In the fourth Gospel, John is silent about the rending of the temple veil, but the three synoptists narrate it.
After stating that Jesus had yielded up His spirit, both Matthew 27.51 and Mark 15.38 say "the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom." Having mentioned the darkening of the sun for three hours, Luke 23.45 continues "and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst," after which he follows with the Lord's second loud cry and His commending Himself to the Father as He gave up His spirit.
From these accounts whether the temple veil was rent at the moment of, or just before, the Lord's death, it is difficult to determine with certainty, but in other respects they are complementary in providing all the facte.
Matthew and Mark, particularly the former, may have reported summarily the miraculous things that occurred when the Lord Jesus died. Luke's account may be an example of his meticulous care in recording events in the right order which was his object in writing as he says, "having traced the course of all things accurately from the first" Luke 1.3, RV. However, having said this, it is an instance where dogmatism would be unwise over the differences between these writers.
Commenting in his book, The Person of Christ (vol. 3), upon this extraordinary incident inside the temple at the time of Christ's death, H. Brash Bonsall says, "At the precise moment (3 p.m.) the passover lamb expired in the temple court a mile or so away, the Lamb of God died. God stepped in by an astonishing and highly significant act, witnessed simultaneously by all the twenty-four courses of priests who for this one occasion during the year were all on duty at once. These ministrants were told by awe-struck spectators within the outer veil of this curtain, nearly 80 ft. high, made of Babylonian linen a hand-breadth thick, embroidered with blue, scarlet and purple and of a texture truly wonderful, taking several priests to lift, that it was ripped, not from bottom to top, but from top to bottom by a divine hand as if it had been a gossamer tissue (see Josephus, Wars, 5.5.4)."
For such a thick and strong curtain, dividing the holy place from the holy of holies, to have been torn into two parts was clearly miraculous. Before considering this miracle further, the word "veil" translated from the Original Text should not be overlooked. From the Greek (katapetasma), it means 'that which is spread out,' signifying its purpose as a curtain. But the Hebrew (paroketh), according to W. Gesenius, says one commentator, has a two-fold significance: (a) "to separate,' denoting a barrier as expressed in Exodus 26.33, "the veil shall divide the holy place from the most holy:" and (b) 'to break' which, although used for the tabernacle veil centuries before the event, seemingly anticipated the rending of the temple veil at the time of Christ's death.
Concerning the rending of the temple veil, the Gospel writers report three distinct features of the miracle, each of which is beyond man's ingenuity or capability.
First, the veil was rent "in twain," indicating that the tear was not partial—not just half way, but total—meaning the veil was divided into two pieces. For appreciating its spiritual significance, it needs to be remembered that a God-given prohibition was imposed upon the priesthood up to that moment of time according to Leviticus 16.2, which meant the priests were to "come not at all times . . . within the veil" into the holy of holies, although "the high priest alone once a year" Heb. 9.7, may enter on the day of atonement. With the veil rent in twain, that restriction of the Law was lifted. This truth is expressed in Hebrews 10.19-22, where the writer says, "Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say His flesh; ... let us draw near . . ." When entering the holiest, even the high priest went in fearfully, but believers may enter into God's presence with "boldness" at all times on the basis of Christ's atoning sacrifice. The way for such access to God, having been "consecrated" or rather 'initiated' by Christ, is "new" (kainos, Gk.) in the sense of being different from anything in the past and "living" (zao, Gk.) in contrast to the fear of death that hung over the high priest when he was permitted to enter once a year (Ex. 28.35). This privilege of entry is "through the veil" which is said to be figurative of "His flesh," meaning that Christ incarnate gave His body in sacrificial death at the Cross for providing this means of spiritual access unto God. It meant that the temple veil, which had been a barrier into the holiest for the Jews, was not removed but rent in two when Christ died, so that Christians go "through the veil" unto God. Therefore, "let us draw near" reverently into His holy presence.
Similar teaching is found in Ephesians 2.11-22 with its underlying temple imagery which would have been understood by the believing Jews of those early days. In the outermost Court of the Gentiles of the Temple, there was "the middle wall of partition" which was comparatively low in height. Its purpose was to bar Gentiles from entering the inner Courts, the Court of the Women and the Court of Israel, to which only Jews had access through the gaps at intervals in this dividing wall. Alluding to this man-imposed barrier, Paul declares that Christ has "broken down the middle wall of partition" v. 14, providing an unimpeded approach to God for believing Gentiles. Continuing he says, "through Him," referring to Christ Who is seemingly symbolised implicitly as the rent veil of the temple, "we both," embracing both Gentile and Jewish believers "have access by one Spirit unto the Father" v. 16ff, Who dwells in the heavenly sanctuary.
Second, the veil was torn "from top to bottom." For the tear to start from the upper part of the temple veil and go down to the bottom was unnatural from the human standpoint because, if man had been involved, it would have been from the bottom to the top. This element of the miraculous is borne out by the words "from the top" (apo anothen,Gk.) which mean literally 'from above.' At His trial, Jesus told Pilate that he had no power to release or crucify Him unless it was given him "from above" John 19.10f, that is, not from Imperial Rome but from God in heaven. Regarding the rending of the veil, the expression denotes it was an act of God. Interestingly, the phrase is akin to the word used by the Lord Jesus Who told Nicodemus that he needed to be "born again" John 3.3,7, or "from above" (mgn) (anothen, Gk.) signifying that the new birth is not the work of man but solely of God (John 1.13) and is just as much miraculous.
The rent veil marked the end of a divinely ordained way of approach to God for the Jews nationally and the beginning of another form of drawing near to God for Jewish and Gentile Christians individually. In both cases, priesthood is involved. In the sight of God, the end of the Aaronic priesthood was potentially signalled by a rent garment when Jesus stood trial at the Sanhedrin. It arose when Caiaphas, the high priest, asked Jesus, "Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" to this question, Jesus answered, "I am: . . ." His reply was not only in the affirmative but, as understood by Caiaphas, an utterance of the ineffable Name which no Jew took upon his lips as exemplified by himself in avoiding the name of Deity when he said not 'the Son of God' but "the Son of the Blessed" in his question addressed to Jesus. Turning to the Sanhedrin elders, he said, "Ye have heard the blasphemy: . . ." which, in his opinion was a breach of the Law (Lev. 24.16). In grief and yet in anger, the high priest "rent his clothes," which was contrary to the Law (Lev. 21.10). Ironically, Caiaphas as judge accused Jesus the guiltless Prisoner of breaking the law of blasphemy whilst he himself broke the law by rending his priestly garments. Symbolically, his action marked the end of priesthood after the order of Aaron and prepared the way for the endless priesthood according to the order of Melchizedec. Having been raised from the dead, Christ is now exalted to the right hand of God where He "maketh intercession for us" Rom. 8.34, and so functions as High Priest (cp. Heb. 7.25f) without being named as such by Paul when writing to the saints at Rome.
Third, the veil of the temple was rent "in the midst." Like the other two features of the tear, this one bears upon the death of Christ.
As the veil was rent "in the midst," it may relate figuratively to the time of His death within the normal span of human life. This principle of time is set forth concerning the birth of Christ in Galatians 4.4 (RV). "When the fulness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman . . ." The thought conveyed is that when the appointed time as divinely pre-determined in eternity had fully come, then God sent forth His Son Who was, and from eternity had been, the Son of God, by being born of a woman, which attests His real Humanity. If there was such precision for the timing of the birth of Christ, then there was for His death. Referring to His death at Calvary, one inspired writer says, "in the end of the ages hath He been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself Heb. 9.26, RV. Not "in the end of the world" (AV) which is still future but "in the end of the ages" (RV) or "in the consummation of the ages" (N.Tr.), Christ died. Commenting upon this verse, W. E. Vine says in his book, The Epistle to the Hebrews : Christ all Excelling, "It was at the consummation of the ages that He offered Himself in sacrifice at Calvary. All ages prior to that event looked on to it; all succeeding ages will look back to it. The Cross was ever in view in the eternal counsels of God in the past : it ever is before Him, and always will be, in the ages to come," From the divine viewpoint, the sacrificial Death of Christ is the fulcrum in the whole span of time.
Not to the right or to the left but "in the midst," right down the middle, was the veil rent, which is suggestive symbolically of the timing of His Death not only in relation to the many ages of Time but also to His own life. The death of Christ was not early or late in life, either of which happens with all other humans who have no control over the time of their death, but it occurred "in the midst" of life when He was at His prime as it would be said of other men. To this fact, there may be an allusion in Isaiah 53.8. "... who shall declare His generation?" Upon this question, various views are expressed. Then the prophet continues, "for He was cut off out of the land of the living: . . ." This statement proclaims clearly the fact of His death, indicating He was "cut off in the midst of His days.
For believers, the rent veil at the time of Christ's death is of deep significance as expressed so eloquently by J. G. Deck in a hymn :
by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98) VOLUME I
Paper 5(c)—The Coming Great Tribulation
The next passage for consideration may present greater difficulties to some readers of Holy Scripture ; I refer to Rev. 7.9-17. There we read unquestionably of Gentiles, which has led many to suppose that the Church of God is intended. But attention to the place accorded to chapter 7 in the book of Revelation will greatly help to solve the difficulty. Look back at the preceding chapters. In chapter 1 we see the seven candlesticks, and the Son of Man walking in their midst ; this is introductory. In chapters 2 and 3 in the epistles to the seven Churches in Asia, we have a sketch of the outward history of the Church on earth from the days of the Apostles until the end. After this we hear nothing more of Churches except in the postscript (Rev. 22.16). Chapters 4, 5, show heaven preparing itself for the work of judgment, and the heavenly saints, under the figure of twenty-four crowned and enthroned elders, are seen at home with the Lord before the judgments commence. This is followed by the breaking of the seals (chapter 6) and the outpouring of divine wrath. Then chapter 7 comes in. It is a parenthesis really, coming between the sixth and seventh seals. It speaks of mercy in the midst of judgment. The heart of God loves mercy. Judgment is His strange work. He must execute it, in consistency with the holiness of His nature, and in order to maintain the majesty of His throne, but He does not delight in judgment. It gives Him real delight to bless and save men, as Luke 15 shows; He never takes delight in judging them.
Rev. 7, then, is a parenthesis of mercy. The judgments are restrained, while God draws aside the veil, as it were, to mark off His own. First we get 144,000 sealed Israelites. A defined number of all the tribes of Israel are sealed in order to be preserved during the terrors of the times. But is this all? No : there are saved Gentiles also. "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands : and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen : Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (verses 9-14).
Some will say, "Surely these are the Church of God!" All such will do well to examine the verses very closely. Observe, this white-robed, palm-bearing throng are quite distinct from the elders, who, we have already remarked, represent the Church, though not the Church only. One of the elders raised the question with the Apostle as to this countless throng, and then explained that they had come out of the great tribulation. The definite article should be inserted in verse 14. It helps to a better understanding of the elder's words. They are evidently persons who have heard the gospel of the kingdom from Jewish messengers and believed it. Suffering follows for them, though not necessarily loss of life. It must be remembered that the seductions and troubles of the last days will be very widespread. Though most severe in Judaea, as is just, they will extend thence more or less over the whole civilized earth. The Man of Sin in the land, being in league with the Chief of the revived Roman Empire, will spread his poison, with its consequent suffering and sorrow, on every hand.
. But these white-robed ones have by grace stood firm. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego of old, they have refused to join in the,universal idolatry. "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." They are now seen victorious, about to enter into blessing. The terms of their blessing speak of earth, rather than heaven, the figures being borrowed principally from Isa. 49. "Before the throne" is probably a moral, rather than local, expression, as in chapter 14.3 (compare also chapter 12.1). Their place and portion, I have no doubt, will be in the millennial earth under the peaceful reign of the Lord Jesus.
A few words as to Rev. 12 may be helpful to some of our readers. The great tribulation is not there referred to by name, but the allusion throughout is evidently to that period. The sun-clothed woman is seen persecuted by the Dragon, but preserved by God, and nourished in the wilderness during twelve hundred and sixty days (Rev. 12.6-14). Who is this woman? Verse 5 is sufficient to answer the question. The man child is Christ beyond all just controversy, and Christ came of Israel, as the Apostle reminds us in Rom. 9.5. The first verse of our chapter shows us Israel as viewed from God's standpoint, invested with all the symbols of authority over the earth. In the closing days she is the object of Satan's enmity. He will stir up the powers against her, and do all that is in his power to destroy her. But he will not succeed. Israel is intended by God to have the supreme place in the earth ; a remnant will therefore be preserved in mercy through all the horrors of the last scenes for this end. His word to His tried ones will be, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee, hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast" (Isa. 26.20). He will provide for them a Zoar, even as for Lot in a former day (Gen. 19).
One more Scripture remains to be noticed—Rev. 3.10: "Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."
This word is undoubtedly for the Church of God. It is part of the Lord's address to the Church in Philadelphia. But how different the language of this passage to those we have been considering! We do not find here counsel as to what to do in the time of trial, nor any promise of preserving grace, but simply, "I will keep thee from the hour." There is surely a vast difference between being preserved through the trouble, and being kept from it altogether. Enoch and Noah naturally come to mind here. The one told of judgment to come, but was translated to heaven before it fell ; the other likewise warned of coming wrath, but, instead of being removed from the scene of judgment, was preserved through it in a shelter provided for him and his house by God. Enoch is a type of the Church of God, Noah is rather a figure of the godly remnant of Israel.
"The hour of temptation" is a wider term than the "great tribulation." The latter, as we have seen, is of but three and a half years' duration, beginning only in the midst of Daniel's seventieth week, when the false Christ changes his front and demands worship ; the "hour of temptation" commences when he first appears, and covers, therefore, the whole of the last prophetic week, and possibly more besides. From it all the Church of God is to be preserved. We look for the Bright and Morning Star. Ere the judgments of God descend, we shall be taken out of this evil scene, and safely housed with Christ Himself in the Father's house on high.
Meanwhile His word is to us the word of His patience. He waits at the Father's right hand above, and we wait in the place of conflict below, for the same wondrous event, for the same blessed moment of joy. May it be increasingly a reality with every one of us, for His Name's sake! —to be continued (D.V.)
In our first three studies, we endeavoured to introduce New Testament teaching concerning "the church, which is His (Christ's) body," Eph. 1.22-23. That is, the church in its universal sense, comprising all believers from its commencement on the day of Pentecost, to its completion with the Lord's return. Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ belongs to the church: they are united to Him, and to one another, by the Holy Spirit.
The life of the universal church is displayed in local churches. The New Testament says a great deal about local church life. We are not left to 'do the best we can,' or 'work out what suits us best.' The Scriptures lay down very clear principles, and give very clear instructions. In our next few studies we will see what they say about the subject.
First of all, we must think about the following sample expressions: "All churches of the saints," 1 Cor. 14.33; "the churches of God," 11.16; "the churches,' Acts 9.31; "the churches of Judaea," Gal. 1.22; "the churches," Rev. 2.7 etc. These are of course, local churches. Notice, not 'the church of Judaea,' or "the church of Galatia' (Gal. 1.2), but "the churches of Judaea' and "churches of Galatia." This is very important. There's not a word about church federation in the New Testament. Each local church is "autonomous.' That is, it stands under direct responsibility to God Himself.
The local church has no obligation to a central governing body. It is not affiliated to an organisation, whether loosely or closely organised. No one local church has any jurisdiction over any other local church. All assemblies, (remember, this is the meaning of the word 'churches') are responsible to God, and answer to Him. Each church is responsible for implementing His word. The seven short letters dictated by the Lord Jesus in Revelation 2/3 clearly demonstrate this. Obviously, there will be a great deal of similarity between churches which endeavour to obey the word of God and which recognise its sole authority. There will be a great deal of fellowship between them too. But the Scriptures do not teach that one church can exercise authority over another.
Now to consider some general features of a local New Testament church.
1) It is a place where only saved people are in fellowship
Sadly, it is possible for an unsaved person to be reckoned amongst those 'in fellowship.' This could be the result of self deception, or insufficient care on the part of the church, particularly the elders. These things are certainly not unknown, and we do well to heed the injunction, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith: prove your own selves," 2 Cor. 13.5. Whilst it is possible to be regarded as 'in fellowship' by others, although not actually saved, it is totally impossible to be unsaved and in "the church, which is His body." There are some important distinctions between the local church and the universal church, of which this is one. So far as the universal church is concerned, there are no sexual differences. See Gal. 3.28. But there are most certainly sexual differences in the local church!
Having said this, membership of a local church is only available to regenerate, born again, people. The idea of a national church with its parish churches providing membership for all who have been christened and confirmed, irrespective of what they believe or don't believe, is totally foreign to the Bible. The idea of membership based on agreement with certain practices or traditions, or even certain doctrines, is equally foreign to the word of God. Can you begin to imagine the inevitable conflicts and confusion arising from the presence of saved and unsaved people in the same church? It really is quite unthinkable! Or can you imagine a so-called 'church' with no saved members at all? But isn't this exactly what happens in Christendom? 2 Cor. 6.14-16 is certainly applicable here.
2) It is a place where only saved and baptised people are in fellowship
Notice the order in Acts 2.41-42, "And they that gladly received His word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and in fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." Compare Acts 18.8.
A local church comprises people who have not only believed in Christ, but who are seen to have believed in Christ. They are marked men and women. There's no question of 'hiding your light under a bushel.' Baptism is, amongst other things, a public declaration of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The local church must be populated by people who have publicly declared their commitment to Christ.
3) It is a place where the Lordship of Christ is acknowledged
His authority is recognised. His will is done. His glory is sought. It isn't a place where men are elevated, whether popes, or bishops, or arch-bishops, or moderators, or presidents. Neither for that matter is it a place where the elders, or the teachers, or the preachers, are elevated.
In a local church, people say "that Jesus is Lord"; they recognise that whilst there are "differences of administrations" (service), it is the "same Lord" 1 Cor. 12.3 RV, and 5; they recognise that it is "the Lord's supper," 11.20.
4) It is a place where the Word of God is acknowledged in its entirety
Please note the words, 'in its entirety.' The local church does not have the right to 'pick and choose' which parts of the Bible it wants to practise. It has no say in the matter. The word of God is mandatory; it is binding upon the church. Paul reminded the elders from Ephesus that he declared "all the counsel of God" Acts 20.27. Read 1 Cor. 14.37, "If any man think himself to be prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." See also 1 Cor. 11.16 and 1 Tim. 3.15.
Each local church is responsible to submit to the guidance and instruction of God's word. The word of God must be regarded as alone authoritative: it is the only court of appeal in all matters of doctrine and practice.
5) It is a place where the liberty of the Holy Spirit is recognised
In a local church, the Holy Spirit has liberty to raise up and equip believers, whether brothers or sisters, for varying service, and to meet the needs of the Lord's people. If, for example, it becomes obvious that a brother has ability to preach, or to teach, or to engage in pastoral care, then the gift is to be used in the church for the benefit of all. The assembly does not create the gift, since that is the work of the Holy Spirit. The assembly acknowledges His provision by ensuring that every opportunity is given for that gift to be used. See 1 Cor. 12.7-11.
To substitute a human system of control, whether vested in a 'minister' or otherwise, is to "quench the Spirit," 1 Thess. 5.19. On the other hand, an assembly can "quench the Spirit" by allowing every believer to "have a go at everything!' A 'one man ministry' and an "any man ministry,' are both wrong.
6) It is a place where the priesthood of all believers is recognised
Every believer is a priest. The word means 'one who offers sacrifices.' See Heb. 13.15 etc. Peter, having described his readers as "born again," as "newborn babes," and as having "tasted that the Lord is gracious," calls them "an holy priesthood." He continues by describing them as "you therefore which believe" before calling them "a royal priesthood." 1 Pet. 1.22 — 2.10. There is no hint at all of a selected and trained priesthood here! Priesthood is the birthright of every believer. Assembly gatherings are not led therefore by an 'officiating priest.' All believers engage together in worship, thanksgiving and praise.
Finally, the New Testament employs a range of figures in describing the local church. For example, a body (1 Cor. 12.27 etc.); a building/temple (1 Cor. 3.9, 16-17); a cultivated field (AV 'husbandry,' 1 Cor. 3.9); a house (1 Tim. 3.15); a flock (1 Pet. 5.2); a lampstand (AV 'candlestick,' Rev. 1.20). Why not do some work yourself in discovering their significance?
2. Submissive life 5.21-6.9 c. Servants and masters 6.5-9.
with: (meta) side by side with
good will: (eunoias) This word is compounded from two words, one which means "well" and another which means "mind." It means "to think well or beneficially" of someone else. It means, not simply, 'with readiness,' but "with the disposition that wishes one well." (Expositors) Showing "kindness." (Thayer) The slaves are to obey their master with their best interests in mind. This word is used here and I Corinthians 7.3 only.
doing service: (douleuontes — a plural present participle) Discharging the duties of a slave or servant (I Timothy 6.2). To be occupied in the service of another (Matthew 6.24; Luke 15.29). To be a slave. The present tense indicates continuous or habitual action.
as: (hos) even as, in the same manner as
to the Lord: (to kurio) Everything we ever do on this earth is ultimately to or for the Lord. We either do things to help Him or to hurt Him. Selfish service is against God. A proper attitude when we do service towards others is that we are doing it to the Lord.
and not to men: Service may benefit men, but it is not to be considered as ultimately for them. God uses men to fulfil His will. When we receive a job from men, we thank God. The job came from Him. Our pay cheque is from God as well as our termination.
Knowing: (eidotes) Having seen or perceived. Knowing from observation. "Not 'who know' but 'seeing ye know;' 'knowing as ye do.' The encouragement lies in their christian knowledge of the Lord's reward." (Expositors)
that: (hoti) "the fact that"
whatsoever good thing: (agathos) "That which being good in character is beneficial in its effect." (W. E. Vine)
any man: (hekastos) Each one. God takes note of each individual personally.
doeth: (poiese = aorist subjunctive of poeio) Literally, "may do." "A creative performance. A productive action pointing to results." The aorist tense is used because the deed may only occur once. The subjunctive is used because Paul is not referring to any specific deed. The potential is limitless.
the same: (touto) This, that is, the very same good deed that he did.
shall he receive: (komieitai = future indicative middle of komizo) To take up and carry away in order to care for and preserve. (Thayer, Wigram) (1) To receive back to oneself that which rightfully belongs to a person. (Matthew 5.27; II Corinthians 5.10; Colossians 3.25) (2) To obtain or receive for oneself (I Peter 1.9; II Peter 2.13; Hebrews 10.36; 11.39)
of: (para) "By the side of or "from the side of."
the Lord: The Lord personally will repay each individual for each kind deed that they do. I believe that the judgment seat of Christ is in view. Compare Romans 14.10. "But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." The words "stand before" are one word in Greek. It is a compound word meaning "stand by the side of." We shall all stand beside the judgment seat of Christ. He will reward us as He allows us to see our life from His perspective.
whether bond or free: "The good thing done is represented as being itself given back to the doer, the certainty, equity, and adequacy of the reward being thus signified. (Compare especially II Corinthians 5.10)." (Expositors). II Corinthians 5.10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." The word "receive" is the same Greek word as Ephesians 6.8. It is also in the same tense and mood.
And ye masters: (kurioi) "He to whom a person belongs, about which he has the power of deciding." (Thayer) It is translated, "Master, lord, owner."
do: (poieite — The present imperative of poieo — as verse 8) This is a command to begin creatively doing things for others as a rule of life.
the same things: That is, a) doing service beneficial for their servants; b) having good will towards the servants; c) Treating them with respect and consideration as one would treat Christ or Christ would treat them.
unto: (pros) towards them, forbearing: (aniemi) To send back; to relax; to give up; to omit; to leave. Not to uphold. To let sink. (Thayer, Expositor)
threatening: (ten apeilen) The article before the word "Threatening" indicates "the too well known habit of the masters, may be best rendered by 'your.'" (Expositors) "Leaving out your threatening."
knowing: (eidotes) Expressing the reason or encouragement for such behaviour.
that: (hoti) the fact that
your: (humon autbn) Literally, "Your own."
Master: (kurios) as above
is in heaven: Literally, "Is in the heaven." a) He is in a position where He can see a panoramic view of everything, b) He is in the place where rewards for service will be enjoyed, c) Being in the heavens shows His supremacy over all earthly masters.
neither is there: Literally, "and there is not"
respect of persons: (prosbpolepsia) This word is a Hebraism which was used to indicate that one person was accepted above another. It means to place a value or honor on some people more than on others. The result is showing partiality, favoring some people over others.
with: (para) "By the side of, in the presence of."
Him: a) No creature by God'-s side is shown more favour than others. GOD IS ABSOLUTELY FAIR AT ALL TIMES, b) All have equal access to God's side, c) No one conscious of their position at God's side by grace alone will show partiality to others, d) The awesome reality is that in the presence of the Divine Infinity, all creatures are equally dependent on Him. There is no one that needs Him any less than any other.
(This is the transcript of a message given by our late brother at the London Convention in July 1988. This explains the somewhat colloquial style of the article. - Ed.)
Note 1 Cor. 6. 16-17, "What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit." I am, of course, aware of the teaching that in adultery the person becomes joined to a harlot and cannot be joined to a harlot and a wife at the same time. But please notice that is not the matter in the apostle's mind in 1 Cor. 6. Notice v. 15, "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid." What the apostle is establishing is the incompatibility of harlotry with being members of Christ. Notice the three expressions, "one body, one flesh, one spirit." These are distinctions which must be observed:
i) ONE BODY : This is altogether different from the indissoluble bond of marriage and serious though it is, it does not dissolve the "one flesh" of the marriage bond. "One body" is not the natural and noble expression of love and oneness by having been divinely joined together — it is an immoral and debasing male and female relationship. It is an unlawful and unholy union.
ii) ONE FLESH : The apostle goes on to say, "for two, saith he, shall be one flesh." A mistake is made by thinking that the word "for" is explaining the foregoing statement. The word "for" is part of the apostle's quotation from Gen. 2.24. The punctuation of the AV, though not inspired, makes this clear. You will notice the placing of the inverted commas in the Newberry Bible also makes it clear.
When a man takes a wife and cleaves to her, God joins them together, Matt. 19, and this is exclusive to the marriage bond. It is this that sanctions the most intimate association of husband and wife and restricts it to this unique relationship of "one flesh."
iii) ONE SPIRIT : The apostle is establishing that our union with Christ is formed by one spirit and is of necessity deeper than any physical or carnal union.
Since the subject of 1 Cor. 6 is the incompatibility of harlotry with being a member of Christ, then I would be as much entitled to say that harlotry dissolves the union with Christ as it does the marriage bond — the bond of "one flesh."
Thus, ADULTERY DOES NOT CANCEL THE MARRIAGE BOND.
Another question is, "Does incompatibility give ground for putting away?"
In 1 Cor. 7 it is made clear that this is not so, even in the case of an unsaved partner. In v. 10-11 the apostle envisages the extreme situation of a believing wife departing from or disassociating from her believing husband, or the believing husband departing from or disassociating from his believing wife. Brethren, the command is plain — there must be no remarriage but an attempt at reconciliation, v. 11, "But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband : and let not the husband put away his wife." The apostle's language in 1 Cor. 7 is most important to notice. Please note in the matter of a Christian husband and wife depriving each other, with consent, of marital rights to be devoted to prayer for a season, the apostle gives his permission, or consent, v. 6, "But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment." In v. 7 when he speaks of self control or celibacy he states what is his wish, "For I would (1 wish) that all men were even as I myself." When he is stating the permanency of marriage the language of v. 11 is, "let her remain unmarried." He does not speak of consent or wish, he gives a command and states that the Lord had in like manner commanded before him, thus v. 10, "And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband."
In v. 12-16 the apostle deals with a mixed marriage in which one partner in the marriage becomes saved. This would pose a problem if the married couple had been Jews. Let me remind you that mixed marriages among Jews were prohibited and where a Jew disobeyed God by taking a strange wife, he became polluted and the children unclean, Ex. 34 and Deut. 7. The prohibition of mixed marriages among Jews was in order to preserve a holy seed. You may remember that both Ezra and Nehemiah were stricken with grief when the holy seed mingled with the people of the land and after a time of feeling shame and confession the strange wives and the offspring were put away and a trespass offering offered, Ezra 9 and Neh.13. However in this day of grace there is no thought of a holy seed to be preserved through which the Messiah might come. However should one partner in a marriage be converted, the unconverted partner and the children are relatively sanctified. That simply means, they become sanctified or holy by association with the believing partner. Of course they still require God's salvation. Though relatively sanctified they are not vitally sanctified. Vital sanctification only comes by faith in Christ. Time does not permit the development of the subject.
So the apostle gives direction that the believing husband does not put away an unbelieving wife, or better, "does not leave her" (the verb in v. 12 is in the middle voice); and the believing wife does not leave the unbelieving husband, v. 13. But should the unbelieving partner choose to depart, the brother or sister is not under bondage, is not bound in such a case, v. 15. Please notice, brethren, that does not mean divorce. It simply means that the person is not bound in the matter of marital responsibilities, not the indissoluble marriage bond. The person is not bound to fulfil marital duties, even should the partner leave.
I should like to elucidate the teaching of the apostle in v. 27,28. "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned." "Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed" does not mean "Art thou married to a wife, seek not to be divorced" as some are teaching. "Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife" does not mean "art thou divorced from a wife seek not a wife". "But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned" does not mean "if after you divorce you marry, you have not sinned" — that is the teaching of some brethren today, and is a serious misunderstanding of the word of God.
Please notice in these verses "bound and loosed" is not the matter of marriage and divorce. It is bound in the matter of marital responsibilities and being loosed from them.
Come back again to the verses. "Art thou loosed from a wife?" should read as Mr. Darby's translation, "art thou free from a wife?". The AV may imply "art thou loosed" as having been bound and now loosed, but the meaning is "art thou free, art thou loose, art thou unbound as never having been bound". The verb is passive and what Paul is teaching is just this, "If you are single don't seek a wife." V. 28 "But if thou marry", not "if thou remarry" but "if thou marry thou hast not sinned. V. 28 goes on to say, "and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned." Let me quote again Mr Darby's translation, "if the virgin marry, they have not sinned:", not "she" but "they", and Mr Darby justifies this from the fact that the verse continues, "such shall have trouble in the flesh:" and he points out that the word "such" is both plural and masculine. So what the apostle is treating of here is male virgins, men who have purposed in their hearts to be virgins. Notice v. 25 "Now concerning virgins" and v. 26 "it is good for a man so to be." Let me emphasise in v. 25-28 the apostle is not dealing with marriage and divorce, that most assuredly is not the case. He is dealing with marriage and virginity - the married is bound to a wife, the virgin man is loose, free from a wife. Time forbids further development. Notice v. 39, "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord." The words "by the law" should be omitted and thus the apostle states definitely, "The wife is bound as long as her husband liveth;". This is confirmed in Rom. 7.2," For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband." The apostle's employment of the perfect tense "hath been bound" establishes the lasting character of the marriage bond.
It is right that the child of God should have an interest in future events. For one thing, much is said in the Word of God regarding our future, and we ought to have an interest in a subject that God considers to be of such importance that He says so much about it. Furthermore, the believer's hope is not based on present things but on future things. As Paul says, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1 Cor. 15.19). Since our hope is bound up in future events, we ought to be interested in them. Again, our Lord is now rejected and despised by the world. He does not have His rightful place. We ought to long for and know about the day,when He will be vindicated before all, and when "Every knee should bow . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2.10,11).
Over the years, the teaching (on future events) in assemblies gathered to the Lord's Name has been very clear, and could be called "Pre-Tribulational, Pre-Millennial". In other words, that the Lord will return to the air for His church before the Tribulation, and subsequently will return to earth to reign for the 1000 year Millennium.
However this view has not been universally held. Some other views that have been held and propogated from time to time over the years include:—
Post-Tribulational, i.e. that the Lord's return will take place after the Tribulation.
Mid-Tribulational, i.e. that the Lord's return will take place in the middle of the Tribulation.
Post-Millennial, i.e. that the Lord will not return until after the Millennium.
A-Millennial, i.e. that there will not be a literal Millennium at all, and the Lord will not return until the end of the world.
It is the last of these different views that will be dealt with in these articles.
"Amillennialism" is a big word, but its meaning is relatively straightforward: The Latin word for a thousand is "Mille" (e.g. a millipede is supposed to have 1000 legs!). The Latin for "years" is "annum", so millennium is literally "1000 years". When a word is prefixed by the letter "a" this means, "not" or "against", i.e. the opposite of what follows it, so "Amillennium" could literally be translated "Not 1000 years"! And so we see that the main argument of Amillennialism is all to do with that capital "A" at the start of the word. Thus we look at some aspects of Amillennialism, all of them starting with that same letter "A":
The Advance of Amillennialism
The Analysis of Amillennialism
The Arguments of Amillennialism
The Advocates of Amillennialism
The Anomalies of Amillennialism
The Attacks of Amillennialism
A. The advance of Amillennialism
The reader could reasonably ask the question, "Why focus on Amillennialism? Surely other theories were mentioned in the introduction. Why not deal with them all?"
There is a reason not to deal with them all, and that is that even to deal with any one of them will take a lot of page space; to try to deal with all of them would take a large book! However, there is a more important reason for concentrating on Amillennialism, and that is it is the belief in which there has been an advance in recent years. Thus this section has been called "The Advance of Amillennialism."
Post-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation and Post-Millennium theories have all declined in popularity in recent years. It is getting rather difficult to find people who believe them, or at least who are prepared to propogate them. Thus they present little threat to the teaching given in assemblies over the years. The very opposite is the case for Amillennial teaching. It is undoubtedly in the ascendancy. The number of people holding it is increasing rapidly, and they are increasingly confident and vocal in their propogation of it. This has been most marked in so called evangelical circles. There are doubtless many reasons for this, but one is definitely the resurgence in popularity of so-called "Reformed doctrine", which is held by ever-increasing numbers of evangelical clergymen in different denominations, and which is avowedly and uncompromisingly Amillennial in outlook, and totally dismissive of any other position. Consequently, in denominational "churches" of almost every hue, in seminaries, in books, in magazines, in conferences, in holiday homes, and wherever possible, the Amillennial position is now propogated either without question, or if any alternative is mentioned, it is mentioned only so that it can be contemptuously dismissed. It goes without saying with this being the case among evangelical leaders, the same is increasingly so among their flocks. In evangelical circles today, it takes a strong fish to swim against the strong tide of Amillennialism.
But someone will say, "What you say may be true, but you are describing conditions outside the assemblies. It has not yet become a problem in the assemblies, so why worry us with it? Surely it is all rather abstract and technical. Why should I, as a simple believer, concern myself with this subject at all?" In reply, here are several reasons why believers in assembly fellowship cannot afford to ignore it:—
As we shall soon see, the issue of Amillennialism is not just an argument about future events. The issue at stake is more fundamental, i.e. Is Scripture to be taken literally or not?
Although Amillennialism is not as yet taught to any great extent in the assemblies, this is no guarantee that it might not begin to make inroads in days ahead. It is better to counter it before it starts to do the damage, than to wait until the damage has already been done. There are many ways in which it could begin to make inroads. One example will suffice: there is a growing availability of "Reformed" Literature available, often at reduced prices, and it is to be seen in the bookshelves of many believers. There is the danger that its teaching will get beyond the cupboard, into the Christian, and from thence into the company. We need to be on our guard.
People in assembly fellowship meet others from day to day: at school, at work, in the bus, etc. In the vast majority of cases these will have a background in Amillennialism (whether the person is Roman Catholic, nominal Protestant, or evangelical). It is important that we should know where we stand on the issue, so that we can counter false teaching and speak the truth in love.
It should ever be our desire and prayer that believers in denominations will see the truth of scriptural gathering, leave their systems, and come into assembly fellowship. Increasingly, such exercised believers will come from Amillennial backgrounds, and these will need sound teaching on future events. Such a responsibility falls on all of us. It is simply not good enough to "brush off those recently received into fellowship with phrases such as "We don't believe that sort of thing here, and if you continue holding it you should go back where you came from". We ought not only to know what we believe, but also to be able to explain, courteously and patiently, from the Scriptures, why we believe it.
There is a further valid criticism which could be made of embarking on a study of Amillennialism. Someone may say, "Surely the best way to deal with error is not to concentrate on refuting the error, but rather to teach the truth. Teach the truth and then people have no problems whenever the error comes up". This is true: the best, indeed the only, way to combat error is to teach the truth, but there are 2 reasons why, in these articles, we will concentrate on the error:
1. In this magazine there have been many excellent articles which set forth the positive truth on future events clearly and much more ably than the present writer could possibly do, including "Notes on Revelation" (J. Flanigan), "The Blessed Hope" (D. M. Martin), "The Millennium" (J. E. Todd), "The Great Tribulation" (E. Barker), and "Christ in the Apocalypse" (J.B.D. Page). The reader is referred to these.
2. The believer who tries to reason with an Amillennialist on the grounds of what the Scripture teaches will soon find himself up against a difficulty, and it is this: the believer could know and be able to quote to the Amillennialist every verse from Genesis to Revelation which refers to future events, but he will constantly receive back a response which is, in effect, "I know that that is what the Bible says, but it doesn't actually mean that. It is to be interpreted spiritually, not literally."
And so, when seeking to combat the error of Amillennialism, we need to know something of how Amillennialism came about, what it is based on, what are its main arguments, and how these can be answered from Scripture.
Amillennialism is on the advance. It is the purpose of these articles to seek to make some little contribution to trying to preserve saints from it. May the Lord give help to reader and writer alike.
This well known and much loved Psalm contains several lessons for us to learn and many blessings to enjoy.
It is good to know that in all circumstances of life we have a loving Saviour Who is always available and willing to meet our every need, for in the storms of life as well as in times of joy, the Lord Jesus Christ has promised 'Lo, I am with you alway' Matt. 28.20, and again, i will never leave thee nor forsake thee' Heb. 13.5. So may we find encouragement as we consider this Psalm and discover something more of our spiritual heritage in 'God's Little Ships'.
We all treasure the memories of earthly relationships, e.g. family and friends, but how much more we should cherish the spiritual, i.e. our living link with our Lord and Saviour. As the 'people of His pasture' Psa. 95.7 we know He is the 'Shepherd and Bishop of our souls'. 1 Pet. 2.25, so we can boldly say 'The LORD is My Shepherd' and rejoice in this positive and personal relationship that is ours.
How important to have a guide through life, and our Good Shepherd goes before us and we hear His voice saying 'Follow Me'. Notice the Shepherd not only gives rest but also refreshment because He leads His people into the fulness of all that His love supplies, i.e.,
Green Pastures — to strengthen and sustain us in our pilgrim pathway.
Still Waters — to stimulate and satisfy our souls in a barren world.
Paths of Righteousness — to provide guidance and security against evil, and to be assured 'He led them forth by the Right Way' Psa. 107.7. May we sing with assurance 'All the way my Saviour leads me, what have I to ask beside'.
Our Saviour is a wonderful Friend; One Who sticketh closer than a brother. In all our experiences and problems, as well as our dangers (i.e. the valley) we hear our loving Lord and Saviour say, Tear thou notforl am with thee', and with His presence He gives practical help. 'Thy rod' for guidance and 'Thy staff for support. May we enjoy the 'comfort' experienced by the Psalmist.
'Thou preparest a table before me'. A table speaks of fellowship or communion and like Mephibosheth we are able to sit at the King's table. Being 'accepted in the Beloved' we are more than satisfied with His bountiful provision for 'my cup runneth over'.
We all appreciate good companions as we journey through life, and our God has provided 'goodness and mercy' to accompany us 'all the days of our life'. His goodness supplies all our needs and His mercy (loving-kindness) upholds and strengthens our faith.
'I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever'. No doubt we are glad to be British citizens, some are now Senior Citizens, but one day, by God's grace, we shall be citizens of Heaven, our eternal home. Jesus said,' I go to prepare a place for you' John 14.3 thus heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.
In anticipation of this future glory Paul reminds us 'Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour' Phil. 3.20. (Newberry margin).
So like Abraham of old we 'look for a city . . . whose builder and maker is God'. Hebrews 11.10.
I was born into a working class family, the fifth son, and a sister was to follow. We had parents who were careless both to our natural and our spiritual needs. Father and mother were both very fond of beer, with the result we had a neglected home which was marked by poverty and slum conditions. No word of the gospel ever reached our ears. The name of the Lord was constantly brought before us in blasphemy. We were well acquainted with the pawn shop, and often used to raid the local bakery to steal a loaf of bread to satisfy our hunger.
At the age of ten, my father left my mother to live with another woman. Within a few weeks my mother decreed he had to bear the responsibility of my sister and me. This led to us being taken to the South of Manchester to the large housing estate of Wythenshawe. The character of this home was vastly different. Everything was spick and span, a place for everything, and everything in its place. Unfortunately, two slum children were unwanted, and as a result, those years were very unhappy and bitter. Nevertheless, it was here I was brought into contact with the gospel. My step-brothers and sister were already attending Brownwood Hall Sunday School and we joined them from the first week. The local postman was the Sunday School Superintendent, and on his rounds he gathered up the children for the meetings. I often wonder if my step-mother had past links with the Gospel, and that there was more in sending us to Sunday School than just to find a little peace on a Sunday afternoon.
I was about the age of twelve when I left Sunday School to go caddying at the local golf club. All my weekends were spent there. During the next three years I became atheistic in mind, even debating in school as to there being no God. Bless God He never gave me up. A man called Mr. Gill used to regularly visit us to try to persuade us to go back to the hall, though I can never remember going.
On leaving school at fifteen, I believe that God began to put into action His eternal purpose. With employment difficult to obtain, and in danger of a beating if I didn't find work, I sought a job that same week. After wandering round factories for a week, I was given employment in A. G. Thonutons — Drawing Office Material Manufacturers, where I was placed in the warehouse. There I discovered that the foreman was a Christian! though sadly he never spoke to us of God's way of Salvation. Nevertheless, his presence was a constant reminder of God. One > day, as I was walking through the department with no concern for eternity, I thought 'What if there is a God?' Immediately I dismissed it as 'Rubbish! There is no such thing'.
Again I thought, 'but what if there is?' — the chill that struck me was awful. Again the voice rang 'if there's a God, there's a Heaven and there's a Hell, and you are going to Hell.' As I continued walking, the same thoughts continued. 'If there's a God you had better do something about it'. Before I reached my desk I was determined to attend church the following Sunday. The only church I knew was the Gospel Hall. After leaving the golf club, I changed into a suit and made my way to the hall. As I drew near, a fear of going in possessed me. A cousin lived beyond, so I thought to visit him instead, but God knows all, and over-rules. Mr. Gill stood at the door of the hall, and as I passed by on the other side he called, 'Glad to see you Norman, are you coming in?' I soon found myself on a seat, listening to God's way of Salvation. I went for about three weeks, but then bored with the meetings I decided I would never go back. Once again the Lord over-ruled, for Mr. Todd the postman said it was good to see me coming and asked me to go to tea the following week, knowing it would mean another gospel meeting if I accepted the invitation.
The following gospel meeting brought a deep conviction; not 'What if, but, 'there is' a God, and I have to meet Him. From that point on I sought to find Salvation, but as always — by human effort. I knew that Christ was God's way, nevertheless I wanted God to accept me on my terms. If attending meetings saved, then I would go. If praying saved, then I would pray. If reading the Bible saved, I would read! Sadly behind it all was a love for the world that I was not prepared to relinquish, and these were disguises to stop me renouncing sin and the world and take Christ. I knew the Lord was coming, fear of being in the wrong place if He came, drove me away from the soccer games, and drew me out of the cinema. Deeply troubled, rising on March 17th 1951 I went out to deliver newspapers which I did before work. As I did so, God spoke again, 'What if the Lord comes?'. Looking to heaven I thought 'If He does I'm damned'. Turning back into the kitchen I bowed my knees to Christ, and immediately, before rising, I knew I was saved. The burden of sin and guilt left me, and, like the Ethiopian, I went on my way rejoicing and singing "I know not why God's wondrous grace to me hath been made known."
I look back with joy to 7.00 a.m. March 17th 1951.
I was baptised in the September and received into fellowship. It was here, in my early twenties I became involved with Sunday School work and open air meetings. Along with other young men from the assembly we joined Manchester Village Workers. Every Saturday we would tract a district and hold open-air meetings. I was soon taking Gospel meetings and children's meetings around the city. Often times we would notice very small Assemblies in need of help, but what could young fellows like us do? At a Ministry meeting in the city, the late Fred Whitmore stated "There are enough young men in this city to turn it upside down, if you will get up and do something, instead of just talking about it". I decided to do something. After speaking with Mr. David Dixon, we obtained a tent, occupied a site and determined to help a small assembly in the East of the city. With the blessing of that assembly we worked together for six weeks. From that point on, over the next five years, with various brethren and help from many assemblies who encouraged me, I held tent meetings in many parts of the city. It was at the time of the tent season of 1967 that I became exercised about full-time service. In this respect, one or two full-time men encouraged me, unknown to others. The late beloved Mr. Robert McPheat said to me "Norman you're wasting your time working". He was commended that Autumn. My wife alone, knew of the exercise that I had. We spoke together often, of the problems of living by faith. It was ministry from Mr. Fred Cundick, in Warrington, who spoke about Elijah, that touched me. He showed how God moved in obviously controlled stages to lead His servant and to meet his needs. The handful of meal to the woman, was a barrel of meal to God. Needs would be met. We both felt it was a message from God, as we considered the future. After much prayer, and realising my unworthiness to serve such a Master, the following March I . spoke with Mr. Morrison, one of the elders of the assembly. To him I'm indebted for much, as he led us as young men into the truth of God. My exercise was put before the elders, and they were very happy to give me their full commendation to the work. I began in June 1968. Many have been a help and a blessing, both before, and after commendation. The Lord will reward them for their faithfulness to Him and their care for us.
A man was at work at the top of a telegraph pole at a very busy and noisy street corner. From time to time his mate below sent up in a little carrier just the very article he needed. The two worked together in such complete harmony that the attention of passers-by was attracted. What was the secret understanding between the two? It was soon noticed that the man on the pavement had a little telephone receiver clamped to his ear. He was in constant communication with the one who was doing the work. "It is God that worketh." Yet He needs us. We are only effective "fellow workers" with Him if we are ever listening to His voice. We must be "in tune" or we shall not hear.