WHAT, however, of Romans 11? Does it not teach that O.T. and N.T. believers “form one Church—the same olive tree”? In other words, does it not teach that the terms “Church” and the “Olive Tree” are synonymous? No, not for a moment. Church truth does not enter into Romans 11. It treats of Dispensational truth. It is of the utmost importance to see this. It is true that out of Israel’s apostasy there is “at this present time ... a remnant according to the election of grace” (v. 5), and that it forms part of the Church. That, however, is not the argument here. The Olive Tree represents Israel in the place of privilege and responsibility for God upon the earth. Because of unbelief “the natural branches”, i.e. the Jewish people, have been cut off, and a “wild olive tree” grafted in (v. 17). We need have no doubt at all as to what people the wild olive represents. It represents “the Gentiles.” Observe how frequently they are mentioned in the chapter. Observe too that when addressing his Roman readers in verse 13, Paul does not address them as “Christians”, or even as “saints” as he had done in chapter 1. 7. “I speak,” he says, “to you Gentiles.” That is, he addresses them as representatives of the Gentiles, who, now, subsequent upon Israel’s failure are, in God’s sovereignty, brought into the place of privilege and responsibility. They are warned, however, that if they fail they too will be cut off from their place of blessing (v. 21). We know of course, that all saved Gentiles in this age are in the Church, but that truth is not what Paul is teaching in Romans 11. To suggest that the Olive Tree is the Church would be absurd, for who ever heard of the Body of Christ having “natural” (v. 21) members, or any of its members being broken off (v. 20)? No, the Olive Tree is not, indeed cannot be, the Church.
CHAPTER HEADINGS IN THE O.T.
Little need be said about the remaining points. In view of what has been written, it should be obvious to every honest reader that the chapter headings in the O.T. in which “the Church” is named are entirely misleading. These headings do not form part of the original Scriptures. They were added as summaries to assist readers in dividing the chapters into their several parts. Those who composed them were no doubt learned and sincere men, and we should thank God for their indefatigable labours, but they certainly were “all wrong” in inserting the words, “the Church”, in the headings.
WAS THE OUTCALLING OF THE CHURCH KNOWN TO O.T. PROPHETS?
We have next to inquire if “the outcalling of the Church of the N.T.” was known to the O.T. prophets. We have always believed that the truth of the Church was hidden from saints of the old economy. Mr. Grier confidently claims, however, that this was not so. The prophets of old, he says, “point directly and definitely to the N.T. Church.” What saith the Scripture? Ephesians 3 speaks of the chief characteristics of the Church as being “a mystery . . . which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (vv. 4-6). Now, what is a mystery? It is a secret which is disclosed only to initiates. And these truths regarding the nature of the Church were such a secret, which in past ages was unknown to man. (Compare Romans 16. 25, 26). How then could O.T. prophets have had knowledge of them? There is no ambiguity in Paul’s language. Who therefore are we to believe—the inspired Apostle or the A-Millennialists? How further may we ascertain if the O.T. prophets knew about the Church? Where, pray, do they speak of it? The quotation of Romans 9. 24-26, to which Mr. Grier alludes is taken from Hosea 2. 23. It foretells rich spiritual blessing for the Gentiles, as also do many other O.T. passages. In vain, however, do we search it for the slightest reference to the Church. The same is true of Acts 26. 22. The verses which follow (vv. 23, 24) tell us “the things that Moses and the prophets did say should come”, namely, that Christ should die and rise again, “and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” But there is not one syllable about the Church here. As for Acts 2. 16-21, it is a quotation from Joel 2, concerning the outpouring of the Spirit. It is true, this had a partial fulfilment the day the Church was born; but where in the prophecy is there the faintest allusion to the Church itself? There is none. The N.T. has much to say regarding the Church—its origin, its cost, its foundation, its nature, its composition, its preciousness to God, its conflict, its progress, and its heavenly destiny. It is the Body of Christ (Eph. 1), the Building of God (Eph. 2), the Bride of the Lord Jesus (Eph. 5). In vain, however, do we search the books of the O.T. for any revelation of these glorious truths. They are not there. If they are, where, please, shall we find them? Yet A-Millennialists insist that the O.T. prophets speak of the Christian Church. It requires grace to have patience with such men. We wonder how they read their Bibles. If anything is “outrageous”, it surely is that men disbelieve the plain statements of Holy Scripture.
“AS IT IS NOW REVEALED”
Mr. Grier rejects the obvious meaning of Eph. 3. 5, 6 by taking the words, “as it is now revealed”, as a qualifying clause. That is to say, when Paul declares “that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, he does not at all say that this was utterly unknown to past ages, but not known as fully and clearly as it is now.” To this argument the following reply seems conclusive : “Lest it should be assumed from the word, ‘as’, that this statement is comparative, not absolute, meaning only that the revelation had in fact been made through the former prophets, but in some obscurity which had now been cleared away, the words of Col. 1. 26, ‘the mystery which hath been hid from the ages and from the generations, but now hath it been manifested to his saints’, correct this impression. The order of the words, too, shows that not the prophets who preceded the apostles are intended, but those who came with and after them. It is vain, therefore, to look to the O.T. for instruction concerning the Church of which the Lord and His apostles spoke.” (“The Promise of His Coming”, by C. F. Hogg and J. B. Watson, p. 21).
DID THE PROPHETIC CLOCK STOP AT CALVARY?
Did the prophetic clock stop at Calvary, and is the present interval between the Advents of Christ a “parenthesis . . . of which no word is clearly spoken by O.T. prophecy”? In seeking to answer these questions, it is at once conceded that the resurrection of our Lord (Ps. 16. 10; 110. 1), the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2. 28), the consequent enlightenment and blessing of Gentiles to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 42. 6; 49. 6, etc.), and the temporary setting aside of Israel (Hosea 3. 4, 5)—all of which are subsequent to “Calvary”—were foretold in the O.T.
So far, however, as the history of Israel during her dispersion, the rise and fall of the great Gentile powers, and the Divine purpose in forming the mystic Body of Christ, in this Church age, are concerned, there is not one word in O.T. prophecy,. With regard to the future of the nations, prophecy has to do primarily with Israel, but since Israel is now set aside, this present age is passed over in all O.T. predictions. Those predictions foretell “Calvary”, but there, as Dr. Ironside has said, “the prophetic clock stopped.” The Church, as we have already seen, is not the subject of O.T. prophecy. This Christian age is a “parenthesis.” Once it ends the clock of prophecy will tick again, and the predictions of Israel’s regathering, and of the overthrow of Gentile domination in the world, will have their complete fulfilment, as surely as these things were spoken by men moved by the Holy Spirit. “We may conclude, then, that when wicked hands set up the cross on Calvary, and God pronounced the dread ‘Lo-ammi’ (Hosea 1. 9, 10) upon His people, the course of the prophetic era ceased to run. Nor will it flow again till the autonomy of Judah is restored.” (Sir Robert Anderson).
The statement that this Church age is a parenthesis need not at all surprise us. There are gaps or parenthesis in O.T. history, as every student knows, and as we could demonstrate, did not space forbid. In like manner, several Scriptures which present the two Advents of Christ, entirely disregard this Christian age. Yet it is interesting to note that these Scriptures are so worded as to leave room for the present period. This must undoubtedly have been very perplexing for the O.T. prophets, and we can appreciate Peter’s statement that what puzzled them was not so much the fact of “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow," as the “time” and “manner” in which these things would be fulfilled. (1 Peter 1. 11).
Of the numerous passages in the O.T. in which the inspiring Spirit intentionally overlooks this Church era we may mention the following:—Psalm 118. 22; Isaiah 9. 6,7; 53. 10, 11; 61. 2; Hosea 3. 4, 5; Daniel 7. 23, 24; 8. 22, 23; 9. 26, 27; Zechariah 9. 9, 10. Those, however, who desire to have an exhaustive study of the subject should read, “The Great Parenthesis”, by the late Dr. H. A. Ironside. It clearly and convincingly demonstrates from Scripture that this Church age is a Divine parenthesis in prophecy.
To be followed D.V. by—is there a national future for Israel?
The parentheses of this orderly prophecy are introduced where they serve the highest possible purpose. This chapter forms a necessary interlude between the apparent success of evil forces and the final outpourings of God’s wrath. Persecuted saints of that day reading these words will weigh the short-lived success of the anti-christ against the glorious reign of the Lamb, and their faith and endurance will be stimulated (v. 12).
Kingdom blessedness is beautifully pictured for us as we see the Lamb on Mount Zion with 144,000 representative associates. Jewish ‘loyalists’, having refused “the mark of the beast,” will wear the mark of the Father and the Son v. 1). This implies the possession of divine nature and moral likeness in those who share Christ’s kingdom. “Mount Zion” must not be whittled away by spiritualizing interpretation. It is a literal place : the city of David (2 Samuel 5. 7) and the very hub of regal dominion on earth in the purpose of God. It is declared to be given to God’s Anointed and will be occupied by Him when His enemies are finally subdued (Psalm 2, specially v. 5). Here too is the place of David’s Throne given to our Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of Man (Luke 1. 32; Isaiah 9. 6-7). The partners of the reigning Lamb are seen to be purchased, pure, and perfectly possessed by Him (vv. 4-6). Their hearts are attuned uniquely to the “New Song”, which while sung on earth is but the echo of the music of Heaven (v. 2).
The announcement by an Angel of the Everlasting Good Tidings is in terms suited to the special occasion for which it is intended, that is, the finish of man’s maladministration of earth’s affairs and his rebellion against God’s will. The terms are unlike those of our Gospel of Grace, since they announce judgment and not mercy and present the claims of a Creator and not a Saviour. Any offer of Salvation is noticeably absent from this message.
A further anticipation comes from the second Angel of the parenthesis who sounds forth the fate of Babylon the great (v. 8), while the dread doom of all worshippers of the beast is the communication of the third (vv. 9-11). In marked contrast to the torment that has no respite is the blessedness of the dead who die in the Lord, and who as v. 12 infers, by endurance and fidelity to their Lord have obtained the martyr’s crown. This passage of foregleams has two other solemn scenes, the Harvest and Vintage judgments. They point to the necessity of divine visitation in a world over-ripe for judgment and a nation (Israel the vine), as distinct from the remnant sealed for Salvation (Ch. 7), demanding punishment. The Judge has the seat of power, the white cloud, He wears the sign of sovereignty, the golden crown and He wields the sickle of Harvst (v. 14. cf. James 5. 7-9; Matthew 13. 39).
Chs. 15 and 16—THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES
The final plagues that fill out the fury of a holy God are summarized in chapters 15 and 16, in what John declares was “a sign great and wonderful.” Again, ere “the strange work” of Jehovah is described the prophetic vision is diverted to the felicity of Tribulation saints who have gained the victory over the beast (15. 2). He sees them stand upon a sea of glass whose purity is mingled with fiery rays. It signifies the end of wilderness journeying and testing. The laver of the Tabernacle and the sea of the Temple betokened priestly cleansing, but here the thought of cleansing gives way to that of stability and security. This happy company celebrate the excellencies of “the King of Nations” and His rights to the homage of man (vv. 3-4).
Everything that follows accentuates the solemnity of the final stages of this period; the opening of Heaven in witness, the garb and girding of the messengers, their arming with the Bowls of the fury of God by the four Living Creatures and the presence in the Temple of God of His glory with great demonstrations of His power. Now the seven Angels of the last plagues go forth on their devastating mission. This is described in symbolism reminiscent of the first half of the week (Chs. 6-11), and affecting earth, sea, rivers, the sun, the empire of the beast and the river Euphrates. But no matter what the extent of the punishment nor the stratum of society involved the net result is the same, “they did not repent to give Him glory” (16. 10). Rather they blasphemed the God of Heaven. This is where all resistance against God inevitably leads.
A startling revelation of the unity of the Satanic trinity is provided when the sixth Bowl is poured out upon the Euphrates and the way of the Kings of the East is prepared. Frog-like spirits of demons issue from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet who are to be the inspiring agents in assembling the Heads of earth’s nations for the titanic struggle here called “the war of the great day of God Almighty.” At Armageddon, the venue of this battle, Christ will demonstrate to the warring nations that He is King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Ch. 19. 15-19).
The final action of this series of plagues shows the righteous indignation of God against the city of Babylon (vv. 17-21). The seer, however, is given a specially conducted tour of investigation that he may see and record the magnitude of her guilt and the finality of her doom, but this anticipates our next important study.
WHEN Peter and the other apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost (Sunday, May 28th, A.D. 30) the result was that on that day 3,000 people were added to the number of believers. The Lord Jesus had begun to build His Church, and the first local church came into being. We can learn many important things from this first local company of believers in Jerusalem.
First of all, let us see what those people did on that day (Acts 2. 41) :
They gladly received the Word. They responded wholehearted to the message of the Gospel, and believed Peter’s word that Jesus of Nazareth, the Man Who had died on the cross less than two months before, was really both “Lord and Christ,” the Son of God.
They were baptized. Faith was followed by open confession in baptism. The Lord Himself had told them to make disciples and to baptize them, and the apostles lost no time in seeing that those who believed obeyed in this way.
They were added to the company of believers. Faith, followed by baptism, followed by reception into a local church is the pattern which we find in the Word of God.
All three of these things happened in close succession. Rut they were only the beginning. We read that these new believers continued steadfastly in four important matters. These should he true of all believers all their lives (Acts 2. 42).
The apostles’ doctrine. The apostles carried out the Lord’s commandment to teach these new disciples all that He had commanded them. The Word of God is inexhaustible, and all our lives we should be learning more and more from it.
Fellowship. These believers did not keep aloof from each other, but co-operated together in obedience to Christ as Lord (See 1 Cor. 1. 9).
The Breaking of Bread. The apostles remembered that on the very night that He was betrayed the Lord Jesus had instituted this ordinance for them, and they taught the disciples to observe it. At first they did this “daily,” but later we find the Lord’s Supper associated with the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, the day that He arose victorious over death (Acts 20. 6, 7).
Prayers. Relievers should pray together, as well as individually and with their families, and these early believers did that. There were some remarkable answers to their prayers, especially those made for the release of Peter when he was in prison (Acts 12. 5).
These features show us what a local church should be like. It is composed of people who have accepted the once-crucified Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord, who have been baptized in obedience to His command, and who have then been received into the assembly or church. The church should be one where the apostles’ doctrine (and no man-made system) is taught, where believers enjoy fellowship with each other, where they meet to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and where they unitedly pray to the Lord.
IN the environments of the home in which I was reared it was impossible to escape the influences of the Gospel.
My father preached it faithfully and my mother lived it as forcefully. The Word of God was reverenced as the mind of God for the need of man. I cannot remember a time when eternal things were not before my mind and often I was aware of the voice of the Spirit of God inviting me to accept Salvation. The holiness of God and His hatred of sin had been made so real to me that I accepted God’s verdict that I had sinned and that without repentance I should certainly perish. The most solemn impression I can recall was of the final Judgment (Rev. 20. 11-15), when the sins of life would come under review and the guilty one would be banished from the Judge’s presence and shut out in the blackness of darkness forever. I never questioned the rightness of this, since I also knew God’s way of escape which I was not yet ready to accept.
Persistence in such an unreasonable attitude to the love of God had a simple explanation. I wanted my own way. I wanted to enjoy the world. I wanted to indulge the desires of nature. As I entered my teens I discovered a widening sphere of friends and fascinating pleasures that encouraged these ambitions, and so more and more the claims of Christ were set aside as the chase after bright but bursting bubbles was continued. What I could not close my eyes to was that always there was a sense of being “tracked down.” Flashes of light from the Presence divine would penetrate “the darkened cells where passion reigned within,” and the happiness of gilded moments would be dissipated. When others could run recklessly the whole way into sin and folly I was strangely restrained. The godly influences of my parents, the power of prayer and the longsuffering of God were having effect, even though I did not then perceive it.
A time of crisis came when a faithful minister of the Gospel, James McFarlane, came to the centre where my father preached. The special meetings were marked by a profound sense of God’s presence and quite a number came into Salvation. I sat one never-to-be-forgotten evening under the awakening of the Spirit knowing I must make a choice. After a struggle I went out of that church building rejecting the Saviour. A worldly companionship seemed to have won the day! Rut had it? “God speaketh one way, yea two ways” (Job 33. 14, R.V). From that time my physical powers diminished and finally the doctor decreed a serious surgical operation. In hospital there was freedom to face the all-important issue. Another messenger from God was permitted me, and so a week after the operation Mr. George Olley was used of God to clinch the matter. When he had gone I was ready for the great step. As I lay and pondered, the words of Acts 16. 31-32 came clearly before my mind and in the greatest simplicity I rested on the promise, “Relieve on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” As I told the Lord I believed in Him I had no great rush of feeling, only a quiet assurance that I was saved. The light was small but it was to grow as I got to know more fully Christ’s redemptive work and the designs of the saving work He had begun in my soul. Thirty-eight years of His faithful love, His abiding presence and His sustaining grace make it easy to say with the poet—
THE influence for good of a virtuous woman is beyond calculation. A chaste woman is the greatest help and blessing to a man; whereas an indiscreet woman has quite the reverse effect. The training of each generation is more in the mother’s hands than the father’s, for she, naturally, has more to do with her offspring than her husband, though he is assigned the position of head of the house, filling the place of authority and rule. A virtuous Christian mother, living according to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures, is the sweetest and most ennobling influence to be found on earth. Where homes are blest with such, and where a nation’s womanhood is truly womanly and modest, then we look for nothing else than the best results.
In the light of our Lord’s prediction that the last days would resemble the times of Lot (Luke 17. 28), we can expect to see the breakdown of all moral restrictions and good standards of society, with an awful retrograde movement among women generally. Debase them, move them out of the place God has assigned them, then look for the complete corruption of the whole earth and the inevitable righteous judgment of God.
Since the two World Wars there has been a definite and dreadful move in this direction, so that conditions to-day are tolerated which would have shocked everybody in 1914. Look at the indecent attire, the smoking and drinking and bad language of so many young women, the painted and powdered faces, the cropped hair, the wearing of slacks, the mixed bathing on the beaches, lying in the sun almost nude to the public gaze: in short, a hideous familiarity with that which is fast and indelicate, arousing all the viler passions of men.
“Be not conformed to this world” (Rom. 12. 2) is a clear command from Heaven, and “Women adorn yourselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety” (1 Tim. 2. 9), is another charge, just as plain.
WITH the lapse of twelve months since the publication of the N.E.B., we are confronted, generally speaking, amongst the assemblies with two entirely opposed schools of thought. On the one hand there are its open and unashamed advocates who go so far as to publicly read it. Indeed, when the N.E.B. was almost wet from the press and ere it could be intelligently read completely, the writer was shown a newspaper cutting in which was displayed an announcement by one local assembly lauding the publication of the N.E.B. highly.
At the other extreme there are those who are prepared, without the necessary scholarship, to scurriously denounce the N.E.B., sentimentally feeling that the old is better. It would appear, that without a working knowledge of the Greek language, let alone some acquaintance with MSS, Versions and Early Fathers, they jettison, as worthless cargo, and without fair and adequate examination, the New English Bible.
Many interesting questions will, of course, arise during the course of this analysis. For example, are we to consider both J.N.D. and N.E.B. right or wrong in using the word “homage” instead of the word “worship” in certain places? Again, what warrant, pray, has the N.E.B. to alter “virgin” to “girl” in the record of the Incarnation? And who are the authorities alluded to in a footnote by the N.E.B. translators relative to the omission of the last twelve verses of Mark’s Gospel? Are these “most ancient manuscripts” to which the N.E.B. makes reference, “good men and true” or at best, are they only false witnesses? What credence, might one ask, can be placed upon those manuscripts, which the N.E.B. informs us, add a paragraph betwixt verses 8 and 9 of Mark chapter 16?
Was Dr. Tischendorf correct in omitting the words “at Ephesus” in Eph. 1. 1? Were Bengel, Conybeare and Howson and a multitude of other Critics right in their surmise that the Ephesian epistle was a circular letter addressed to several assemblies? Or does the N.E.B., in company with the illustrious King James Version stand vindicated by the retention of these two disputed words?
In our findings on these and other lines of enquiry, the gracious guidance of the Holy Spirit Who leads us into all truth is so vitally necessary. Thus in a dispassionate review, one must not allow the doctrinal leanings of Editors to bias the result. Only a balanced and sane presentation of unimpeachable evidence will suffice.
DO YOU KNOW that being “saved by grace” means that God saved you, independent of any merit; in fact, without merit in the past or prospect of it in the future? (Rom. 3. 24).
DO YOU KNOW that this makes you an everlasting debtor to God, and emphasises the fact that “Ye are not your own, but are bought with a price?” (1 Cor. 6. 19, 20).
DO YOU KNOW that being “saved for nothing” does not mean that now you should “live for nothing” higher than to go on pleasing yourself as formerly? (2 Cor. 5. 15).
DO YOU KNOW that, although “not of the world, even as He is not of the world,” is the position of every child of God, yet if not watchful, it is easy to become like the world? (John 17. 14-16).
DO YOU KNOW that you are left in the world, not to “build a .nest” here, but to be a testimony to an absent and rejected Lord, whose desire is that we should “be for Him and hold all for Him?” (Heb. 13. 13).
DO YOU KNOW that you are responsible to spread the Gospel of God’s grace, personally, as far as you are able (Mark 16. 15), and representatively among such as you cannot reach unto? (Romans 1. 14, 15).
DO YOU KNOW that this “responsibility” means the use of your time, talent, and money, as you have opportunity for the furtherance of the Gospel at home and abroad (Phil. 1. 3-5), and that such service is accepted as a sweet savour offering by God? (Phil. 4. 18, 19).
DO YOU KNOW that while “under law,” God claimed a tenth—or tithe; now, under grace, He claims all; therefore, the question is not, “How much should I give?” but “How much dare I withhold?” (Lev. 27. 30-32; Acts 20. 24).
DO YOU KNOW the standard of giving is “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that ye, through His poverty, might be rich?” (2 Cor. 8. 9). Measure your gift by this.
DO YOU KNOW that the measure of your offering is “according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not?” (2 Cor. 8. 12). The widow’s two mites was more than all the gifts of the wealthy. She gave her all. The Lord still "sits over against the treasury” (Mark 12. 41-42).
DO YOU KNOW that the Lord is coming and His Judgment Seat will make manifest how we have used our stewardship? (2 Cor. 5. 10; 1 Cor. 4. 5). The results will be to our eternal gain and His honour, or to our eternal loss (1 Cor. 3. 13-15). Which will it be?
See Phil. 1. 23; Luke 23. 43; 2 Cor. 5. 8, etc. These and many other Scriptures teach clearly, and the whole testimony of the New Testament assumes, the conscience existence of the redeemed as spirits. Hebrews 12. 23, in the unclothed state; while Luke 16. 23, 24; 2 Peter 2. 9; Rev. 20. 13 teach clearly the conscious existence of the lost NOW, while awaiting the Great White Throne.
THE whip and the scourge may be righteous; but there is no winning the heart of man with these. Nor is it righteousness which reigns among the saints of God, but grace through righteousness unto eternal life. Alas, how many sins that might have been washed away (John 13) have been retained. How many brethren alienated for all time, who might have been won back to God and to us, because we have hammered at the conscience merely, with the heart still ungained—with the heart, I may say, almost unsought. We have not overcome evil, because we have not overcome it with good. We have taken readily the judge’s chair and have got back judgment; but the Master’s lowly work we have little done.
But how little yet do we understand that mere righteous dealing—absolute righteous, as it may be—will not work the restoration of souls; that judgment, however temperate and true, will not touch and soften and subdue hearts to receive instruction, which, by the very facts of the case, are shown not to be their true place before God.
Man is not all conscience; and conscience reached, with the heart away, will do what it did with the first sinner among men—drive him out among the trees of the garden to escape the unwelcome voice.