by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98) VOLUME 2
Paper 7(a) The Olivet Prophecy
Read Matt. 24.25
Probably no student of the prophetic word will deny the great importance of the prophecy that we are now to consider. On all hands this is regarded as one of the most comprehensive utterances found in the Scriptures; which, if rightly apprehended, will materially help to the elucidation of many other parts of the Inspired Word. It must be evident to all that this prophecy covers a wide area, giving us a very large view of the ways of God with the earth and His own people in it.
This prophecy, spoken by the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Olives, cannot be rightly understood, unless the object of the Spirit of God in the Gospel of Matthew is clearly seen. Matthew differs from all other evangelists in the style and arrangement of his gospel. The evident aim of the Holy Spirit by his means is to present the Lord Jesus to us as the Messiaii of Israel. The incidents recorded, the manner of their introduction into the narrative, the parables related, and the Old Testament Scriptures quoted, all combine to make this perfectly plain to such as examine the Divine Word with care. He is brought upon the scene as the Son of David and the Son of Abraham (chapter 1.) unlike what is found in the Gospel of Luke, where His genealogy is traced back to Adam and to God (Luke 3).
Matthew's Gospel is really the record of the trial of the great question whether Israel would receive their Messiah or not. Alas! the story is well known to us all. "He came unto His own (things) and His own (people) received Him not" (John 1.11). He found no welcome in Israel, though He came among them with hands full of blessing. He was despised, rejected, and abhorred, as the Prophet foretold. Therefore He spoke constantly of changes to be brought in. In the seven parables of chapter 13. He unfolded "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," showing the form the kingdom was about to take through the sin of the chosen people.
In chapter 16 after the remarkable confession of Simon Peter, He went further, and spoke of the Church—"Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell (hades) shall not prevail against it." Israel's setting aside was at hand, and God was about to give effect to other purposes and plans.
The twenty-third chapter of Matthew's Gospel is exceedingly solemn. First, the Lord denounced the leaders and teachers of the people, exposing their hypocrisy and iniquity; and then poured out His sorrow and lamentation over blinded Israel heedlessly rushing onward to ruin, forsaking their own mercies. He loved His people—they were the chosen seed of Abraham, the friend of God; He felt the position keenly. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
Behold your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23.37-39).
The force of these words must be seen in order to have a true understanding of the prophecy which follows. Three things are shown, or at least implied, in them : (1) His going away because of Israel's condition; (2) The resulting desolation of the people and sanctuary; and (3) His future appearing when Israel will welcome Him with joy. On this the Olivet Prophecy is based.
Having poured out His lamentation, the Lord departed from the temple. The disciples drew His attention to its costly buildings, and got in reply, "See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." This drew out the three questions found in verse 3 : "Tell us when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world (age)?"
It is of moment to grasp what was in the minds of the disciples when they put these questions to the Lord. Many readers of Scripture persist in regarding them as representatives of the Church of God in this matter, accepting all the resulting counsel as for our own path. But it is plain that the Twelve had not the Church in mind at all just then. It is freely admitted that they became subsequently part of that wonderful unity, but they stood in no such position and relationship when with the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Olives. They were Jews, with minds full of earthly hopes and prospects, founded upon the prophecies of the Old Testament. They firmly believed Jesus to be Israel's Messiah, and they counted on Him to remove all difficulties out of the way and set up His throne in Zion. This was more or less in their minds all through their companionship with Him, even beyond death into resurrection (Matt. 20.21; Luke 24.21; Acts 1.6.). Hence their inquiries. If Jerusalem and the temple were to be overthrown, where would be the promised kingdom? And if the Lord was really going away before the setting in of the kingdom glory, when would He return?
These beyond all just controversy were their difficulties. The prophecy on Mount Olivet was intended by the Lord to meet them. Thus Israel is in view throughout, as we shall see even more plainly as we proceed with our examination of it.
At this point the reader should remark the difference between Matt. 24 and the parallel chapter (21.) in the Gospel by Luke. It is one of the most striking proofs of the Spirit's inspiration of the Word of God. Both evangelists record the Lord's prophecy, but Matthew was led to dwell on the Lord's replies to the second and third questions, relating to the time of the end, whilst Luke gives prominence to the first question with its answer.
It is important to observe this carefully. Man would not have ordered matters thus. But God, not man, is the real Author of the Scriptures, and had different designs in using the vessels, whether understood by them or not. Thus Luke dwells on the overthrow of Jerusalem and the temple, saying very little indeed about the trials and sorrows at the end of the age. It should be remarked that the Christian period comes in between verses 24 and 25 of Luke 21 as a timeless gap.
11. The Miracle of the Earthquake, the Rent Rocks and the Opened Tombs
When the Lord Jesus had dismissed His spirit on the cross, "the earth did quake and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened" Matt. 27.5If. This earthquake was one of the phenomena that occurred during His first advent, and others will happen at the time of His second coming.
Taking a panoramic glance of such happenings during His two advents, there was first "His star" seen in the eastern sky by wise men in some other oriental country and they followed it until the star stood over the house of the young child (about two years of age) with Mary at Nazareth (Matt. 2.2,7,9f). All the attempts to explain this star as a natural phenomenon fail, but initially the stars were intended to "be for signs" Gen. 1.14, and this is an instance. "His star," as it is described, was supernatural and seemingly for making known through the works of creation that "God was manifest in the flesh" 1 Tim.3.16; cp. Rom. 1.20—the Incarnate Son of God. Next, when Christ died upon the cross there was an earthquake (Matt. 27.51). This phenomenon is not surprising when it is fully appreciated that God had sent none other than "His own Son" in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sacrifice for sin (Rom. 8.3, mgn.). Then three days later on the first day of the week Christ rose from the dead and "there was a great earthquake" Matt. 28.2, as certain women approached the empty sepulchre. The purpose of this great earthquake may have been for demonstrating "the exceeding greatness of (God's) power" by which Christ was raised from the dead (Eph. 1.19f) and for manifesting the importance of what had happened.
When Christ comes again with power and great glory to set up His millennial kingdom on the earth, there will be striking phenomena as signs both on the earth and in the heavens above for marking out the event. In Israel at Messiah's return, "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the uneven places shall be made level, and the rough places a plain" Isa. 40.4, RV. mgn. There is no logical reason for interpreting this verse symbolically as some commentators do. If taken literally, then the prophet foresees a vast topographical change in the terrain of Israel whilst Zech. 14.10 describes both its geographical location and extent around Jerusalem. At the same time when Messiah will stand upon the Mount of Olives, then the mount will cleave in the midst resulting in a valley from east to west (Zech. 14.4). Scripture does not say that an earthquake will cause this terrestrial upheaval. Furthermore, there will be phenomena in the sky. "Before the great and terrible day of the Lord" (a phrase used three times of the crisis of Messiah's return as distinct from "the day of the Lord" which denotes a period of time embracing the tribulation and the millennium), there will be "wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood" Joel 2.30f. Quoting freely these verses in Joel and from Isaiah 13.10 in His Olivet discourse (Matt. 24.29f), the Lord Jesus shows how these cosmic signs will occur "immediately after the tribulation," lasting for seven years, and, of course, just before He descends from heaven with hosts of saints following Him.
Returning to the phenomenon that "the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened," at the death of Christ, some commentators express the view that it was no more than a local convulsion of the earth. Something greater seems to have happened in the light of J. N. Darby's rendering in his New Translation, "the earth is shaken, and the rocks were rent, and the tombs were opened." Worthy of consideration is Arthur W. Pink's comment, ". . . the earth did quake. Not, I believe, that there was an earthquake, not even a 'great earthquake,' but the earth itself, the entire earth was shaken to its very foundation, and rocked on its axis, as though to show it was horrified at the most awful deed that had ever been perpetrated on its surface. 'And the rocks rent'—the very strength of Nature gave way before the greater power of that Death. Finally, we are told, 'the graves were opened,' showing that the power of Satan, which is death, was there shivered and shattered—all the outward attestations of the value of that atoning death."
If the earth was shaken on its axis when Christ died at the close of His first advent, then apparently it may happen again at His second advent. Not only will the stars, the sun and the moon withdraw their light briefly (Isa. 13.10) but the Lord says, "I will make the heavens to tremble," and then He continues, "and the earth shall be shaken out of her place" which will occur "in the day of His fierce anger" Isa. 13.13, RV. There is no reason for this verse to be explained figuratively. If taken literally, then the outburst of Messiah's wrath during the tribulation (cp. Rev. 6.16f) will culminate apparently with the shaking of the earth on its axis besides other phenomena on the earth and in the sky when He returns in fierce anger to defeat His enemies and defend His people, Israel, from their enemies' savage attack (Zech. 14.2f).
Many bodies of dead saints arose and came out of the opened tombs not immediately on the day of the Lord's death but three days later "after His resurrection," and appeared unto many in the city (Matt.27.52f). The timing of their resurrection—their coming forth from the open tomb—is significant, for it was not before but "after" His resurrection. Therefore, there was no violation of the principle of priority in time concerning Christ in His resurrection even as Paul says that "now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept" 1 Cor. 15.20. This is an allusion to the one day Feast of Firstfruits, the day on which Christ rose from the dead, when a sheaf of ripened barley was offered for a wave offering to the Lord followed later by the harvesting of the remainder of the crop. It illustrated the order in resurrection as explained by Paul, "Christ the firstfruits," typified by the sheaf of the wave offering at the Feast, "afterward they that are Christ's at His coming" prefigured by the subsequent reaping of the rest of the barley (1 Cor. 15.23, cp. Lev. 23.10f). Whether those saints raised after the resurrection of Christ had bodies of incorruption or they died later to await a future resurrection, Scripture is silent.
In his hymn bearing upon the scene at Calvary, Joseph Hoskins says:
As everyone knows, there are four Gospels. They present their several views of the Saviour in an inspired beauty of diversity and variety with harmony and unity. Well-intentioned men have attempted over the years to give us one uninterrupted "Life of Christ", and while such might be interesting, and in some senses helpful, yet we must remember that God could Himself have given us such an account in one gospel had He been so minded. But such is the inscrutability of the Person of Christ that it is necessary for us to have this fourfold, full-orbed presentation of Him in order that we might in some little measure glimpse His glory. We must be grateful for the inspiration that has given us these four gospels, with no discrepancies, no mistakes, no contradictions, no inaccuracies, and no misrepresentations.
The four authors of the Gospels have been divinely chosen. We shall have to notice in some detail the choice of Matthew for the first Gospel, the Gospel of the King and the Kingdom. To John Mark, whom we ever remember as the servant who failed for a little while, was given the privilege of writing of a Servant who never failed, the perfect Servant. Luke of our third Gospel, was a physician, a Doctor who would have known men and human nature better than most men. He gives us a portrait of the only perfect Man the world has ever seen, and his Gospel has been called "The loveliest book in the world." The fourth Gospel tells of a Son who ever dwells in the bosom of the Father. It was written by that disciple who once lay on the bosom of the Son.
It was kind and gracious of God to entrust the writing of this particular Gospel to Matthew. Matthew had been, after all, a publican, a tax-collector for the hated Romans. Exacting taxes from one's own fellow-countrymen to fill the coffers of Caesar and his cohorts was a despicable thing. No self respecting Jew would have done it. Rome had invaded Israel's land and subjugated her people. To work for Rome was a betrayal of Jewish hopes and aspirations. What Jew with a true anticipation of a kingdom and a Messiah would have stooped to be in the employ of a foreign regime like Rome? But then, the publicans were men of little scruples, and there was too, some monetary gain to be had in this tax collecting if one was unscrupulous. Publicans and sinners! The two were adjoined in one sentence and spoken in one breath. And Matthew was a publican. Who would ever have thought that Matthew, tax-collector for Caesar, would become the inspired biographer of the King of Israel? It was grace, sovereign grace that lifted him on that memorable day when Jesus called.
It seems reasonable to assume that Matthew had heard the Saviour preach before then, but on that day the general call of the gospel had become a particular call to Matthew. It was very personal. It was very direct. It was very brief. "Follow Me" (Matt. 9.9). Matthew's response was immediate and the record of it very brief too. "He arose and followed Him" Luke adds the telling comment, "He left all" (Luke 5.28). Someone has put the story of Matthew's conversion into poetry, as if Matthew would say —
I heard His call,
Come, follow, that was all
My gold grew dim.
My heart went after Him.
I rose; I followed; that was all.
Who would not follow
If they heard His call?
Matthew had met a Man whose life was lived on entirely opposite principles to his own. He had sat on the roadway somewhere (outside Capernaum demanding customs and taxes from the Capernaum fishermen; (perhaps even from Simon Peter himself!). His message to them was, "Give! Give!", but in Jesus he had met Someone whose message to men was "Come ... I will give" (Matt 11.28). It was so different. Grace wrought response in Matthew's heart. He left all for Jesus. Rome, taxes, Caesar, the old life, the gain, were all abandoned in a moment. Matthew had found a new Master and a new way.
The old publican could never forget that grace. It shines through his Gospel. There are instances of it and glimpses of it through all the chapters. Matthew's other name was "Levi." Grace now lifted him to become a true son of Israel and among all his apostolic privileges perhaps this was the greatest, that he should be allowed to write the story of Israel's King.
His Gospel is the book of the generation of Jesus the Messiah. So he opens, and immediately links with the name of Jesus the names of David and Abraham. Here are allusions to the two great covenants. David and Abraham were the trustees of God's promises of a country and a kingdom, but here are the names of those two men who raised sons for the throne and the altar respectively. David's Solomon was destined to reign. Ahraham's Isaac was destined to be offered up. Throne and altar indeed. Matthew's Gospel will be but an exposition of this great principle, that the way to the crown is by the cross. The avenue to the throne leads by the altar. For Jesus the Messiah the pathway to glory would be by Golgotha. But the end was assured. Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Messiah. He is the Son of Abraham and so will be offered up. But He is the Son of David and He must reign He will inherit the kingdom, the throne, and the crown.
Matthew will now, in this opening chapter, prove and establish the legal rights of Jesus to that throne, and he will do this in a detailed, interesting, and unchallengeable manner.
We of this later day have lived to see so much of it all accomplished. While the day of public vindication and coronation is still future, yet even now can we sing—
Man of sorrows, God of glory,
Wondrous path Thy foot hath trod
Cross and crown rehearse the story.
Joyous sound this note abroad—
Now adorns the throne of God
Even now, also, in this day of His rejection, it is our privilege to enthrone Him in our hearts and crown Him Lord of all, seeking to live to His honour in the world that cast Him out.
THE CHURCH AND THE CHURCHES (8) Reception to Assembly Fellowship
In previous studies, we have considered the subject of assembly fellowship from the applicant's point of view. We must now look at the subject from the assembly's point of view, and will do so by addressing three questions:
1) WHO RECEIVES INTO FELLOWSHIP?
Not the man or, better, the men, at the door of the meeting room; not the elders alone; but the entire assembly. The elders, with their divinely-given responsibility to "take care of the church of God", must obviously act on behalf of the assembly and with the best interests of the assembly in mind, but a person entering fellowship should be received wholeheartedly by the entire assembly. After all, he or she is to be in fellowship with the individuals who make up the assembly.
Notice in this connection that "The brethren (at Ephesus) wrote, exhorting the disciples (at Corinth) to receive him (Apollos)", Acts 18. 27. Notice too that when Paul speaks about people joining assemblies, he does so in epistles addressed to entire assemblies. See, for example, Rom. 16. 1-2 and I Cor. 16. 10. 'Letters of commendation' often cite Rom. 15: 7, but the context will shew that the apostle is dealing here with personal relationships rather than assembly reception. It is so important to interpret Bible verses in their proper setting!
Whilst we intend, God willing, to deal with the subject of assembly discipline in a later study, it might be opportune to say at this juncture that the entire assembly also excommunicates from fellowship. See 1 Cor. 5 . 4, and the words, "when ye are gathered together. "
2) HOW ARE PEOPLE RECEIVED INTO FELLOWSHIP?
The answer is - with care. The assembly is not a 'free for all.' Remember that we discussed its preciousness, its purpose, and its purity, in our previous paper. If people with unsound doctrine or questionable lives, apply for fellowship, the assembly has every right to refuse them. Paul, Peter and Jude all refer to the results of insufficient care (or worse) in reception. See Gal. 2. 4, "False brethren unawares brought in ('brought in secretly'), who came in privily (again, 'brought in secretly') to spy out our liberty". 2 Pet. 2. 1, "There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable ('destructive') heresies." Jude 4, "For there are certain men crept in unawares (again, 'slipped in secretly') turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." Please do notice from these references that false teachers do not arrive with a fanfare of trumpets and announce themselves publicly! They act furtively. The consequences of admitting, whether deliberately or unwittingly, men or women with false teaching, are most serious. The assembly at Ephesus was commended by the Lord Jesus for its caution in the matter: "Thou hast tried them that say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars," Rev. 2.2.
Please note that this does not mean that newly-saved and baptised believers, or weak and untaught believers, are to be excluded. The assembly is the place where sound teaching is imparted, and spiritual growth can be made. Believers need to be nursed, helped and encouraged.
In view of this, elders ask questions, not to create difficulties for those seeking fellowship for the right reasons, but to ensure that the assembly testimony is not marred by false teaching or improper behaviour, and this includes the teaching and practices of the so-called 'charismatics.' But if elders ask questions, they ought also to answer questions thoughtfully and thoroughly, and to explain the Scriptural basis for assembly practice. It is just not good enough to say 'this is how we do things here', or, 'we've always done it this way!' That is a recipe for assembly disaster.
3) ON WHAT GROUNDS ARE PEOPLE RECEIVED INTO FELLOWSHIP?
i) On the ground of the assembly's personal knowledge of the believers concerned
This, obviously, includes people who have been saved locally and baptised locally. We trust and pray that through the preaching of the Gospel, each assembly will continue to have numerous examples! Acts 2. 41 illustrates the point: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptised: and the same day were added . . . about three thousand souls." All at Jerusalem.
ii) On the grounds of the testimony of fellow-believers
Acts 9. 26-29 illustrates the point: "Saul . . . assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.
But Barnabas took him . . . and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way."
Now please be careful if you are going to introduce someone to the assembly. It may seem diplomatic from the family point of view to bring a visiting family member, or family friend, to the Lord's supper, but in view of what the Scriptures say about lite assembly, it cannot be light for them lo participate in that gathering which expresses above all, the fellowship of the assembly, when they never go anywhere much, or belong to a 'church' which bears no resemblance to the New Testament pattern.
iii) On the grounds of a letter of commendation
Don't let people tell you that this is 'brethrenism.' It is good New Testament practice. See, again, Acts 18. 27 and Rom. 16. 1-2. Some misguided people will tell you that Paul negatives letters of commendation in 2 Cor. 3. 1. He does nothing of the sort: he is simply saying that so far as Corinth was concerned, he didn't need one, and goes on to explain why.
The purpose of letters of commendation was to introduce believers moving from one assembly to another, to tell the receiving assembly something about them, and to convey greetings. To this end, they were personalised letters: not preprinted (excuse the anachronism) letters with gaps left for names! Yes, there have been forgeries. Yes, you could argue that sometimes, alas, letters are only as good as the people who write them. Yes, sometimes signatures are so undecipherable that anybody could have signed them! (Please print your name under your signature). But having heard all these arguments, the fact remains that it is a great help to an assembly if a visitor — or new resident in the district — arrives with a letter. Please remember too, that the reality of the fellowship you seek on holiday, or at other times, can be proved by your attendance at the midweek assembly meetings, as well as the Lord's supper.
Finally, what should happen if all the circumstances described above are inapplicable. It certainly happens — usually a few moments before the meeting is due to commence! It is then the responsibility of the elders, on behalf of the assembly, to make careful and, please, courteous enquiries. If a visitor is genuine and spiritually minded, they won't mind at all answering questions put graciously by godly men. If people fly off in a huff, as they sometimes do, the situation has resolved itself. But discernment is required, and each case needs to be settled in its merits. It is unwise to lay down hard and fast rules.
There is another question which needs to be addressed. What are the implications of this teaching on reception to the fellowship of the assembly?
There can be no argument that those guilty of immorality must be disciplined and put away from the assembly, 1 Cor. 5. Where there is a cessation of such behaviour and true repentance, there should be restoration in due course. However, if there should be a divorce and either party "re-marry" while the original partner is still alive, then according to the several scriptures previously expounded, they will be living in adultery. Such cannot be allowed in assembly fellowship while they continue in that state, since we cannot receive sin into the assembly.
This brings us to the vexed question as to the position of those who have been saved subsequent to their divorce and "remarriage". If the former reasoning in these papers, based solely on Scripture, has been followed then we will have to agree that "remarriage" does not invalidate the original marriage. Therefore such are, in effect, living in adultery. Their sin is remitted by God at the moment of their salvation. Some will argue that because of this they should be received in to the fellowship. However, reception depends, among other things, upon a willingness to "continue steadfastly in the apostles doctrine" Acts 2.42, and we have already seen what this doctrine was in connection with holiness of life and testimony. The whole point is not their standing in the sight of God as the result of their salvation, but their present position on earth, which is that of living in adultery. The local assembly, the temple of God, (1 Cor. 3.17), is to be holy. If this standard is to be maintained those living in an adulterous relationship cannot possibly be received. We must remember that if such were to be received, we would be saying that God has two standards, one for the saved and a different one for the unsaved. The suggestion is that for unsaved folk to live in adultery would be sinful, but if saved, their relationship becomes holy. Salvation does not make sinful deeds holy.
If we believe that those saved after such a "remarriage" should be received into the fellowship, then we must face up to the following situation. A brother in fellowship marries an unsaved divorcee and as a consequence has to be put away from the assembly. Subsequently she is saved. By the reasoning of some, she could be received into fellowship, but not her "husband"!
Some will quote 1 Cor. 6.11. "such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God," and by this quotation seem to suggest that the Corinthians continued in their pre-conversion relationships. However it is evident that those addressed, while living in sin in the past, had changed their way of life as a result of their
salvation. Their present position, not only in the sight of God but also in the world, was completely different. This is not so with those who continue to live in an unholy and unscriptural relationship. Take the position of a man and a woman living together but unmarried prior to conversion. Are they to be received because God has forgiven them, even if they continue to live in such a way? Again, if a person was a partner in a business carrying on illegal or fraudulent activities and he was saved, if he continued in the same way of life should he be received? Of course not. Similarly with those who continue to live in sin. This is the crux of the matter, their present way of life. We must remember there are some steps taken before salvation, the consequences of which we cannot eradicate subsequent to salvation.
Some will argue that the Lord did not condemn the woman taken in adultery (John 8), and therefore we should be equally compassionate. The Lord, of course, stressed that He had not come to judge, but He did tell her "go and sin no more". It is this continuing in sin that bars from reception.
Others will direct us to the words in Rom. 15.7, "Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God." Leaving aside just what is referred to by "reception" in this verse, the overriding words are "to the glory of God." It will not be to His glory to allow into the assembly, the Holy of Holies, those living in an unholy way.
Again 1 Cor. 1.9 is quoted, "ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord", suggesting that we are denying this fellowship if such persons are not received. Yet this fellowship is not that of the local assembly, but the fellowship with divine Persons, which is automatically the portion of all who are saved. This is a position into which every believer is brought, whether appreciated or not.
It is claimed that to refuse to receive those who are saved subsequent to "remarriage" will take the heart out of gospel preaching. We have no idea when preaching what problems will have to be faced by those who trust the Saviour, or what will need adjustment before reception. We need not be surprised that Satan will seek to make it increasingly difficult for the testimonies of the Lord's people. These difficulties will multiply as we approach His coming. It is not ours to seek to improve society, or to water down the word of God to make the corruption in society more palatable. It is ours to "preach the word" and represent God's holy standards aright.
No doubt we will be accused of overriding the opinions of distinguished brethren of a past day. However we must base opinions and convictions on what the scriptures teach. We are responsible to base all our teaching on the Word of God. It may be reasonably asked if godly men of a former generation had been able to anticipate the confusion stemming from their teaching in a society corrupt beyond their thinking, would they have had second thoughts?
Some will ask why there should be such varying views on this very important matter. The sad answer is that this applies to every New Testament truth. Regarding divorce the varying views seem to stem from a concentration upon Matt. 5.32 alone, while ignoring the overall teaching of the Scriptures. It is not a good rule of exposition to allow unclear Scriptures to override those which are very clear.
We must always bear in mind that it is the holiness of God's house that is of paramount importance, not the feelings of any individual believer. While it may seem harsh and unfair to refuse the fellowship to such believers, this was exactly the position of some of the priestly family in a bygone day. Was it the fault of the priest that he was born with a flat nose or was a dwarf Yet such were banned from approaching the altar (Lev.21).
We trust these articles will provoke a study of the scriptures to ascertain, "what saith the Lord?".
Question 5: Will Christ reign on the throne of David, or does this refer to His present glory in Heaven?
The Amillennialist denies that there will be a restoration of the earthly throne of David, and says all such references in Scripture refer to the Lord Jesus' present session in Heaven. If he can show there will be no restoration of David's earthly kingdom, his case is strengthened. If, however, we can show that there will be a literal reign on the throne of David, this can only be fulfilled in the Premillennial scheme since Amillennialism has no place for it.
The following points indicate the restoration of the Davidic throne, with Christ sitting on the throne of David:
The covenant with David, promising that his throne would be established forever is given in 2 Sam, 7.12-16. Much of what was said above regarding the Abrahamic Covenant is also true of the Davidic Covenant, and so will be given in summary form: It is unconditional and demands literal fulfilment:-
it is described as "everlasting" (2 Sam. 23.5), "for ever" (2 Sam. 7.13,16)
its promises are often repeated, in the midst of failure (Isa. 9.6,7; Jer. 23.5,6; 33.14-17,20,21; Zech. 14.4,9) - disobedience on the part of Solomon will bring chastening on him, but will not nullify the covenant. The words of 2 Sam. 7.13-15 could not make this clearer.
it was confirmed by an oath (Ps. 132.11)
God says He will not break it (Ps. 89.34)
much of 2 Sam. 7.12-16 has already been fulfilled literally (e.g. David was given a son, it was his son who built the temple, his kingdom was established, Solomon was chastened for his iniquity, but God's mercy did not depart from him, and did not result in a destruction of the Davidic line). Since all these were fulfilled literally, consistency demands literal fulfilment for the promise in vl6.
David expected a literal fulfilment (2 Sam. 7.18-29). To propose that it will not be fulfilled literally is to say that God was deliberately deceiving David, and indeed the nation of Israel.
In the OT it is clear that Christ is the ultimate fulfiller of the promises to David, and that it will be literally, e.g. the well known passage in Isa. 9.6,7. The reference to the child born and the son given (v6) must be taken literally. For consistency so must the reference to His "government and peace . . . upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom". We cannot take verse 6 literally and spiritualise verse 7.
Turning now to the NT, no clearer example could be afforded to us than the words of the angel to Mary in Luke 1.31-33. He tells her that she will conceive in her womb, bring forth a son, and call His name Jesus. These are literal, if ever anything was. Then in the next verse the angel says, "the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end." The Amillennialist cannot have it both ways: if he takes the details of the Lord's birth as literal, then he must take the reign over Israel as literal. If he denies the literalness of the reign, then to be consistent he must deny the literalness of the details of the Lord's birth.
There are many references to David in the NT, and there are also many references to the Lord's present position in Heaven. Nowhere is His present session said to be on the throne of David. On the contrary, His present position is at God's right hand (e.g. Heb. 12.2) or the Father's throne (e.g. Rev. 3.21). Moreover, to equate David's throne with the Father's throne is to say that David's throne has existed from all eternity: a strange suggestion indeed!
The Lord Jesus Himself refers to His return to earth and sitting on His throne, e.g. in Matt. 25.41, He says "When the Son of man shall come in his glory and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His glory'. The linking of the two words "When" and "then" show clearly that the sitting on the throne is not until He comes again. Thus it is future (so it cannot be His present sitting in Heaven), and it will be on earth (again showing that it is not His present session in Heaven).
Acts 15.14-17 show that the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David is "after" God takes out a people for His name, and it will be at his "return."
So we see that the promises of Scripture can only be fulfilled by a literal reign of Christ on the throne of David. Amillennialism cannot be true if this is so.
In closing this long section, we must summarise. We have analysed 5 major planks of Amillennialism:
The claim that God's promises to Abraham and the nation were conditional on obedience, and that thus they were irrevocably forfeited.
The claim that the promises to Abraham and the nation were not meant to be taken literally.
The claim that Israel and the church are not distinct.
The claim that there is no future restoration for the nation of Israel.
The claim that Christ's session in heaven is the fulfilment of the promises regarding the throne of David.
In order for Amillennialism to stand, it must be able to show that all five statements above are true. If any one of them falls, the whole system falls. We trust that it has been shown that each one of them is false, and thus that Amillennialism must be rejected.
'And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch,' (Acts 11.26). In this verse of scripture believers are named as disciples and Christians. The name disciple was used by the Lord Himself, He often spoke of "My disciples"; but it was the pagans of Antioch who called believers Christians. These two names, disciples and Christians, which come from such different sources, are in practice synonymous. Christian means one who belongs to Christ, disciple means one who learns, in this case one who learns of Christ. The apostle Peter tells us that under the name of Christian we can glorify God (1 Pet. 4.14-16). However our original verse tells us that as Christians we are also disciples, because both names apply to the same set of people.
The word disciple means one who learns, but more than one who learns only in the academic sense. It rather means one who learns in the sense of an apprentice, one who learns a trade or art from a master craftsman. It involves not only theory but also practice. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the Master Craftsman in the art of living, 'The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth' (John 1.14). 'It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master' (Matt. 10.25).
The Lord laid down the basic principles of discipleship (apprenticeship) in Luke 14.25-35. "If any man come to Me, and hate not (i.e. love less) his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters ... he cannot be My disciple" (verse 26). If someone, however near and dear, should say to an apprentice, "You should practise your craft in this manner", in a manner different from the example set by the master craftsman, then the apprentice would have to refuse such unskilled advice, however much offence it caused. So the Christian disciple must give first priority to the instructions of the Lord Jesus Christ, even if his or her obedient behaviour is not approved by his or her nearest and dearest human relations. To keep the balance of teaching, it must also be pointed out that to obey the Lord will make the disciple a better relation to those nearest and dearest to him or her. For example the husband to his wife (Eph. 5.25-33), and the wife to her husband (1 Pet. 3.1-6).
The next basic principle is, 'Yea, and his own life also . . . whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple' (verses 26-27). The apprentice in his unlearned state cannot say of the teaching and practice of his master, "No, I am going to do it my own way!" Such a self-willed attitude would destroy the whole master-apprentice relationship. We can only be a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ if we first lay aside self-will in order that His way may prevail in our lives. Self and its desires must be crucified and that daily. "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9.23). This is that which we professed at our baptism. 'Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?
Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death' (Rom. 6.3-4). The self-controlled life must die that the Christ-controlled life might live.
The final basic principle of discipleship is, 'Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be My disciple' (verse 33). If an apprentice should be so involved in other pursuits so as to neglect to give the time necessary to leam and practise his craft, then the results would be poor workmanship. To become a skilled craftsman he must give priority to his trade over all other things. So for the disciple living the Christian life, following the steps of the Master, this must take priority over all else, even at the expense of worldly success in wealth, prestige or any other material achievement. If we would allow anything to compromise our Christian character or conduct then the adversary will certainly provide that idol.
Genesis 15.11. "And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away."
In Genesis 12 the Lord said unto Abram, "get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee." God made a wonderful promise to Abram that He would make of him a great nation. "I will bless thee . . . and thou shalt be a blessing," and Abram passed through the land unto Sichem unto the plain of Moreh and the Lord appeared unto Abram and said, "unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the. Lord who appeared unto him." He then moved on again to the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, and there he built an altar unto the Lord.
Abram forsook the place of blessing Abram then forsook the place of blessing because of the famine and made his way down to-Egypt. Whilst he was in Egypt he lied about his wife and because of this the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues. Pharaoh said "what is this that thou hast done unto me?, why didst thou not tell me that Sarai was thy wife?" "Take her and go thy way". Pharaoh then commanded his men to send him away, and his wife and all that he had. Abram returned to Bethel where his tent had been, unto the place of the altar.
A Vision from God
We now come to Genesis 15. where we read, "the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." Abram asked a very straight question, "Lord God what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless?" and Abram continued "Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. God then brought him forth
abroad, and said, look toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be, and he believed in the Lord". He is then told by God to take an heifer, and a she goat, and a ram, and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon. Abram carried out God's instruction and divided the animals and placed them with the birds on the altar, and in verse 11 we read of the watchfulness of Abram, "and when the fowls came down upon the carcases Abram drove them away". Abram was prepared to stand guard over God's portion, and to make sure the fowls of the air did not come and rob God. I wonder if we are robbing God of His portion today.
God is asking something of us, have we prepared the altar which speaks to us of sacrifice, are we willing to make a sacrifice for the Lord? We will certainly need to guard that altar otherwise the fowls of the air will come and seek to rob God of His portion.
Satan is referred to in the scriptures as the prince of the power of the air. The apostle Peter speaks of the devil as your adversary who as a roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour. Abram was prepared to stand guard over what was God's, are we prepared to do the same today?. Its easy to sit back and let things take their course, beware the fowls will come down upon the carcases and God's portion will have gone.
The Burden of Malachi. The prophet Malachi in his day had to accuse the people of robbing God of His portion. They were giving to the Lord that which could not be sold on the open market, the lame and sick and blind, — Are we robbing God of the best? God had to say to the people you have robbed Me, you are not giving to Me of your best, but He is still prepared to bless them. Malachi 3.10. "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in My house and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing."
The apostle John when writing in the Revelation chapter 3 to the church in Sardis says "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead, Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent." Is John saying that unless we are watchful, things that we hold dear could be taken from us? Yes, and more than that, we must strengthen the things that remain. Paul writing to Timothy said, "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me," 2 Timothy 1.13. and also, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast assured of," 2 Timothy 3.14. We need to be watchful and to hold fast to the truth and to make sure it is not taken from us. The enemy has always been very busy causing havoc amongst the people of God and seeking to rob God of his portion. In Proverbs 22.28 we read, "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set." That which has been a guide for so long should not be done away with. Many people think that if something is new it must be good and right, but that is not the case. God speaking through Jeremiah in chapter 6 verse 16 says "Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls."
In Luke 9. the Lord Jesus took Peter and John and James and went up into a mountain to pray and as He prayed His countenance was altered and His raiment became white and glistering as He talked with Moses and Elias about His decease, but Peter and the other two disciples were heavy with sleep, and when they were awake they saw His glory. What must they have missed when they were asleep? We are reminded also of the Lord's words in Mark 14 to His three disciples when He left them in the garden while He went and prayed that memorable prayer to God His Father. On His return He found them sleeping and to Peter He said, "Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."
The Wonderful Resources in Christ. In Genesis 17 God promised to make a covenant between Himself and Abram, "I will multiply thee exceedingly", He also changed his name from Abram to Abraham. In chapter 26 Abraham had died so the covenant had to be confirmed to Isaac. The Lord appeared unto Isaac and said, "Go not down into Egypt; but dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of : I will be with thee, and will bless thee; "In verse 12 we read, "Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundred fold: and the Lord blessed him. "Isaac became great and grew, until he became very great, he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and a great store of servants; and the Philistines envied him." The enemy is ever busy to hinder the work of God and to rob Him of his portion for in verse 15 we read, "all the wells which his father's servants had digged" the Philistines had stopped them and filled them with earth and they were useless. Then Isaac sets about to dig again the wells of water, and his servants digged in the valley and found there a well of springing water. Watch the enemy he will rob you if he can. He will do his utmost to fill all the wells with earth and make them useless. Keep them clear of rubbish, you will need the pure water for good growth. There are wonderful resources in Christ which we shall never exhaust. Keep the wells clear so that they can be used for our nourishment. Isaac was watchful and diligent, he built his altar and redigged the wells. In 1 Peter 4.7. we read "be ye sober and watch unto prayer," and in 2 Peter 3.14, "be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace."
Both my parents were saved and at one time were in an exclusive assembly in London, England. My mother had a great desire to see me saved and at times had brought the gospel before me, warning me of the terrible consequences of dying without Christ. I became greatly concerned about my need of salvation. One of my sisters had died with polio, and this added to my concern. 1 said, "What if I were to die without Christ and be under God's judgment forever?"
Then some Pentecostal preachers came to London, England, to conduct a revival and healing campaign. My grandmother, who was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis, was encouraged by the family to attend one of the meetings in the hope that she would be healed. The preacher prayed for her and anointed her with oil, and she testified to being healed that night. It looked like it too; but though I was less than ten years of age, I could see that her hands and fingers were still twisted with arthritis, and I wondered why God hadn't made a perfect job of healing her. The supposed healing didn't last, and it wasn't long till she was more crippled than ever. When the Pentecostals were asked why that was, they made reference to John 5:14 and said that she had sinned, and that therefore a worse thing had come upon her. Yet as a family we still talked about grandmother's wonderful healing.
In the midst of all this excitement, my mother took me to a revival and healing meeting on Oct. 15th, 1925, which was only a week before my tenth birthday, and I got saved. I didn't listen as attentively to the preacher, as I might have done, because I was so concerned about my soul. A large number of people had indicated that they wanted to be saved, and the preacher after telling them how to get saved, told them to recite a prayer after him. I didn't pray after him; but I did get saved. I became absorbed with thoughts of the cross - thoughts that were simple but meaningful. I was in earnest! Doubtless, it was the Holy Spirit Who directed my thoughts to Calvary on that never-to-be-forgotten evening. I thought of those three crosses of which my mother had told me. My thoughts were centered on the middle cross on which the Son of God died for my sins. Though I did not know the chorus then, it sums up my thoughts as I bowed reverently before the Lord:
Three crosses standing side by side,
Of broken law the sign;
Two for their own transgressions died,
The middle One for mine.
I received the Lord Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. The words of Acts 16: 30- 31 ran through my mind: "What must I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." These words came like sweet music to my soul, and I said, "Lord, I believe." Yes, I did indeed believe on Him Who died for me. As the years have passed by, I have learned more about the glories of Christ and the value of His substitutionary death.
After I was saved I became exercised about yielding my life to God for the work of the gospel. Some years later I became apprehensive concerning this matter, but the
call of God grew louder and louder and I became convinced that the work of God was of more importance than any other pursuit. Having been saved in the Pentecostal Movement, and not being well-instructed in the Word, I sincerely thought that I should become a Pentecostal pastor. I went to a Pentecostal Bible College, believing it was the right thing to do. Being much exercised about the study of the Scriptures, I began to spend much time researching the subject of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. Then I began to delve into the study of Assembly Truth, as I was beginning to have doubts about the way the Pentecostals gathered and the "gifts" they exercised in church gatherings, which they claimed were the same as those exercised in the early church (see Acts chaps. 2, 10, 19: 1 Cor. chaps 12 - 14).
After being a Pentecostal pastor for about nine years, my wife and I were married in Belfast, N. Ireland. After our marriage,we began to study the Bible together. One day we confessed to each other, for the first time, our doubts about Pentecostal teaching regarding the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit in and for the believer, and also their Church order.
Continuing study caused us to appreciate the preciousness of gathering to the Lord's Name alone (Matt. 18.20). Then we saw the divine order when saints gather for the breaking of bread and edification, with no minister presiding, but rather the Holy Spirit, as set forth in 1 Cor 11-14. It became apparent to us, that whereas the spiritual gifts had ceased with the completion of the Scriptures (1 Cor. 13.8-10), the principles set forth in 1 Cor. 11-14 still apply. Likewise, we recognised that the priesthood of believers could not function as God intended, except in a scripturally-gathered local assembly. We learned that it was not according to the Word of God for the unsaved to give their money to support the Lord's work (3 John 7), whereas the Pentecostals take money from the unsaved to help finance their churches. It was very clear to us, that women should not teach nor usurp authority over the man, as in Pentecostal meetings, but should learn in silence with all subjection, the reasons being as stated in 1 Tim. 2.13,14, that the woman was second in creation, and first in transgression. We were impressed with the way discipline was administered in the local assembly gathered to His Name, in accordance with 1 Cor. 5.1-13; 1 Tim. 1.18-20, etc. One could add more.
After studying the Bible together for nine months, we decided it was time to tell the elders of the local assembly gathering in the Gospel Hall in Ballymena, N. Ireland, that we wished to be received into the fellowship of the assembly. The elders who interviewed us were both careful and gracious in considering our desire for fellowship. When I was interviewed on a number of occasions, they made certain that I held no false teaching. On one occasion they asked me for how long were we prepared to sit in the back seats on a Lord's day morning, and I replied, "For six months or longer, for this is the place where we want to be." Though I still had the same exercise to preach the gospel and to see souls saved, I offered to keep quiet in the meetings until they thought that I should speak. Then they encouraged me to speak in Ballymena or elsewhere. I did, and the Lord was pleased to bless the Word and souls were saved. The brethren made it plain that they could not give me a letter of commendation until I had proved myself. After three years, they did that. In a day when some criticise the assemblies, we should be thinking about what is good about them. We have now been over fifty years in fellowship with assemblies gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus and have never regretted it.