules and laws only accentuate the fact that all have sinned. In Psalms 143:2 we read that "in Thy sight no man living is righteous." God cannot call a robber not a robber or a sinner not a sinner and still be just, but the point of the whole matter lies in the word "living." We are NOT living any more. "With Christ we have been crucified. Knowing this, that our old humanity was crucified together with Him--one who dies has been justified from sin" (Rom.6:6,7). Now we are no longer in the old humanity but in the new. All this is "through faith in the operation of God" (Col.2:12). We believe that because of what God has done through Christ on the cross we now stand before Him holy and flawless; complete in Christ. Nothing consequently is now condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. Are you in Christ Jesus?
No one can be justified in the old humanity. They can be forgiven or pardoned but never declared "not guilty." It is edifying to note that we find this truth of justification in Romans, for it is not applicable to anyone who is not saved through Paul's evangel. You cannot find anywhere outside of Paul's writings where it speaks of people having died together with Christ. We read about people confessing their sins. We read about the blood of Christ being shed but not about man dying together with Him, for in these passages God is still dealing with the old humanity. The promises made then could not be true in the new. We do not stand justified in the old humanity but in the new. We do not stand justified in the flesh but in the spirit. Being justified gratuitously in His grace, through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus let us be thanking Him. Truly it is a most acceptable era. Now is a day of salvation.
The believers are divided up into many denominations but our desire isn't to prove who is right but to get an understanding of what is right. God's Word is truth. The difficulty lies in the fact that most all teachings claim to be based on the Word, however, we know that only ONE can be truth. Just because no one has all the truth we should not take the indifferent attitude that "it doesn't matter so much." Our desire should always be to know what accords with God's revelation having a "love of the truth" for only it can lead us to the realms of glory and bring us close to God's heart.
If we have a firm grasp of the foundational facts we will be able to test all, for whatever does not fit on the foundation is wrong. We are not to try and make it fit, but rather, to see how it does.
One fundamental fact always to hold is that God is Supreme. He is not subject to or dependent on anyone nor can anything thwart His purpose. (Rom.11:33 and 9:33) If something does not fit on this foundation it is not truth. Another important fact apart from which no one can correctly understand the Word is that Paul's writings are distinct containing special revelations for which he was severed. Anything mixing the evangel Paul dispensed with that given out by the other apostles is not correctly cutting the word of truth (2 Tim.2:15). The third fact by which we must test all, is concerning our completeness in Christ. If anything more than faith is said to make us complete in Christ before God it is not truth but philosophy or empty seduction (Col.2:8). Almost everything can be tested by these facts and reveal if they stand on the foundation or not.
Anything we accept which is not truth will be like a curtain to shut out that much of the light from sending its glorious rays into our hearts. Let us treasure God's Word more than "thousands of gold and silver" (Psa.119:72).
There are several ways by which we may determine what books are the writings inspired by God. One is that Jesus quoted from certain books. He would not have quoted from something that was not inspired. Paul quotes from Habakkuk, Hosea, Isaiah and others. Fulfillment of the Word spoken by the prophets is also an indication of inspiration. Israel was told that if the prophecy came to pass as the man of God spoke it then they could be assured that he had spoken of God. Each writing that was barred from the Sacred Canon contained contradictions or indications that it was of human origin. "Holy men spake as they were moved by holy spirit" and the spirit wouldn't make a mistake or contradict itself.
One thing that we believers must beware of is becoming guilty of what is spoken of in Col.2:21-23. It is common among believers to consider themselves better than other people because they don't do things that others do, or that they can make themselves more holy by refraining from doing them. This is self-righteousness and denies our completeness in Christ. There are things which we refrain from doing because we are children of light but we must never think that this will add to our position before God. Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:8 that bodily exercise is beneficial for a few things. From some of the examples he uses in his writings we might conclude that Paul at least watched some athletic activities. The point of the whole matter lies in our motive. The world seeks in entertainment and sports to find joy and peace which their hearts do not have. Christ is this to us. We may enjoy sports but mustn't let them capture us.
106. Does the fact that the "New Testament" was written in Greek instead of Hebrew indicate that it was written to the nations instead of the Jews?
The change of language only indicates to us what had happened to the Jews during the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew. Instead of retaining their original tongue they adopted the language of the nations. Except for a few, the only way to reach the Jews was by use of Greek. We can see God working behind the scene, for the Greek Scriptures contain the writings to the nations to whom Paul was commissioned. However, we cannot take the language as a guide as to whom the writings are for, for Matthew, Mark, Luke, Hebrews, etc., definitely indicates that they are connected with what was told in the prophets. In Matthew we have the promised King of the Jews arriving. He came to "confirm the promises of the circumcision!" The contents, not the language, inform us whom they are for.
We have been taught that there once were huge creatures dwelling upon the earth called cave men, but we always need to verify every thing with the Word of God. In Genesis 1:27 we read that God created humanity in His image. All the human race was created in Adam, the first man, just as the new humanity is created in Christ. Humanity began with Adam. This does not mean that creation began with Adam, but the human race did. There may have been "pre-Adamic" creatures such as those of which skeletons have been found, but no human beings were before Adam. He is the first and in him all consisted.
The Scriptures do speak of the primitive man, but not the one referred to in history books. The primitive man is the old humanity of which we are all a part (2 Cor.5:17). All are primitive until they are in Christ, then "that is passed by and now has come." "If anyone is in Christ there is a new creation."
108. Just what was Peter censured for in Galatians when he withdrew from eating with the nations (Gal.2:11)?
Peter had acknowledged publicly that the Circumcision were not strong enough to bear the yoke of the law, and they would be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, even as the nations (Acts 15:10,11). So, when he went to Antioch, he ate together with the nations. But when emissaries came from James, the Lord's brother, he and others shrank back and played the hypocrite. He repudiated the grace of God by so doing. This was a fearful thing for one in his position. Today this sin is very common. Whenever we teach or act on the supposition that something of our own has given us a superior place in God's favor, we repudiate God's grace.
109. Was God an enemy of man before the sacrifice of Christ for sin? Or was it only man who was an enemy of God?
Basically, God never was the enemy of humanity, as such. It was their offenses that turned Him against them for their sake, just as He drove Adam out of the garden for his sake. But even then He was propitiated to some by sacrifice. Now the sacrifice of Christ for all makes it possible for Him to be propitiated to all, as it suits His eonian plan. In the present administration of transcendent grace He is conciliated to all. Yet His future rejection by both Israel and the nations is the fullness of offense, so calls for the direct indignation.
We stand on the Word of God alone, and, as He has not even mentioned such a "state," we cannot base anything on it. Our faith on this subject is found in Paul's first epistle to the Thessalonians (4:13-18). There we are clearly told that we, who are surviving to the presence of the Lord, will by no means outstrip those who have been put to repose. We once taught the opposite, that they have long since outstripped us. But this scripture convinced us of our mistake.
Now we are expecting the Lord Himself to descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the Chief Messenger, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall be rising first. Thereupon we, the living, who are surviving, shall at the same time be snatched away together with them in clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And thus shall we always be together with the Lord (1 Thess.4:15-17). So they will, indeed, rise before we are snatched away together, but only to reach the surface of the earth, not to "go to heaven." We will reach "heaven" just as soon as they will.
The only possible "intermediate" state between the dead in Christ and the living, when He comes (Come! Lord! Come!), will be the time it takes those reposing to rise and join those surviving, so that they may be snatched away together, at the same time.
In a later revelation of Paul, our apostle, to the Corinthians (1 Cor.15:51), he reveals further particulars, especially as to time. The trumpet will blow a flourish or fanfare, but the change in both the dead and the living will not take place until the last trump. Then the dead will be roused from their sleep and we will be changed. This operation, marvelous as it will be, will take place in an instant (Greek, atom, UN-CUT) or the twinkle of an eye, so will not leave time for any intermediate state worthy of mention. In fact there is no "state," or stable condition at all between them.
ROUSING AND RISING
By the continual recurrence of daylight and darkness, God gives His saints a repeated reminder of their rousing and rising when Christ calls them to Himself. When a sound wakes us after a night's sleep, this should remind us of His call which will rouse the dead. And when we rise from our couch at the call of daily duty, it should be in anticipation of that trumpet blast which will raise the bodies of the dead in Christ to meet Him in the air. Thus it is that He rehearses in His world what He reveals in His Word--His power and His plan to rouse and raise the dead.
Before God taught us the folly of applying everything in the Bible to ourselves, rather than those to whom He wrote it, there were many traditions which seemed to be Bible truth simply because they were mentioned in it, or we thought they were. We "believed" everything in the "Gospels," and especially the parables. But now we know that Christ was not sent to the nations at that time (Matt.10:6), but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And some of His parables were not spoken even to believers in Israel, but to unbelievers, seeing that, though observing, they were not observing, and hearing, they were not hearing, neither were they understanding ..."Lest...He shall be healing them" (Matt.13:10-15).
On the contrary, however, when He told His own disciples that "Lazarus, our friend, has found repose, but I am going that I should be awakening him out of sleep," and they took it literally, then He spoke boldly, "Lazarus died" (John 11:1-44). Should we not discriminate between that which our Lord spoke to His enemies in order not to heal them, and that which He explained to His own disciples in order to correct their misapprehension as to the figure of repose in sleep? He had a special right to use it, for His power in resurrection and vivification alone can transform the terrors of death and dissolution into a life that is unutterably grand and glorious.
In this as in all else, let us keep the truth for today separate from that for Israel or unbelievers. Much less, in their case, can there be an "intermediate" condition, like the traditional "heaven." Daniel predicted that "many of those sleeping in the soil of the ground shall awake..." (Dan.12:2, CV).
This truth has been a great relief to those of us who were deceived by the teaching of demons, who brought messages from the dead, or impersonated them, and thus opened the door to their own deceptions, hence we may be overzealous in our desire to help others (1 Tim.4:1). So we beg our readers to kindly bear with us, if we, unwittingly give anyone offense.
The innocent-looking phrase "spiritual Israel," practically repudiates God's whole prophetic program. All that He promised to His people is filched from them and "applied" to others on the plea that it must be understood "spiritually." Just as if there will be nothing spiritual in the coming kingdom! In that day Yahweh will bestow a new spirit within them (Ezek.36:26). He will pour out His spirit upon the house of Israel (Ezek.39:29). Indeed, He will pour out His spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17). The only spiritual Israel known to God's Word is that which will be found in that kingdom. Yet this phrase is used to do away with it! They will be far more spiritual than the church which seeks to displace them by means of this subterfuge.
On all sides today this idea is distorting the testimony of the church, and engaging it with that which is on the earth, not that which is above. It would seem that nothing could more effectively keep it from entertaining its real spiritual blessing among the celestials (Eph.1:3) than this notion that Israel has utterly failed, so that God's promises will not be fulfilled, except in a "spiritual" way to the church which takes over what they have forfeited. The worst effect is that it prevents the saints from entering into the truth for today. The church is not literal Israel, nor figurative Israel, and, least of all "spiritual" Israel. It is the literal Israel of the future that will be spiritual. Let us not get the idea that "spiritual" denotes figurative. What is really meant is that the church is figurative Israel. But "spiritual" is a much more subtle term, implying, as it does, that Israel was carnal and we are spiritual, which contains enough truth to confuse and mislead the saints.
Not only is a literal kingdom looked upon as "carnal," but the millennium is decried as a most unspiritual idea which can find only a "spiritual" fulfillment in the history of the church. What is really meant, of course, is a figurative fulfillment, but the word spiritual is usually preferred, for it stamps believers in a literal millennium as lacking in spiritual discernment, if they are not downright carnal. It is this implication in the word "spiritual" which makes it such a favorite weapon to destroy faith in the promises of God.
112. What about the theory that only the faithful remnant of the "ten lost tribes" of the northern kingdom have become the true Israel, while the southern kingdom of Judah (the "Jews") has been shut away from all the blessings?
We should always distinguish between "Jacob," the Circumventer, and "Israel," the Upright-with-El. Jacob and his sons are always connected with the flesh and its striving, but Israel with submission to God's mercy. The lesson, that Abraham's physical seed is not called to enjoy the promises, had been clearly taught in the choice of Isaac and the repudiation of Ishmael. It was repeated in the case of Jacob and Esau. Now God, however, deals with all the sons of Jacob, and, however undeserving most of them were, they are all included in His future plan of blessing the other nations through them, hence are all sons of Israel, as well as sons of Jacob. "Blessed is the man who has the God of Jacob for his help" (Psa.146:5), for God acted toward him in utter grace. When the nation insisted on using its own strength He called them sons of Jacob. But when He views them as the channels of His blessing, then they are the sons of Israel. It is only those who have faith, however, who receive the promises.
Consequently all descendants of the patriarch Jacob are Israelites. The temporary restriction of this term, when in contrast to the southern kingdom, cannot be forced on the occurrences of the word in the Greek Scriptures. Paul was an Israelite, although of Benjamin, which was reckoned with Judah (Phil.3:5). The very first occurrence (Matt.2:6), shows that out of Judah shall come a Ruler, Who shall be shepherding Israel. This must include the whole nation, for it refers to our Lord Himself. The land, as a whole, was called the land of Israel (Matt.2:20,21). Joseph considers Judea to be a part of this land. The cities are called the cities of Israel (Matt.10:23). The inhabitants are called the "people of Israel" (Matt.2:6; Luke 2:32; Acts 4:10,27; 13:17,24), even in the sanctuary at Jerusalem which was not in the territory of the ten tribes. They are called the "sons of Israel" (Matt.27:9; Luke 1:16; Acts 5;21; 7:23,37; 9:15; 10:36; 2 Cor.3:7,13; Heb.11:22; Rev.2:14; 7:4; 21:12), though it is often clear that the people in Jerusalem and Judah are included. Even the term "house of Israel" (Matt.10:6; 15:24; Acts 2:36; 7:42), is freely used by Peter in speaking to the people at Jerusalem, whom he addresses, not as Jews, but as Israelites (Acts 2:22). Indeed, this form of address is freely used, even when there were no strangers in the city (Acts 3:12). Gamaliel addresses the Sanhedrin as Israelites (Acts 5:35). Paul used this term to address the Jews in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:16). Jews from the province of Asia used it in inciting the mob against Paul (Acts 21:28).
It is sometimes asserted that the Jews, not the Israelites, are guilty of crucifying Christ. But is it not safer to accept the testimony of Peter, who was present at the time? He charged Herod, Pontius Pilate, together with the nations and the peoples of Israel, with the crucifixion (Acts 4:27).
Our Lord often referred to the nation simply as Israel. He found no faith like that of the centurion in Israel (Matt.8:10; Luke 5:9) The throngs exclaim, "It never appeared thus in Israel" (Matt.9:33)! John the Baptist was shown to Israel (Luke 1:80). Simeon anticipated the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25,32,34). Cleopas, on the way to Emmaus, said that they had expected our Lord to redeem Israel (Luke 24:21). John the Baptist came that our Lord might be manifested to Israel (John 1:31). Nicodemus was called by our Lord a teacher of Israel (John 3:10). Our Lord was hailed as the King of Israel (John 1:49; 12:13). The disciples asked Him if He would, at that time, restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6).
If the earnest student will weigh carefully every passage in the Greek Scriptures in which Israel is mentioned he will come to the conclusion that the term always includes the whole nation, and is never limited to the ten tribes in this part of God's revelation. The reason is evident. As an independent nation, the rival of Judah, the ten tribes no longer exist. They were dispersed, not only among the nations, but many of them went over to Judah at the time of the division, others joined later, and many had been left in the land, and these also fell to Judah. In this way, seeing that Benjamin remained with them, and most of Levi clung to them as well, it is more than probable that actual descendants of Judah were in the minority in the land, and it was far more correct to call them Israel, even though many of the ten tribes, as well as the two, were dispersed among the nations even at that time.
Outside the land there is no least hint that Israel was a nation, or that it was distinct from Judah. The separation between the tribes is utterly ignored. There is nothing about any ten tribes or two tribes, but always twelve tribes. Peter speaks of them. Paul speaks of the twelve tribes offering divine service in the land, and James writes to the twelve tribes in the dispersion. The attempt to distinguish between them now is altogether contrary to God's latest revelation about them.
We are now in a position to see why the term "Jew" or Judah-ite was, and is, applied to Israelites without much regard to the tribe from which they sprang. When Jeroboam tried to force idol worship upon the ten tribes, those who wished to remain true to Yahweh, and worship Him in Jerusalem, would be identified with the men of Judah, and called Jews. The same was true of those whose hearts stirred them up to return to the land. Thus the term Jew acquired a special religious significance. No longer is it Judah and Israel. Now it is Jew and Greek which are contrasted. The distinction is not one of race or nationality, but of religious conviction. The Greek was the cultured, the philosophic man, even if he were a Hebrew. But the Jew was the religious man who clung fast to the traditions and customs of his ancestors, and was "orthodox" in his attitude toward the Scriptures. He was called a "Jew" because Judah was the nucleus for all such.
In the book of Esther the Israelites are called Jews (Esther 8:17) because the issue was a religious one. And so it will be in the future also. "In those days ten men, from all the languages of the nations shall hold fast, and shall hold fast the hem of a man who is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we hear that Elohim is with you" (Zech.8:23). God will be with Israel in those days. Here is an "identity" which cannot be gainsaid. So also, our Lord's declaration that salvation is of the Jews. The religious Israelite, whatever his tribe, is now properly described as a Jew. The argument which is based upon the assumption that the Jews are Judah and not Israel has no foundation in God's Word. Both in the land and in the dispersion Israelites not of the tribe of Judah are called "Jews." Those who have left the God of their fathers have been assimilated by the nations, but those who hold fast to their heritage are "Jews," no matter from what tribe they may spring. And, at the end time, when an innumerable throng of them are saved, they come out of "all nations and tribes and peoples and languages" (Rev.7:9). We are living in the era of the nations (the "times of the gentiles"), and blessing for Israel awaits the day of her deliverance by Christ, her Messiah.
When we say that God creates evil we are simply quoting from the Word of God (Isa.45:7), and that, too, from the Authorized Version. Nevertheless the statement has been termed nothing less than a "shocking blasphemy." To substantiate this charge the phrase has been changed, and we are represented as having said that "God is the Author of sin."
This leads us to restate, with all the emphasis possible, a most important but much neglected principle: When God uses two distinct terms, He has two distinct meanings. God has never said that He created sin. So we, too, refrain from doing so. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). As God is the Lawgiver, He is not under any law, but is above His own enactments. When He does that which would be sin in man, it is no longer sin. He kills (Deut.32:39). If we should do this it would be a grievous sin. If the state does it it is lawful. When God does it, it is far removed from sin. From this we can see that God is not a man and must not be judged by human standards. Sin, as we have said, is lawlessness. Its most graphic definition in the Hebrew is found in Judges 20:16, where "seven hundred left-handed men could sling stones at a hair breadth and not miss" or sin, for it is the same word. God never misses the mark; He never sins.
We may illustrate this by the most flagrant sin which man has ever committed--the murder of the Son of God. We know that they killed the Inaugurator of Life (Acts 3:15) with lawless hands (Acts 2:23). Yet He was smitten of God. Yahweh desired to crush Him, and caused Him to be wounded (Isa.53:4,10). They were but carrying out what God's hand and counsel designated beforehand to occur (Acts 4:28). The very act of God which puts away sin, was man's most grievous sin. The act was the same, but the actors were different in rank and motive and object. What God does is right because He is God and because His motives are divine and His object blessing. The murder of God's Son, apart from His resurrection, would have been the greatest calamity in the universe. But, unlike man, God was able, not only to kill, but to make alive again.
MATTER IS NOT EVIL
We may learn a parable from the sphere of matter. It is not intrinsically evil, as the gnostics affirmed. When it is displaced, when it is out of harmony with other matter, then it becomes evil. The defiling soot is only a diamond in a different form, or relation to other substances. Just so in the moral sphere. No act is wrong in itself, but only as its relation to other acts or to the actor is wrong. To murder a man is to break the law; to execute a man is to fulfill the law; yet the act is one. The state never murders. God has invested mankind with the power of life and death. God never sins. Yet who will deny that He slew the Lamb, slain from the disruption (cf Rev.13:8; Acts 3:18), and that this had to occur (Luke 24:46)? We might as well contend that the men of Israel were free from the charge, for they did not raise the cross. The soldiers did that. But back of all can we not discern the One Who set Him as a mark for His arrow? Are we not glad that He made Him a sin offering for us (2 Cor.5:21) and sent fire from above to consume Him?
Man usually sins when doing evil (e.g. 1 Kings 16:19), yet God, Who creates, contrives and does evil, remains righteous in all His ways and kindly in all His doings (Psa.145:17). He is working, or operating, all, in accord with the counsel of His will (Eph.1:11). These facts should help us to see that the word "evil," in itself, has no moral bias, such as we usually associate with it. The Hebrew word for evil often refers to actions of men which are very sinful for them to do. Indeed the Authorized Version often "translates" the word for evil as "wicked" or "wickedness" (e.g. Gen.6:5; 39:9). But this is needless interpretation, not translation.
Whether it is right or wrong for the one who effects a particular evil to do so is not revealed within the word itself. The idea of "morality" is simply not inherent in the term. In the Scriptures, evil is merely spoken of as an act which smashes and demolishes, in one sense or another, and brings with it a train of trouble and distress, But it is neither right nor wrong in itself. Its exact import can best be discovered in such passages as Psalm 2:9, where it is rendered break, or Daniel 2:40, also translated break. Perhaps our word "smash" is its nearest equivalent. In its literal root meaning it describes the effect of iron, the hardest of common metals, when it is used to smash and destroy.
THE WORD OF YAHWEH IS CLEAN
We should reject the popular claim which insists that "evil" sometimes means "immoral" while upon other occasions it simply means "calamity." Such traditional exigencies of theology are impertinent innovations in the domain of truth. For God's words are pure; they have been refined so that they are clean (Psa.12:6). This is true of every one of them (Prov.30:5). The Hebrew vocabulary is so rich that the English language is sorely taxed to provide suitable equivalents. If God had intended to reveal something more than simply the thought of breaking or smashing in those passages where the word "evil" is found, it would not have taxed the Hebrew tongue or the Divine Author to have done so. Yet He has refrained from doing so. Let us be learning not to be disposed above what is written (1 Cor.4:6). "Add not to His words, lest He correct you and you be found a liar" (Prov.30:6).
GOOD IS KNOWN BY MEANS OF EVIL
There is, however, a real difficulty to many in the statement that God creates evil which a little consideration will remove. This is not the first time God is connected with evil in the Scriptures. In the garden of Eden the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was planted by God. Here, indeed, we have the clue to the whole matter. We are inclined to think of this tree as simply imparting the knowledge of evil and not good. But it was first of all "the tree of the knowledge of good..." Adam did not have the knowledge of good. How was he to realize and appreciate good? By this tree. Yet, in tasting the tree, he would have to taste of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The two are inseparable. Good is known only by means of evil. An active choice of good is impossible apart from a refusal of evil. Thus it is in human affairs. But the association of evil with God is, perhaps, the real stumbling block. We will proceed, then, to consider some passages where God is said to use evil.
Job recognized that the evils he was suffering were from God (Job 2:10) and this is confirmed in the end (Job 42:11) in spite of the theology of his friends. Yet should we be guilty of carrying the plague of Egypt it would be criminal. To avoid the spread of disease all incoming vessels are quarantined, and it is a crime to carry a foreign plague to an innocent victim. Yet this is what happened to Job at God's hand. And Job would be the first one to justify God for the severe evils He brought upon him.
FURTHER EXAMPLES OF DIVINE EVIL
We are not to curse at all, yet He curses His people (Jer.26:3; Dan.9:14). The incendiary is severely punished by our law, yet He burned whole cities (Jer.21:10). We shudder to think of the fiendish men who turned wild beasts upon the Christians in the Roman amphitheater, yet He made His people the prey of evil beasts (Ezek.14:15,21). The dagger of the assassin condemns him to death, yet He puts the people to the sword (Jer.42:17; 44:11; Ezek.14:21). We denounce the avarice of those who withhold food from the people in order to fatten their purse, yet He sends the famine which reaches both rich and poor (2 Kings 6:33; Jer.19:9; 42:17; 44:11; Ezek.14:21). Destruction is a misdemeanor, yet He destroys whole cities (Jer.26:18; Jonah 3:4), and desolates entire countries (Neh.13:18; Jer.44:2). The very quarantine officer who would allow the introduction of a plague would be liable to severe penalties, yet Yahweh sends the pestilence (Jer.32:42; 42:17; Ezek.14:21). A sinister influence may not be brought to bear upon any man, yet God sent an evil spirit to trouble Saul (1 Sam.16:14-23; 19:9), and sent a lying spirit to cause all of Ahab's prophets to lie to him (1 Kings 22:22).
We may well ask with the man of sorrows, "Who is this who speaks and it is coming to be, when my Lord did not instruct? From the mouth of the Supreme, is not faring forth the evil and the good" (Lam.3:37,38; cf Isa.55:10,11)? And well, too, may we agree with the wise man when he says, "All is contrived by Yahweh for His response, even the wicked one for the day of evil" (Prov.16:4). This is so, for "Yahweh, our Elohim, Thou art the Setter of welfare on the hearthstones for us. For, moreover, all our doings Thou dost contrive for us" (Isa.26:12). God declares, "I will contrive, and who will reverse it" (Isa.43:13)? "See the doing of the Elohim, For who can set in order what He distorts" (Ecc.7:13)?
All of these passages make it plain that the very same acts may have a very different aspect according to the one whose doing of them is in view.
All evil which is done with due authority, such as paternal or political, whether inflicted by parents upon their children, or masters upon their servants, or the state on its subjects, or God on His creatures (of which the rest are but figures) loses its "immoral" quality because it is salutary and corrective. Its morality lies, not in the evil, but in the relation sustained between the one who inflicts and the one who suffers. Consequently, even moral evil, committed by criminal men, loses its immoral quality when referred back to the One Whose purpose was being effected by the evil and Who not only has the undoubted right to inflict it but Whose every act will yet receive the undivided applause of the universe.
In fact the very same act, when viewed from the standpoint of the human perpetrators, is full of "moral" evil; yet when it is viewed from the vantage of the Divine operations, God Himself still calls it an evil and claims that He is the real power behind it (e.g. Isa.10:5-15). But the moment that "moral" evil touches Him it is transformed into "moral" goodness and glory. For just as in the case of Job, its object is the blessing of the creature as well as the honor of the Creator. No evil created by God can have the least taint of moral turpitude, insofar as His contriving of it is concerned, because it is always directed toward the ultimate reconciliation of its object. May God give us the eyes to see and minds to realize this truth: "For if He afflicts, yet He has compassion, according to the abundance of His kindnesses" (Lam.3:32).
It is true that the word "rapture" is not a scriptural expression, but only in the same sense that "millennium" is a not a scriptural expression. That is, both terms are close equivalents of scriptural phrases. Just as "millennium" and "the thousand years" (Rev.20:5,6) are synonymous, "rapture" and "snatch away" (cf 1 Thess.4:17) are synonymous.
Actually, it is not the custom of the Concordant Publishing Concern to use this word ("rapture") in its teaching ministry; the only exception would be in speaking informally, or if we should make reference to the teachings of others, ones who use this term quite freely.
The word "rapture" itself, however, is a perfectly good English word. Indeed, one of its definitions is in reference to the Pauline prophecy of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 in which the apostle declares that, in that day, the believers will be "snatched away" (or "raptured") to meet the Lord in the air. This is because the English "rapture" is a close derivative of the Latin word for "snatch [away]" (viz., rapere) which was used in the Latin Vulgate translation of the New Testament.
The question at issue does not at all concern this word itself (much less the popular prejudice of many, ones on both sides of the actual issue), but only whether this "snatching away" (or "rapture") of which Paul speaks is before or after the time of Israel's great affliction ("tribulation," AV). Fundamentally, the question is whether the presence of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4 is a distinct event, an event which is not a phase of or otherwise connected with the presence of Christ as recorded in Matthew 24, at the time of His return to the earth.
Concerning this question of the "snatching away" (or "rapture"), some have pointed out that, prior to the early nineteenth century, "church history" does not record the teaching of the pre-tribulational position. While this may well be so, such a consideration cannot be decisive for those who base their faith not upon church history but upon the Scriptures themselves. Much truth was lost very early, and at any given time, simply may not as yet have been recovered. Indeed, this could have easily been so insofar as those groups of believers which are recognized in extant historical works are concerned.
Over the centuries, the great majority have denied the thousand-year, terrestrial reign of Christ itself. So it is not so surprising that church history would have no record of those who affirmed a pre-tribulational resurrection preceding it.
In light of these facts, it becomes evident that those who, in their quest to repudiate the pre-tribulational, presence-of-Christ teaching, deride the word "rapture" or make appeals to church history, only expose their own ignorance and bias.
If we are able to do so, let us by all means decide the question: Shall we go through the great affliction (see pp.5-16)? But in any case, may we freely be anticipating that happy and glorious day--let its relationship to other events be what it will--when we will be "snatched away" (or "raptured") together, to meet the Lord in the air, and thus always to be with Him (1 Thess.4:17). Accordingly, then, we are waiting for God's Son out of the heavens, Whom He rouses from among the dead, Jesus, our Rescuer out of the coming indignation (1 Thess.1:10).
115. In John 12:32, in signifying by what death He was about to be dying (v.33), Jesus said, 'And I, if I should be exalted out of the earth, shall be drawing all to Myself.' I have been told that the Greek word for 'draw,' actually means 'drag.' Is this correct?
The word in question, in John 12:32, is helkuoo. It is best rendered by the English "draw," not "drag." The idea is simply "to cause to move in a given direction" (e.g., John 18:10); idiomatically, in certain instances, we might say, "to reel in" (cp John 21:6,11). Another illustration would be that of drawing water from a well.
When applied to voluntary behavior, the idea is that of "bringing forth through incentive;" to attract (Acts 16:19; cp Acts 21:30; James 2:6). Whether one is drawn into sin, or drawn to virtue, one is still caused to move in the direction of, and eventually brought into, the behavioral sphere thus delineated.
The point is that "draw" speaks of effective, causative agency. Hence, this is as true of cases in which it is applied to acts of human behavior as of incidents in which it is concerned with the movements of inanimate objects. Therefore, "draw" is by no means a "weak" term, but a powerful expression.
It is not that "draw" means "drag;" it is rather that an agency which draws, is equally as effective as an agency which drags. When a man is dragged, he is moved contrary to his will; when a man is drawn, he is moved in correspondence to his will, according to the influences which cause him to choose as he does. Agencies which drag, determine the body; agencies which draw, determine the heart, from which spring the outflowings of life (Prov.4:23).
When one is "drawn in" to doing something, he is still caused to act as he does; he must still do what he, even if gently, is "drawn" to do--as much so as if he were "dragged" ("kicking and screaming") into so doing. It is simply that an agency which "draws," engages the will and instills the voluntary behavior which follows, in contradistinction to a power that merely compels outward acts--"dragging" them forth--without gaining the acquiescence of the will.
To "drag" suroo, means to "pull along by force." As applied to human behavior, such force has in view not simply the power of causative agency, but that of a causative agency which compels outward acts, ones to which the will, considered in the abstract, remains opposed (e.g., Luke 12:58). Unlike causal influence which acts upon the heart and changes the will--which draws forth corresponding, resultant behavior--causative agency which merely drags its objects, has in view either the burden which attends the pulling of inanimate objects (John 21:8), or the unwillingness as well which attends the compelling of outward acts (Acts 8:3; 14:19; 17:6; cf KEYWORD CONCORDANCE, p.82).
Thus we rejoice to know that while no one can come to Christ if ever the Father Who sends Him should not be drawing him (John 6:44), in due time, under God, Christ "shall be drawing all to [Him]self" (John 12:32).
116. Do both Revelation 21 and 22 concern the new earth? Will righteousness be present only in the new Jerusalem, or throughout the new earth? Also, if there will be no illness, why is there a need for the cure of the nations (Rev.22:2)?
Yes, both Revelation 21 and 22 record John's vision of the new earth; the time in view is the final epochal eon of Scripture, following the thousand years. Peter speaks of the new earth itself (not solely of the new Jerusalem) as the sphere in which righteousness is dwelling (2 Peter 3:13). As kings of the earth, it will be Israel's glory to serve the other nations in God's illumination of them, through His chosen people, which will foster righteousness among all.
The knowledge of God, indeed, will greatly increase among humanity during the coming eon (cf Isa.11:9). As excellent as this will be, it will be far grander still, in the eon of the eons, when not only knowledge but righteousness itself will be "dwelling" in (i.e., will be an abiding characteristic of) the new earth.
The attenuation of sin coupled with the amplification of virtue will radically change the character of the world, or SYSTEM, which will obtain in that glorious eon. The "cure of the nations" by the leaves of the log, will not only bring healing agency to the body, but liberation to the spirit. That which will most significantly determine the character of that eon, however, will be the fact that God Himself will then be with humanity. In that day, the tabernacle of God will be with mankind; He will be tabernacling with them, and they will become His own. In perfect correspondence to God's own presence, death will be no more, nor mourning, nor clamor, nor misery (Rev.21:4). These radical blessings will constitute a vast and saving grace among all the peoples of the new earth.
Such considerations call to mind the hymn, "I Need Thee Every Hour...temptations lose their power when Thou art near." Surely the sentiments of that hymn will come into their own in that day.
Isaiah 33:24 (the passage to which you refer, re. lack of illness) speaks of Messianic blessings for Israel in the coming eon; it does not contemplate the nations, nor God's provision to them of Revelation 22:2, in the final eon.
117. I have been taught that the Bible laws against unclean meats are still in effect today. My pastor says that the Bible reveals that such food sources as pork and shellfish are "unclean," hence are unfit for human consumption. He often says that all who wish to obey God will not eat such foods. What is your understanding of this subject?
MANY believe that both Christ's words in Mark 7 and Peter's experience in Acts 10 constitute an effectual divine pronouncement, giving approval to all, to the effect that one may now eat all animal flesh, specifically, those animals the eating of which was strictly forbidden under Moses' law. In my judgment, however, neither of these texts actually gives any indication of such an idea. Indeed, in light of the administrational setting of these respective passages, it would seem entirely out of place for such a teaching to be found within the scope of these writings.
Concerning Peter's vision, surely it is correct to judge the command "sacrifice and eat!" (Acts 10:13), not as a literal imperative, but as a figurative one. Thus it is not that Peter was literally to "sacrifice and eat" all manner of--insofar as Moses' law is concerned--unclean quadrupeds, reptiles, and flying creatures. Instead, it is that Peter, like a man who thus would involve himself with all manner of creatures, was, for the purpose of evangelization, to become willing to involve himself with all manner of men, even if the common Jewish perception of such peoples was that they were utterly "unclean" and to be avoided under all circumstances.
At the beginning, Peter was bewildered in himself as to what the significance of the vision which he perceived should be (Acts 10:17). "Now, as Peter is engrossed, concerned with the vision, the spirit said to him, 'Lo! three men are seeking you! But, rising, descend and go with them, nothing doubting, for I have commissioned them'" (Acts 10:19,20). A short time later, Peter averred to these men (as well as to the others with them), "You are versed in the fact how illicit it is for a man who is a Jew to join or come to another tribe, and [yet] God shows me [obviously, through the vision which God had given him] not to say that any man is contaminating or unclean" (Acts 10:28).
Thus Peter grasped the fact that "God is not partial, but in every nation he who is fearing Him and acting righteously is acceptable to Him" (Acts 10:35).
Under the evangel of the Circumcision (Gal.2:7), it is through fearing God and acting righteously that one, by His grace (cf Rom.11:5), becomes acceptable unto Him. Yet under the evangel of the Uncircumcision (Gal.2:7), Paul's evangel for the nations, we are justified apart from law (Rom.3:21,24) and graced in the Beloved (Eph.1:6). We have boldness and access with confidence, not out of works of righteousness which we do (cf Titus 3:5; Rom.4:5), but through Christ's faith (Eph.3:12).
"Acting righteously," in itself, is a relative term. That is, "righteousness" must be judged in relation to one's calling and allotment; its scope encompasses all that is right for a man to do, according to the divine administration which pertains to him, under which he is called, and called upon to be faithful to his God.
The law of Moses, however, is not a timeless standard of righteousness. For example, it is not because of the law of Moses but because of the law of conscience, according to nature, that we become aware of our duty to honor our parents (cp 2 Tim.3:2,3). And, if it should be that our conscience has become so defiled that its testimony on this question is weak or clouded, we have Paul's words in Ephesians 6:1-3 explicitly entreating believing children thus to behave with regard to their parents. In this passage, Paul employs Moses' words even as he does in many other instances; for in this matter, God's instruction to Israel is essentially the same as His instruction for us today. But in doing this, the apostle by no means subjects us to Moses' writings, as such, or otherwise to the law of God which He gave to Israel. That is, it is not determinative, but incidental, to our own obedience that the sons of Israel were commanded to honor their parents.
While "sons" is the correct translation, in such instances the word is not used literally in reference to gender but metonymically (i.e., by association), in reference to all the descendants of Jacob, both male and female. That is, while the "sons" are spoken of, it is understood that by association, the daughters are included along with them. Paul too uses the word "sons" in a figure when he terms all the believers, male and female, "sons of God" (Gal.3:26,28). Thus "all the saints" (Eph.1:1) have been designated beforehand for "the place of a son" (Eph.1:5); that is, for a place of great significance and worth, near and dear to the Father's heart.
The words "--cleansing all the foods" in Mark 7:19 do not appear in the parallel account in Matthew 15:11,17-20. They appear to be a contracted (elliptical) phrase, a phrase in which the obvious is understood but not expressed. While Matthew's account does not include these words, it does supply the summary statement which makes evident the parable's significance: "Now to be eating with unwashed hands is not contaminating a man" (instead, it is the uncleanness of man's own heart which "contaminates" him; Matt.15:18-20).
Accordingly, I would suggest that the thought to be grasped from the words of Mark 7:19, "--cleansing all the foods," is simply that the ordinary impurities which are carried along with or attached to foodstuffs (which may not be fully removed before eating, with or without washing), cannot contaminate a man since they do not go into his "heart," but instead into his bowels (the contents of which, subsequently, passing out of the body altogether, go out into the latrine).
The words "--cleansing all the foods," in the CV, are preceded by a dash in an attempt to indicate that there is something other than standard word flow here. It should be noted as well that the definite article ("the") is in the Greek. In succinct form, the idea contained in these words is this: "--cleansing all the foods [occurs by this means]." Through digestion and elimination, the foods which one eats (whatever foods these may be) are cleansed from any dirt or other impurities which may have attended them.
Peter, even as all those identified with the evangel of the Circumcision, continued to be under the law and subject to its precepts, including those concerning unclean meats (cp Isa.65:4; 66:17; Matt.5:17-20; James 2:10). The law was never "done away;" it is simply that it was never given to the nations; even the Israelites who receive Paul's evangel are to imitate him and deem the law's righteousness as refuse, as that which they are to discard (Phil.3:8).
Consequently, insofar as righteousness before God is concerned, we today declare, "Every creature of God is ideal and nothing is to be cast away, being taken with thanksgiving" (1 Tim.4:4). "Thanksgiving" is the only proviso. And, of every creature, Paul declares, "it is hallowed through the word of God and pleading" (1 Tim.4:5b).
Yet even though Paul plainly states that it is so, some still do not believe that every creature of God is now hallowed for food. They justify their unbelief through the claim that since "hallow" means "set apart (from)," then those animals which are holy must be set apart (as approved) from the remainder of animals, which, therefore, are not set apart and are not approved. Since they are aware that under Moses only certain animals are hallowed, and since they believe that "hallowed" means "set apart (from)," they conclude that when Paul speaks of hallowed creatures in 1 Timothy 4:4, he is speaking of the same limited group of hallowed creatures of which Moses writes in the law.
In reply, we simply point out that this reasoning cannot be correct, for Paul says, "every creature of God;" not, "every creature of God deemed holy under Moses." If this latter thought were Paul's meaning, the apostle would have said so.
We also point out the fact that it is not true that "hallow" means "set apart (from)." In essence, "hallow" signifies "consecrate" or "devote" to a certain purpose. By extension, it is often used of that which is "set apart (from)" others of the same general kind; yet this is incidental to its basic meaning and is not the essential thought. It is incorrect to say that "holy" means "set apart (from)." Indeed, "hallowing" does not require the exclusion of certain of the entities of a given kind. Therefore, it does not follow that if there should be such a thing as "holy" animals, there are also unholy animals. In any certain usage, this may or may not be the case. For example, the entire tribe of Levi and the entire nation of Israel were hallowed for God's service and according to His purpose; none were exempted from this designation.
That which is hallowed is that which is identified with a certain purpose, whether a holy harlot (cf Gen.38:21,22) or holy animal flesh (in the case of Leviticus 11, holy insofar as Israel is concerned). That which is holy is that which is devoted to (i.e., used for or involved in) a certain practice or activity.
Leviticus 11 (or Deuteronomy 14), however, is not the place in Scripture where "every creature" is hallowed, but where only certain creatures are hallowed and the rest are deemed unholy! Yet Paul speaks of a "word of God" which affirms the devotion (the hallowing) of every creature of God as being that which may be partaken of as food. In this respect, he deems every creature "ideal;" that is, nothing need be cast away or refused, so long as it may be partaken of with thanksgiving.
According to Paul, every creature thus is hallowed (i.e., connotatively, approved, or correctly identified as serving for food; cp 1 Cor.7:14); and this is so, both "through the word of God," and also through "pleading." (Note that the term here is not "prayer," but "pleading)."
Apart from this first epistle of Paul written to Timothy, it is only at the time prior to Moses and subsequent to the flood that we find a "word of God" in which it is evident that no formal divine restrictions are placed on what may be eaten. Indeed the situation for Noah and his sons was very plainly this: "Be fruitful and increase and fill the earth and subdue it. And the fear of you and the dismay due to you shall come on every living animal of the earth, even on every flyer of the heavens, and in all which is moving on the ground, and in all the fishes of the sea. Into your hand are they given. And every moving animal which is living is coming to be food for you. As the green herbage [which was given without restriction], I give to you all. Yea only flesh with its soul, its blood, you shall not eat" (Gen.9:1-4).
With respect to creatures which may be eaten for food, it is evident that Paul likens our present situation as members of the body of Christ to that of those who lived following the flood. In a parallel sense today, in accord with the ancient precedent of Genesis 9:1-4, every creature of God is now hallowed for food. Even as in that day of old, in which every moving animal was permitted for food, thus also today, every creature of God is ideal and nothing is to be cast away, being taken with thanksgiving.
Of course even as one might prefer not to eat certain green herbs (finding a certain herb less desirable, or even offensive and quite undesirable), one might prefer not to eat various animals. Yet such judgments of desirability, even as of nutritional value and healthfulness, will vary considerably from nation to nation and person to person, according to one's culture, education, and personal preference.
Similarly, Paul recognizes that, in the lives of some, perilous circumstances might well arise in which survival would demand the eating of certain animals ordinarily deemed objectionable. Yet under such circumstances, if one were able to receive such life-sustaining food with thanksgiving (even if only through earnestly pleading to God for the ability to partake), one may freely partake of it. Indeed, Paul would have us know that thus, through heartfelt pleading (in contradistinction to a mere routine, formal request), even the most ordinarily undesirable food is "hallowed" (and so, approved) for eating; even as, according to precedent, it is hallowed as well by the word of God (recorded in Genesis 9:1-4).
So it is evident that it is a withdrawal from the faith--indeed that it is a teaching of demons--now to advocate "abstaining from foods, which God creates [even if He does not approve, under Moses] to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who believe and realize the truth, seeing that every creature of God is ideal and nothing is to be cast away, being taken with thanksgiving, for it is hallowed through the word of God and pleading" (1 Tim.4:3-5; cp v.1).
If some of us, because of habit, preference, opinion, or merely former teaching, even now choose not to eat certain meats, that is fine. But if others of our brethren, not having our notions or not having shared our experiences, wish to eat the very foods which we prefer to set aside, that is fine as well.
Paul declares, "I have perceived and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is contaminating of itself [i.e., nothing is intrinsically "unclean"], except that the one reckoning anything to be contaminating, to that one it is contaminating" (Rom.14:14).
Even so, in our conversations, and especially during fellowship meals shared with other believers, let us be discreet and sensitive to the convictions of others, ones who, even as ourselves, are precious to God. As Paul wrote in Romans 14:15-18, "For if, because of food, your brother is sorrowing, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not, by your food, destroy [i.e., induce loss or retrogression, to] that one for whose sake Christ died. Let not, then, your good be calumniated, for the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in holy spirit. For he who in this is slaving for Christ, is well pleasing to God and attested by men."
"Consequently, then, we are pursuing that which makes for peace and that which is for the edification of one another. Not on account of food, demolish the work of God. All [food today], indeed, is 'clean' [in the sense of not being prohibited], but it is evil to the man who with stumbling is eating. [So] It is ideal not to be eating meat, nor yet to be drinking wine, nor yet to do aught by which your brother is stumbling, or is being snared or weakened" (Rom.14:19-21).
For us, then, the kingdom of God, even as its associated righteousness, is not concerned with matters of food and drink. Yet since God's reign in our lives today does encompass all those matters of "righteousness" with which we are concerned, even as "peace and joy in holy spirit" (Rom.14:17), let us accordingly be"pursuing righteousness, faith, love, peace, with all those who are invoking the Lord out of a clean heart" (2 Tim.2:22).
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