September/October 2016

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Contents

ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle

THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM IN MATTHEW
by S. Fellowes

QUESTIONS YOUNG PEOPLE ASK
by A. Summers

EARLY GALILEAN MINISTRY OF THE LORD JESUS
by J. Gibson

ANGELS
by W. Banks

THOUGHTS ON PRIESTHOOD, WORSHIP AND BREAKING OF BREAD
by B. Balan

BEHAVIOUR IN THE HOUSE OF GOD
by A. Leckie

ONLY ONE LIFE
by C. Studd

GOOD TIDINGS FROM HEAVEN

 


Assembly Testimony Bible Class

by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)

THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS

 

No.9: PSALM 7

Psalm 7 carries the superscript: "Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the LORD, concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite". The word ‘Shiggaion’ means ‘to roar’ or ‘cry out’. It also occurs in Hab.3.1. The context determines what kind of cry is uttered. In Psalm 6, it is obviously a cry of distress, whereas in Habakkuk, it is obviously a cry of triumph. While the name ‘Cush’ means ‘black’, the fact that he was a Benjamite may well suggest, in the words of J.M.Flanigan, that "this Cush was ‘a black-hearted man’ who was slandering David to King Saul"1; or perhaps Cush is "a pseudonym for Saul himself". It seems therefore that this Psalm describes one of David’s experiences at the time of his flight from Saul. We do know that David was falsely accused by Saul’s servants, see 1Sam.24.9; 26.19, and that this Psalm was written in similar circumstances: see vv.3,4.

1. Flanigan, J.M “What the Bible Teaches - Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd, Kilmarnock. 2001

Before we attempt an analysis and explanation of the Psalm, we really ought to give a little thought to the circumstances in which it was written. As suggested above, David had evidently been slandered by "Cush the Benjamite". It was hurtful and untrue, and serves to remind us that we are not to be "false accusers" Titus 2.3. God’s people were given some very clear guidelines to follow when idolatry was reported, and the principle holds good in a wide range of circumstances: "Then thou shalt enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain …" Deut.13.14. We are all prone to repeat damaging ‘snippets of information’ about people without ever bothering to ascertain their accuracy. C.H.Spurgeon warned against people who "drink tea, and talk vitriol!" Solomon was very aware of the possibilities: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" Prov.18.21. Beware of interpreting something you hear. The Revised Version of the Scriptures is most helpful, but don’t make your own revisions when talking about other people! It is all too easy to distort facts by injecting liberal doses of your own opinion.

In any case, the accuracy of your information does not necessarily mean that you’ve got to repeat it! We are told that love "rejoiceth not in iniquity" 1Cor.13.6. But, oh dear, we do seem to love a little bit of scandal, don’t we? Shame on us! (Beware of the telephone: it’s all too handy when you’re tempted to relay a spicy piece of information). "He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends" Prov.17.9. The book of Proverbs warns us against the "talebearer". See, for example, Prov.16.28 where the word translated "whisperer" (nirgan) is rendered "talebearer" in Prov.18.8; 26.20,22. By the way, the word "whisperer" is onomatopoeic. Back to your English lessons at school!

There are circumstances in which it is necessary to repeat distressing information, and we have an example in 1Cor.1.11. The "house of Chloe" was not guilty of ‘talebearing’. There is a vast difference between somebody who does that, and somebody who genuinely seeks the help of a believer or believers competent to deal with a problem.

Now we must look at Psalm 7 more particularly. It may be divided as follows:

  • the accusation by the enemy - vv.1-5

  • the appeal to God by David - vv.6-10

  • the anger of God with the wicked - vv.11-16

  • the ascription of praise to God - v.17.

THE ACCUSATION BY THE ENEMY - vv.1-5

David does not specify the charge levelled against him. Bearing in mind that "whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning", there is no necessity for us to have that information. The Psalm gives us guidance for all such occasions. We should therefore note that:

David Turned To God When Falsely Accused

"O LORD my God, in Thee do I put my trust" v.1. The Lord Jesus did exactly the same: "When He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" 1Pet.2.23. See Matt.26.59-63; 27.12-14. If not already, you will inevitably encounter deliberate misunderstanding and misrepresentation. We must expect this in the world with its hostility to Christ. Sadly, at some time or the other, you may encounter misrepresentation amongst the Lord’s people. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do about it, except to leave the matter with God. Do remember the advice: ‘You look after your character - and God will look after your reputation’. You may have to wait sometimes, and the experience could be rather unpleasant, but He will not fail. "Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him, in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator". Read 1Pet.4.14-19.

David Was Very Sensitive When Falsely Accused

He didn’t shrug it off: it evidently hurt: it distressed him: he didn’t know where it would all end. Don’t expect to be unscathed when facing opposition and false accusation: it hurts. Read vv.1,2 again. Ezekiel was warned that his hearers could be very nasty indeed: "Be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions" Ezek.2.6. The Lord Jesus felt deeply the bitterness of His accusers: "All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him … Be not far from Me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help" Ps.22.7-11.

David Was Prepared To Accept The Consequences If He Had Been Rightly Accused

"O Lord my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; if I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me … let the enemy persecute my soul" vv.3-5. Peter comments as follows: "For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently" 1Pet.2.20. We certainly mustn’t complain if our bad conduct gets us into trouble. Young women are told to behave in a way which will ensure "that the word of God be not blasphemed". Young men are told to behave in a way which will ensure that "he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you" Titus 2.5,8.

David Knew That There Was No Reason For Him To Be Falsely Accused

"Yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy" v.4, or "Indeed, I have freed him that without cause oppressed me" (J.N.D.). This certainly reminds us of 1Samuel chapters 24 and 26, doesn’t it? We could write 1Pet.3.14-16 over these two chapters: "But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled … Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you as evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ."

THE APPEAL TO GOD BY DAVID - vv.6-10

We have noticed before that David’s attitude towards his enemies is totally different to the teaching of the New Testament. The Lord Jesus taught: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.’ 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.5.43,44. He did that Himself: "Father forgive them …" Lk.23.34. Stephen did so too: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" Acts 7.60. Grace makes greater demands on us than law. It would be quite wrong for us to say, "Arise, O LORD, in Thine anger, and lift up Thyself because of the rage of mine enemies" v.6.

David visualises a court scene: "So shall the congregation of the people compass Thee about: for their sakes therefore return Thou on high" v.7. David is asking God to take His judgment throne. Compare Ps.9.4: "For Thou hast maintained my right and my cause; Thou satest in the throne judging right." While we may not agree with David’s cry for judgment on his enemies, we certainly agree with his prayer, "Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end!" v.9. However, let’s apply three statements in this section to ourselves. After all, that’s the way to read our Bibles: first of all, understand what it means, and then speedily make the application in our own lives.

"Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me" v.8.

Cush the Benjamite had evidently questioned David’s integrity. David brings the matter to a higher court. He has complete confidence in the Judge who sits on that bench. Paul had the same confidence: "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not my own self. For I know nothing by [against] myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but He that judgeth me is the Lord" 1Cor.4.3,4. Let’s be sure of this: when we "appear [are manifested] before the judgment seat of Christ" 2Cor.5.10, it will be before "the Lord, the righteous Judge" 2Tim.4.8. He knows all about our loyalty and devotion to Him, even if these things are not recognised elsewhere.

"Establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins" v.9.

We are told that when the Lord Jesus establishes His kingdom, He will "not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears, but with righteousness shall He judge the poor" Isa.11.3,4. An earthly judge can only reach a conclusion based on what is seen and heard: the Lord Jesus will know every thought and motive. It will be like that for us too. "Hearts and reins" are figures of the inner life - and that will be revealed when we stand before the Lord Jesus. Did we just come to the meetings, or take that class, or preach the gospel to create a good impression? It will all be revealed then. He will "bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts" 1Cor.4.5.

"My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart" v.10.

"Defence" is really ‘shield’: ‘My shield is with God’ (J.N.D.). David looked to God for His defence. God would vindicate him. He could leave his case there, and so can we: "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,’ saith the Lord" Rom.12.19.

THE ANGER OF GOD WITH THE WICKED - vv.11-16

"God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day." While the words "with the wicked" are in italics and therefore not strictly original, they certainly convey the correct idea, as the next verse clearly shows: "If he [the wicked person] turn not, He will whet His sword". God stands ready as an armed warrior. The unrepentant sinner will be judged. This is the clear lesson in vv.11-13, but what about vv.14-16? Sin is self-destructive. Don’t these verses remind you of Gal.6.7,8, not forgetting either, that they are written to Christians? While the principle certainly applies to unsaved people, as this Psalm shows, remember that the law of sowing and reaping is universally applied in Scripture. See, for example, 1Sam.25.39.

THE ASCRIPTION OF PRAISE TO GOD - v.17

Having rested his case with God, David sings "praise to the name of the LORD most high", that is, to Jehovah Elyon. The title [actually El Elyon] is first mentioned in Gen.14.18, and its meaning given four verses later: "And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth" Gen.14.22.

In this connection it is worth noting that before the birth of the Lord Jesus, Mary was told that her Son would be none other than "the Son of the Highest" Lk.1.32, or "the Son of the Most High" (R.V.). The absence of the article, "the", before "Son" means that this is actually a name. His name is "Son of the Highest". As noted above, in the Old Testament, Melchizedek blessed Abraham saying "Blessed be Abram of the most high God [El Elyon], possessor of heaven and earth" Gen.14.19. We should also remember that it was "the Most High" Who "divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam" and "set the bounds of the people [plural, ‘peoples’] according to the number of the children of Israel". Deut.32.8. Mary’s son, Lk.1.31, would therefore be none other than the Proprietor of "heaven and earth" Who had assigned to the nations of the world their place on earth. As the "Son of the Most High", He "made Himself of no reputation" and "humbled Himself". Now God has "highly exalted Him" Phil.2.7-9.

We should bear this in mind when we lift heart and voice to Him in prayer, praise and thanksgiving.

To be Continued, (DV)

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The Parables of the Kingdom in Matthew Chapter 13

by S. Fellowes (Republic of Ireland)

No.8 - THE PARABLE OF THE DRAGNET (Matthew 13.47-50)

We have seen in the last two parables, viz. the treasure hid in a field and the pearl of great price, that both Israel and the church respectively, have been secured by the Lord. Now we come to the parable of the dragnet, where we see a third realm of gospel preaching and profession. When the church is removed at the rapture there will be a proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom, see Matt.24.14. Through this preaching many will be saved, and, alas, many will make a mere profession. This would seem to fit best with this last parable. To quote the words of F.W. Grant, "it is mercy to the Gentiles, after the purpose of God as to the church is complete". One notable similarity between this parable and that of the tares is that they both conclude at "the completion of the age" J.N.D., though they commence at different times.

CASTING THE NET

And so the gospel net is cast out again. This will be the "gospel of the kingdom". The gospel is always the same in principle, being founded firmly on the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross, but when different titles are used a different emphasis is stressed. In this context the point is the coming of the King to reign, and the necessity for repentance and subjection of the will to His. Compare Revelation chapter 14 where we read of the proclamation of "the everlasting gospel", and again chapter 7 where we have two companies, "the sealed" and "the saved". Careful consideration of these chapters will corroborate the view given in this article.

We must be clear that those who will benefit from this proclamation of the gospel after the rapture of the church are not those who have wilfully rejected it during this day of grace. Such persons will be subject to the "great delusion" mentioned in 2Thess.2.11,12, having "believed not the truth". There is a finality about the closure of the day of grace; at the rapture that particular time of Divine visitation will be over and it would be fatal to give anyone the false hope of a second chance. "Behold now is the day of salvation" 2Cor.6.2.

THE COLLECTION

This in-gathering of professors will be at the "completion of the age" (J.N.D.), v.49. We noticed in the parable of the tares the significance of this expression, being "the winding up of the present state of things and the bringing in of a new era". E.W. Rogers.

There are two types of catch in the net, the "good" and the "bad"; the "just" and the "wicked". These answer to the "sheep" and the "goats" of Matthew chapter 25. Even in tribulation days there will be a false element running simultaneously with the real. It ever was so, right from the beginning with Cain and Abel and throughout the history of mankind.

THE CONDEMNATION

Angels as the ministers of Divine government will be sent forth to seal the awful doom of the evil catch. There are four principal judgments in the Word of God.

  • At the cross, sin was judged before God once and for all;
  • The lives and service of the saints will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ;
  • The sinful dead will be judged at the great white throne.

However, here we have another great judgment:

  • the judgment of the living nations, see Acts.17.30,31, where God will determine the worthy occupants of the kingdom of His Son in manifestation.
THE CONCLUSION

The Lord Jesus now asks a question, "have ye understood all these things?" v.51. The disciples answer in the affirmative, and are now viewed as "scribe[s] which [are] instructed", able to bring out of their treasure "things new and old" v.52. "Old" in relation to the fact of the kingdom, as it is established in the Old Testament, and "new" revealing the form of it, the mystery form unfolded in this very chapter.

THE CHALLENGE

Whatever we learn in Scripture, it is God’s mind that it affects us in a practical way - if it doesn’t touch my feet it has not reached its intended goal. As we conclude this study of the parables we are challenged as to the type of Christians we should be: sowers of the seed; vigilant and watchful; separated from the religious world around us; free from the corrupting influence of leaven either in practice or doctrine; and doctrinally sound as to the difference between Israel and the church. All of this and more should speak to us from this very comprehensive chapter of the Word of God.

(Concluded)

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Questions Young People Ask

by Alan Summers (Scotland)

No.7 - What Are My Duties to My Parents?

Most children from a Christian background know that the Bible teaches that children should honour their father and mother, Ex.20.12. Honouring is more than just obeying. Honour is an attitude of respect and courtesy. As a child that is principally seen in obedience. The Bible teaches that the obligation of honour towards parents is an enduring one, 1Tim.5.3,8. It does not expire when a child grows up or marries but continues on through adult life. Its form may change as years pass but it continues. Thus it is not open to a Christian to ignore or abandon a parent. Although the medical and personal needs of older parents can create great demands on their family they should not be delegated away except in cases of necessity or extreme need. Looking after elderly parents is an example of Christianity in its most basic form.

It has to be acknowledged that the principle stated above can be difficult to put into practice. Not every child is brought up in a loving home. If a child or teenager is saved and has to live with parents who behave badly, one of the ways he or she can show the reality of their salvation is by showing respect for their parents. This may be difficult to do but is still God’s will. The Lord Jesus’ presumed parents did not always treat Him as they should have done but He was "subject unto them" Lk.2.51.

It should be recalled that problems between parents and children are often provoked or exacerbated by poor behaviour on the part of the child. A child may confuse legitimate discipline with a lack of love. However, it should be remembered that the Bible states that God, the model for every parent, disciplines His children from time to time because He loves them, Heb.12.6. Hence, even when a child is disciplined, the obligation to honour and obey them should remain. Though punishment is not enjoyable it is designed for our good.

Does it make any difference if my parents are unsaved?

No. The obligation is one that depends on the relationship of parenthood - not the relationship created by salvation. It may be that an unsaved parent is more likely to command a child to do something wrong for example, not to be baptised or attend the assembly meetings. Here the question is whether the child ought to obey God rather than man, Acts 5.29, since God has commanded believers to be baptised and to meet with believers. The older a child is the greater the scope for self-determination so the proper response will depend on the age of the child. In my judgment the Lord Jesus’ family did not always act as they should have done and the Lord was at times obliged to do His Father’s will and not His family’s will. The episodes recorded in Scripture which illustrate this occur when He was in His thirties, Mk.3.21,31-35; Jn.2.4. I doubt if an adult is obliged to obey a parent who e.g. forbids baptism or asks his child to do something which is unscriptural. However, each case will depend on its own particular facts and the guidance of elders will be important.

To be Continued, (D.V.)

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The Early Galilean Ministry of The Lord Jesus

by Jeremy C. Gibson, England

Paper 6: Empowering a paralytic and transforming a tax-man.

Read: Matt.9.2-17; Mk.2.1-22; Lk.5.17-39.

Within days of Christ’s return to Capernaum, "it was noised that He was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door" Mk.2.1,2. Among the crowd were "Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem" Lk.5.17. Having heard of Jesus of Nazareth, they came to investigate, as was their responsibility as Israel’s leaders, Deuteronomy chapter 13; 18.15-22. Even though "the power of the Lord was present to heal them" Lk.5.17, the Saviour prioritised teaching: "He preached the word unto them" Mk.2.2, and since God’s word is living and powerful, Heb.4.12, is "able to make … wise unto salvation" 2Tim.3.15, and, when believed, gives everlasting life, 1Pet.1.23, we too should give it top priority.

The house probably had a flat roof which was accessible by external stairs and tiled, with "a coat of clay … spread on top … and rolled hard to keep out the rain."11 As Christ taught the people, four men approached, carrying a paralysed man on a light bed, Matt.9.2,6; Mk.2.4,9,11; Lk.5.19,24. Concerned for their friend, and fully convinced that the Lord could heal him, "they [were seeking] to bring him in and to lay him before Him" Lk.5.18. Undaunted by the dense crowd, they ascended the roof, broke up its clay covering, removed the underlying tiles "and let him down through the tiling" Mk.2.4; Lk.5.19. "Jesus seeing their faith [not just this outward evidence of it, but reading their hearts] said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee" Matt.9.2. This initial statement by the Lord Jesus, that the man should be of good cheer because he had been forgiven, suggests that he had been profoundly troubled because of personal sin. As with all of us, forgiveness was his most pressing need. Whether a specific sin contributed to his paralysis or the illness itself prompted deep soul-searching, the exact diagnosis and its cause remain unclear.

11. Hiebert, D.E. “A Portrait of The Servant”, Moody Press, 1974, p.63

Quick-witted and harsh, the scribes and the Pharisees immediately reasoned "in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?" Mk.2.6,7. Of course, they were absolutely right in believing that God alone can forgive sins, Ex.34.7; Ps.103.3; Isa.43.25; but they were completely wrong in thinking that the Lord Jesus blasphemed. He proved His Deity by doing something that only God can do. He read their hearts, answering their unexpressed accusations of blasphemy as though they were spoken words, see 1Kgs.8.39. "And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?" Matt.9.4,5. It is obviously easier to claim to pardon someone because it is impossible to verify if sins have truly been forgiven. And yet, the Jewish Talmud stated, "No one gets up from his sick bed until all his sins are forgiven."12 Therefore, in the Jewish context, by healing this man, the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated the reality of the forgiveness. "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins," (He said unto the sick of the palsy,) "I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house" Lk.5.24. It was a remarkable miracle. Long term paralysis (muscle weakness), as a result of damage to the nervous system, leads to muscle shortening (contractures) as well as reduced bone density. By faith the man obeyed Christ: "And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God" Lk.5.25. His neurological function was normalised, the structure and strength of his muscles were fully restored, and his bone health optimised. The Lord’s critics were silenced; the crowd "were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen strange things to day"" Lk.5.26.

12. Ned. 41a, cited in Earle,R. “Mark The Gospel of Action” Moody Publishers, 1970, p.24.

This miracle illustrated what Christ will yet do for Israel nationally: remove sin and cure illness. It also showed how sinners can be saved. Despite obstacles and difficulties, friends can work together (in prayer and evangelism) to bring lost souls to the Saviour. And from the moment of conversion that saved sinner can walk for God and witness for Christ.

Having taught multitudes "by the sea side" Mk.2.13, the Lord Jesus approached the local tax office, where He "saw a publican [tax gatherer], named Levi [and Matthew], sitting at the receipt of custom" Lk.5.27. Tax gatherers were well educated and able to speak Greek.13 Because they collected tax on behalf of the Gentile overlords, often fraudulently taking extra, Lk.3.12,13, they were greatly despised. However, the Lord Jesus understood exactly what He was doing when He called Matthew [meaning gift of God]. He would have been aware if Matthew had heard His teaching and been mulling over His claims. And He knew that as soon as He demanded, "Follow Me", Matthew would leave all, rise up and follow Him Lk.5.27,28. While fishermen could easily return to their trade, this was an irreversible step for a tax gatherer; he could never resume his lucrative employment. However, it was worth it. Matthew went from being a loathed local tax gatherer to a formal representative of Israel’s Messiah, who wrote the gateway Gospel of the New Testament. Instead of dying in obscurity, his name lives on.

13. Hiebert, D.E. “A Portrait of The Servant”, Moody Press, 1974, p.64

Wishing to honour Christ and to introduce Him to others (two things all believers should aspire to), "Levi made Him a great feast in his own house" Lk.5.29, to which "many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and his disciples" Matt.9.10. With modesty, Matthew did not mention his role in providing the feast. The Pharisees quickly criticised this association with publicans and sinners, Matt.9.11; Mk.2.16; Lk.5.30. Fasting twice weekly, Lk.18.12, and viewing this feast as overly indulgent, the Pharisees also prompted the disciples of John to ask, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but Thy disciples fast not?" Matt.9.14. The Lord answered the first objection by comparing Himself and His ministry to that of a physician. The second issue was addressed by three parables.

THE PHYSICIAN: Matt.9.12,13; Mk.2.17; Lk.5.31,32.

On the basis of simple logic and the spirit of the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus taught that He was right in spending time with publicans and sinners. Since "they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick" and He had "not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" Matt.9.12,13, it made sense for Him to speak to those who saw themselves as spiritually sick because of sin. Sadly, the self-righteous Pharisees failed to acknowledge their own guilt and, therefore, their need of repentance. Also by cutting themselves off from others, whose ignorance they despised, they failed in their duty as custodians of Divine truth. After all, God preferred a genuine knowledge of Himself and the showing of mercy over cold, formal religious observance of the sacrificial system, Matt.9.13; Hos.6.6. By reaching out in mercy to sinners, Christ fulfilled God’s Law, which the Pharisees, through their callous religious separation, broke.

Parable 1: Matt.9.15; Mk.2.19,20; Lk.5.34,35.

"By calling Himself the bridegroom Jesus [associated] Himself with certain definite Old Testament Messianic passages such as Psalm 45; Isa.62.5; Hos.2.20; and the Song of Solomon."14 His ministry as a whole was like a joyful wedding feast of abundance, prefiguring the millennial kingdom. During a traditional Jewish wedding "the children of the bridechamber" shared in the bridegroom’s joy and were exempt "from certain religious observances, including the weekly fasts."15 Rather than being viewed proleptically as members of the church (the bride), at this point Christ’s disciples were seen as these children of the bridechamber (comp. Jn.3.29). How utterly incongruous for them to fast, or to mourn, in the presence of the Messianic bridegroom. "But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken [violently] away from them, and then shall they fast in those days" Lk.5.35.

14. Toussaint, S.D. “Behold the King. A Study of Matthew” Multnomah Press, Oregon. 1980, p130, 131.
15. Hiebert, D.E. “A Portrait of The Servant”, Moody Press, 1974, p.74

Parables 2 and 3: Matt.9.16,17; Mk.2.21,22; Lk.5.36-39.

Israel’s religious system had passed its usefulness. It was comparable to an old garment, worn out and rent by reason of use, or to old, stretched leather bottles. Patching it would only worsen things, as patching new unshrunken cloth on an old garment only worsens the rip, Matt.9.16; Mk.2.21; Lk.5.36. A new garment was needed. Even though the Old Testament predicted the spiritual joy of the coming kingdom, the religious system of Judaism was unable to contain it, just as old bottles cannot contain new unfermented wine – they would burst. This kingdom is based on a New Covenant and ratified by Christ’s precious blood. While the Lord’s language was sufficiently broad to encompass the church, its ultimate fulfilment will be seen during the millennial kingdom. Change is always difficult and John’s disciples were clearly struggling with the concept of Christ bringing in something new, Lk.5.39.

To be Continued, (D.V.)

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ANGELS

by William M. Banks (Scotland)

No.2b: THEIR CLASSIFICATION:

 

ELECT AND FALLEN

 

NAMES LINKED TO THE FALLEN ANGELS

There are two main types of fallen angels the free and the bound. The free are referred to as; "… principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world [the universal lords of this darkness, J.N.D.], spiritual wickedness in high places" Eph.6.12. They are also known as demons. Demons were particularly active during the Lord’s earthly ministry causing blindness, dumbness etc, Matt.12.22-30. They are evil spirits. It might be more accurate to translate Eph.2.2 as; "… the prince of the power[s] of the air, the spirit[s] that now worketh in the children of disobedience", thus indicating that the "powers of the air" are "the spirits". It also emphasises Satan’s complete control over the demons, and his responsibility for their diabolical activity.

THE ORIGIN OF "THE FALLEN AND FREE"

It would not be appropriate to think of them as the disembodied spirits of a pre-Adamic earth, nor the monstrous offspring of angels and antediluvian women. It is likely that when Satan fell he took a vast number of angels with him, perhaps a third of their total number, Rev.12.4 "… and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth". He is depicted as a king over these fallen beings with a corresponding kingdom; "And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?" Matt.12.26. While some of the fallen angels became bound, (see next section) those who were not bound because of their sin are still free today to move as agents of their king. This they do as "demons".

THE FETTERED OR BOUND

The fact that some of the fallen angels are bound is unequivocally stated in both 2Peter and Jude. In 2Pet.2.4 it is stated; "For … God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tarturus], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." Jude v.6 is equally clear; "And the angels which kept not their first estate [principality], but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."

The reference to the spirits in prison (Tarturus?) in 1Pet.3.18-20, seems also to refer to their bound state; "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By [in] which also He went and preached unto the spirits [demons?] in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water".

The reference to the days of Noah and the related mention in both Peter and Jude of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha give a good clue as to the background circumstances for the binding.

THE REASON FOR THE BINDING - Gen.6.1-8

It is suggested that the "sons of God" of Genesis chapter 6 are angels in keeping with the use of the term elsewhere in the Old Testament, Job 1.6; 2.1; 38.7. The alternative view is that they are the godly line of Seth. While the angel view is not without its problems it seems the only consistent conclusion to the passage for the following reasons.

  1. There is no proof that the "daughters of men" were confined to the descendants of the Canaanites (leading to an unequal yoke) as is usually averred in the Seth theory.
  2. The assumption that the "sons of God" are the godly line of Seth (they all perished in the flood!) is at variance with the use of the term elsewhere as indicated above, and it is never applied to believers in the Old Testament. Note Jn.1.12 and Rom.8.14 as examples where the term is applied to believers in the New Testament.
  3. If the above were true (i.e. the godly line of Seth) why should their progeny have been "giants", "mighty men", "men of renown" (Nephilim which implies monstrous beings; not only in size but in wickedness).
  4. The explanation involving angels gives coherence to the language of Peter and Jude – i.e. why some angels are incarcerated while others are free – there seems to be a deeper apostasy and wickedness deserving a severer judgment in "pits of darkness" 2Pet.2.4, R.V.
  5. As indicated above Peter’s reference is linked with the Noahic flood and Sodom and Gomorrha and Jude’s with the sin of Sodom and Gomorrha and "going after strange flesh" v.7, all of which is consistent with the angel theory.
  6. God wiped out the progeny with a flood because of the enormity of the evil ("a tidal wave of violence and wickedness"1) and summarily judged the perpetrators to the lowest pit.
  7. Was this Satan’s attempt to thwart Divine purpose through the "seed of the woman" by getting involved in a "cosmic conflict" through implanting his own seed on humanity through his fallen angels and having a race of demon possessed human beings?
1. Morris, H.M. “The Genesis Record.” Evangelical Press, 1976

The intermarriage of angels as "spiritual beings" with the daughters of men does present a problem. However the fact that angels "neither marry nor are given in marriage" does not mean necessarily that they are sexless. It may indicate that they do not have intimate relations with other angels. Additionally this seems to be true only if they do not leave their normal sphere of activity "in heaven" Matt.22.30.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS ON GENESIS 6

It is appreciated that any explanation of Genesis chapter 6 is not without its problems and many able minds have differed. The following further factors are worth consideration.

1. Immorality and profligacy seemed to be widespread with women freely available as v.2 indicates "… took them wives of all which they chose".

2. The nature of the progeny is difficult to determine in detail. They seemed to be true human children ("normal") but possessed and controlled by evil spirits? However, they were "giants" not only in size but in wickedness.

3. Did angels as demons indwell the bodies of those who were rebellious against God – human men (and women) to produce such an effect – and was this the reason for the severe judgment? I rather think not since this would seem to negate the reference to the "sons of God" directly as being the protagonists.

4. Was demon possession seen on a global scale – and being replicated to some extent today in Spiritism, witchcraft, Satanism and astrology? (cf. Eph.2.2; 6.12).

5. The astounding success of satanic devices required Divine intervention in the judgment of the flood – God is still in control.

CURRENT SCENE AND DEVELOPMENTS

An increasing interest is being seen in the occult and the spirit world in the form of demonology, witchcraft, Satanism, astrology, and necromancy (communicating with the deceased for the purpose of divination – foretelling the future, etc). Of course all of these are condemned in the Bible, e.g. Lev.19.31; "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God". Also Deut.18.10 states; "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch."

THE CASE OF SAUL - 1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 28

This is a unique and unprecedented case. This is evidenced by the reaction of the woman with the "familiar spirit" or "divining demon" – "… she cried out with a loud voice" v.12, totally "transfixed with terror"2 realising that something altogether different from the normal demon contacts were taking place. These wicked spirits usually impersonated the individual called for. The spirit of Samuel suddenly, and totally unexpectedly, appeared evidencing Divine intervention.

2. Unger, M.F. “Biblical Demonology.” Kregel Publications, 1994.

It is "a glaring expose of the fraudulency [and complete duplicity] of Spiritism."3 It was undertaken by a man from whom the Lord is departed and become His enemy, v.16, and was the result of disobedience to the voice of the Lord, v.18. The heinousness of the sin is indicated in the fact that this was one of the reasons for Saul’s death; "So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it" 1Chron.10.13.

3. Ibid

To be Continued, (D.V.)

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Thoughts on Priesthood, Worship & Breaking of Bread

by Baiju V. Balan, India

Paper No. 1 - PRIESTHOOD

"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ ... But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light" 1Pet.2.5,9.

The very term "priesthood" reminds us of the Old Testament order of Levitical priesthood. The New Testament draws many lessons from it both in comparison as well as in contrast as is evident from the quotations given above.

Comparisons

 

Access

Only priests had access to God’s house in the Old Testament. To be a priest one had to be born in the family of Aaron. So it is also in the New Testament. Only those who are born again by receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour have access to God and only such can function as priests in the church of God, Rom.5.18; Eph.2.18, 3.12.

Activities

Old Testament priests had the great privilege of serving God in His house. They could offer various sacrifices to God. So also with the New Testament priest. The Bible speaks about at least five different spiritual sacrifices, which every New Testament priest can offer to God.

  • Sacrifice of their body as living, holy and acceptable to God, Rom.12.1
  • Sacrifice of selfless devoted service, Phil.2.17
  • Sacrifice of doing good and communicating, Phil.4.18; Heb.13.6
  • Sacrifice of praise, Heb.13.5; 1Pet.2.9
  • Sacrifice of prayer, Lev.16.12 cp. Rev.5.8 and Ps.141.2.

Ability/Eligibility

Even though a person was born in the family of Aaron, it was quite possible that he might be disqualified from functioning as a priest if he had certain blemishes, Lev.21.17-23. This person was not forbidden from eating the bread of his God but was barred from serving publicly. This has a parallel in the New Testament. If a person is morally or doctrinally wrong, he cannot participate in public ministry in a local assembly. To be an elder or a deacon in the assembly requires various moral and spiritual qualifications as stated in 1Timothy chapter 3 and Titus chapter 1. Absence of which disqualifies a person from taking part in activities though his position as a priest remains unchallenged.

Contrasts

 

Classification of People

Among all the Israelites, only the Levitical priests had the privilege of access to serve God. However, in the New Testament there is no such separate class of people. Every believer is a priest. He is no ordinary priest but a holy priest and a royal priest. Responsibilities and spiritual gifts of each believer may differ but whatever might be the measure of their abilities each believer is privileged to draw near to God. Only sin and disobedience can prevent a believer from experiencing that closeness which others enjoy because of their practical holiness, devotion and obedience. In Eph.2.18 and 3.12 note the words we and ye are in the plural and is not limited to some.

Censored Access

Accesses of Old Testament priests were limited to the holy place. They could not enter into the most holy place. However, every believer in Christ has access to the very throne of grace, into the holiest of all, into the very presence of God, Heb.4.16.

Carnal Ordinances

Old Testament Levitical sacrifices were more materialistic and visual in nature appealing to the senses. The New Testament offerings are not so but are spiritual in character, 1Pet.2.5. It must be observed that not even a single instance is recorded in the Holy Scriptures about the use of any kind of musical instruments or plays like dramas, skits etc. in any of the activities of local assembly in the New Testament. The amount of importance given to musicians and singers among the assemblies today is a mark of carnal taste developed among the believers. Ability to sing and play musical instruments are natural talents not spiritual gifts. Spirituality is not needed in the exercise of such. The assembly is not the place where natural talents are to be displayed. Advocates of instrumental music and ‘worship leaders’ often quote Old Testament references and try to justify its use by saying it is David who made such instruments and appointed a special group of singers in the temple. One wonders why they do not copy David in that he also "danced before the Lord with all his might" and wore only a linen ephod, 2Sam.6.14, 21; or the example of ‘those daughters of Shiloh’ which used to dance in dances in Shiloh during the feast, or even Miriam, 2Sam.6.14; Jud.21.19,21; Ex.15.20, and introduce dancing also into the assembly activities. Is it possible that soon we will witness such unspiritual behaviour among so-called assemblies? The only accompaniment we are asked to use while singing is understanding, 1Cor.14.15, and grace, Col.3.16. All the sacrifices and services in the New Testament assembly are spiritual in nature and are accomplished by the exercise of spiritual gifts, which are endowed by the Triune God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in accordance to Holy Scriptures. They are altogether apart from natural talent.

Categorised Priesthood

Old Testament priesthood had a hierarchical system, the high priest, priests, and Levites. Each one is distinguished with appointed clothes and limited sphere of access. There is no such system in the New Testament. We have a High Priest Who is in heaven. All others are priests and have equal standing before God and access to the holiest of all, 1Pet.2.9.

Ceremonial Clothing

Levites had special clothes to wear so that they could be identified easily. There is no such specific special apparel for a New Testament priest. Their apparel is spiritual in nature, Rom.13.12, they put on Christ, Gal.3.27, and garments of righteousness, Col.3.12,14; Rev.19.8. The Roman Catholic religion’s priestly order and other systems found in many Christian denominations today have no scriptural authority. It is unscriptural as well as anti-scriptural. It is a poor copy or imitation of the Levitical system, which has long since ceased to exist. God has done away with it and has started a new spiritual priesthood that worships Him in spirit and truth.

To be Continued, (D.V.)

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Behaviour in the House of God

by Albert L. Leckie (Scotland)

1 Timothy 3.14-16

Paper 1

 

INTRODUCTION

These verses express the burden that was on the apostle Paul’s heart as he lifted his pen to write to Timothy, his son in the faith. His burden was that Timothy and others might learn how to behave themselves in the House of God.

When we apply the ‘Law of First Mention’ to the subject of the House of God, this becomes a most interesting study. We have the first reference to the House of God in Genesis chapter 28 with Bethel. It was on that occasion that Jacob set up the pillar and anointed it. He poured oil upon the pillar. The next reference to Bethel, the House of God, is in Genesis chapter 35. On that occasion Jacob hears the voice of God: "Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God" v.1, and we find Jacob saying to his household: "Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: and let us arise, and go up to Bethel, and I will make there an altar unto God" vv.2,3.

When we come to the New Testament, we have the house of God in 1Timothy chapter 3 and again in 1Peter chapter 2. I believe that 1Timothy chapter 3 answers to Genesis chapter 28, where we have God’s house with the anointed pillar. Paul refers to the House of God in 1Tim.3.15 as "the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground [support] of the truth".

When the Lord Jesus was here, He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" Jn.14.6. He was the Truth when He was here, but He said He was going away and would send the Comforter Who is the Spirit of truth. Speaking to His Father in Jn.17.14,17, He said: "I have given them Thy word … Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth". Thus, we have the Lord saying, "I am the truth"; we read that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth; that the Word of God is the Word of Truth; and here in 1Timothy that the house of God, church of the living God is the pillar and the support of the truth.

My brethren, it is the mind of God that each local church not only support Divine truth, but be a display of Divine truth in the world. That is what the Lord was when He was here. When a local church is what God intends it to be, the genuine seeker after light in its particular locality, will never be in doubt as to where they should be. That is Genesis chapter 28 in relation to 1Timothy chapter 3.

Genesis chapter 35 finds its answer in 1Peter chapter 2. In Gen.35.1 we read: "Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there, and make there an altar unto God." Now says Peter, "To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also as lively [living] stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices …" vv.4,5. There’s the altar. There we have the spiritual sacrifices connected with the House today.

We have before us now, the House of God as the church of the living God, the pillar and support of truth. Or rather, the support and pillar of truth as the order ought to be in our day. Paul is thinking here of the behaviour that becomes such a house.

INDIVIDUALS AND GOD’S HOUSE

It is interesting to note the relationship of various individuals to God’s House. When we think of Moses, Heb.3.2 tells us that he was marked by faithfulness in God’s House. Dear brethren, God still expects this. We as His people should be faithful to Him in His House: faithful to His Word, seeing things are carried out according to the Divine pattern, and faithful in our teaching. When we think of David, he loved God’s House: "I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honour dwelleth" Ps.26.8. In like manner, we today should have a genuine love for God’s House. Might we say as the Psalmist: "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord" Ps.122.1.

Then we have the Lord Jesus in relation to God’s House. In cleansing the temple He could say: "The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up" Jn.2.17. He was marked by zeal in relation to God’s House and found it necessary to cleanse it. Brethren, we need that kind of zeal today. We should not be marked by an unbecoming tolerance towards everything and anything, but by a zeal that deals with everything inconsistent with the holiness of God’s House.

THREE TRUTHS CONNECTED WITH GOD’S HOUSE

There are three important truths connected with God’s House in the New Testament. The first is in Heb.3.6, where we discover who is over God’s House. God’s Son is over God’s House. Then in Heb.10.21 we read: "Having a High Priest" [a Great Priest] reads R.V. and J.N.D. Hebrews chapter 3 is most enlightening. With regard to Moses he was faithful in God’s House. He had the blessedness of being in God’s House and being faithful in it, but God’s Son is over God’s House today. Says the writer: "Christ as a Son over His own house; whose house are we …". The best that could be said of Moses was that he was in God’s House, but we’re not in God’s House today. We today, are God’s house, "Whose house are we" 3.6.

Secondly, while Hebrews tells us who is over God’s House, 1Pet.2.4,5 tells us who composes it. "To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also as lively stones are built up a spiritual house ...". God’s House today is composed of living stones. According to the context, these are men and women who have been born again by incorruptible seed; the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever.

Thirdly, 1Tim.3.15 tells us that godly behaviour becomes this house at all times. I am sure each of us in retrospect, would have to confess that our behaviour at all times has not been the kind of behaviour that becomes God’s house.

It was one of the things that marked David in his day. Reading his history, we come across expressions like, "David behaved himself well," or "David behaved himself wisely" 1Sam.18.5,14,15,30. Of course, we don’t forget the occasion when David seriously misbehaved, but we’re glad that God never assesses any man’s worth or value on an isolated incident in his life. Taking David’s life as a whole, he was a man who behaved himself well and wisely. When Saul hurled javelins at him, he behaved himself well. When the daughters lauded him ("Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands"), he behaved himself wisely. Whether in adversity or prosperity (when people were praising him), he was marked by good behaviour.

I think it’s easier to behave oneself well in a day of adversity than it is in a day of prosperity. May God grant that we might desire in our hearts to seek at all times, to behave ourselves wisely and well.

(This article has been transcribed from a recording of our late brother’s ministry and submitted for publication. This explains its somewhat colloquial style.)

To be Continued, (DV)

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Only One Life

by C.I. Studd

Two little lines I heard one day,
Travelling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
 
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
 
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice,
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
 
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its days I must fulfil,
Living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
 
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
 
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
 
Oh let my love with fervour burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
 
Only one life, yes only one,
Now, let me say, "Thy will be done";
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say "‘twas worth it all";
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
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Good Tidings from Heaven

Where Are You Going?

You may be riding in a car, train, or aeroplane right now, or you may be sitting still. But did you know that even sitting still you are travelling thousands of miles per hour? Due to the earth’s rotation and its movement around the sun, we are all hurtling through space at unimaginable speeds.

Just as we can be moving at such a high rate of speed and not be the least bit aware of it, there are many today who are speeding through their life unaware of (or at least unaffected by) how quickly they are approaching eternity. Though we are all travelling through space together, there are different destinies in eternity. Where are you going?

Where will you be in eternity? The joy of the saved and the woe of the lost are equally eternal. An everlasting heaven! A never-ending hell! You will be in one of these forever. Just think of being in a heaven of perfect happiness, or in a hell of pure woe.

To the redeemed in glory, in the presence of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, there shall come no night, no ending of their holy bliss and pleasure. To the damned in the pit of woe, there will never rise a star of hope on the dark vista of their eternal night. Their destiny is fixed; they have entered the blackness of darkness forever, Luke 16.19-31.

Reader, in which of these destinies will you be forever? You must be in one of them; you cannot remain on earth forever. No matter what happens to your body, your never-dying soul will remain forever in heaven or hell, 1Thessalonians 4.16,17; Revelation 20.15. The God Who brought you into being, in Whom you live and move, has decreed that you must exist forever. Yes, "forever" is the word. You yourself must decide … where are you going?

The open door of an eternal heaven, and the open door of an endless hell are both before you. God has left you to choose which you will enter at the end of life’s journey. Remember, the choice must be made now, not then. To be prepared for that eternal heaven, you must acknowledge that you are a lost, hell-deserving sinner before God, and trust His Son, Jesus Christ Who died as a sacrifice for sinners and rose again, Romans 5.8, as your Saviour. To reject, despise, or neglect the Son of God and His offer of salvation, or to try to save yourself, is to doom yourself to hell. You do not have to be an atheist in order to perish. You do not have to be one of the "worst" sinners to be lost forever. You only have to continue as you are, neglecting God’s great salvation, Hebrews 2.3, and God has declared that you will perish eternally. Stop and think! Where are you going?

"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" John 3.36. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" John 5.24. "Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!" Deuteronomy 32.29.

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