by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98) VOLUME 2
Paper 7(d) — The Olivet Prophecy (cont.)
The talents (verses 14-30) speak to us again of service during the Lord's absence, but of a more varied character than the parable of the faithful and evil servants. Here He entrusts His goods to His stewards, to each according to his ability. The principle is similar to that in Eph. 4. There we have the gifts of the risen Head for the edification and blessing of His members below. Gift and ability are distinct. A man may have natural ability as a speaker; we can readily understand the Lord entrusting him with the gift of an evangelist, provided, of course, that the other necessary qualities are there also.
The Lord's servants should keep before them their Lord's return, when all that they have wrought will be inquired into. "After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them" (verse 19). This corresponds with 1 Cor. 3. There we have some commended and rewarded, and others who have missed the reward; and a third class of servants, who, because evil, are destroyed. Service does not effect the salvation of our souls, that being, founded on the accomplished work of Christ; but it will materially affect our reward at the Lord's return, and our place in His millennial kingdom.
The Lord graciously notes all the good of His saints. Every little act of loving service is faithfully recorded by Him. It is sweet to observe that He said the same words to the one who had traded well with the two talents, as to him who did well with the five. The measure and capacity were different, but each was faithful with what he had, which is all that the Lord looks for in any of us. But are we thus doing our best for Him?
The evil servant is cast out into outer darkness. His hypocritical excuse betrays plainly that he never knew his Lord at all. Would any who have ever tasted His love and grace call Him "a hard man"? Certainly not. The doom of the false servant is certain. With all his privileges and religious status, he is not the Lord's, and is thus rejected solemnly. What a warning for all who venture to serve Him and to preach His word, never having really known Him!
This brings us to the close of the parenthesis in the Lord's prophecy. We will now consider Part IV.
On this part, extending from chapter 25.31-46, we can afford to be brief, having gone into it at some length in a previous paper. The thread of the prophecy is resumed from chapter 24.31, where it was dropped in order to bring in the parables. There we have the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; here we have what will follow that solemn event. "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory; and before Him shall be gathered all nations (or the Gentiles) : and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats : and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left" (verses 31-33). This session is not the final judgment of the dead, but the King's inquiry into a particular matter. How have the Gentiles treated those whom He graciously styles "My brethren"? These are the Jewish preachers of the Gospel of the Kingdom during the sorrows of the last days. Some will treat them well, receiving their message, and will be spared to enjoy the blessings of Christ's millennial reign ; others will treat them scornfully and with cruelty, to their own solemn judgment. Their punishment is everlasting, their conduct having plainly manifested the enmity of their hearts to God and Christ; the righteous will pass into life eternal, though in an earthly condition.
This brings us to the door of the Lord's glorious kingdom, when the age of the law gives place to the age of Messiah ; and here this remarkable prophecy ends. The Lord grant understanding of it to every reader, for His Name's sake.
Argument 3: Alleged difficulties in the Pre-Millennial position.
One of the major ways the Amillennialist will try to discredit the Pre-Millennial position is by putting up difficulties. Before looking at some of the difficulties he brings up, however, two points are pertinent:—
Firstly, the existence of difficulties does not make the thing wrong. It is admitted that there are many things about which we are not 100% sure, such as what exactly is being described in Revelation 21 and 22 (the Millennial city, or the eternal state, or both). But whichever is right, it does not in any way weaken the Premillennial argument. If we were working on the basis of difficulties, we would see that the Amillennialist himself has very many difficulties to try to explain. The existence of difficulties does not nullify the truth.
Secondly, many of the so-called difficulties are due to the Amillennialist doubting the power of God. Things that seem impossible to our finite minds are possible with God.
Some examples of difficulties which the Amillennialist mentions are:
The reinstatement of a priestly order. It is argued that this is impossible, as the records of the different tribes have been destroyed.
It is true that the records have been destroyed, and that perhaps no Jew alive today knows his tribe. But does God not still know it? And will God not be able to tell everyone which tribe they are from? And will anyone dare to disagree with Him? This is no difficulty when we are dealing with an infinite God.
The ritual of animal sacrifices. They argue that this would contradict the teaching of the Book of Hebrews, which says that animal sacrifices have given place to the final sacrifice of Christ. But it must be remembered that the Book of Hebrews is dealing with Christians of this church dispensation, and the point being made is that animal sacrifices could never take away sin, and are totally inappropriate in this age. But in a future day, when Israel is restored, in the land, with priests, and a temple, then sacrifices will be in order; not to take away sin, any more than the OT ones did. The OT sacrifices were effective only because they pointed forwards to Christ, and the Millennial sacrifices will point back to Christ. God will not allow Israel to forget the sacrifice of Christ and the system of sacrifices will continually be a memorial to them of what the death of God's Son has done for them. Thus, as a commemoration, they will not be inappropriate at all.
They claim that a temple of the dimensions of that given in Ezekiel could not fit in the present temple site.
This is true, but they forget that Zechariah (14.4) tells us that at the Lord's return to earth there will be massive geographical changes in the Jerusalem area, which will make room for the larger temple.
One is reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus: "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God" (Matt. 22.29). In the light of Scriptures and God's power, these and other "difficulties" will vanish.
Argument 4: Objection to the view of the church as a parenthesis.
The Amillennialist claims that the OT makes no room for the setting aside of Israel, the introduction of the church, and then taking up Israel again. He claims that to believe this is to introduce an unwarranted break in the continuity of God's dealings with His people.
It is interesting that this objection by the Amillennialist is tantamount to an admission that the church is not in the OT! As we have already tried to show, the church is not the subject of OT prophecy; it is a "mystery" not revealed until the NT. Revelation was progressive: God did not reveal everything at once, but different things in stages. The fact that the church was not revealed in the OT is not an argument against its existence in the NT.
But although it is true that the church is not in the OT, the Amillennialist is not right when he states that the OT makes no provision for it. Many times in the OT God speaks of the setting aside of Israel and their subsequent restoration at a later date. There are so many references to this that it would be difficult to know where to start with examples, but Hosea 1.10,11 is one of many. This setting aside and subsequent restoration leaves room for the church period.
Allowance is made time-wise for the church period in passages such as Daniel 9.24-27, which give the "Seventy weeks" prophecy. That 69 literal weeks of years passed up to the Lord's death has been well-established ("The Coming Prince" by Sir Robert Anderson), leaving one week (7 years) to be fulfilled. That more than 7 years have passed since the Lord's death is obvious, thus there must be a gap before the 70th week is fulfilled. Therefore provision is made for the church age.
We see similar allowance in the NT, in the Lord's reading of Isa. 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4.16-21). The gap between His first and second comings leaves room for the church age.
In Acts this is made clear too, e.g. Acts 15.14-17, which speaks of this time when God is taking out of the Gentiles "a people for his name", and then Israel's subsequent restoration.
As we have already seen in the epistles also, notably in Romans 11, the setting aside of Israel, a time of Gentile blessing, and future restoration for Israel.
Thus the claim that there is no provision in Scripture for the church period is unfounded.
Argument 5: The claim that the only Scripture for the Millennium is Revelation 20.1-7.
The Amillennialist claims that the only time we read of the Millennium is in Revelation 20, and that without it there would be no case for the doctrine of the Millennium.
It is true that Revelation 20 is the only place where we are told the duration of the Millennium, but it is stated no fewer than 6 times that it is "one thousand years". However if it is the Word of God, one reference is all that we need. To say that something only occurs once in Scripture is an argument against it is to imply that something needs to be said several times before we are expected to believe it. If God says it once, that is enough.
The claim that Revelation 20 is the only Scripture for the Millennium is untrue. In these articles we have had many scriptural references and this is the first time reference has been made to Revelation 20.
There is much Scripture for the Millennium, from Genesis to Revelation. Revelation 20 gives us the duration.
Argument 6: Argument based on 2 Peter 3.8
The Amillennialist says that since Peter tells us that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day", then when the Lord tells us in Revelation 20 of a thousand-year period, we have no reason to take it literally.
But to argue thus is to do violence to Peter's words. Peter is talking about scoffers who are denying that the Lord will come again, because, in their view, He is taking such a long time (v4). In response Peter reminds his readers that God is outside time, and what can seem a very long time to man is not so with God. The scoffers have no concept of how God sees world history and the passage of time.
However, to say that God is outside time, is not the same as saying that when God specifies a time to us, that He does not mean what He says. He does mean what He says, and when He gives us information, He gives it accurately. Peter is not implying for one moment that we can make specified time intervals in scripture mean whatever we want them to mean. On the contrary, in this passage He is emphasising the accuracy of Scripture. Amillennialists try to make it mean that he is teaching that Scripture is inaccurate. This is not so.
The Amillennialist's arguments are clever and at first sight plausible but are unsound. May God give us help to know His Word, so that we will not be swayed by such erroneous teaching.
Matthew's gospel not only records the blessings of discipleship but also the rewards of discipleship.
'Jesus . . . took the twelve disciples aside and on the way He said to them . . . Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave' (Matt. 20.17 and 26-27 R.S.V.). Promotion is to advance in rank or honour. In the world promotion is to become great in the eyes of one's fellows and to be ruler is the ultimate goal. But in the Lord's eyes to advance in rank and honour is to become the servant of others and the zenith of promotion is to become their slave. The Master set the supreme example for this. 'Even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many' (v. 28). Also, 'If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet' (John 13.14).
By the divine standards the disciple's service to others is its own reward of promotion! The disciple's promotion is to become a servant and a slave to his or her fellow believers. Have you been promoted to a servant yet?
'And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain; and when He was set, His disciples came unto him ... Blessed are ye, when men revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven' (Matt. 5.1 and 11-12). True discipleship means a life of devotion to the Lord. 'But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness' (Matt. 6.33). The world considers time given to the Lord and His service to be a waste of time. A waste of valuable time which should be devoted to education, training and business activity to achieve material wealth. Therefore the devoted disciple will be criticised, accused of wasting his or her talents and opportunities of material advancement. But the disciple must choose, 'No man can serve two masters ... Ye cannot serve God and mammon (wealth)' (Matt. 6.24). Having chosen this pathway, the disciple must suffer the reviling of the world. By faith the disciple sees his or her reward not in the material treasures of this world but in the eternal heavenly reward. 'But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is there will your heart be also' (Matt. 6.20-21). This was the long-sighted faith of Moses, 'Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward' (Heb. 11.26).
But for the true disciple, above even the rewards of service and heavenly treasure is the personal commendation of the Master Himself. 'And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately . . . Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord' (Matt. 24.3, 25.21 and 23).
It is the most sobering thought for the Christian that he or she will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to give an account of their discipleship. 'For we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ' (Rom. 14.10). 'And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If we know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him' (1 John 2.28-29).
Service to others, treasure in heaven and the personal commendation of the Lord are the rewards of the faithful disciple.
1 Timothy 2 deals with the assembly prayer meeting, and it will be helpful to have our Bibles open at this chapter as we proceed. The larger part the epistle consists of a "charge" to Timothy. It commences with the words, "This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy", 1.18, and extends to the end of the epistle: "0 Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust", 6.20. The subject of the "charge" is summed up in 3.14-15, "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God. "
In dealing with behaviour in "the house of God", Paul places prayer first: "I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men", 2.1. We should have no difficulty in accounting for the precedence of prayer. The rest of the epistle's teaching will be totally ineffective if prayer is lacking. The overseers cannot expect to function properly without it (Ch. 3); the deacons cannot expect to work effectively without it (Ch. 3, again); the teachers cannnot expect to give authoritative ministry without it (Ch. 4); the assembly cannot expect to use it resources wisely without it (Ch. 5); and the Lord's people cannot be expected to have a proper view of money without it (Ch. 6). We must therefore recognise the importance of the assembly prayer meeting, and resolve to be present. The prayer meeting is vital to the spiritual well-being of the assembly. Now, with 1 Timothy 2 before us,
1) WHAT WE ARE TO PRAY FOR V1-2
The first thing to notice is that Paul stresses the welfare of the unsaved. This is strongly emphasised in v.1-7. 1 Timothy deals principally, as we have already noted, with local church affairs. But here, right at the beginning, we are told that "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men", because God "will have all men to be saved", and to that end, the Lord Jesus "gave Himself a ransom for all."
So the assembly is a place where spiritual balance should exist. There should be concern for godly order in its affairs, and concern for the salvation of unsaved men and women. We must not become lopsided. Compare 1 Corinthians 15.58: we are to be "steadfast, unmovable" in doctrine, and "always abounding in the work of the Lord" evangelically. In these verses, Paul deals with prayer
"For all men." The scope is universal, and therefore includes those who are not necessarily favourable towards us. Listen to the teaching of the Lord Jesus: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you", Matt. 5.44. He was the perfect Examplar of His own teaching. See Luke 23.34.
Four words are used to describe our prayers for all men.
"Supplications." The word means 'an asking' or 'an intreaty', and often occurs in circumstances of particular need. For example: Luke 1.13, "Fear not Zacharias: for thy prayer (JND, 'supplication') is heard." Rom. 10.1, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer (JND, 'supplication') to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." James 5.16, "The effectual fervent prayer (JND, 'supplication') of a righteous man availeth much." So "supplications" cover special matters. Often in assembly prayer meetings there are requests for special prayer.
"Prayers." This is the general word, and can be distinguished from "supplications" in its coverage of on-going and regular prayers.
"Intercessions" This emphasises a further aspect of prayer, that is, representation on behalf of others. Its only other occurrence as a noun is in 1 Tim. 4.5, but the verb form occurs in Rom. 11.2, "Elias . . . maketh intercession against Israel."
"Giving of thanks." This speaks for itself. One mark of unsaved people is absence of thankfulness. See Rom. 1.21. Paul elsewhere urges us to, "Continue (persevere) in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving", Col. 4.2. See also Phil. 4. 6, which employs three of the words in 1 Tim. 2.1, "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God."
Paul then deals with prayer
"For kings, and for all that are in authority." Romans 13 is essential reading at this point. There is nothing routine in praying for the Queen and the Royal Family, for the Prime Minister and the Government. The reason for such prayer follows: "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." Rulers largely influence prevailing conditions around us. Our prayers should embrace all rulers throughout the world, national and local, bearing in mind that the Lord's people are located in every place. Notice the words used here:
"Quiet" This means freedom from outside disturbance.
"Peaceable." This means causing no disturbance to others.
"Godliness" This means a right attitude to God. It does not mean 'godlikeness.'
"Gravity." This means right conduct before men. It has the idea of dignity. 'The balance between the extremes of churlish moroseness and frivolous levity.' (J. Allen, 'What the Bible Teaches': 1 Timothy). People who pray for "all men" should live in a manner consistent with their spiritual concern.
2) WHY WE ARE TO PRAY LIKE THIS, v. 3-7
Three reasons are given in these verses, and space allows us to deal only with the first of these in this study:
A) Because it is God's will for all men to be saved, v. 3-4
"For this (the exercise of prayer for "all men", v. 1, and possibly, the mode of life consistent with it, v. 2) is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." Such prayer is "good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour", because it indicates the desire of God's people to see His purposes accomplished. We pray for all men because God desires the salvation of all men. This prompts a number of observations:
Prayer must always be made within the scope of God's will. See 1 John 5.14, "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us." This involves Bible reading and study. After all, there is no other means of discerning the will of God! When Elijah "prayed earnestly that it might not rain" (Jms. 5. 17), it certainly wasn't the first thing that came into his mind. He was thoroughly aware of God's will in the circumstances. See Deut. 11.16-17, and 28.23-24.
Prayer must always recognise the universal scope of God's will. He will have all men to be saved." This cannot possibly mean 'all kinds of men.' It is "all men" without exception. See 2 Peter 3.9, "Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." This in no way contradicts God's sovereignty in election, and we should also say that the fact that God elects some to salvation (2 Thess. 2.13 etc), does not mean that He elects the rest to damnation. The tense in Rom. 9.22 indicates that "the vessels of wrath" have 'fitted themselves' to destruction.
Prayer for others flows out of our own blessings. "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved." The fact that God is already "our Saviour", should prompt us to pray that He might be the Saviour of others.
Prayer for others includes their full spiritual enlightenment. "To come unto the knowledge of the truth." "Knowledge" here is 'full knowledge' (Greek 'epignosis'). So we are to pray, not only that men might be saved, but that they might fully know the truth about salvation. We should pray for the salvation of men and women, for their subsequent baptism, fellowship in the assembly, and ongoing spiritual growth.
In our next study, we will see that we are to pray for the salvation of men and women because God has made it possible for all men to be saved (v. 5-6) and because this is the time for all men to be saved (v. 6-7). But in the meantime, cultivate the habit of attending the assembly prayer meeting, and with your fellow-believers, "Come boldly unto the throne of grace" to "obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem there was a usurper on the throne. Herod was an Edomite with no title to the crown which he wore. He was a puppet king who had been enthroned by Rome. "Herod the Great" they called him. He was indeed a great builder and relics of some of his work remain until this day. But as he later demonstrated in his slaughter of the innocents, he was great chiefly for his evil.
At the time of the Saviour's birth certain magi, wise men, arrived from the East. How many there were we do not know. They had travelled from their homeland (whether Arabia or Babylon we cannot tell) having seen the star which told them of Messiah's birth. Balaam had prophesied of a star, and he had been of the East, from Pethor by the Euphrates in Mesopotamia (Num. 22.5). Did they know of this?
It is important to remember that there are two Bethlehems in Israel. Notice how Matthew, with the prophets, identifies the correct Bethlehem. "Bethlehem of Judea"; "Bethlehem Ephratah"; "Bethlehem in the land of Juda". There is a Bethlehem located in Galilee, not many miles from Nazareth, but Matthew and Luke and the prophets direct us again and again to that Bethlehem of Judea, some five or six miles south of Jerusalem. It is this Bethlehem which Micah predicts as the birthplace of the Messiah (Micah 5.2)
The wise men, however, did not come to Bethlehem, but to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was after all, the Capital City. One would expect to find the King there. These magi did not, as is so often suggested, follow the star across the miles from their Eastern homeland to Jerusalem. The star had appeared to indicate that the King had been born It was then, having seen the star, that they began the journey to Jerusalem.
Having arrived at the Capital they ask what is now the first question in our New Testament, "Where is He?" What a delightful question. Is not the rest of our New Testament but an expanded answer? Surely this must be the spirit in which we must approach our reading and study of the Scriptures, "Where is He?" We shall not be disappointed if we come to our reading with such a mind, looking for Him. Wise men always look for Him and the Scriptures always give clear directions to the sincere enquirer. Herod though, is troubled at the news that certain magi from the East have come to look for a new-born King of the Jews. There is a sad irony here in that Gentiles from the East have come with a desire to see and to worship the Messiah and yet Herod and all Jeruslem are troubled about it.
Herod calls together the chief priests and scribes. These were the men, after all, who knew about worship and about the scriptures. Or at least they should have known. They did indeed know of Micah's prophecy and they assured Herod that Bethlehem of Judea was the predicted birthplace of the Christ. Out of this Bethlehem with its relative insignificance, was to come the great Shepherd-Governor of Israel. The birth of the Messiah was to give dignity to the place of His birth. Bethlehem, with its memories of Rachel, of Ruth, and of David, was to be the Bethlehem of the Christ.
Herod now calls the wise men. He calls them privily, quietly, secretly, to ask for an accurate timing of the appearance of the star. He sends them to Bethlehem and in deceit he expresses his lying concern that when they have found the Child they should bring him word so that he too could come and pay homage. It is now that the star reappears. The wise men rejoice to see it again. Now it goes before them and they follow, until it stands over the house where the young child is. Notice that it is not now "The Babe" but "The young Child." It is a different word. There is holy development. Notice too, that Matthew will always speak of "The young Child and His mother." Some five times will he say this. It is never "The mother and the Child." Others may say that, but never Matthew. For Matthew and for those who truly love the Saviour the Holy Child must have precedence. He must have priority.
What an example is this star for those who would be servants of Christ. Its sole ministry is to direct men to the Saviour and when once that ministry has been accomplished and men have found Him then the star will disappear, never to be seen again. The true evangelist will give the light that shows men the way to Christ, and then, like the star, be content not to be seen again.
If the star gives us an example of godly witness then the wise men give us an example of worship. They open their treasures. Matthew speaks more about treasure than any of the other Gospels. He speaks of treasures which are material and temporal, of those which are moral and spiritual and eternal, and of those which are dispensational and ministerial. It is a rewarding exercise for the believer to search for these in Matthew's Gospel. There are nine such references. Little did these worshippers from the East know just how far reaching the effects of their worship would be. They could hardly have known the rich symbolical significance of the treasures which they brought. They presented their gifts. Observe that they worshipped "Him". Mary was there, of course, in quiet and dutiful attendance, but the wise men worshipped the Child. "Blessed art thou among women", Gabriel had told Mary, but they paid homage to the Infant Saviour.
From their treasures they presented gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Do we not present the same as we bring our appreciation of Christ to God in worship? There is the gold of His personal glory. Gold was the most precious mineral that men knew. How much of it appeared in the symbolism of the tabernacle and temple. It seems ever to speak of the glory of deity to us, when used symbolically of Christ. We rejoice in this, the glory of a Son in equality with the Father. It is our privilege to bring to God, in our priestly exercises, our appreciation of the eternal glory of the Son.
Then there was the frankincense. It was pure, white, and fragrant. It is a most fitting symbol of the moral glory of the Saviour. In Him there was an unique preciousness in that He alone among men was sinlessly pure, incomparable and impeccable, holy and harmless. Here, in those early infant days there was already a sweet foreshadowing of that lovely life that was to follow.
But there was a mingling of bitterness with the sweetness. They presented myrrh. It was sweet to the smell but bitter to the taste. How sweet to us is every remembrance of the sufferings of the Man of Sorrows. How bitter those sufferings were to Him. We love and adore as we ponder on the sorrows of that last night. The memory of the physical pain and the mockery; the thorny crown, the scourge, the nails, the thirst, the darkness and the spear. These draw out the believer's heart in the fragrance of worship.
We too then bring our gold and frankincense and myrrh. Those wise men were not to know that almost twenty centuries later countless adoring hearts would come, as they did, to open their treasures and present their gifts, and then walk a path diverse from the world which knows Him not. The magi were warned of God to take another way. J. N. Darby says that the expression "warned of God" has the thought of divine instruction, and that it signifies an answer after consultation. Did the wise men have their doubts about the sincerity of Herod? There was a divine answer. It was not merely a warning but an oracle of instruction from God to them. They obeyed, forsook Herod, and left for their own country another way.
In the previous article we thought about the following two questions:
i) What was the gift of tongues?
ii) What was the purpose of the gift of tongues?
In this article we shall consider a third :
iii) Has the gift of tongues ceased?
HAS THE GIFT OF TONGUES CEASED?
This is a most important question. Is it possible to have the gift of tongues today? Did God intend this to be a permanent gift or a temporary one?
Let's examine this subject Scripturally, Functionally and Historically.
'Charity never faileth: but whether (there be) prophecies, they shall fail; whether (there be) tongues, they shall cease; whether (there be) knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these (is) charity.' (1 Cor. 13.8-13).
In this chapter, Paul is stressing the importance of love (charity). The Corinthians had many spiritual gifts — but love was lacking. They laid great stress on their abilities and gifts, but in this chapter Paul shows them that these things are far inferior to love.
In the verses quoted above, Paul is showing the permanency of love. He names three miraculous gifts (prophecy, tongues and knowledge) which would pass away. In contrast, love 'never faileth'.
(Note: 'knowledge' referred to here is not general knowledge, but the special gift of supernatural knowledge referred to in ch. 12.8).
It's important to note that two different verbs and tenses are used in verse 8. The verb used in relation to tongues ceasing is 'paunomia.' The tense is in the middle voice. The verb used to describe prophecy and knowledge 'failing' and 'vanishing away' is 'katargeo' and the tense used is in the passive voice. In other words, although all three gifts will cease, the manner in which they cease will be different.
'Tongues shall cease' literally means — tongues shall cease of their own accord. They will peter out. This is the clear meaning of the verb and tense employed.
However, the verb and tense employed in relation to prophecy and knowledge indicates clearly that these two gifts will be stopped by a power outwith themselves. Someone or something will forcibly stop the operation of these gifts.
In other words, the gift of tongues will peter out, but the gift of knowledge and prophecy will continue until forcibly stopped. Paul enlarges upon this in verse 9: 'For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.' Notice that the gift of tongues is no longer referred to — just the two gifts of prophecy and knowledge. Prophecy and knowledge continue 'until that which is perfect to come'. However, the gift of tongues has already petered out before that time. It is vital to see this clear distinction.
It's important to understand what Paul means when he speaks about 'that which is perfect.' Notice first of all, the reasons he gives for the cessation of prophecy and knowledge. In verse 11 Paul uses the illustration of progression from childhood to manhood. In other words, these two gifts belong to the early stages of the church's development. In verse 12 we see that these two gifts are not perfect. They give us an obscure, unclear view. When that which is perfect is come then we will see with greater clarity.
The expression 'face to face' is similar to the expression 'mouth to mouth' used elsewhere in Scripture. The idea is of direct communication. It is used in this connection in 2 John 12 and 3 John 14. In the Old Testament, the expression is used in Numbers 12.8: 'With him (Moses) will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches.'
In other words, the special gifts of prophecy and knowledge communicated God's will and mind in a partial, obscure way. When 'that which is perfect' is come, spiritual truths would be communicated plainly.
When 'that which is perfect is come', I will have a clearer understanding and will be able to come to a true knowledge of God and myself. The use of these gifts will be superseded.
What does Paul therefore mean by 'that which is perfect'? The word perfect could be more accurately translated 'complete.' I believe that in this verse Paul is referring to the completion of the Holy Scriptures — the complete Bible which we have today.
As the Scriptures were 'filled up', the need for the specials gifts of knowledge and prophecy diminished. Gradually they were phased out, and brought to a complete end by the completion of the New Testament canon.
In contrast to the partial revelation through prophecy and knowledge, the Word of God provides a full revelation — that is, as much as we are able to appreciate and as much as we need to know. The scriptures provide a complete, direct revelation from God. Through them He speaks to us 'mouth to mouth.'
Paul is teaching in this chapter that these miraculous gifts were temporary. They had limited value, and ultimately would cease altogether when the full Word of God was complete. In other words, the gifts of prophecy and knowledge would cease with the completion of the Bible; the gift of tongues would have 'petered out' prior to that date.
Some hold the view that 'that which is perfect' refers either to the coming of the Lord, or to the future kingdom. Even if this view is held, it does not change the fact that the gift of tongues peters out before 'that which is perfect' comes. Please see Questions and Answers for further details.
Let us see if this interpretation holds good Functionally.
As we have already noted, the clear teaching of Paul was that 'tongues' were a sign for unbelieving Jews.
It should be noted that after Pentecost, the Gospel was preached to the Jew first. God was graciously inviting His people to repent in the early days of the church age. The gospel was not being preached to the Gentiles widely at that period - the Jew had priority.
All this 'special treatment' came to an end as the Gospel moved out to Gentiles. Through the book of the Acts, the widening ripples of the Gospel can be traced. Acts 1.8 summarises the book: 'But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.'
Ultimately, the nation of Israel rejected God's offer of mercy through Jesus Christ, and the gospel moved out to 'whosoever.' It is interesting that in the last chapter of the book of Acts, Paul says to the Jews 'Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our father, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: for the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with (their) eyes, and hear with (their) ears, and understand with (their) heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and (that) they will hear it. (Acts 28.25-28).
Today God is not offering the gospel exclusively to the Jews. That period of 'special treatment' has passed - hence the need for accompanying signs for the Jews has also disappeared.
So we can conclude that the purpose for which the sign was given ceased to exist as the gospel turned toward the Gentiles.
Can we prove Historically that the gift of tongues has ceased?
It is very interesting to note the following.
a) In Hebrews 2.3-4, the writer refers to miraculous signs in the past tense. 'How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard (Him); God also bearing (them) witness, both with sings and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? (Heb. 2.3-4).
It is interesting that the writer does not say that God was presently bearing witness to the message by these signs - he is looking back to a time in the past when these events took place.
b) The Epistle to the Ephesians is one of Paul's later letters. In that epistle he lists gifts given for the benefit of the church - 'And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;' (Ep. 4.11).
Significantly, speaking in tongues does not feature at all in the list.
b) Eighteen epistles were written after Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. Not one of them even mentions speaking in tongues or any other 'sign' gift. Tongues is not mentioned at all in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians.
c) After the destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Titus in AD70 (as prophesied by the Lord Jesus in Luke 19.41-44), there is no further mention of speaking in tongues. The nation of Israel had virtually ceased to exist as a single entity and the Jews were scattered among the nations.
d) The so-called 'church fathers' are unanimously agreed that miraculous signs and wonders (including speaking in tongues) were not operating by the end of the first century A.D.
From the above we can conclude that the true gift of speaking in tongues had ceased, possibly by as early as AD 70, and certainly by the time the Scriptures were completed.
The miraculous sign gifts have been superseded by the Word of God. As foretold by the Apostle Paul, the gift of tongues petered out before the New Testament Scriptures were completed. The purpose for the gift of tongues no longer exists. The scriptural and secular historical records agree that speaking in tongues had ceased by the end of the 1st century AD.
The aged Patriarch lies on his death bed. He has gathered his sons together, living reminders of his long and varied life. Under Divine inspiration, he will now unfold the future to them Gen. 49.1. The sons will have been long dead, but the judgements and blessings here pronounced will have their great fulfilment in their descendants — Character and Characteristics will be unfolded.
Jacob has nearly completed his prophetic pronouncements. Nine men have passed before him, all the sons of Leah and Zilpah, and one by Bilhah, Reuben, because of sin, loses privilege. Judah, despite his waywardness in Gen. 38, will see a glorious One come, according to the flesh, from his loins. His tribe, not Reuben's, will be the preeminent one. Because of evil, Simeon and Levi have been cursed. Yet the grace of God will reverse that verdict in Levi's case and set the tribe in a place of unparalleled priestly nearness. Some predictions saw fulfilment over the course of years, others await their final flowering in days still to come.
Apart from his two sons by Rachel, only Naphtali, his second son by Bilhah, is left. On him he bestows the shortest blessing, yet probably one of the sweetest. "Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words." Gen. 49.21.
Although nothing is known of Naphtali's deeds and the tribal history is relatively sparse, nevertheless, these words would be accurate both in description and fulfilment. As with all scriptures they not only have a direct interpretation but also an application. They also convey beautiful portraits of the Saviour and give constructive precepts for the saint.
Naphtali and his blessing in Gen. 49 can therefore be considered in three ways
The Portrayal of the Tribe — Considered Historically.
The Picture of the Saviour— Contemplated Doctrinally.
The Pattern for the Saint — Conveyed Practically.
1. The Portrayal of the Tribe — Considered Historically.
Naphtali's birth is recorded in Gen. 30. There is the sense in which he is the child of the desires of the flesh and of the mind. He was the son of Jacob and Bilhah, the maid of Jacob's beloved wife Rachel. Unable to have children of her own, and jealous of her sister's easy fecundity, Rachel resorts to a device which was legal but not spiritual. She proposed that Jacob should marry Bilhah as a concubine or secondary wife. Although, biologically, the children would be Bilhah's, Rachel would regard them as her own. Whilst it is true that it is not a direct denial of faith as was Abraham's begetting of a child by Hagar; (again permitted by then current law, but not in the mind of God), it created a domestic system fraught with difficulties. Speculation can sometimes be dangerous, but one wonders if God would have opened Rachel's womb more quickly had she not resorted to the way of the flesh. In assembly and personal life there are many things which are perfectly legal but not spiritual. At the same time there must be a guard against a spurious super spirituality.
The very name of Naphtali given to Bilhah's second son, and meaning wrestlings, denoting a tortuous twisting, derived from her struggle against her sister. There is almost an unseemly triumphalism; a gloat. The A.V. margin adds "of God" to wrestlings, Gen. 32.8. One commentator has well remarked that whilst in "wrestlings of prayer she had wrestled with Leah, in reality however with God Himself who seemed to have limited His mercy to Leah alone." It is noticeable that Leah uses God's great Covenant name, the LORD (Jehovah) when three of her children are born, Gen. 30.32,33,35. Rachel can only see Him as Creator, calling Him God (Elohim), Gen. 32.6,8, A.V. margin. Constant believing prayer is vital, but it can lose its force when human methods are used because Divine answers seem rather a long time coming.
Although there is a choice promise for them in Jacob's blessings, both Naphtali and his tribe are little in prominence during Israel's long history. On the wilderness journey they pitched on the North side of the Tabernacle and took their place at the very end. It would seem to be insignificant, but how essential is the rear position, it is the bastion against attack, it demands vigilance. Their seeming insignificance could be inferred from the fact that their prince is the final name on the list in Num. 1 and offers last at the great offering of the princes at the dedication of the tabernacle in Num. 7. Those princes have some wonderful meanings to their names. There is God the Rock, (Elizur of Reuben). My God is recompenser, (Gamaliel of Manasseh). At Peace with God, (Shulemiel of Ephraim). Among all those evocative names, suggestive of the character of God and our standing in Christ, comes Ahira of Naphtali (Brother of evil). What Grace, that we who were once vile, should be brought nigh to God, made meet to be inheritors of the saints in Light.
The morning was quite an ordinary one as the sun rose, yet it was to be an unforgettable day. As Moses came to Mount Horeb a common thorn bush began to burn and from its heart of fire there came the voice of God. -"Moses, Moses" was the direct and unmistakable call. His life was altered and he never would be the same again. When God repeats something we must take notice since it must be something important. Moses went forward with reverence, "Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." We need to approach God with reverence and Godly fear. Often our attitude towards God is far too casual.
Moses heard God's voice and obeyed. We must never be, "disobedient to the heavenly vision". If our hearts are hushed to hear, God will still speak to us and reveal His plan for our lives. God would use Moses as the instrument to deliver His people and Moses got a clear commission, vlO, "I will send thee" and also a great promise of encouragement, vl2, "Certainly I will be with thee". There may be times we do not want to go and find many excuses. We need to be able to answer the call like Isaiah, "Here am I, send me."
God then, as now, only wanted the best lor His people and promised them, vl7, "I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto a land flowing with milk and honey."
Many were the problems, but at last the nation left Egypt. We can imagine a flush of pride upon Moses' face, but there was also profound humility. He had been honoured by God to be the instrument in His hand to effect such a great deliverance. His integrity is seen in the seemingly insignificant matter of taking with them the bones of Joseph. Are we faithful in that which is least?
Ex. 14.19 - The Guiding Pillar.
This pillar was the guide for their march; a shadow from the burning heat of the sun and a light through the darkness of night. He is our Guide by His Spirit within us. He is our Shield - beneath His canopy we may shelter. He is our Light - those who follow Him do not walk in darkness. Even in the midst of difficulty Moses learned to obey God and could say with Job, "He knoweth the way that I take." This is seen as they cross the sea. They learned, as did the Psalmist, "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." Ps. 46.10,11. Let us go forward in His strength and we shall know His protection, presence and blessing.
Ex. 33 - A New Vision.
The scene is one of departure and sin. Moses has been interceding for the people and found refuge in the Divine presence. God recognised this and honoured it with a further encouragement to His faithful servant, v 14, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."
Moses desired a deeper knowledge of God and made request in vl8, "I beseech thee, shew me thy glory."
To reveal Himself to Moses God speaks of, "a place by Me .... a rock . . . . a covering." To know Him means we must be close, have a solid foundation and be covered by Him. This all suggests the essential features of the rock of conversion, the place of communion and the covering of protection.
If we desire to know Him better He will not keep such from us. It is possible for us to develop into spiritual fathers of whom it is said, "ye have known him that is from the beginning." 1 Jn. 2.13.
A never-to-be-forgotten conference was held here on the 6th, 7th and 8th January. On to the first two days about fifty of the Lord's servants — evangelists and others, chiefly labouring in the North of Ireland — gave themselves to prayer, with humiliation, confession and thanksgiving, from 8.30 a.m. to 8 p.m., with brief intervals for refreshments; and on the third day a general meeting of believers was held in the Town Hall, specially secured for the occasion. At every meeting the power and presence of the Lord were most blessedly enjoyed. There was no settled programme, and yet everything went on from hour to hour without a hitch, and the harmony of heaven was amongst us. To God be all the praise.
The principal subjects mentioned in confession were:—
the lamentable absence of that high spiritual tone which should characterise the saints of God generally;
the failure of those 'gathered only to the Name' to back up their testimony to the truth with that personal and collective display of godliness and love which would convince the spiritual at least, who are not so gathered, of the truth of our position;
the lack of pastoral care over the flock of God;
the divisions among saints and assembled in various places, and the dishonour brought upon the Lord thereby;
the painful lack of that power in the preaching of the Gospel which was so manifestly present in the N. of Ireland and elsewhere over thirty years ago; and
the smallness of the number of young men now "going out" into the work.
Fervent prayer was made to for a speedy deliverance from this sad condition of things, and especially that He would raise up 'saviours' for us (Neh. 9.27), in the shape of men fitted to lead the flock of God into the paths of truth and righteousness, and to feed them with bread from heaven, and not with 'bones of contention.'
Earnest prayer was also made:-
that God would lead into the truth those many thousands of true believers all over the world, who, being shocked by the increasing corruption of the sects, are floating about without any moorings, not knowing where to settle;
for the unsaved members of our families;
for the persecuted Jews and Christians in Russia;
for the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ; and for many others matters too numerous to mention.
Thanksgiving was rendered to God for:-
the numberless mercies and benefits lavished upon us in the past in our own souls, in our families, and in our assemblies;
the restoration of some backsliders, notably one who had been a prominent preacher of the Gospel, and had fallen so low as to become a Socialist and an enemy of the Cross, but who had recently come back to the Lord with true sorrow of heart;
a considerable number ol conversions in the Northern Counties, and for new assemblies formed there within the past 12 months;
the very large number of gatherings where harmony and love still reign through the goodness of God;
the unchanging faithfulness of Him who is able to do for us more than we ask or think; and
the blessed hope of the speedy coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Brief portions of Scripture were read by one and another for our encouragement, and suitable hymns were sung, but there were no regular addresses on the first two days.
The general meeting on the 8th was interfered with by a heavy fall of snow, which made it impossible for believers from a distance to come in, but those who were enabled to attend were treated by our good God to a feast of fat things. A brother called attention to Beniah, who slew a lion in a pit in time of snow (2 Sam. 23,30) the subject being suggested by the day; and the very stirring little address he gave upon it so warmed our hearts as to make us forget our damp clothes and damp feet for the time being. Other brethren followed this happy lead, showing what mighty deeds were performed through personal affection for our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we too might keep close to Him in the day of His rejection, and do valiant deeds for His sake.
We thanked God from our hearts for this third annual conference of this character held at Lurgan, and we earnestly hope that God's servants elsewhere will be stirred up to meet in the same way.
(It is most interesting to note the parallels of the needs of that day and this day. More than one hundred years have passed, the spiritual conditions among God's people have deteriorated and as we are so close to the Lord's return, how we need to echo the above longings of spiritual men. —Ed.)
This important chapter of the Word of God contains many truths which are precious to all believers. The short paper seeks to highlight the four last things which are mentioned:
LAST WITNESS, v.8;
LAST ENEMY, v.26;
LAST ADAM, v.45;
LAST TRUMP, v.52.
1. LAST WITNESS:
When Paul wrote "last of all He was seen of me", he affirmed the fact of the Lord's resurrection.
This is a truth which needs to be emphasised very much in our day because it is so frequently attacked. The fact of his resurrection is the foundation of our faith. Rom. 4.25 "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification."
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus was a display of God's mighty power and involved all the Godhead. He was raised from the dead by:
the GLORY OF THE FATHER, Rom. 6.4:
the POWER OF THE SON, John 10.18:
the ENERGY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, 1 Pet. 3.18
2. LAST ENEMY:
Christ's reign on earth will culminate in the destruction of "the last enemy". When our Saviour returns to the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords, all things will be put under His feet and He will be in complete control. At the end of the Millennium Satan will be released and instigate a rebellion against God. He will be utterly defeated (Rev.20) and cast into "the lake of fire." Then will be fulfilled the words of our chapter, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."
3. LAST ADAM:
Our Saviour, the last Adam brings new life to all who trust Him and are "born again." Thus He is called here "a Life Giving Spirit" (Newberry). This is exactly what we needed since we were "dead in trespasses and in sins." How glorious to be eternally linked to a Man in whom we can enjoy this new, spiritual life.
4. LAST TRUMP:
This will take place when comes to the air to rapture the church. It must not be confused with the trumpets of the tribulation as described in the Revelation. In the Roman army the last trumpet was the final call of the day and the herald of a new day. It will herald for us who are saved a day of rejoicing, an eternal day of glory when we shall be ever with the Lord.
"When we all get to heaven, What a day of rejoicing that will be, When we all see Jesus, We'll sing and shout the victory."
It was my privilege to have God-fearing parents who from earliest years instilled in our family of nine children respect for our God and reverence for His Word. In the church we attended, the approach which was Calvinistic, with stress on election and the covenant, resulted in our assumption that we were God's children, having been baptised as infants and thus in a covenant relationship with God. Thinking we were Christian, we lived conservative lives — no dancing, no card playing or attending worldly amusements. Thus I thought I was a Christian without being born again.
However, in the mercy of God, I found out at the age of 23, that I was not a true child of God as I had never trusted Christ as a lost and repentant sinner in order to be saved. But God, who knows the heart of all, began to move in my life. I was invited by my saved brother to attend the fall Vancouver Conference. At the closing meeting, the gospel was clearly proclaimed. The Holy Spirit brought forcibly to my heart that I could not rely upon my sincere up-bringing but rather I must rely only and solely on what Christ did for me on the Cross. At the close of this meeting I willingly stayed behind and from two brethren I enquired about being saved and sure of Heaven. Through the truth of John 3.36, I saw what Christ did for me and by receiving Him I had everlasting life. Then I knew I was saved and* the peace promised is now my happy portion. It took some time before I could see believer's baptism and the gathering place for His people.
By way of open-air meetings and helping brethren in series of gospel meetings, eight years after my conversion I felt led to give all my time to the spread of the gospel. I cannot speak of a definite call to the work, but by a desire to serve Him and doors of opportunity opening I was, and am still, convinced that it was His will that I should give all my time to the Lord's work.
After being a missionary in the Netherlands for 22 years, I am now doing pioneer work in the northern regions of Canada.
Sin is the most expensive thing in the universe — pardoned or unforgiven. Pardoned — its cost falls on the atoning sacrifice; unforgiven — it must forever rest upon the impenitent soul.
— J. Douglas.
CHRIST CAME DOWN
Many years ago, an Austrian barque was wrecked on the Cornish Coast. The coastguards hurried up with the rocket apparatus, and the first shot sent the rope right into the rigging. The men on board heard the shot and supposed it was fired by looters who coveted the cargo. They scuttled off into "safety" from the expected bullets! The waves were sweeping the ship, and they were all in danger of perishing, with the rope within their reach which would bring them safely to shore. Shouting and gesticulating from the cliff top only frightened them more.
At length one of the coastguards could stand it no longer. He swung himself on to the rope and went down himself. He gave them a board with clear directions written on it in French and German. They read and discussed it. "Reading it won't take you ashore!" he yelled above the storm. "Get into this breeches-buoy!" One man ventured to do so. When the others saw him welcomed and safe on the cliff, waving for them to come too, there was a fight as to who should be the next! We may be just as foolish — only read the directions and learn the way of salvation, yet not enter in: not accept the salvation which Christ came to provide by His death.