Questions and Answers
51. How long a period of time is understood by the Lord's day?
While Jehovah alone is exalted it will be Jehovah's day (Isa.2:17). It will come as a destruction from the Almighty (Isa.13:6; Joel 1:15; 2:11; Zeph.1:14,15). Then it will be a day of darkness and not light (Amos 5:18-20). It is called a "day" because, like the Hebrew day it commences in darkness and is completed in light (Gen.1:5). It commences with "providential" judgments, but it becomes manifestly (Acts 9:20) Jehovah's day when the sun is darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven (Matt.24:29; Isa.13:10; Joel 2:31; 3:14,15). This is not before the day but before it becomes "notable". Then the nations are judged and Israel is delivered (Obadiah 15-17; Zech.14:1). The apostasy or "falling away" which characterizes the days we live in precede these judgments (2 Thess.2:2,3). The apostasy comes before the day of the Lord (not Christ, as in AV).
The book of the Revelation covers the whole of this day for at its commencement John is transported, in spirit, in the Lord's day (Rev.1:10). From the second chapter of Isaiah we learn further of the blessings which will flow from the judgments which usher in the Lord's day. Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. War will be unknown. The time of this blissful period is one thousand years (Rev.20:4). Now Jehovah, He is the God of Israel. So that, during His day, Israel is His peculiar people, the nation of His choice. This continues until the present earth is destroyed. In the new earth the tabernacle of God (not Jehovah) is with mankind. They have access into His presence apart from the priestly mediancy of Israel. Hence it is no longer Jehovah's day, but the day of God (2 Peter 3:12). At the close of the day of the Lord, yet in it, the heavens pass away and the elements are dissolved (2 Peter 3:10; Rev.20:11), because of the coming of the day of God (2 Peter 3:12). So that the day, of the Lord includes the tribulation which follows the present apostasy, the thousand years, the apostasy at its end up to the new heaven and new earth. For all this time Jehovah, the God of Israel, alone will be exalted.
52. What is the definition of a "Christian?" What is the difference, if any, between Christianity and religion?
The disciples were first called "Christians" at Antioch (Acts 11:26). Agrippa, too, calls them that (Acts 26:28). Peter, writing to the sojourners of the dispersion (1 Peter 1:1) connects it with suffering and reproach (1 Peter 4:16). These three are all of the occurrences of this term. The ending of the word shows that it was of Latin origin and its usage shows it was a byname used of the disciples as a term of reproach and scorn. It was not until the second century that we find it used by followers of Christ of themselves.
The present meaning of "Christian" and "Christianity" is, therefore, unknown to the Word of God.
"Religion" too, has a very vague meaning today. In the Scriptures it usually represents a word which means ritual (Acts 26:5; James 1:26,27; Col.12:18 "worshipping"). So that if we take "Christianity" as representing the present Secret Economy and "religion" as ritual, we would emphatically insist that they are distinctly different. Judaism, with its divinely given ritual, in connection with the law, was a "religion" or ritual: the Secret Economy (which "Christianity" ought to be called) is a revelation in which ritual has no place whatever. Ritual always denotes distance: we are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Ritual denies the reconciliation.
53. What is the teaching of Job's friends?
The substance of the Friend's doctrine amounts to this: "They that plow iniquity, and sow mischief, reap the same" (Job 4:8). But their idea was that the reaping was all done in this life. They maintained that the truly righteous persons are preserved by God, in health and in comforts of life; that calamities and sicknesses are the punishments which God visits upon those who sin, especially secret sins, for the purpose of reclaiming them, and that the spirit manifested by the sufferer is the token by which men may know the real character of that person before God. If he acknowledges secret sins, and forsakes them, he is forgiven and may be restored; if he does not, but maintains that he has not sinned, it is evidence that he is perverse and wicked.
They had no belief in a future retribution; but that when the wicked died, that was the end of him: he had no hereafter. On this, Zophar says: "The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment; though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; yet he shall perish forever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he? He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: Yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night" (Job 20:5-8).
Job, on the other hand, maintained that calamities and diseases were not necessarily the results of the sufferer's own sins; nor were success in business with prosperity and the peaceable enjoyments of wealth, to the end of life, evidences of righteousness. He says: "The wicked become old, yea, are mighty in power. Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. They sing to the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the pipe. They spend their days in prosperity, and in a moment go down to Sheol. Yet they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit should we have, if we pay unto Him" (Job 21:7-15)? But Job continues and declares that a day of reckoning is coming to the wicked, even though they may have lived to the end of their life in the enjoyment of health, quietness and abundance; he says, "The wicked is reserved to the day of calamity, they shall be, brought forth to the day of wrath" (Job 21:30).
Subsequently, God Himself testified to the correctness of Job's doctrine, and to the error of his Friends (Job 42:7).
For an exposition of The Book of Job see UNSEARCHABLE RICHES Vol.V., pp.4-18. This may be obtained in pamphlet form also.
54. What is the meaning of the word "end" (telos) in the Scriptures?
It is the custom with words to accommodate themselves to the context in which they find themselves. The same word, used in the realm of space, may be colored with a new light when used in the realm of time. Arche means beginning or origin when used of time; but when used of government it denotes, not the first in time, but position--the highest--a sovereignty.
So, too, pro means before, whether of time or place. The context alone can tell. Both of these words are used in the first chapter of Colossians in describing what our Lord is. To say that He is (at present) before (in the past) is an anachronism. To say that He is (at present) the beginning (in the past) is likewise impossible. The time is defined for us by the verb. It is in the present, not past, and we must translate accordingly. He is before in position--He takes precedence of all. He is first in position--He is sovereign. These observations will help us in studying the word telos, usually translated end, for it, too is used of time as well as in other connections.
In English the primary meaning of the word "end" is termination, cessation. That this is not the primary force of the Greek word telos we shall endeavor to show.
Even in English the word "end" has another meaning, which is the real basis of its use in the Scriptures. It denotes the consequence, the, issue, the results. When, for instance, we read of "the end of the Lord" (James 5:11), we do not imagine that either the Lord or Job were annihilated; we know that they never will be annihilated. Further we must acknowledge that there has been, in the past, an "end" which was the Lord's issue (i.e., consequent result) with respect to Job's trials. What that "end" was we are distinctly told. "Jehovah blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning," (Job 49:12). Job's "end," then, was in a very real sense, the very opposite of what we might mean by that phrase. It did not mark the terminal point of his existence, but only a crisis. His end or issue was that which resulted from his previous trials. Since then Job has had another end--he died (Job 42:17). He will witness still further results of Jehovah's dealings with him in the resurrection (Job 19:26).
This lucid example shows that, far from meaning cessation or extinction, the word "end" actually denies that thought, for it points to results, issues and consequences which can only be possible in the absence of annihilation. Job would never have had any "end of the Lord" if his existence had come to an end.
This definition of "end" is evident in several other passages. We read that "the end of those things is death" (Rom.6:21). Substitute "cessation" for "end" and we gather that the cessation of sin is death! Rather would it be life! Death is the issue, the result, the consequence of sin. So, too, eonian life is not the terminus of freedom from sin, it is the result (Rom.6:22). The object of the law was to lead men to Christ (Gal.3:24). In this sense only is Christ the end of the law. He is its Consummation (Rom.10:4). The law will end only by fulfillment (Matt.5:18). Christ fulfills it and thus becomes its "end."
So too, with "the end of the commandment" (1 Tim.1:5). Whatever the subject of the commandment, its object is love. This is why love to God and man is an epitome of all the law.
The "end" of faith is its fulfillment (1 Peter 1:9). How can the end--the cessation of faith be received? Faith looks forward to life and joy and, in measure, anticipates the bliss which it expects. This joyful anticipation is the end here spoken of.
Peter wished to see the outcome of the trial of his Lord (Matt.26:58). It is hardly true that the wrath came upon Israel to the uttermost, in the past (1 Thess.2:16). Still severer indignation awaits them in the great tribulation. But indignation is the "end" which their contumacy has provoked. It is the consummation of their unbelief. We need hardly assure our readers that, though the indignation against Israel is the end (or issue) of their apostasy, it is not their "final end." They will be restored and blessed in due time. Likewise this is the case of those of whom the apostle speaks (Phil.3:19). "Whose end is destruction" or "whose end is to be burned" (Heb.6:8) or "the end of them that obey not the Gospel" (1 Peter 4:17). God has locked all up in disobedience (not that some, who believe, may be saved, and others, who do not obey the gospel, may be "finally" lost) but that He may have mercy on all. The end or consequence of disobedience, however, can be nothing less than severe judgment. So, too, those who are enemies of the cross are doomed to destruction, yet we have no more right to add a word and say final destruction than we can speak of the final end of Job, or the final, end of the Jewish nation who opposed the gospel.
Let us now turn to the usage of telos as it is associated with time. Here we will note that when a thing is completed or consummated, it remains, but when time is finished or consummated it is gone. For instance, when He said "It is finished" (John 19:30) the work He had accomplished became an abiding fact; but when we read "the thousand years were finished (Rev.20:5) they are past and gone and ended.
It is only in a secondary sense that finality is associated with telos. We read, for instance of the kingdom, that it shall have no consummation (Luke 1:33). This is not, indeed, saying directly that it will not end, but implies that fact. It is itself the "end" of all other Kingdoms and, under the Father's filial rule, yields to no other form of government. Hence it is final.
Our Lord is thrice honored by the title "the beginning and the end." How empty is this glory if it is literally true that "the end of all things is at hand" (1 Peter 4:7) and He is going to annihilate the universe of which He is the great Originator! The truth is that "all things" are only in process at the present time. He has commenced and He will finish. How vast the distinction between the end of "all things," which would portend utter and irretrievable chaos, and the consummation of all--ultimate perfection! Christ alone can claim such dignity as this!
And how hollow is all earthly glory when we discover the consummation of human conquests! For whenever the nations conquer territory they, too, have in mind an issue, a result, a consequence of great moment! Their "end" is tribute! (Matt.17:25; Rom.13:7--telos in Greek).
So that, while the word telos may involve the meaning cessation, it does not directly speak of an end in that sense, but rather in the secondary English sense of an issue, a consummation.
The compounds of this word bear out the thought we have suggested. Epiteleoo means to complete as in Heb.8:5--to complete the tabernacle--to end its construction. The same is true of ek-teleoo (Luke 14:29,30--"finish"). In Matt.13:39 the sun-teleia is compared to a harvest, when all the fruits of this evil age will have become ripe. As a verb it is translated "fulfilled" in Mark 13:4 and "make" in Heb.8:8.
When this word is used of time it involves the idea of cessation because when a certain time is finished or completed, it is also ended. But when things or persons are finished or completed, only their unfinished and incomplete states ended, they themselves are not ended or annihilated.
55. What will become of the rejecters of Jesus Christ those of the past, present, and who will refuse the Christ when He shall appear?
If, by rejectors, we mean those who have heard Him and set aside His message, we have His own words as to their fate. In John 12:8 He tells us: "He who is setting Me aside and is not receiving My saying, has that which is judging him. The words which I speak will judge him in the last day." This refers only to the Kingdom administration and must not intrude into the present proclamation of conciliation. The "judgment" here spoken of is two fold--present and future. The unbelievers in Israel suffered sorely at the hands of their enemies for the rejection of their King, especially at the destruction of Jerusalem. In the future, when they are raised, they will be brought face to face with the words which He spoke and will be treated accordingly. They can have no part in the blessings of the Kingdom or the eons. It must be remembered, however, that "judgment" does not mean punishment. It simply means that they will get their just and salutary sentence. Those who accept the Messiah and enter the bliss of the Kingdom will also be "judged," for the twelve apostles will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes. Judgment does not necessarily include condemnation at all and ever has the salutary effect of righting what is wrong. The Christ rejectors will be led to acknowledge His words by experiencing their dread fulfillment in themselves. But these very words preclude blessing for the eons and such a penalty as He may deem just in each case. In the present administration of conciliation we beseech men, we pray them to accept the conciliation. The very nature of our service precludes the idea of any present judgment such as fell on Israel. The awful period about to come upon the earth is connected, not with our ministry but with that Kingdom proclamation. There is no present threat of judgment possible in connection with our most gracious appeal. Neither can this appeal be the basis of future judgment. Rather He "will repay each one in accord with his deeds" (Rom.2:6). Those who are distrusting the truth shall know "indignation and rage, affliction and distress." The law will be brought up in the case of those who know it and conscience in the case of those who have no law. This is the standard by which God will be judging the hidden things of humanity through Jesus Christ, in accord with Paul's glad message (Rom.2:12-16). The distinction between those who reject and those who have not heard is not in point at this time on account of the character of our message, which is one of unqualified grace.
56. Have the times of the Gentiles come to an end?
"Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the nations until the eras of the nations shall he fulfilled" (Luke 21:25). This ought to be sufficient for those who wish to bow to the word of God. Is Jerusalem still trodden down of the nations or is it free from their thrall? The eras of the nations have not yet run their course.
57. Did Paul in his zeal for his countrymen, overstep the plain instruction of the Spirit (Acts 21:4)?
It is a pity that the great apostle should be accused of disobedience at the very time when he was risking his very life "for the name of the Lord Jesus" in spite of the protests of his friends. He was in haste to get to Jerusalem before Pentecost (20:16). Twice he was delayed (21:4,10). On both occasions the Spirit speaks. As they tarry more (not many) days at Caesarea Agabus tells of the bonds that awaited him. Indeed, the spirit witnessed in every city that bonds and afflictions were to be his lot (20:23). How then could the same spirit say that "he should not go up to Jerusalem?"
When they come to Tyre they find out the disciples while the ship is unloading. Paul's evident intention is to keep on going but, at the instance of the Spirit, he prolongs his stay to seven days. "Should not go" at any time is not the thought in the Greek tense employed. It should read "not to be boarding" (the ship) at present. The best texts read as in 21:2, "went aboard," and 21:6, "took" ship. So their stay was prolonged (21:10; 28:12,14, tarried) beyond the time intended in obedience to the Spirit's mandate.
We would suggest a tentative translation as follows: Now, finding out the disciples, we prolong our stay seven days, seeing that some said to Paul through the Spirit not to be going on board for Jerusalem.
58. The following is a reply to questions which have come up concerning the translation of Phil.1:23.
It is deplorable to add to the confusion by asserting that ek is translated between in John 3:25. The A.V. reads: "Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying." Literally it is "a questioning out of the disciples of John with the Jews concerning purifying." From this it is seen that the concordance is correct in assigning of to ek and between to meta as a substitute for with. Those who are handicapped by the necessity of studying the original through the distorting lenses of English idiom should not add to the difficulties of their readers by presenting passages in which the constant meaning of a Greek word is obscured because of the twist of the tongue which attends its expression in English. We must admit that ek cannot always be rendered "out of" in an English version, yet the essential thought contained in this expression must always be maintained. One who reads the original without English spectacles sees the same word ek and receives the same impression each time, which is modified only by the context. For instance, in the passage in John, we would not say "a questioning out of John's disciples." We object to this, not because it is not true, but because it is not good English. So we omit the "out," and render it "of John's disciples." That is where the questioning came from. It has been insisted that, in the plural, ek should not be rendered simply from among but "out from among." We stood corrected on this point, though it is difficult to see that much is gained by the added word. Now, from the same source, we are told that it has no such force as out at all! So we will simply stand aside from such surging to and fro, and continue to consistently render Phil.1:23: "I am being pressed out of the two..."
We are also told that "in a strait" means in always and not out of, in spite of the fact that it is so expressly stated. That the word here used, which is compounded of together and have (literally TOGETHER-HAVE) does not indicate being pressed out of in other places we fully admit, for in no other passage does the expression out of follow it. In English we might argue that have always means having in and cannot mean having out. But our best authors will still use "have out" (2 Sam.13:9). In Greek thousands of words are modified by such connectives when they are joined to the word. No one doubts the power of a connective to change the direction of thought. This is the first time that it has ever been suggested that we must give the connective an opposite meaning to conform to the usage of a word in other connections. If we apply this principle consistently, the resurrection from among the dead is a fable, for the word resurrection in itself does not contain the idea of from among. Pressure ordinarily is in, but when it is expressly stated to be out of as in Phil.1:23, we bow to the Divine dictum and render it "being pressed out of the two."
We are further assured that "the only return that analusis can indicate is death," and "there is no passage where the Lord is said to have an analysis, a return. Luke 19:12 is the only passage that can be brought forward." We reply: Luke 19:12 is an entirely different term, hupostrepsai, which proves nothing as to the word in question. Luke 12:36 proves that our Lord is said to have an analysis or return, and we submit that, if He had died when He returned from the wedding, His servants would wait long and hopelessly for His knock on the door!
59. When Paul says that Peter and the Circumcision with him "walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel" (Gal.2:14), did he not imply that there was only one gospel for him and them?
The Authorized Version rendering may seem to imply this, but a more accurate rendering would not. Peter and those with him were "not correct in their attitude toward the truth of the evangel" (CV), which gives a contrary impression. The attitude of the Circumcision toward Paul's evangel was usually incorrect, though Peter was, as a rule, quite right in this regard. More than that, in this matter he was acting contrary to both evangels, for they have much in common, as well as vital divergences. Peter himself said, "through the grace of the Lord Jesus we are believing to be saved in a manner even as they" (Acts 15:11).
60. Did not Peter have a heavenly allotment (1 Peter 1:4)?
All blessing, physical and spiritual, comes down from heaven. All physical blessing may be traced back to the Son. All spiritual blessing, even that of the Circumcision and the nations on the earth in the last two eons, comes down from above. The kingdom is the kingdom of the heavens. The new Jerusalem comes down from heaven. In this regard it is the same as ours, but in the location where it is enjoyed there is a vast difference. We arise to its source. The earth and its dwellers have it brought to them. All will be heavenly in the eons to come, even if it is on the earth.
61. One of the things my school friends laugh at me the most about is the fact that I have never been baptized. Would you Please give me some more information about it?
In Romans 6 we are told that whoever are baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into His death. We have been entombed together With Him and roused from among the dead. Since God reckons us thus, there is no further need of being baptized in water. That would be admitting that what God has done was not enough. It would really be admitting that Christ was not Perfect, for now it is no longer we, but Christ Who is living in us (Gal.2:20). We are reckoned as in Him now. The reason this subject is confused is because this was not true of the children of Israel. Their baptism in water was only a type of the real cleansing which they would receive from Him. Hebrews speaks much about their cleansing. It is because of this teaching that we hear such songs as "Washed in the Blood of the Lamb." But these songs do not apply to us. We are spoken of as being justified in His blood. God does not wash us, but crucifies us together with Christ so that we are a new creation in Him. We have no further need of anything to be done.
Some have twisted this teaching of baptism and said that we do not have to be baptized to be saved but we should do it to show the world that we are saved. This, of course, is not true. What God tells us to show the world is Christ (Phil.2:15).
Though it may be hard, we never need to be ashamed to stand for truth, for such a stand honors what God has said. He never wants us to doubt but always be fully assured that we are complete in Christ and have no need of a further baptism of any kind.
62. What is the "systematizing of the deception?"
The phrase "systematizing of the deception" (Eph.4:14) is a most apt description of modern methods of maintaining error. Isolated departures from truth are difficult to promulgate. They must be worked up into a philosophic system in order to become popular. The great theologies are systematized to agree with their main position, which may be half truth. Many of the movements of the day which appeal to the Bible for support, have so systematized their deceptions that they appear to rest on divine revelation. They are philosophies with enough contacts in the scriptures to give them the appearance of truth. The mature saint will not be deceived by them.
"...In the measure in which we are occupied with God and His power for salvation we are freed from occupation with sin. Man cannot look in opposite directions at the same time; while he actively reckons himself alive to God he is practically dead to sin. Such occupation with God and His saving activity at the cross and the tomb of Christ instructs us as to the sinfulness of sin, its loathsomeness, and the happiness of our deliverance from its dominion; it forbids dalliance with sin, and prevents useless efforts to combat and extirpate it. Assurance grows and with it love; as we look Godward the heart follows the eye and we are brought into loving fellowship with Him and His methods..."
63. Are we the Bride of the Lamb?
There is nothing in the two figures of bride and body which makes it impossible that both should not be used of us. Paul could compare the Corinthians, who certainly were one body, to the betrothal of a pure virgin, in order to picture their singleness toward Him, not their union with Him. But, as a matter of fact, Paul never mentions either a bride or a lamb, nor is this ever connected with the nations in the Word of God.
In 2 Cor.11:2 Paul himself interprets the figure. As a virgin is single and pure toward her betrothed, so they should be to the Lord. At one time, although I had taken a course in rhetoric and was supposed to understand figures of speech, I used this text for awhile to prove that the church was the bride of Christ, yet in reality, if it could be used in this way, it proves the opposite, for the figure is that of a virgin. When I discovered that redeemed Israel is the bride, I used this passage against the idea that the church is the bride. But I soon saw that this would not do, for, if so, was it not also against the truth of the body? How can the church be both the betrothed and the body of Christ? This gradually opened my eyes to the limitations of figures of speech. I saw that I had abused them and dragged them far beyond their boundaries under the pretense of being "spiritual" in my interpretation.
The difficulty lies in our failure to keep each figure within proper bounds. We fail to recognize that the ecclesia is UNlike a chaste virgin in all points not particularly mentioned. The church is not sexed. It is not composed only of females. There is no likeness in this regard. The Corinthians are not to be married to Christ later. So we might go on indefinitely, but enough has been said, we hope, to show that in only two aspects is there a likeness to be drawn--those of singleness and purity. We can be single and pure toward Christ like a betrothed virgin without altering our sex or in any other way resembling a virgin.
But, it is objected, Paul uses this figure in Ephesians in speaking of the relations of a man to his wife, as follows (Eph.5:25-33): "Husbands, be loving your wives according as Christ also loves the ecclesia, and gives Himself up for its sake, that He should be hallowing it, cleansing it in the bath of the water (with His declaration), that He should be presenting to Himself a glorious ecclesia, not having spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it may be holy and flawless. Thus, the husbands also ought to be loving their own wives as their own bodies. Who is loving his own wife is loving himself. For no one at any time hates his own flesh, but is nurturing and cherishing it, according as Christ also the ecclesia, for we are members of His body. For this `a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.'"
If the present ecclesia were the bride of the lamb, this would be the place to bring it in. Then all that would be needed would be to say that men should love their wives as Christ loves the church, His bride. Why, then, say that husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies? Why say, he who is loving his wife is loving himself? Why say, seeing that we are members of His body? Why bring in the mystery of marriage in order to show that a man and wife are one flesh?
All of these questions can be answered only on the ground that the ecclesia is not figured by a bride or wife at all, but that marriage, making two one flesh, has a certain resemblance to the figure of the one body of Christ, hence the one body, not the bride or wife, is the basis of this exhortation. This is a much closer union than marriage. No one hates his own flesh. Can we say that no one ever hated his wife? The intensity of Christ's love for us is far beyond that figured by the marriage tie. Once we realize the inevitable constancy and unlimited devotion figured by our feeling for our own bodies, we will lose all desire for a tie of lesser preciousness, which is suited to the earth, but has no place in the heavens.
64. Who is the Bride?
The faithful in Israel are often found under covenant relationship with Jehovah. In the realm of feeling and affection this is figured by the marriage bond. Israel was the wife of Jehovah. Those who receive the Messiah are the bride of the Lambkin. As God's supreme aim is to unite His creatures to Himself by links of love, this may be considered as the highest aspect of Israel's relationship to their God. He uses the transient experience of earth's highest bliss to figure the permanent felicity of His people.
Not only was Israel brought into the bondage of the law at Sinai, but she also was bound to Jehovah as His wife. He became her Husband (Jer.31:32). Then it was that He put upon her His comeliness (Ezek.16:8-14). Not only did they break the law in minor matters, but they failed in the very first commandment. Instead of loving Him with all their hearts and souls, they forsook Him and sought solace with His enemies (Hosea 2:6-13). This is what led to the divorce (Deut.24:1-4) which caused them to go into captivity. According to the law, they forfeited all right to be His again. But the law of love is higher than the law of Sinai. That was given partly because of the hardness of their hearts. Jehovah's heart is not hardened by the failure of His people. Even though divorced, He invites her to return to Him (Jer.3:1).
He not only gave His word to wait for her, but promises to do far more than that. In her inconstancy she is liable to be drawn after anyone who will comfort her sorrowing soul. So He engages to keep her for Himself until she becomes His again in the latter days. Jehovah will not marry another, nor will He allow Israel to do so. They are betrothed from of old. "Thou shalt not be for another man, so will I also be for thee" (Hosea 3). This troth, plighted by Jehovah, not only for Himself, but also for her, must find fulfillment. He will not break His word. He cannot take a wife to Himself from the nations. To make them the bride would be a breach of promise more dreadful far than the defection of His people. His character would suffer beyond repair. His word would be worthless. The nations do not usurp the place of faithful Israel. We have no part in the new Jerusalem.
When our Lord came, the nation as a whole was faithless. They were not only a wicked but an adulterous generation, for they had forsaken Jehovah. Only those who received Him were restored to their former relationship. They became, not merely the wife of Jehovah, but the bride of the Lambkin. It is not a renewal of the old legal bonds, a sad reunion in old age of those who have been long estranged, but a new and fresh relationship, with youth regained. John the Baptist introduced the bride to her Bridegroom when he told his disciples, "He Who has the bride is the Bridegroom." The twelve apostles were the nucleus of that goodly company of faithful Israelites, who, with all her saints of former times, will be united with the Lambkin in the coming eons, under the figure of the marriage covenant (Rev.21:2,9).
65. What is forgiveness of offenses?
The forgiveness of offenses (Eph.1:7) seems to be so far below the sphere of truth in the Ephesian epistle that those who are most enlightened are tempted to look askance at the phrase and wonder if it is well founded in the ancient text. They have learned that pardon, or forgiveness (it is the same word) is probational. It belongs to the proclamation of the Kingdom. Many who gained pardon, like the ten thousand talent debtor (Matt.18:23-30), lost it through misconduct.
Paul, meanwhile, has heralded a far higher, a far greater grace than the pardon of sins through repentance and baptism. He has set forth justification by faith, through the unforced favor of God, which leads us into a sphere where condemnation no longer exists (Rom.8:1). It is absolutely without admixture of works, either before or after it is received. It cannot be forfeited by aught that we can do. Having this, shall we go back to pardon, even if it is in Ephesians?
Ephesians does not deal with the pardon of sins, but the forgiveness of offenses. It is not in the sphere of government or of the courtroom, but of the home. It has reference, not to God's rule, or His righteousness, but His feelings. We are not forsaking justification for a lower benefit. We are going on to a higher, even if one of the terms is borrowed from the lower. We have not only sinned and are justified, but we have offended God, and are forgiven.
This forgiveness, however, is not measured by the mercy shown to the Circumcision. That, as we have seen, was comparatively stinted and probational. It sprang from pity rather than love. It was temporary because its term depended on its possessor instead of on God. This forgiveness is according to the riches of His grace. It were wise never to leave off this phrase.
66. What is pardon of sins?
According to Col.1:13 we are rescued out of the jurisdiction of Darkness and transported into the kingdom of the Son of God's love, "in Whom we are having the deliverance, the pardon of sins." In anticipation of the coming Kingdom of God upon the earth, when the race shall be freed from the thralldom of its spiritual despotism, the believers, and they alone, are rescued from the realm of darkness and transported to a different allegiance, that of God's Son. To complete the picture, our sins are pardoned, and we have deliverance, as will be the case in the new earth. Let us not confuse this with other figures, such as justification, or acquittal. That belongs in the courtroom, and has to do with our relationship to the judgment, which will take place before the new creation. Now it is a question of entrance into a kingdom, and, as it is a figurative kingdom, we can enter it only by means of a figurative pardon.
Much has been made of the figurative terms in Paul's epistles, such as the covenants and the festivals, in order to show that he was writing only for Jews. Yet there is probably no passage so surely and conclusively "Jewish" as this reference to the kingdom and the pardon of sins, both of which, taken literally, are entirely foreign to Pauline teaching. According to this method of interpretation, this passage should prove clearly that Colossians is a Jewish epistle, not intended for the present administration of God's grace. Yet, as a matter of fact, it and Ephesians are utterly devoted to the exposition of the present interval of God's grace. May this example help to show how unwarranted it is to make any of Paul's writings "Jewish" because of his figurative use of "Jewish" things.
Once we realize that much of the blessing which is predicted on the page of prophecy comes to us, in spirit, long before it is fulfilled in fact, such allusions should rather prove the opposite. For example, there is now a new creation. Is it not a marvelous method of transferring to our minds great spiritual realities which otherwise would be most difficult to express? I suppose no one takes this literally, so why take Paul's references to kingdom, covenants and pardon literally? In figure, we have these things now. In no way could we be led to understand our own blessings better than by illustrating them from Israel's history, by drawing pictures from the pages of prophecy.
67. Concerning 1 Corinthians 15:22--Does the context require that the "all" be taken to mean "all believers" rather than "all humanity?" Does the context restrict the meaning of "vivify" to "resurrection" only?
The answer to these two questions depends on a thorough analysis of the whole context. Once we see the progression of Paul's thought from the One to the all and from rousing to resurrection to vivification we can see that there are no restrictions in this passage to the truth of universal vivification. The following selection from the March, 1941, Unsearchable Riches is extremely helpful in understanding this passage:
As a marvelously concise, exact, discriminating and comprehensive summary of rousing, resurrection, and vivification is given us by the apostle Paul in the context of this passage, it may be of great help to us if we seek to get a clear grasp of it with our minds and allow it to get a firm hold of our hearts. 1 Corinthians 15 is usually supposed to deal simply with "resurrection," hence the companion truths of rousing and vivification are usually overlooked. As the Authorized Version seldom distinguishes rousing from resurrection, and renders rouse as raise in this very passage, thus obliterating one of the distinctions which are so helpful, we will quote the statements we wish to study from the Concordant Literal New Testament.
Christ has been roused from among the dead
the Firstfruit of those who are reposing.
Through a man came death,
through a Man, also, comes the resurrection of the dead.
Even as, in Adam, all are dying,
thus also, in Christ, shall all vivified.
Yet each in his own class:
the Firstfruit, Christ;
thereupon those who are Christ's in His presence;
thereafter the consummation.
THE THREEFOLD SCOPE
The scope of these assertions varies as much as can be. It goes from One to all. A single One, Christ, was roused, but all will be vivified. In between we have the resurrection of the dead. This cannot include all, for all do not die. Those of us who survive until the Lord's presence (1 Thess.4:15) cannot be included. We will be changed, not raised (1 Cor.15:52). This mortal will put on immortality. Only the dead, who have gone to corruption, will put on incorruption. Those in Israel who will be alive when He comes to them will not die. To them He is not only the Resurrection, for the dead, but the Life, for the living (John 11:26). Everyone who is living and believing in Him should not die for the eon.
Besides this there is the vast multitude of saints who will be born during the thousand years and in the succeeding eon, in the new earth. The leaves of the trees along the banks of the stream that issues out of the millennial temple will keep them in health (Ezek.47:7,12), and in the new creation there will be the tree of life restored (Rev.22:2). These trees would be needless had these saints been vivified, and were they in possession of immortality. The millennial saints will live to its end and enter the new earth. Death will have no place in the new creation on the earth, so no one will die. None of these can be included in Paul's statement concerning the resurrection, because they do not die. He does not say that, as all die, so shall all be resurrected. That is not true of resurrection alone. The omission of the word all is inspired. Let us leave it out.
THREE DISTINCT RELATIONSHIPS
Christ is the Firstfruit of those who are reposing. Resurrection is through Him as the second Man. In Christ comes vivification.
He is the earliest Example of those who will be roused from repose. These are, as it were, God's harvest, which must surely follow. This seems to refer especially to the saints, for the term repose seems to be used only of them (1 Thess.4:14,15, etc.). Paul has been speaking of those who are put to repose in Christ (1 Cor.15:18). He has gone before us, a part of the same crop. If He has been roused we may rest assured that we will follow in due time, unless we are vivified before. We are associated with Him so closely that our souls must share with His the awakening of that day.
But resurrection is different. There, as a Man (not as Christ), He is the Channel, the Means, by which the bodies of the dead will be resurrected. This is not confined to the saints, for it is not Christ, but a Man, and we know that all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and there shall be a resurrection of judging as well as a resurrection of life (John 5:28,29). Just as the first man was the channel through which death comes to his posterity, so the second Man, the Lord from heaven, is the channel through which comes resurrection of the dead. There will be two kinds of resurrections, one of judging, before the great white throne, and one of life at Christ's presence, limited to those who are His, who are vivified also, as the word life implies.
These are strange and striking figures, for all resurrection involves life. The fact that one is a resurrection of life, in contrast to another, shows that the resurrection of judging lacks life in some sense. The figure is corroborated and confirmed when we read that the dead stand before the great white throne (Rev.20:12). The life that they have is not to be compared to the immortality of the resurrection life. It is not in Christ, but rather it is only through the second Man.
In Christ is the only relationship that brings vivification, incorruption, immortality, deathlessness. The resurrection of life is included in it, but it goes far further, for it is the portion of all, even those who do not die, and even those who take part in the resurrection of judging and enter the second death. All of these were in Adam, and therefore experienced the dying process which is common to all of his posterity, even if they do not actually enter the death state. The same all, we are told will be vivified, that is, experience the reverse of the process of dying. They receive immortality, in Christ.
At the present time in Christ is limited to those who are His by faith. But when death is abolished this marvelous position will be extended to include all who have been in Adam. To be in Christ now is a gracious privilege and depends on faith. But this is not essential at all times, as we can see from our place in Adam. We have that without faith or anything of ours. As the last Adam, Christ must have all humanity in Him. Being a life-giving or vivifying Spirit (1 Cor.15:45), all who are in Him must be vivified. Just as the living God is the Saviour of all mankind, especially of those who believe (1 Tim.4:10), so Christ is the Vivifier of all, especially of those who believe, for these will be made alive at His presence, at the great crisis between the evil and the good eons, while the unbeliever will need to go through the great white throne judging and the second death before he is vivified at the consummation.
The character in which our Lord is presented is worthy of our closest attention in the interpretation of any passage of Scripture. He fills many functions, which are conveyed to us by the name or title which He bears. In this passage it is of vital value that we distinguish between Him as the Firstfruit, the Man and the Christ. The relationship is further clarified when we see that we are associated with Him as the Firstfruit, that He is a channel as a Man, and that all will be in Him as the Anointed.
In connection with rousing and resurrection no classes are given, no time is set. It is clear from other scriptures that these apply to every case of resurrection until the rest of the dead are raised at the great white throne. But now a new element enters, because the vivification is in Christ. Those raised for the great white throne judgment are not in Christ. Christ Himself has been vivified. Those who are His will be vivified at His presence. The third class needs much explanation, which is given in the passage that follows. The time given is the consummation, which is carefully fixed by many details, such as the abolition of all authority and power, the subjection of the Son when He gives over the kingdom to God, and the abolition of death. This does not follow the resurrection of all at the great white throne, for the second death follows. The last class, composed of all who are held by the last enemy during the last eon, will be given life in Christ at the consummation of the eons.
We cannot reason that, in parallels like these, the earlier statements must limit and define the later. We cannot say that vivification is the same as resurrection, and has the same scope, just because resurrection appears in the first members of a parallel. In fact it would be far more logical to reason that vivification must mean more than resurrection, for this is usually the case in such parallels. Consider the following (Luke 1:33):
He shall reign over the house of Jacob for the eons,
And of His kingdom there shall be no consummation.
Will the eons have no consummation? Such reasoning would rob us of one of the greatest truths in the Scriptures, that is, that the eons are limited, and not endless. Parallels of this kind do not merely restate a thought. The second member may be similar, but it uses the first as a stepping stone to some greater and higher revelation.
We commend this passage to students of the Scriptures who wish to get a clear understanding of these great distinctions. Few seem to realize how great are the differences between rousing, resurrection, and vivification in actual application, in God's dealings with his creatures. Hence there is a tendency to merge them all into one and call it resurrection. This is one reason why the great truth of universal vivification has been lost and is now denied and decried. Let us hold fast to the great fact that all will be vivified, though all will not be roused or raised. And let us insist that the final vivification will not take place until the consummation, when death shall be abolished, and God becomes All in all. May God raise up witnesses to this marvelous revelation who will make it known in the face of the fiercest opposition, to the glory of His great Name!
68. Does God force His will on man?
God's will is sourced in Himself, and is determined by what He is. As He is essentially Light and Love, it is His will to reveal Himself, especially His affection. As no other motives can change this, His will is constant and His purpose immutable. As He has all power, nothing is able to thwart His will. But, as He has all wisdom, and revelation is best accomplished by the use of opposites, He uses darkness to reveal the light, evil to give the knowledge of good, and hate to impart a comprehension of His love. These temporary intentions seem to oppose His will, but must eventually serve in fulfilling it. Then there will be no night and no more doom, and all will be reconciled to God.
Since Christ has such power over the raging elements, why did He not subdue His enemies with a word? Many legions of messengers were at His command. Why did He not coerce His enemies to become loyal subjects of His kingdom? Many times He willed to gather the children of Jerusalem under His wings, but they willed not (Matt.23:37). Even one of His chosen apostles obeyed Satan, the Adversary, rather than His word (John 13:2; Luke 22:3). His disciples were not won by force, but by the constraint of love. Their wills were won to work in harmony with His own. It is not God's will to reveal His power at the expense of His love. His worship must be voluntary, not forced. His greatest power lies in the weakness and suffering of the cross. Through that He will gain the adoring allegiance of men's hearts.
Even though all power is out of God, and nothing can be accomplished without Him, nevertheless He operates through others. In fact all is through His beloved Son. And He also delights to use His lower creatures, even the worst of them, even persecutors like Saul of Tarsus, the foremost of sinners, to accomplish His work, in fact all to whom He has imparted a special measure of His spirit. He does not do this by compulsion or coercion, but by winning their will through the revelation of His love, so that they want to work with Him even when they have not grasped sufficient grace to work together with Him.
Give the human will no place in God's great exposition of Himself, and there will be little left. To begin with, we could never apprehend what God's will is unless we had one of our own. Even the stubborn will is essential. If God had not locked all up in stubbornness, He could not be merciful to all (Rom.11:32). God could have made a world of automatons, which would obey the slightest impulse, but without a soul, and incapable of affection. The evangel does not alter us into robots, which respond mechanically to His commands. It engages our hearts with His love, and wins our will so that we are determined, not only to do His will, but delight in it with all our being.
The consummation of all at the close of the eons calls for subjection, which has conquered stubbornness. But it does not, therefore, denote apathy. What a world that would be, filled with indifferent, impassive, callous, will-lacking automatons! That is a sign of serious disease even in mortals today. Surely the Son will not take such a supine and abject place! He will also be subject, but, at the same time the center of universal acclamation (Phil.2:11). We also will be voluntary subjects, who have such a regard for God's will that our own will will be completely attuned to His.
It would be a comparatively simple matter for God to force His will upon His creatures. The material universe, and even the lower forms of life cannot oppose Him. Could He not bring about the consummation, when all will be subject to Him, without the terrible tragedy of the eons, apart from sin and suffering, judgment and wrath? By no means! The vital and essential element of love would be lacking. The response would be mechanical, without feeling or affection. His grace would be unknown. The creation would be bound with hands of iron, rather than held to His heart by the golden links of love. Our wills must be melted together in the crucible of love before He can be our All.
69. Is the subjection of all described in Philippians 2:9-11 an unwilling acclamation, forced upon man?
Certainly the word "graces" introduces us into an atmosphere of grace, ill suited to the thought of judgment. It is used once before in this letter. "To you," says the apostle, "it is graciously granted, for Christ's sake, not only to be believing on Him, but to be suffering for His sake also" (Phil.1:29). The saints have the privilege of suffering at the hands of His enemies; the Saviour has the higher privilege of effecting their salvation. All, we are told, will bow the knee. This is a sign of fealty and worship. In one of the darkest days of Israel's defection God reserved seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to Baal (Rom.11:4). It is clear from this that this is no mere perfunctory performance, but that it involves a hearty homage. If He spared those who did not bow the knee to Baal, how much more will He save those who bow the knee to the Saviour of His selection? And this is vastly strengthened by the preposition here employed. It is not merely "at," but "in." The Revisers were right in making this correction. Its meaning is manifest in the opening of the chapter: "If there is any consolation in Christ." And again in verses 19, 24, 29, "In the name," has the force of "by virtue of the name," "in the power of the name," as is evident from its other occurrences, (cf Matt.7:22; 10:41; 18:5-20; 21:9; 24:5-9; John 2:23; 5:43; 16:24-26; Eph.5:20; Col.3:17). This gives us the key to the passage, which is the divine declaration (Rom.14:11; Isa.45:23):
"Living am I....
For to Me shall be bowing every knee,
And every tongue shall be acclaiming God."
When this august oath is fulfilled it will be found that it was only by virtue of the name of a Saviour that every knee shall bow and tongue acclaim.
The name "Jesus" signifies "Jehovah the Saviour." Hoshea, the Son of Nun, had his name changed to Jehovah-Hoshea, Joshua, as a token that salvation was not in man, but in God. The Christ was given this ineffable name because "He shall be saving His people from their sins" (Matt.1:21). Never is it used alone in connection with judgment, but always in relation to salvation. To bow in this name can indicate but one thing, the acceptance of Him as their Saviour and all the benefits which that involves.
A concordance will show that a simpler form of the word acclaim, to avow, is always used in a voluntary avowal without the least suggestion of constraint. Those who avow Him before men He will avow before His Father (Matt.10:32). The Jews had agreed to put out of the synagogue anyone who should avow Christ (John 9:22). Even some of the rulers believed, but did not avow Him (John 12:42). But a most conclusive passage is that where we are assured that if Jesus is avowed as Lord, salvation results (Rom.10:9). The word in Philippians, however, is the strengthened form which occurs when we read of the confession of sin (Matt.3:6; Mark 1:5; Acts 19:18; James 5:16). And yet it comes so close to worship that twice it has been rendered "Thank" in the King James Version (Matt.11:25; Luke 10:21), while the Revisers suggest "praise." That it is by consent, not constraint, is notably conceded when the Revisers render (Luke 22:6) "he consented." It never denotes a forced confession in the Scriptures. And this is confirmed by the fact that every knee and every tongue are included in these acts of adoration. It must include saints as well as others. They, at least, have already bowed the knee and confessed to God in His name. How unlikely that they should ever need compulsion! But this is inevitable if these words have any such force. There is no distinction between believer and unbeliever in this passage at all. How beautiful to see that His exaltation detracts nothing from the glory of the Father, but rather is the means of its display! But how can God's Fatherhood be revealed in crushing God's creatures beneath His heel? Would a Father be glorified in grinding his enemies into subjection? God, as Father, has no relation to retribution or wrath. As Father He may chide His children, but the exaltation of Jesus here enforced must be established on grace and its gifts, for it leads to God's recognition as a Father and glorifies that phase of His effulgence.
70. Should not the Greek word aiõnios be translated eternal in 2 Corinthians 4:18 where it is contrasted with things measured by time?
Whenever we wish to know the meaning of a word in the Scriptures, we should get it for ourselves from the contexts. We should use a concordance! The following are all the occurrences of the Greek word proskairos, which the A.V. translates temporal in 2 Corinthians 4:18:
Matt. 13:21but dureth for awhile
Mark 4:17and so endure but for a time
2 Cor. 4:18the things which are seen are temporal
Heb. 11:25to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season
It is a most interesting and instructive exercise to study these passages in this way. The first two refer to the seed sown on rocky places. It sprouts, springs up, but lasts only a little while. The time is short. The same is seen in Hebrews. The temporary enjoyment of sin did not appeal to Moses because it was short. Sin gives pleasure, but, at the same time, it shortens our life term. These passages have no point unless the time is short. They may be rendered temporary, but we utterly destroy their force if we render them temporal (during the course of time), as in the other passage. Then, according to the rule laid down, the same Greek word is used of the stony-ground-hearer as of the things that are seen (2 Cor.4:18). The contrast is not between time and eternity, but between short, temporary, visible things and those which last for a whole eon or for all of the eons. The contrast does not call for endlessness. The longest time period known in Scripture fully satisfies it, without any need of extending it beyond the limits of the eonian times.
This is the way the CONCORDANT LITERAL NEW TESTAMENT renders the same passages:
Matt. 13:21he...has no root in himself, but is temporary
Mark 4:17they have no root in themselves, but are temporary
2 Cor. 4:18what is being observed is temporary,
yet what is not being observed is eonian
Heb. 11:25preferring rather to be maltreated with the people of God
than to have a temporary enjoyment of sin.
It is clear that the word eonian is not "contrasted with things measured by time." Should we put these words in the other passages we will immediately see how silly they sound. He has no root in himself, but is measured by time! Moses preferred evil to the enjoyment of sin during the course of time! It is sometimes difficult to express clearly just why a word is wrong, but if we will try it out in this way it will be much easier to detect doubtful renderings.
71. What is the sense of the Greek word, katargeoo, translated nullify in 1 Corinthians 15:24 and abolish in 1 Corinthians 15:26?
It is the office of Christ, God's Anointed, to bring about the subjection of all. It is astonishing to note how this is to be done. The method is entirely negative and consists in making certain things inoperative. The word used to express this is most important, and it is both interesting and suggestive to consider the parts of which it is composed, for the idiomatic meaning is quite in accord with its elements. Its chief root is erg, which occurs frequently in the family denoting action. To this is prefixed the Greek letter a, denoting UN-, a-erg, which combines, the a swallowing the e, making arg, which is the root for UN-ACT, idle (2 Peter 2:3). To this is further prefixed the connective kata, DOWN (dropping the last a), kat-a-rg, DOWN-UN-ACT, DOWN-idle, make inactive, or inoperative. Idiomatically it is most difficult to translate this word, for English requires several terms to denote this where Greek uses but one. In this passage we use nullify with sovereignty and abolish with death, but the basic meaning is make inoperative.
It is usually supposed that the universe is so essentially wrong that it requires positive corrective acts to set it right. From this revelation, however, it appears that what is needed is the negative abolition of activity in two distinct directions, the cessation of all subjecting powers over and outside of man, and the stopping in man of the force which subjects him to sin. In other words, man is now subject to other men and to the operation of death within him. Make these activities inoperative and he will be subject to God. Man was made by his Creator for subjection to the Deity. This is his normal condition, to which he returns as soon as alien restraining influences have been removed. Add to this negative removal the positive experiences which were his while insubordinate, and we have all that is necessary to make the creatures of God not only obedient, but adoring children of the Father, to whom He is Everything.
Death is the last enemy to be made inoperative. To many the inclusion of death in a discussion of subjection seems strange and misplaced. This arises from the mistaken idea of death which prevails. Not only do men make the death state one of life, but they fail to grasp the fact which appears at the very forefront of revelation, that death is operating in every descendant of Adam during this life. He is dying. Moreover, that great truth, that death is transmitted (not sin), so that we sin because we are dying, has been obscured by translators and is unknown to theology (Rom.5:12). But once we understand that all of our insubordination is due to the immanence of death in our members and that we cannot be normally subject so long as it operates in us, then we are prepared to give death the place accorded to it in this discussion, and can appreciate the significance of 1 Corinthians 15:26.
If we stop the activity of death in humanity it cannot be insubordinate of itself, for it was not only created out of God but for Him. I once wondered why death was the last enemy. Now I know that it must be so, for its abolition by itself would remove all the rest, were they not already abolished. If death (and, as a consequence, sin, which is its fruit) should be made inoperative at the beginning of the thousand years, there could be no reign and no rebellion, for insubjection would be absent. Where all are subject to God all other forms of subjection must vanish. Subjection to anyone but God is abnormal. That is what brought in sin. Its gradual abolition in the eons to come will lead mankind up to the consummation. Make death inoperative and the last vestige of insubjection vanishes. It must be the last enemy because its abolition (when it is made inoperative) completely subjects all to God.
72. What is your answer to the charge that you "deny the deity of Christ?"
The ringing insistence of the Scriptures that there is only one God has been subtly undermined by the prevailing teaching concerning a "triune deity." When we inquire into the relation of the three members of the "trinity" to one another, we are met by meaningless and incomprehensible, as well as unscriptural, phrases. As a rule, however, the explanation is evaded and shunned. It is evident that an honest inquiry is not desired, and always leads to heresy. But the Scriptures are written that we should know God and His Christ, and it is of utmost importance that we give to Each the place assigned Him in Holy Writ.
It has become the fashion to approach this subject by giving it various unscriptural names, and to frighten timid souls by warning them against any who deny these shibboleths. I am frank to say that I cannot subscribe to any statement not couched in the clear language of Scripture. Theological terms are not only too elastic, too indefinite, too enslaving, but they are an unintended slur on the Author of the Book, as though He could not pick the correct key words for His revelation. For instance, why introduce the phrase "deity of Christ?" No one knows just what it means. I can honestly say that I believe in the deity of Christ, for God, and not man, was His Father. But I can also deny it if the phrase is stretched to mean that He is everything to God that God is to Him.
The revelation of God comes to us through two of our senses, sight and sound. His message is received through our eyes or our ears. We listen to it read or we look into its pages. We hear it expounded or we study its exposition in written form. Christ is the living revelation of God. When He is seen and heard we behold and hear the absolute Deity Whom He represents. Our ears cannot perceive the inaudible. Our eyes cannot view the invisible. In Christ, as the Image of God and as the Word of God, we see His likeness and hear His sayings.
The Scriptures definitely assure us that God is invisible and inaudible. This applies, of course, only to absolute Deity, not to those who are so called in a subordinate sense. It certainly does not apply to the Son of God, for He is the image of the invisible God (Col.1:15). Paul, in writing to Timothy, concerning his own gracious call, bursts out into a doxology, "Now to the King of the eons, the incorruptible, invisible, only wise God, be honor and glory for the eons of the eons! Amen!" (1 Tim.1:17). Moses, we are told, deemed the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the fury of the king, for he is staunch, as seeing the Invisible (Heb.11:26,27).
There is no hint that this invisibility is due to human disability. It is true that human vision is very restricted. It covers only a small range. It is probable that some of the lower animals see more and further than humanity. Invisibility is one of the essentials of absolute Deity. He is Spirit. He pervades the universe. The moment we seek to visualize Him we constrict and contract Him to human proportions and He loses the transcendence which is exclusive to the Absolute. We shall never see Him, in a literal sense. Like Moses, we shall see the Invisible, in a figurative sense. The means provided for this is Christ. God is absolutely invisible, not merely in relation to our present powers. This is important, if we wish to appreciate the part that Christ plays in His revelation.
Many passages can be produced which seem to contradict the invisibility of God. There are two explanations which cover most of them. Men cannot understand any language that is not human. Hence the figure anthropopatheia is freely used, in which God is treated as a man. He is continually given human attributes and furnished with various members of the human body. Messengers behold His face (Matt.18:10). We read of His eyes (Psa.11:4), His ears (Psa.10:7), or His nostrils (Ex.15:8), His mouth (Deut.8:3), His lips (Job 11:5), His arms (Isa.62: 8), His hands (Psa.8:6), His feet (Isa.66:1). Besides this He is given human feelings, even ignorance, and many other traits which humanize Him so that we may understand Him.
THE IMAGE OF GOD
In some cases, however, He is represented by His Image. Adam saw God in the garden, Abraham entertained Him in his tent, Moses met Him on the mount, Joshua encountered Him at Jericho. These were literal, tangible, material, visible visits of Him Who is the Image and the Word of God. They actually saw His appearance and heard His voice. This, says our Lord, is not possible of the Father (John 5:37). When Philip wished to be shown the Father, our Lord directed him to Himself. "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:8-10).
In a few cases we have both the Son and the Father visible at the same time. This occurs only in visions. In the great opening vision of the throne in the Unveiling, Christ is seen as a Lambkin, while there is Another Who sits on the throne. We may be sure that this is not literal. It is a vision. Christ will never be actually metamorphosed into an animal, nor will the Supreme be turned into an august man. Visions are not made of visible objects. They are, essentially, a sight which has no substantial existence.
When men set up the worship of an invisible deity, they usually make an image to represent it. This is one of the charges against humanity: that their images degrade the Deity to their own level or below (Rom.1:23). Hence the law forbade all graven images, and Israel, as a rule, has kept clear of them. But this widespread, almost universal, desire to have some tangible, visible representation of God is not wrong in itself. It is an instinctive, God-implanted longing, and God satisfies it by giving mankind a true and adequate Image of Himself in Christ.
Perhaps no other subject demands so insistently that we cleave fast to the pattern of sound words. If we start out with an unscriptural theological term, we can only hope to land in the misty mud in which theology is mired.
In order to clarify our thoughts, let us study a few occurrences of the word "image" in the Scriptures. He Who is God's Image, and Who spoke as no man ever spoke, used it in contending with the Jews. Taking a minted piece of money, a denarius, He asked, "whose is this image and inscription?" Their reply was, "Caesar's." He responded, "Be paying, then, Caesar's to Caesar, and God's to God" (Matt.22:21). The image was probably like that on modern coins, possibly a head or bust delineated on the metal by indentations or embossing, which suggested the emperor to the mind. The whole point of the passage lies in the word image. The fact that they were using money minted by Rome indicated their subjection to Rome. They were under obligations to the one whose image appeared on their coins. This image was only a partial likeness. It was made of metal, not flesh and blood. It was only a miniature of the original. It probably depicted only a part of his body, and that in hardly more than two dimensions. Yet it symbolized all that he was, especially what he was to those who used the coin.
From this illustration, supplied by the divine Image Himself, we may readily deduce that, as the Image of God, He need not be of the "same substance," as the theologians assert, He need not be of the same dimensions, He need not reveal every phase of God's existence, but He must be a symbol of God's relationship to mankind--His love, His power, His wisdom, and His grace. A sight of Him should impress us with all that we could get by a vision of God.
While seeking thus to define and limit the exact thought which lies in the term image, let no one imagine that Christ is not more than this. He is the image and glory of God (1 Cor.11:7). The effigy of Caesar on the coin of the realm probably was not much to look at, much less to admire. But Christ is not a lifeless representation but a life-giving illumination. If our eyes are open, we see Him as He appeared on the mount, not with a halo above His head, but enveloped in an aura of glory, which is God's. In fact, the glory of the Deity is not within the range of human sight, so He is the Effulgence, the radiant glory of the invisible Deity (Heb.1:3). He is all that an image ought to be, the ideal representation of the most marvelous Original. Seeing Christ, we see Him Whom no man has seen or can see. Instead of being stricken to death by the sight, as we surely would were it the absolute Deity, we are given life, and the power to look upon His glory, yea, we ourselves partake of it and become like Him.
THE WORD OF GOD
The scripture which instinctively rises in any discussion of this theme is the declaration of John's account, "And the Word was God." Standing alone, this text is very impressive, but considered in its context it becomes an enigma. It is flanked on both sides by the repeated assertion that the Word was with God. How the selfsame Word can be with God and at the same time be God surpasses all human apprehension. The translation, however, is quite free. A closer rendering may help us to an understanding of the entire passage and eliminate the apparent mystification.
But even more depends upon our attitude. If we approach it from the standpoint of philosophy, as though it were addressed to an audience unacquainted with any previous revelation, we will find in it formulas for endless discussion, but little profit. We should rather take the attitude of those to whom John wrote, who knew the Hebrew Scriptures and to whom John wished to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:31). He does not begin with an independent philosophical discussion, but shows the vital connection of the Son with all previous revelation, before the Expression became flesh.
It is of vital moment to us, whether we surround this text with the haze of mystic philosophy or the aura of ancient revelation. The philosophical Logos is the source of insipid and unsatisfactory discussions which darken the intellect and harden the heart: the scriptural Expression mellows the affections and illuminates the mind, and is fruitful in the knowledge and appreciation of God.
While it is not vital, it will be helpful to use the word "Expression" in place of "Word." The theme of the passage is God's Expression--the means of His manifestation or revelation. God wishes to be known, to speak to His creatures. John commences by introducing us to this Logos, or Word, or Expression. Before John wrote, God had already manifested Himself, as revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures. John wishes to connect his further revelation with that which preceded it, so he introduces us to the One Who is the subject of both.
The connective with ordinarily signifies nearness and association. This is the thought usually found in the phrase "with God." However, this is not the case in the prologue to John's account. It is not that the Expression was near God or in association with God, but that it is directed toward God. In the third verse of the thirteenth chapter the same phrase occurs. It is the opposite of from. The Word came from God and went to (not with) God.
Can we not see the drift of this, even though our tongue cannot express it? To tell us that the Expression was with God does not seem suited to the thought which the Greek word, pros, conveys, but if we read that the Expression was toward God in the sense that It pointed to Him, it helps us to see that the real thought is not the nearness of the Expression to God but the directing of others toward God. And is not this just what an expression is intended to accomplish?
What then, of the phrase, "And God was the Expression?" If, as we have seen, there was an Expression in the beginning which pointed toward God, Who was that God we read about in the Hebrew Scriptures? The answer is here. The God of that revelation was the Expression, the Same One Who becomes flesh and camps amongst His people, according to John's record.
In his book on the deity of Christ, Sir Robert Anderson sets down in simple words one of the mistakes which so warp the subject that it is impossible to consider it clearly unless they are exposed. He says, "With us, therefore, the issue is a definite and simple one, namely, whether Christ is God, or only man." This statement neither defines nor clarifies the theme, for the evidence is abundant on both sides. Moreover, this declaration definitely denies the unique glory of Christ as the Mediator. He is neither merely "God or only man," but the Link between them. The Scriptures are emphatic on this point. "There is one God, and one Mediator of God and mankind, a Man, Christ Jesus..." (1 Tim.2:5). Those who refuse this truth and all the divine explanations of those relationships by which He bridges the chasm between us and God, must make Him either Deity absolute or merely human. Both are wrong and rob us of the Mediator, the Christ we need.
The point we wish to press is this, that the likeness of Christ to God, instead of incorporating Him into the so-called "Godhead," is itself the most satisfying evidence that He is not the Supreme. Nothing is similar to itself, except in a rhetorical figure. Likeness disappears in identity. Nor can this be limited to "personality." Christ and God are alike apart from "personality." Their agreement consists in things. Images and expressions are not "personal." Furthermore, the acknowledgment of distinct "personality" precludes identity in other ways. Every word or phrase which has been invented, such as essence and substance, is utterly unscriptural and irrational if we allow distinctness of "personality."
Christ is the Image and Word of the Deity. Without any reasoning whatever, the spirit of a sane mind concludes that, therefore, He is not Himself the Deity. The statue of Christ high up in the Andes is not Christ Himself, though it is correctly called "the Christ of the Andes." The office of Mediator demands that our Lord be the God of our souls, a manifestation of the Deity in terms within the scope of our comprehensions, in sights and sounds suited to our sensations. We must see God! We must hear God! That is impossible absolutely. It is realized relatively in the One Mediator. In Him we see, not Himself merely, but His God. Through Him we hear, not His words, but His Father's. O, that men would not seek to tie their tinsel to His glory! No greater shame could be His than to reveal Himself, to speak His own words, to obey His own will, though these are the essentials of Deity. Though like the Deity, His essential excellence lies in self-effacement and subjection to His God and His Father. He is not a mere Man or absolute Deity, but the Mediator between them.
73. Do you deny the Personality of the Holy Spirit?
Again, one of the greatest hindrances to progress in things divine is the use of an unscriptural or extra-scriptural vocabulary. One word, which intrudes into this discussion, finds no place in God's revelation, but it seems to be essential to theology. This is the term "personality." An orthodox creed must affirm "the personality of the Holy Spirit." The statement in itself is quite correct, but, as is usually the case with human amendments to the inspired oracles, the implications are false. The holy Spirit is a Person, but it is not a distinct personality from God Himself. No other spirit has two personalities. God is Spirit. He is called by this appellation when attention is diverted from His deity to His operations in creation and salvation. But He is not two spirits.
There are many instances in which the Spirit of God is identified with the Deity in His operations. These may not always prove their identity, for an agent may be merged in the One for Whom He acts. There is one example, however, which cannot be misconstrued, which clearly shows that the Father and the holy Spirit must be one and the same "personality." We refer to the generation of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The truly vital question, "What think ye of Christ--whose Son is He?" ought to find a clear and accurate answer from everyone who believes in Him. Yet Christendom is actually in a quandary on this important point. If we say, with Peter, "Thou art the Son of the living God," or tell, with John, of the Only Begotten of the Father, we seem to deny the explicit accounts of His birth by holy Spirit. Believing this, we seem to be continually at variance with a multitude of passages which proclaim Him in deed and in truth the Father's only Son.
How many Fathers did Christ have? We read that Mary was found pregnant by holy Spirit (Matt.1:18). Joseph is assured that that which is being generated in her is of holy Spirit (Matt.1:20). The messenger of the annunciation said that "holy Spirit shall be coming on you, and the power of the Most High shall be overshadowing you; wherefore the holy One Who is being generated also, shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Is it not evident that, if generation by holy Spirit made Him the Son of God, then God and this holy Spirit must be a single "personality?"
The problem becomes more complex when we examine the formal statement of His generation more closely. It is in the form of a Hebrew parallelism. His conception was not only by spirit but by power. The power of the Most High overshadowed her. It is stated thus:
Holy Spirit will be coming on you,
And the power of the Most High
will be overshadowing you.
As the Most High must be identified with the Father rather than the Spirit, we find that the most explicit announcement which we have of His paternity gives us to understand (if we hold the doctrine of the trinity) that He had two Fathers! But the divine deduction is different, for we read,
Wherefore also the holy One
Who is being generated
shall be called the Son of God.
He is not the Son of Gods, but of God. He is not the product of three persons but of two. He had one Father, God, and His mother was Mary.
Hebrew parallelism is a marvelous literary device for preserving God's revelation to mankind. The meaning of many a word is fixed by its synonym in a couplet. The sense of scores of passages is saved by the presence of a parallel line. In the repetition before us, the phrase "coming on" is clearly equivalent to "overshadowing." Similarly, "holy Spirit" is "the power of the Most High." Here we have a definition of holy Spirit by God Himself. It is worthy of the closest consideration. The holy Spirit is not the Most High, but the power of the Most High. The relation between God and His Spirit is not that of two distinct personalities, but that of power to the one whose it is. Christ was begotten by power. That power was the holy Spirit of the Most High.
This does not deny "the personality of the holy Spirit." It establishes it. Yet why cling to such man-made phrases, made to frighten timid spirits into a forced assent to a theological speculation? Actually what is usually implied is that the holy Spirit is a distinct personality. The intelligent believer can see this is in direct conflict with the facts of Scripture and has not a single solid statement to support it. Only a few forced inferences can be made which even seem to suggest that God and His Spirit are distinct "Persons."
74. Are believers in Christ Jesus today supposed to keep the laws in the Old Testament?
There is a good deal said about the law in Paul's epistles, especially in Romans and Galatians. The attitude we should take toward the law is clearly set forth in these epistles and, of course, in some others also, showing that there is a tremendous difference between the evangels of the Circumcision and of the Uncircumcision (Gal.2:7) with regard to the law. Very few seem to grasp the great difference between the two evangels.
Let us consider the main points of distinction: In the evangel of the Circumcision we have law. It is not abrogated. As a matter of fact, the law continues throughout the millennium. Then Israel will still be under law. There will be a great difference in contrast to what was before, but nevertheless, the main object that God has in view continues right through that whole eon, with regard to the Circumcision. As far as God's actual purpose was concerned, the law was not given to be observed. It was not given that men should obey it and get a recognition from God, but to show them their inability to keep it (Rom.3:19-20; 5:20). That is why we have the long list of failures in Israel. The law given at Sinai was a great success from the viewpoint of God's intention. It showed that man is not capable of conforming to its standards. Jehovah's people had all sorts of special advantages. They are given this law, and they excel only in making a failure of keeping it. That was God's intention, although it was contrary to His expressed will. This continues in the millennium, even though the law is written on their hearts. Perfection is not reached, even in that blessed era.
There are a few very simple things that most of us do not fully grasp in connection with the law. When I mention them, you will see what I mean. I want particularly to lay upon your hearts that law is not God's way of dealing with humanity. Yet that is the idea you get in Christendom and its publications. They insist that God has given us His law and that we must try to obey it.
To begin with, God left humanity without law for over two thousand years. He did not even give the law to Israel until they came to Mt. Sinai. Not only that, but He did not give it to humanity at all. The law is a very limited thing. God is using only a very small portion of humanity in this demonstration of the weakness and inability of the flesh. It is not for all mankind. God never intended it for the whole race. In time and scope it was limited. Not only that, but it is a national thing. It was given only to one nation, as such, not merely to individuals in that nation.
Christendom recognizes to some extent the impossibility of keeping it all, for they divide the law into the moral and the ceremonial, to evade some parts that they know they cannot or will not fulfill, such as going to Jerusalem every once in awhile. There are parts of the law which can only be fulfilled in the land of Israel, and if you are not in the land, you cannot fulfill the law.
Now I want particularly to point out to you that, when the truth for today is presented to us by Paul in Romans, it is not based on law, but on the failure of law. The point here is that we have come to an end of the law. God has demonstrated that there is nothing in the law by which one may attain salvation or blessing. This is not so with the Circumcision. God still keeps on with the law in the kingdom eon in order to make His demonstration complete. God limited His law to only a small group of people. Later on He actually writes the law upon the hearts of His people, yet even that does not bring in perfection. When we come to the end of the dispensation of law--to the time when Paul begins to write--we have a divine righteousness entirely apart from law.
The law, instead of doing what a good many theologians think it does (that is, break the ground for the evangel) makes people's hearts callous. God never intended it to do anything else. God did not have to give the law in order to prepare people for salvation, but rather to demonstrate what was in the human heart--to put man in his place so that He, Himself, might be given His exalted position as the Saviour and Justifier of all.
75. Does not Romans 2:13 contradict your teaching that Christians are not required to observe the Old Testament commands?
In order to press the point that each passage must be kept in its context, let us consider the following statement in Romans 2:13: "The doers of the law shall be justified." Let us not read the context. In this demonstration we do not want the context. We simply read that the doer of the law will be justified. "But," one could say, "that is altogether different. In Romans 3:20 we have: `...because by works of law no flesh at all shall be justified in His sight.' Now you see how the Bible contradicts itself!" However, between these two passages, we read: "Not one is just--not even one." Instead of being a contradiction, it is simply a logical result. If there are no doers of the law, then it is very plain no one will be justified--no flesh shall be justified before God.
That is only one example. Another passage I want to bring before you is like it. In Romans 1:18 to 2:16 we read about those who are not under law. God will be paying each one in accord with his acts: to those, indeed, who by endurance in good acts are seeking glory and honor and incorruption, life eonian (2:6,7). Here we have a great statement of fact. All will acknowledge that it is true and we dare not contradict it. God must do the right thing to all His creatures. He must reward those who fulfill the conditions. But who is going to get this reward? Some claim that there are such people. We might imagine that such a character exists, even if we have never found one. But God has made it plain that not one is even just, let alone good (Rom.3:10). That should settle the matter.
I have made it clear now that there is no contradiction whatever, but that the argument requires first of all that God will be righteous and treat everybody according to this standard of righteousness. If we will go a little further in Romans, we will see that God does not reckon on anyone justifying himself. In the fifth of Romans we read: "Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation...." Thank God, there are no exceptions! It would nullify the work of Christ if a single soul should be able to work his way into salvation or justification or anything of that kind, either through law or apart from law.
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