Throughout his preaching, Amos had constantly warned of coming captivity: “An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled” 3.11; “But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chuin … Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus” 5.26,27; “I will raise up against you a nation … and they shall afflict you” 6.14; “Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land” 7.17.
Chapters 8 and 9 bring us to the edge of that captivity, and then take us beyond it.
The two chapters may be summarised as follows:
Retribution On The Land, 8.1-14
Removal From The Land, 9.1-10
Restoration To The Land, 9.11-15.
Amos chapter 8 may be divided as follows:
The Sign Of Coming Retribution, vv.1-3
The Causes Of Coming Retribution, vv.4-6
The Certainty Of Coming Retribution, v.7
The Description Of Coming Retribution, vv.8-14.
THE SIGN OF COMING RETRIBUTION, vv.1-3
“Thus hath the Lord God (Adonahy Jehovah) shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit” v.1. This is the fourth of five visions given to Amos in chapters 7-9, and it might be helpful at this juncture to recall them again. As we have already noted twice in these studies, J. Sidlow Baxter observes that there is a clear progression in their meaning: “judgment averted (grasshoppers: 7.1-3); restrained (fire: 7.4-6); determined (plumbline: 7.7-9); imminent (summer fruit: 18.1-3); executed (the Lord standing on the altar: 9.1-10)”.
It is significant that the third and fourth visions, which have a common theme (“I will not again pass by them any more”) are separated by the total rejection of the Word of God and the servant of God, 7.10-13. Israel’s judgment was sealed by their rejection of God’s Word. As Peter C. Craigie observes, “One can in fact practise evil so persistently that a death sentence is inevitably proclaimed … For a short time in his ministry Amos had been able to say: “Seek ye the Lord, and ye shall live” 5.6. Now all he could say was “It’s too late; you must die””.
Israel’s national history began with the words, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you” Ex.12.13. Centuries went by, during which the Lord had faithfully spoken to His people: “Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day, I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early, and sending them” Jer.7.25. But now, after all that time, He has to say, “I will not again pass by them any more”. What a sad testimony to Israel’s perpetual waywardness!
The chapter therefore commences with imminent judgment. Harvest time had come, reminding us of the oft-quoted words, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” Jer.8.20. In common with the third vision, 7.7-9, the solemn pronouncement is made as noted above: “The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more” v.2. Amos makes no further intercession. It is as if the Lord had said to him, “Therefore pray not thou for this people … for I will not hear thee” Jer.7.16. Israel had ‘sinned unto death’ 1Jn.5.16.
We usually think of harvest as a time of rejoicing: “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” Ps.126.6. But we should also remember that the law of sowing and reaping operates banefully as well as beneficially. This is clearly expressed in the New Testament: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” Gal.6.7-9.
Harvest, as an emblem of judgment, is solemnly depicted in Rev.14.14-20: “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time has come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.””
Normally, “a basket of summer fruit” would have been a pleasant sight, but on this occasion Amos was told that it was a picture of Israel. The “basket of summer fruit” was ready for eating, and Israel was ripe for judgment. The Lord would spare them no longer. Like the fruit in the basket, they would be consumed. Instead of “joy in harvest” Isa.9.3, the harvest here would resemble the downfall of Damascus: “In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and desperate sorrow” Isa.17.11. It would certainly be a time of “desperate sorrow” for Israel: “And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord God: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence” v.3. M.F.Unger comments, “So great would be the slaughter that it would be impossible to have the customary rites, much less the professional mourners.”
It has been pointed out that there is evidently a play here on words of a similar sound in Hebrew: “behold a basket of summer fruit (qayis) … The end (qes) is come upon my people Israel” vv.1,2. On a technical note, we would normally associate the word “temple” (‘palace’, R.V./J.N.D.) with the temple in Jerusalem, but here it evidently refers to “the king’s chapel (sanctuary, J.N.D.) at Bethel” (7.13).
THE CAUSES OF COMING RETRIBUTION, vv.4-6
These can be summarised as follows:
God’s people were maltreated, v.4
God’s interests were a nuisance, v.5
God’s laws were flouted, vv.5,6.
God’s People Were Maltreated, v.4
“Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor (ani, emphasising their oppression) of the land to fail”. The business barons treated the poor “as means and not ends … something to become the means of the highest possible profits” (J.A.Motyer). The wording of this verse makes appalling reading: “ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail”, meaning to do away with them by appropriating what little they possessed. J.A.Motyer suggests that Amos sees “this class - the class of independent but unaffluent people - simply disappearing from the land”. The law “called upon God’s people to extend an open hand of generosity to the poor, Deut.15.7-11; cf. Ps.72.12,13, but the stingy Israelites were trying to eliminate them” (J.Waldron).
As we noted in connection with a similar passage in 5.11, there was no “care one for another” 1Cor.12.25, reminding us that assemblies should be caring communities: see Jms.2.15,16; 1Jn.3.17,18. How much do we really care about the welfare of fellow-believers?
God’s Interests Were a Nuisance, v.5
“When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath that we may set forth wheat?” The Lord’s interests got in the way of the main purpose in life of the big businessmen. Their overriding objective was to make money. “These oppressors were eager for the monthly festivals (the new moons) and the weekly sabbaths to end so that they could get back to work cheating their fellow-countrymen and making big profits. These holidays were days of rest and worship, but the Israelite workaholics did not enjoy them, though they observed them (nominally) as good religious people” (J.Waldron).
These people had their counterparts in the days of Malachi: “Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! (the necessity for sacrifice) and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts” Mal.1.13. What place do God’s interests have in our lives? Do we just keep up appearances? Do the demands (privileges do mean responsibilities) of assembly fellowship cause us resentment and frustration? It would be very sad if it could be said of us, “this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” Matt.15.8. This was certainly the case here. They evidently observed the new moons, marking the beginning of the months, and the sabbaths, but their hearts were elsewhere. Centuries later, the apostle John wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous [barus, meaning ‘burdensome’]” 1Jn.5.3. On this basis, the business barons in Israel had no love for God!
There is something terribly wrong if any of the Lord’s people treat His Word as a nuisance. If this is the case, we have grounds, surely, for querying their possession of spiritual life. The believer will gladly hearken to the Lord’s voice in saying, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then shalt thou make thy way prosperous, and then shalt thou have good success” Josh.1.8. For God’s people, His Word should be the very essence of life, enabling them to say with Job, “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” Job 23.12.
God’s Laws Were Flouted, vv.5,6
There was commercial malpractice. “Making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit.” The Lord had said, through Moses, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have” Lev.19.35,36; “Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. But thou shalt have a perfect and a just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have” Deut.25.13-15. See also Prov.16.11, “A just weight and balance are the Lord’s: all the weights of the bag are His work.” But the businessmen had double standards: they carefully observed certain religious requirements, but conveniently overlooked commercial requirements. It has been said that archaeologists working at Tirzah found the remains of shops from the eighth century B.C. containing two sets of weights, one for buying and one for selling (J.Waldron). The Lord Jesus evicted “those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money” from the temple on two occasions, Jn.2.13-17, with Matt.21.12,13; Mk.11.15-18; Lk.19.45,46. On the second occasion, he charged the businessmen with turning the temple into “a den of thieves”. Nothing had changed in eight hundred years.
There was social malpractice. “That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes.” The “poor” and the “needy” had become a trading commodity. In the words of J.A.Motyer, “the poor (dal) were every bit a piece of merchandise as the nearest sack of grain”. The business barons were opportunistic; they were in the slave-trade! They trod on people as they mounted the league-table of the wealthy. There was no care, no concern, no sharing, just inhumanity. The words, “that we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes” evidently refer to selling people into slavery for “paltry debts, such as that for a pair of shoes” (J.A.Motyer). The principle, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” Gal.6.2, was conspicuously absent. There was no trace of being “kind one to another, tender hearted” Eph.4.32.
We will consider the certainty of coming retribution, v.7, and the description of coming retribution, vv.8-14, in our next study, God willing.
This chapter concludes the series of events relating to the marriage of Solomon and his bride; the Courtship, chapter 1; the Coming, chapter 2; the Celebration, chapter 3; and now the Consummation, chapter 4 to chapter 5.1.
The passage teaches a relevant lesson for our present age of moral departure. Here is Divine Sanction of intimacy within marriage. The language of the passage teaches that not only is such physical intimacy allowed, it is to be enjoyed. Thus is accomplished God’s instruction for mankind to, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,” Gen.1.28.
Yet this chapter also indicates Divine Prohibition. The marriage consummation takes place in this chapter only after the wedding celebration of chapter three; intimacy before marriage is forbidden. Intimacy outside marriage is also forbidden, for the bride is likened to “a garden enclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed”.
Within these boundaries lies God’s blessing; “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled” Heb.13.4a. Beyond them lies God’s judgment: “Whoremongers (literally, fornicators i.e. intimacy before marriage) and adulterers (i.e. intimacy outside marriage) will God judge” Heb.13.4b.
The chapter also contains spiritual lessons for Israel, the church, and the individual believer. This paper will focus mainly on the latter. Viewed thus, the chapter may be divided into two sections:
Verse 1-9. “Behold, thou art fair”: The beauty of the bride, portraying the believer’s Appearance.
Verse 10-5.1. “How fair is thy love”: The beauty of the bride’s love, depicting the believer’s Affections.
HER APPEARANCE - “Behold, thou art fair my love, behold, thou art fair.”
Solomon repeatedly extols the beauty of his bride. Surely Christ too desires among his people an increasing resemblance to His own spotless character.
Her manifold beauty - Solomon now lists the delightful features of his bride, each with its own spiritual lessons.
A guarded vision - “Thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks”.
“Doves’ eyes” denotes a harmless outlook, Matt.10.16. “Within thy locks” suggests a veiling of the vision to guard from evil influences, Ps.101.3.
A clean appetite - “Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep”.
Physically, nothing is consumed that does not first pass the teeth. Discerning spiritual ‘teeth’ refuse entry to unwholesome spiritual ‘food’. To guard our appetites, these ‘teeth’ must be clean “like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing”.
An acceptable message - “Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely.”
At the conquest of Jericho by Joshua, the line of scarlet offered salvation to Rahab and her family, Josh.2.18. Christians too are to preach a gospel containing the scarlet thread of salvation, yet acceptable to the hearers (“thy speech is comely”).
A fruitful mind - “Thy temples are like a piece of pomegranate within thy locks”.
The believer’s thought life is to be both fruitful, “like a piece of pomegranate”, as well as guarded, again, “within thy locks”. How apt the instruction: “Whatsoever things are true … honest … just … pure … lovely …of good report … if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things,” Phil.4.8.
A tower of strength - “Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury.”
The believer may develop spiritual strength upon which might be hung “bucklers” and “shields” of the whole armour of God, for the spiritual protection of himself and others.
A source of sustenance - “Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed (as a shepherd) among the lilies.”
How beautiful the joining of strength and sustenance. True strength in a believer is coupled to the ability to nourish “new-born babes earnestly desiring the sincere milk of the word” 1Pet.2.2.
A spotless bride - “Thou art all fair my love, there is no spot in thee.”
The standard of our heavenly beloved is perfection indeed. Although sinlessness is beyond our reach while on earth, yet the intention of Christ is for each believer to achieve full-growth and maturity in every aspect of Christian life, Eph.4.13.
Intriguingly, two distinct mountains are introduced toward the end of this section.
The mountain of myrrh - The bride’s ambition is to arrive at “the mountain of myrrh, and the hill of frankincense”. Both spices denote costly sacrifice, deep suffering and a sweet savour. What a picture of the Mount of Crucifixion, where Christ “loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” Eph.5.2.
Mount Hermon - The groom’s invitation to the bride is, “Come with me” and, “Look from the top” of Lebanon (literally; white). This tall mountain range north of Israel has snowy peaks, hence its name.
One of these peaks, Hermon (synonymous with ‘Shenir’), has been proposed as the Mount of Transfiguration, because of its commanding height, “an high mountain” Mk.9.2, its proximity to Caesarea Philippi, Mk.8.27, and its name, literally ‘holy mount’, as in 2Pet.1.18. For the privileged disciples brought there by Christ, the mount of transfiguration was a place of elevation, ‘an high mountain’, separation, ‘apart by themselves’, and above all, Divine revelation, ‘He was transfigured before them’ Mk.9.2.
The passage therefore links the believer’s development of spiritual character to:
An appreciation of Christ’s suffering (at Calvary), and
The contemplation of Christ’s glory (at the mount of transfiguration).
The New Testament confirms these twin truths. Paul certainly formed his character according to an appreciation of Christ’s sacrificial suffering; “I live by the faith of the Son of God Who loved me, and gave Himself for me” Gal.2.20. We are also promised that as we contemplate “the glory of the Lord” in the Scriptures, we are “changed into the same image” 2Cor.3.18.
HER AFFECTIONS - “How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! How much better is thy love than wine!”
Having extolled the beauty of his bride, Solomon now rejoices at his bride’s affection toward him. Here is no passing infatuation, but a bountiful and beautiful love. Again, this may be profitably applied to the Christian’s devotion to his Lord.
The bride and her affections are here pictured as a delightful garden.
The Arrangement of the garden
It is fenced - “A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse.”
The bride’s affections are figuratively locked and bolted (marginal readings). So should the affections of the Christian be exclusively guarded for Christ alone. In Israel’s relationship with God, true worship was compared to marital fidelity, while idolatry was likened to unfaithfulness, Jeremiah chapters 2 and 3. Paul in the New Testament uses similar imagery regarding his desire to present the Corinthian local assembly as a “chaste virgin to Christ” 2Cor.11.2.
It is fruitful - “Thy plants are an orchard … with pleasant fruits.”
The wicked servant in Lk.19.20 produced nothing for his master. Not so the bride, whose bountiful affection would more than feed the soul of her beloved. She sets forth an example to fill our lives with all that would delight our own Beloved.
It is fragrant
No less than eight different spices are used to describe the fragrance of her garden. The passage highlights the combination, “camphire with spikenard, spikenard and saffron”; the fullness, “with all trees”; and the quality, “chief spices”, of this bouquet prepared for Solomon. So too might the Christian’s devotion be blended into “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God” Phil.4.18.
It is flowing - A fountain of gardens … blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.”
The inward flow of living waters and winds into this garden is suggestive of the Christian’s life open to the influence of Holy Scripture, Psalm 1, and Holy Spirit, John chapter 3, alike. The outward flow of spices describes the spiritually fragrant results of these Divine influences.
The Enjoyment of the garden
“Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat”... “I am come into my garden… I have gathered... I have eaten… I have drunk”.
The passage ends with an invitation, willingly offered by the bride, gladly accepted by the groom. Thus is the marriage of Solomon and his bride joyfully consummated.
The love of the bride exceeded the sweetness of wine, spices, honey and milk, vv.10,11, and is enjoyed by the groom in like simile, 5.1. So too does the consecrated Christian life bring corresponding pleasure to Christ.
In conclusion, the Christian has;
Two beauties to display; his appearance to Christ, and his affection for Christ;
Two mountains to view; Christ’s suffering, and Christ’s glory;
Two invitations to exchange; Christ’s to be accepted, the Christian’s to be issued.
These words give the impression that Paul is stretching human language to its limits in order to convey what God can and will do, for His glory and our eternal blessing. God is indeed “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think’’! Eph.3.20. God has infinitely more and better blessings to bestow upon us than all our hopes and aspirations can rise to, and more than we can think or imagine. We are told that “with God all things are possible”, Matt.19.26, and “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” 1Jn.4.4.
The Lord is “able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” Heb.7.25. God provides a complete salvation. He saves from the penalty and guilt of sin, Eph.2.8; from the power of sin, Rom.6.14, and ultimately, when He takes us to be with Himself for ever, we shall be saved from the presence of sin, 1Jn.3.2.
Paul wrote, “He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day”, 2Tim.1.12. In this statement Paul revealed his complete confidence in the God he knew, loved and served. His faith, like that of every believer who trusts God completely, glorified God.
God is “able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” 2Cor.9.8. God lavishes grace upon us and places within us the desire to do good works, Eph.2.10. He will provide us with all we need to do His will.
The Lord is “able to succour them that are tempted”, Heb.2.18. The Lord, who did not and could not sin, 2Cor.5.21; 1Pet.2.22; 1Jn.3.5, knew what it was to be tested by Satan. We have to resist temptations, but there was nothing in the Lord to respond to temptations, Jn.14.30. Nevertheless, the Lord, being holy, suffered when presented with trials and “in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted” Heb.2.18, and “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” Heb.4.15.
The Lord is “able even to subdue all things unto Himself” PhiI.3.21. Such is the power of God that one day He will give believers a changed body which will not be affected by ageing, pain or death. We will be with Him forever. His power will subdue all things so that His perfect will will be done throughout creation.
God is “able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” Jude 24. If we avail ourselves of the power of the Holy Spirit Who indwells every believer, 1Cor.6.19, we will be kept from sinning. One day, because of the eternal effectiveness of the finished work on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be presented before His glorious presence with great joy.
Study and meditation on the truths brought before believers in the Word of God will produce inexpressible feelings of awe and admiration, and love and gratitude to God. Dwelling on these eternal truths will cause us to have a greater appreciation of the wonder of God and of the preeminent, all-sufficient Lord Jesus Christ. All the thoughts resulting from such meditation will stimulate an increasing desire to worship, praise and serve God in accordance with His perfect will.
David, a man after God’s own heart, Acts 13.22, wrote Psalm 139. He wrote of the almighty God he knew and loved. David revealed His closeness to God and his awareness of the constant presence of the eternal God. His knowledge of God, and of God’s transcendent majesty overwhelmed David and the Psalm conveys the feelings of awe and wonder David experienced when he meditated on God. The reverence due to His Name permeates the Psalm. David’s reverential fear of the all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present God caused David, the man who had killed a lion, a bear and Goliath, 1Sam.17.36; 21.9, to bow in adoration, complete and glad submission and worship.
Worship of God is both a privilege and a responsibility and is the most elevated and wonderful activity in which a believer can be involved. Our worship of God depends upon our appreciation of God. God is unfathomable and can only be understood and appreciated to a very limited extent by finite human minds, even though He has blessed us by graciously revealing Himself in His written Word and in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. God is to be worshipped, and “true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him” Jn.4.23. As, by grace, we learn more and more of God, and serve Him in ways acceptable to Him, then our worship, led by the Holy Spirit and offered in and through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, will rise to heights we never would have thought possible. Well might we say, “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name” Ps.103.1.
God, Who At Sundry Times
By Tony van der Schyff (South Africa)
Paper 2 - Read Hebrews chapter 1.1-4
In the previous paper we have noted that God’s communication was PERSONAL and PIECEMEAL or PARTIAL. We shall now see that it was also PARTICULAR, in the PAST, PATERNAL, PROPHETIC, PERFECTED and PERSONIFIED.
A PARTICULAR COMMUNICATION
“God spake… in divers manners”, that is in various ways; in many ways (J.N.D.); variously as to manner and form, for example:
In Creation: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth [proclaims] His handiwork” Ps.19.1.
To Moses out of the midst of the burning bush: “And Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And He said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” Ex.3.3-5.
From out of the Tabernacle: “And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take My offering” Ex.25.1,2.
To Elijah through a still small voice: “And He [Jehovah] said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice … what doest thou here, Elijah?” 1Kgs.19.11-13.
A PAST COMMUNICATION
The Hebrews writer next states, “God spake … in time past”, meaning, formerly, in ancient times; long ago; of old time – the time of the Old Testament revelation. It indicates a revelation, not only given, but also completed, in the past i.e. from Adam in Genesis chapter 3 through to the end of the book of Malachi, before the coming of the Messiah into the world.
A PATERNAL COMMUNICATION
The communication from God was Paternal or Pastoral: “God spake… unto the fathers”; the forebears; the forefathers of the nation of Israel, God’s chosen, earthly people. Scripture records, “And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is My name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations” Ex.3.15. There are many such references in the Old Testament, particularly in the five books of Moses.
A PROPHETIC COMMUNICATION
“God spake … by the prophets” that is by or through the agency or instrumentality of the prophets of old. The men called by God to the ministry and service of the prophet. Men of God to whom the Word of the Lord came and who spoke that received word to the nation of Israel. God spoke to them and through them as His approved channel of communication. Note just two examples, “And the word of the Lord came unto Elijah” 1Kgs.18,1 … “And the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah” Jer.1.4. We only need to trace the Biblical record: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and through all the so-called “minor prophets” to observe this line of Divine communication.
A PERFECTED and PERSONIFIED COMMUNICATION
Having scaled this sublime stairway of Divine communication, the Hebrews writer reaches a crescendo and gives us the full and final revelation, the full and final word of God to man when he reminds us that what God spake was: perfected and personified in Christ.
“God spake… by His Son” – in Son, in and through His Son. “Hath in these last days” or, “in the last, or in the end of these days”. Ancient Jews divided human history into two major periods, namely up until the coming of Messiah, called “these days”: and then the age to come, the age of Messiah. The transitional period between these two periods would be “the end or the last of these days”. This is human history as it is being directed by God in respect to His plan of redemption; the present era of redemptive history.
The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, stands at the turning point of the ages as the One and Only by, in and through Whom, God has spoken His final word; it is “in His Son”. The Son is essentially and eternally the Son, related to God as Son to Father, in unoriginated relationship. He is not only a Spokesman for God, but in His essential nature and Being, He is God! Only God can reveal God! It at once confirms the tremendous truth of the Deity and the Eternality of the Son with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Compare Jn.1.18.
Having drawn our attention to the marvellous manner God speaking to man, the author proceeds to paint an eightfold portrait of the Son from vv.2-4.
The Son is the Entrusted Heir: “Whom He hath appointed heir of all things”. “Heir” [kleronomos] is translated to hold, to have in one’s power; to possess. Compare Matt.21.38: “But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance”. “Heir” also denotes title, dominion, and lordship. In Rev.5.6, it is the “Lamb … in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts [living creatures; living ones], and in the midst of the elders … as it had been slain [freshly slain] having seven horns [His perfect Omnipotence] and seven eyes [His perfect Omniscience], which are the seven Spirits of God [the sevenfold plenitude and power of the Holy Spirit] sent forth into all the earth [His perfect Omnipresence]. This selfsame Lamb is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah Who has prevailed, triumphed, overcome. He alone is the One deserving, comparable, fit, suitable, qualified, able, entitled, worthy to take the scroll out of the hand of the throne-sitter. The scroll is the title deed to the earth and of which He, the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the rightful heir! God the Father determined that the Son be set forth as the Possessor and Sovereign, as the Entrusted Heir of all things. Heirship goes hand-in-hand with sonship, see Rom.8.17 and Gal.4.7.
EXECUTOR OF ALL CREATION
But, we must observe that He is the appointed [the entrusted] heir of “all things”, which reminds us that the Son is the Executor of all Creation. “By [through] Whom also He made the worlds [executed, brought into being the ages of the ages]”. Other Scripture references which clearly emphasise this vital truth, include Gen.1.1; Ps.33.6,9; Isa.45.12,18; Jn.1.3; Col.1.16,17 and Rev.4.11.
The Genesis chapter 1 account uses the word “created” which denotes to make something out of nothing. It was “that free act of the Triune God, whereby in the beginning, and for His own glory, without the use of pre-existing materials, or secondary causes, God brought into being immediately and instantaneously, the whole visible and invisible Universe” (Dr. Thiessen).
“All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” Jn.1.3.
“He is the firstborn of all creation” Col.1.15. “Firstborn” here indicates He is prior to all creation; that He pre-dates all creation; that He was the One Who gave creation its being.
“For [because] by Him were all things created, that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him. And He is before [He pre-dates] all things, and by Him all things consist [subsist, cohere, are held together]” Col.1.16,17.
So that Christ as the Creator of all things, pre-dates all things, is prior to all creation, He planned it, He produced it, He preserves it and He created it all for His pleasure. Ps.24.1 “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein.”
The problem of tale bearing is not new, but while it has been ever present, even among the Lord’s people, the problem seems to be on the increase. Those of us from middle age onward can remember when telling tales was actively discouraged in school and even in family life, but now is actively encouraged, and in many cases rewards are given to those who can provide the most salacious reports instead of the punishments handed down to those of previous generations.
Scripture does not use the word gossip, but rather words like, “tattlers”, 1Tim.5.13; “whisper”, Ps.41.7; “backbiting”, Prov.25.23; “busybody”, 1Pet. 4.15; and the word under consideration, “talebearer”. The word talebearer is used in our K.J.V. Bible six times, each of these instances being in the Old Testament. In three references, Lev.19.16; Prov.11.13; 20.19, Strong’s Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary translates the Hebrew word ‘rakil’, which means “a scandal-monger (as travelling about); slanderer; carry tales; talebearer”, and carries the suggestion of the activity of one who moves with the express purpose of tale bearing. In the other three references, Prov.18.8; 26.20,22, the word is translated from the Hebrew, ‘nirgan’, the root of which means to roll to pieces. The word means, “a slanderer, a talebearer, a whisperer,” and its use describes the harm and pain caused by the action. Two of the verses use the exact same language, emphasising the harmful effect caused by the talebearer. It should be noted that nothing positive is said about a talebearer in any of these references. Each time both words are used, the negativity of the action is clearly seen.
In the first mention of the word, God told the Israelite nation, “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD” Lev.19.16. The fact that God spoke in such language shows that it is possible that His people could be involved in tale bearing. The seriousness of the commandment is seen by the context of the chapter where the nation is commanded not to: steal, deal falsely or lie, v.11; profane the name of their God, v.12; defraud or rob, v.13; abuse the disabled, v.14; be unrighteous, v.15; hate, v.17; avenge, v.18, and so on. Quite a list: and nestled within this list of sins, is tale bearing. Talebearers will quickly justify themselves by saying that they are only telling facts; but telling facts is the very definition of tale bearing, and Scripture shows no profit in such action. The fact that the secrets are true does not mitigate the sin. Tale bearing does not have to be lies to cause harm, as we will see, however, in many cases untruths are glibly passed on.
The five references to the word “talebearer” in the book of Proverbs, show that God does not look lightly on the subject: “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” Prov.11.13. The word “revealeth” translated ‘galah’ means “to denude, especially in a disgraceful sense”!
There would seem to be only two reasons for revealing secrets, viz. malicious hatred or idle curiosity. This is not the idea of revealing sins for judgment. The only justification for reporting facts is to bring information to those in authority to allow them to fulfil their office and deal with situations that have arisen. In the local assembly this would only be when bringing information to overseers to allow them to investigate on behalf of the assembly and for the assembly eventually to judge the matter in the appropriate, Scriptural way. Confidential information remains with the overseers and should go no further! A person’s character and wisdom are seen in how they handle negative news about others. Solomon writes here that good men with faithful spirits will not repeat private news that they learn about others. We ought to note carefully that concealing the matter should not be confused with covering sin.
There are examples in the Word of God of refraining to make the result of sin public knowledge. From Gen.9.22,23 we learn that Ham discovers the condition of his father Noah, and tells it! Shem and Japheth on the other hand, covered the nakedness without ever looking on the weakness of their father. Also as assembly members we should not broadcast the discipline carried out by the assembly; remember the words of David on the day when the “mighty had fallen,” “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph” 2Sam.1.20. That is an instruction we should obey.
“He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips” Prov.20.19. If we link this verse with the strife caused by the talebearer, 26.20, and keep in mind that by its very nature, strife causes division, and subsequently take note of Paul’s instruction in the epistle of the Romans, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions ... and avoid them” Rom.16.17, we have Scriptural authority to avoid the talebearer. There is a grave danger to those of us who travel between assemblies and even overseas in service for the Lord, that we become magnets for salacious information. While many people ask advice of the servant and may have lots of information to pass on, faithful men are responsible to deal confidentially with private matters that may be disclosed. They will conceal such things; they will not repeat them. They will do what they can to protect the reputations of others, no matter what their personal feelings about that person might be. Such integrity and faithfulness make that person great in the eyes of God and men.
Two of the references in Proverbs are exactly the same: “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly” Prov.18.8; 26.22. Interestingly, these verses emphasise the extent of the personal pain caused by tale bearing. What of the damage to another person’s reputation, and the hurt caused by this type of attack? The violation of the human body can leave scars and painful and fearful memories. In the same way many dear saints have been emotionally scarred and injured by the tale bearing of others, as their character and life have been attacked in a most cruel way. This matter ought to be carefully considered, because it would seem that the end result is never taken into account by those who bear tales, or by those who love to hear them. We are speaking of our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and efforts to spread far and wide unfounded or even true stories, and the needless spreading of the details of sin is not of God, and the injury caused is unchristian to say the least.
So what can we do? “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife” Prov.26.20,21. We should let the fire go out rather than stoke it. As stated previously we have the Scriptural authority to avoid those who cause strife. Do not spread secrets that should be concealed. It does not matter whether the information is true or not. If the matter is not needed for the proper exercise of authority, then bury it. If the matter could hurt someone’s reputation, and if the matter is not uplifting or commending or helpful, then do not pass it on. There are those who, while they do not originate information about others are more than happy to spread the reports that they hear. They may not realise that what they are telling may not be true, and may be sincere in their belief that what they are telling is true. Their motive is not to deceive, but still they are guilty of broadcasting that which may be false.
Brethren, if we feel that we must take the place of a talebearer, against the commandment of God’s Word, should we not first verify the accuracy of those matters that we pass on to others, and find out the true situation before we start spreading unsubstantiated information? To act otherwise is reckless and shows a lack of genuine care for others and can do untold harm. Many a servant has been maligned by what others say about his ministry and claims have been made and comments passed, even by those who had never heard the ministry in the first place, and often by those who have limited understanding of the Scriptures. All of which could have been prevented by someone asking, “did you say?” or “did you mean?”
In addition to confirming the subject matter of the tales being told, be sure of the source. The nameless originators of, “someone said”; “I heard”; “people are saying”, are weak sounding descriptions, and should cause alarm bells to ring in the minds of most sound-thinking people.
Brethren, let the fire go out. In the context of 26.20, don’t be a carrier of wood, and do not give your ears to those who have the latest ‘news’. It is not profitable and surely not of God.
“It cannot be long now” is a saying among many of the Lord’s people. There is a very strong conviction that the end of this present age is near. The inspired Chart of time’s course indicates it. The rate at which events are travelling now is startling, and the quick succession of momentous happenings is quite bewildering. In our early days the pace was slow, but as the end draws near it becomes fast and alarming. Once we had time to consider events, now there is hardly time to do so.
The two World Wars have set in motion a flood of evil which has devastated the whole earth, turning everything upside down. It is humanly impossible to right the universal capsize. Politically, socially, religiously, morally, financially - all is confusion, and will yet be more confounded. Is there no remedy? Some think there is; and great schemes are formulated to relieve the present distress and check the lawless forces, only to prove futile one after another. Why is this? The heart of man is in revolt against heaven, and he is urged on to his complete ruin by Satan.
What is to be gathered for such an awful state of affairs, by the child of God in whom the Word of Christ dwells richly? Let Scripture reply: “When ye shall see all these things, know that it [or He, marginal reading], is near, even at the doors” Matt.24.33.
When some long-expected dear visitor is at last at the door, there is only one more step to the joyful welcome. So our long-looked-for Lord and Saviour may be about to take that “one step” into the air, when in a moment the redeemed will be caught up to meet Him. Then, farewell mortality, welcome eternity! Death will be swallowed up in victory! The enjoyment of unutterable blessedness with Him, will be our sweet portion for ever and ever! The fair prospect exceeds every imagination of the heart.
After the welcome home of the church, followed by the judgment-seat of Christ and “the marriage of the Lamb”, then will the Lord come to earth to bring to naught the Antichrist and take vengeance on all adversaries, and establish His kingdom in righteousness. Meantime our attitude should be like those addressed in Matt.24.44 “Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh”. For the moment we leave aside the precise dispensational bearing of this passage of Scripture, for its present practical application of the truth. In either case the injunction can apply- “Be ye also ready”. Let us never cease being on the watch, lest we be taken unawares and are found swallowed up with the cares of this life and with the pleasures and pursuits of this world; but rather “found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless” 2Pet.3.14.
What sort of testimony are we leaving behind? How sad if the life has been scarcely distinguishable from “them that go down into the pit” Ps.28.1. Poor Lot’s testimony is a solemn warning to all Christians who leave the pilgrim path for the attractions of the world, Lot lost all but his life, and so will they 1Cor.3.15.
Lastly, we read in Matt.24.46, “Blessed is that servant whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing”. That is, occupied with the service appointed us. The “blessed hope” filling the heart will teach us to be painstaking and faithful in all our labour, working as under the Master’s eye. We shall be careful to observe all His commandments, which is the proof of love, Jn.14.21, esteeming all His precepts concerning all things to be right and hating every false way, Ps.119.128. Whatsoever we do, will be done heartily as unto the Lord, Col.3.23; and all the more so as we see the approaching end of the present age, and the nearness of our Lord’s return.
(Reprinted from “The Bible Expositor”, Oct. 1952. If relevant then, how much more now?)
Of the many examples of humility in the Bible we shall consider briefly two from each Testament.
Firstly there is Joseph, who was sold by his brothers through envy and became a servant to Potiphar, ‘an officer of Pharaoh’. Falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, he was cast into prison. Whilst there, after some ten years, he interpreted the dreams of two men, bringing glory to God in the process, Gen.40.8. Around two years later, he interpreted two more dreams, not just affecting two men but a whole nation with its surrounding area. As he stood before Pharaoh, he brought glory to God. Pharaoh remembered the words of his chief butler and said, “thou canst understand a dream to interpret it” Gen.41.15. Humbly, Joseph gives God the glory, “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer” Gen.41.16. Also, in v.25, Joseph tells the ruler, “God hath shewed Pharaoh [not me] what He is about to do.” No wonder such a faithful, humble witness brings the ruler to acknowledge God in vv.38,39.
In Daniel chapter 2, again God’s servant stands before a king, who has carried him away from his home and people. Once more, the Lord’s servant is confronted with a monarch who is troubled by an extraordinary dream he has had. Daniel was familiar with his nation’s history, so probably recalled Joseph’s example in similar circumstances. The king was either not prepared to give details, or, more likely, has forgotten his dream and, in his distress, becomes angry with his wise men in their inability to be able to help.
When Daniel realised that his life is in danger because the king, in his fury, is about to cause all the wise men of Babylon to be killed, firstly he asked for time, so that he would be able to answer the king’s request, 2.16. Secondly, he brought in his three friends so that they might pray together for Divine help. Finally, when the secret was revealed to Daniel, he took almost four verses thanking God for the answer he sought. In v.28, just like Joseph, he pointed out to the king that God made known to Nebuchadnezzar, not just what would affect the nation, but also the whole world! The magicians, in v.10, had reminded the king, “There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter.” In v.28, Daniel reminded his ruler that, “There is a God in heaven.”
There follow details of the dream and what it taught, covering the Babylonian period, followed by the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires. He went on to the future, when God will “set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed”. In v.45, Daniel again virtually repeated the words he used in v.28; repeating himself just like Joseph had done all those years earlier. Daniel is now exalted. In v.47, the king confesses Daniel’s God.
Before leaving the Old Testament, there is an interesting comparison. The first dream looks ahead 3 days, the second 14 years and the third to the end of time on earth!
In the New Testament, Christ chooses the 12 apostles. Matthew records six pairs, 10.2-4, showing the need of fellowship. Mk.3.16-19 records them individually, highlighting responsibility. Luke’s record underlines the need for harmony. Mark and Luke refer to Matthew and Thomas in that order. Matthew, however, places Thomas before himself in his list, 10.3. Previous to this, we have the details of Matthew’s call in Matthew chapter 9. Mark and Luke call him Levi to ‘camouflage’ him, as he was a tax-collector, working for a foreign power (memories of Joseph and Daniel). Luke tells us that Levi made a great feast in his own house and that there was a great company of publicans and others present too. Matthew records that they were “sinners”. What humility Matthew shows in his record of these events!
When Paul met with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.17-38, he mentions his “humility of mind in v.19. This echoes his words in Phil.2.5-8, where we have the supreme example of humility, set by the Lord Himself. What grace! What a stoop! And what a reward! May this mind indeed be in us too, v.5. Paul refers too to several more aspects of his work among them; he was real (tears), faithful and thorough, v.20.
May we have an exercise to follow his example. His “humility of mind” is the first thing he mentions; just the opposite to the first sin we read of in the Bible, Isa.14.12-14, still so often rampant today – pride!
The word “Father” is one of the characteristic words of the fourth Gospel where it is used to designate God no less than one hundred and thirteen times. It is in this Gospel, too, that the Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of the Father, has unfolded to His own, so much of what the Father has done, is doing, and will yet do, for those whom He has called to be His children. Five great truths concerning the Father and His children are given special prominence in the central teaching of the Saviour, recorded in this Gospel. They are: (1) The Father’s gift; (2) His desire; (3) His love; (4) His care; (5) His home.
THE FATHER’S GIFT
“I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever” 14.16.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” The Father so loves His family that He gave the Comforter. Even in the days of His flesh, the Lord Jesus was not physically with His disciples the whole of the time, but the Comforter, given to us, “abides with us forever” and by His presence affords strength, encouragement and support. Yea, in the enjoyment of His companionship, we find all that we need to maintain us in the midst of a hostile world. Are we to bear witness to the truth in a scene of darkness and deception? Then we must do so in His might alone, allowing Him to be the power in our testimony. No words of men could ever express the preciousness of this great gift.
THE FATHER’S DESIRE
“Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit” 15.8.
One mark of our unregenerate days was, that we “came short of the glory of God”. God had neither pleasure in us or in our doings. Now as being born from above we are linked with Christ by faith and have become the recipients of the very life of God. All this has been effected in us and for us, so that the desire of the Father’s heart might be gratified. He has been glorified fully in the life of His beloved Son down here, and now, the fruit He so desires to see in His children, is the reproduction of all those moral graces and beauties which were so perfectly seen in Christ. For this like an earthly husbandman, He waits with long patience.
THE FATHER’S LOVE
“For the Father Himself loveth you” 16.27.
As sinners we learn of the love of God towards us and this knowledge is always antecedent to the appreciation of the Father’s love. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,” exclaims John, “that we should be called the children of God: and such we are.” (R.V.) Since God is love, we are not surprised that such a wonderful revelation of His heart is made in this Gospel by the Only begotten Who had come to make Him known. The Father’s love is an inner circle into which only His children are permitted to enter. There is something infinitely tender, intimate, warm about this love. The language of the old hymn might well be adapted to say: “The love of the Father, what it is, none but His loved ones know.” Inside that privileged circle there is still another one in which there is room for all who will go in for it. “He that hath My commandments and keepeth them...shall be loved of My Father” Jn.14.27. The depths of this love cannot be fathomed nor the heights scaled. It is measureless.
THE FATHER’S CARE
One of the most precious portions of the New Testament is that in which is recorded the Lord’s prayer, John chapter 17. A sentence here, 17.11, tells the believer that while he is left here, awaiting the return of His Lord and Saviour, he is absolutely safe in the Father’s care. The Saviour’s prayer must be granted. “Holy Father, keep [guard] through Thine own Name, those whom Thou hast given Me.” With His omniscience our loving Lord was well aware, that as this age ran its course, impurity, unrighteousness and sin, would abound still more and more, and that His own would be all unable of themselves to withstand the effect of their environment. In these closing hours of the dispensation, we see all these things nearing their final development, and we, too, realise the need for a Divine care which will keep us separate in heart and life from a world whose whole character and conduct are opposed to holiness. We feel the weight and pressure of opposing forces, as we would seek to “live soberly, righteously and godly in this present evil age. What an adequate guard we have in the knowledge of the Father’s care. He surely is able to keep us from stumbling.”
THE FATHER’S HOME
“In My Father’s house are many abiding places...I go to prepare a place for you” 14.2. These wonderful words spoken to the disciples on the betrayal night, are full of sweet comfort to every believer who finds that “this world is a wilderness wide”. “Here we have no continuing city” but we are on our way HOME. What a home it is: it is the place of peace and perfect purity. Consequently, no sickness, sorrow, sadness, suffering and death can ever find an entrance there. The Father’s home is the place where all our highest and holiest aspirations will be realised, for then, we shall be; not only with Christ, but like Him as well. There will be no disappointment, no frustration in the Father’s home. It will be a scene of unalloyed bliss and unmingled joy. Meanwhile in happy anticipation we can sing:
I have a home above, from sin and sorrow free.
A mansion which eternal love, designed and formed for me.
The Father’s gracious hand has built this blest abode,
From everlasting it was planned, my dwelling place with God.
The news media frequently reports stories of people and things that have disappeared or gone missing. Often these stories run for a while as explanations are sought or the lost is found. We can think of children who have inexplicably disappeared; in Northern Ireland some, who seemingly have been abducted by terrorists, are termed ‘the disappeared’; recently an aircraft left Malaysia to go to China and it mysteriously disappeared. Some of these stories, while unexplainable, hold a certain fascination as we try to understand the whys and wherefores.
For a Christian believer the greatest disappearance of all is that of sins. The Word of God, the Holy Bible, states, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” John 1.29. Undoubtedly, the greatest problem the world ever faced was that of sin. All other problems, whether family, financial, physical, may affect some people, but sin affects us all. Every other difficulty is the result of sin and none can escape its consequences. This is what the Bible declares, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” Romans 5.12. Notice the word ‘all’ is mentioned twice. We cannot escape this truth.
It may be reasoned that if we are all in the same situation, why worry? That kind of reasoning would hardly have been a comfort to those who were on the aircraft that disappeared! It would not have helped those who were drowned when the famous ship ‘Titanic’ went below the icy waters!
The reason why you need to worry is this: “Because He [God] hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” Acts 17.31. If we are to escape the judgment of God against our sins, then our sins have to disappear. This can only happen on one basis: “… the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” 1John 1.7. It was wonderful of God to send His own Son into this world to die on the cross of Calvary for sinners: “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5.8. When we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour, God has promised, “… their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” Hebrews 10.17.
For all whose sins have been banished, there is another disappearance that to them is delightful. The Saviour has promised, “… I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” John 14.3. The apostle Paul records in his letter to the young church in Thessalonica, “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” 1Thessalonians 4.16,17.
National and international events, natural and physical calamities, increasing immorality and vice, cruelty and violence all point to the fact that Jesus Christ is coming again. We do not know when, but we believe it will be soon and then all those whose sins have been cleansed, will be snatched away to heaven to be forever with the Lord. What a glorious prospect! Unfortunately, it is not shared by all. Those whose sins are not forgiven will be left for the judicial dealings of God. Little wonder we are instructed, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” Matthew 24.44.