In previous articles, concerning this wonderful subject we have sought to show the following from Scripture. Firstly, the certainty of the Lord's return, using scriptures referring to both His coming FOR His saints and His appearing With His saints. Secondly we endeavoured to differentiate between (1 Thess. 3.13), the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints, and (1 Thess. 4.16,17) the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ FOR His saints. We will now seek from the Word of God to establish what this event, which is generally known as The Rapture will mean to each one of us.
When the Lord returns FOR His people two things will take place — the resurrection of the dead in Christ, and the change of living believers; and then both alike will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. This is distinctly taught in 1 Thess. 4.16,17. Our blessed Lord Himself foreshadowed this truth, indeed stated it, though His meaning could scarcely be apprehended without the further light of the epistles. On His way to Bethany, after the death of Lazarus, He said to Martha, "Thy brother shall rise again." Martha saith unto Him, "I know that He shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11.23—26). Here then we have the same two classes — those who believed in Christ, but who should have died before His return, these should live; and secondly, those who should be then alive, and believing in Him, these should never die — corresponding exactly with the two classes found in 1 Thess. 4.
In order however to make the subject clear and simple, it must first be shown that only believers will be raised from the dead at the second coming of our Lord for the Church. There is no doctrine more plainly taught in the Scripture, or so completely overlooked or ignored by the mass of professing Christians. The common thought is, that at the end of the world, at the close of the millenium, there will be a resurrection alike of believers and unbelievers; that all together will be arraigned before a judgement throne, and that then the eternal destiny of each will be declared. But this theological conception, albeit so widely taught and accepted, not only has no foundation in, but is also directly opposed to, the teaching of the word of God. This will be confessed if attention is given to the proofs about to be adduced, that none but believers, blood bought born again, will be raised at the Lord's coming FOR His saints. First of all, a few Scriptures may be cited from the gospels, in addition to that from John 11. On coming down from the mount of transfiguration, the Lord charged His disciples that they should not tell what they had seen, "till the Son of man was risen from among the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from among the dead should mean" (Mark 9.9,10). They believed, as Martha did, that there would be a resurrection at the last day (John 11.24); but until this time they had never heard of a resurrection from among the dead and this it was that caused their astonishment. Here, of course, it was the resurrection of Christ Himself that was in question; but inasmuch as He was the first-fruits of His own, His resurrection was both the pledge and type of theirs. In Luke 14.14 we find the expression, "the resurrection of the just;" and again in 20.35 the Lord speaks of those "who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world," "and the resurrection from among the dead." The phrase which the Lord uses is unmistakeable in its signification that it is a partial resurrection, that those who obtain this resurrection will leave others behind them in their graves. The teaching of John 5.28,29, supports the same conclusion. Going back to the 25th verse, it will be noted that the term 'hour' includes a whole dispensation. "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live." That hour has lasted until the present time, in accordance with the preceding verse, "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;" and it will last until the Lord's return. It marks the whole day of grace. In like manner the term 'hour' in the 28th verse included the whole dispensation. "Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" — judgement. Two resurrections are thus clearly distinguished; that of life, which will take place, as we shall see, at the coming of the Lord; and that of judgement, which will take place after the close of the millennium. (Rev. 20.11—15).
If we turn now to the epistles we shall find even more exact statements. The subject of 1 Cor. 15 is the resurrection of the body; and yet not the resurrection of the bodies of all, but only that of believers. This may be seen at a glance. After showing the consequences of the false doctrine — that there was no resurrection — the apostle states the truth: "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order, Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming." (1 Cor. 15.20—23). Language could not be more exact or explicit. So also in the scripture already cited (1 Thess. 4) it is said, "The dead in Christ shall rise first" (no others are within the apostle's view): "then we which are alive and remain," etc. There is not a thought of unbelievers being included. It is this fact which explains this same apostle's expression in another epistle: "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (rather, from among the dead,) Phil. 3.11.
One more scripture may be permitted. In Rev. 20 we read of some who "lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." The application of this scripture will be examined, if the Lord will, in a future article; but attention now is called to the following statement: "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection." (vv.4,5). It is remembered that interpreters have sought to prove that this is a spiritual resurrection (whatever that may mean): but if so, then the resurrection at the close of the chapter is not a literal one, and therefore they would prove, like the false teachers at Corinth, that there is no resurrection of the dead! No language so clear and unmistakeable, especially when taken in connection with the other scriptures adduced, places beyond all doubt that God in His grace has purposed that believers should rise from among the dead at the coming of the Lord; and this is called the first resurrection. Therefore the term first-fruits is applied to the resurrection of our blessed Lord (1 Cor. 15.20), being the first-fruits of the harvest of His own to be gathered in at His coming. (See Lev. 23.10,11).
Having then established that when the Lord returns it is to gather His own, whether they have previously died, or are still living upon the earth, according to His word — "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself (John 14.3). We may now consider the manner of His coming, as well as the rapture of the saints. The most precise information is given to us upon the subject in 1 Thess. 4.13-17 which may be quoted at length. "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent (go before, or anticipate) them which are asleep. 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." The bearing of this important passage is sometimes overlooked from inattention to its exact statements. The Thessalonian saints did not doubt concerning their portion in Christ on His return; but, somehow or other, they had fallen into the error of supposing that those who had fallen asleep before that event would suffer loss. It is to correct this mistake that the apostle gives some special instruction "by the word of the Lord," i.e. by a revelation upon this particular subject. He shows, then, that all who sleep in (or through) Jesus, God will bring back with Him, that this indeed is connected with our faith in, and is a consequence of, the death and resurrection of Christ. Thereon he explains how this is possible, and this explanation it is which formed the subject of the special revelation to which we have alluded. The Lord will come, and then the dead in Christ will be raised, the living changed, and thus will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, etc. This may take place, as we saw in the last article at any moment. Let us therefore familiarize our minds with the scene. Suddenly, then, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven in the manner here described. First, with a shout. This has caused a difficulty in many minds. If, they have thought, the Lord returns only for His people, and He descends with a shout, must it not then be in a public manner? By no means necessarily. The word itself is one of relationship, indicating, for example, the order of a commander to his soldiers; and thus it is a shout intended only for those to whom it is addressed, the import of which would not be understood by others. When our Lord was upon the earth a voice came to Him from heaven, and some of the bystanders thought that it thundered, while others said 'an angel spoke to Him' (John 12.28,29). So also at the conversion of Paul, his companions heard a voice, i.e. the sound of a voice (Acts 9.7) "but they did not hear the voice of Him that spoke to me,' that is, the significance of the voice, (Acts 22.9; compare Daniel 10.7). So will it be when the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven. All His own will hear and understand the import of the shout; but (if) heard by others it will only seem as the roll of distant thunder, or, taken in combination with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, should these be likewise heard, as a strange phenomenon, to be discussed and explained by scientific men. It is probable that the three — the shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God (see Numbers 10) HAVE BUT ONE OBJECT, the summoning, the assembling together, of the dead and living saints for their translation into the presence of their Lord.
Two effects follow, and follow instantaneously; for the apostle says in another epistle, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump." (1 Cor. 15.51,52). "The dead in Christ shall rise first." What a stupendous scene! All that are Christ's, including, therefore, saints of the past, as well as of the present dispensation, shall rise at His coming. (1 Cor. 15.23). Tracing down the line of the ages from Adam till the last saint to be gathered in, all this countless multitude will, 'in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,' rise from their graves-raised incorruptible. And not only so, but all the saints then living will be changed, so they all alike will be clothed upon with their resurrection bodies, in fashion like unto Christ's body of glory. (Phil. 3.21). It is then, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, that the saying that is written will be brought to pass, "Death is swallowed up in victory." (1 Cor. 15.54; see also 2 Cor. 5.1—4). But no sooner has this marvellous change been accomplished than all its subjects will be caught up 'in the clouds' to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord! Then the Lord Himself enters for the first time, as far as His people are concerned, upon the full fruit of His redemptive work, of the travail of His soul. And what tongue could tell, or pen describe, His joy when He redeems from the grave the very bodies of His people, and when He brings by the word of His power all His chosen ones into His presence, and all conformed to His own image! Neither is it possible to express even our own joy, the joy on which we then shall enter, when the longing desires of our hearts are all realised, and, like Him, we shall behold His face, see Him as He is, and be with Him for ever. It is for this we wait, and the time is not far distant when all will be accomplished; for we rest on the sure word of our faithful Lord, who has said, "Surely I come quickly."
VITAL VERITIES (5)
by E. W. ROGERS
If the Epistles of Paul were set out in chronological order, the resulting arrangement would differ somewhat from the order in which they are found in the New Testament. For the first recorded letter from his pen is the 1st Thessalonians—not Romans, and the last from his pen is 2nd Timothy—not Philemon. Seeing that they form part and parcel of the one Revelation of God to men, it follows that they must have inter-relations, one letter with another, and the object of the present chapter is to ascertain what such subsisting relations are.
Paul's letters may be grouped in three classes:—
Class I. comprises those letters which were written during that section of Paul's life which is covered by the history of the book of the Acts.
Class II. is covered by that period of Roman imprisonment referred to in the closing chapter of the book of the Acts.
Class III. embraces those letters written by Paul during the remainder of his life.
Not that is should be supposed that the letters of Paul preserved in the New Testament are the only letters he wrote, but they are the only letters which the Holy Spirit has deemed it necessary to retain for the use of the Church throughout the Christian age.
Class I. includes Romans, Galatians, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, and 1st and 2nd Corinthians.
Class II. includes Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.
Class III. embraces 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus.
It has ever been an undecided matter in the mind of Bible Students as to who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews. Much thought and attention have been given to this branch of study but the only result definitely obtainable is that "God who spake in times past by the prophets to the fathers" is in this letter continuing to speak by His Son. The authorship has undoubtedly been kept anonymous to impress the reader with the Divine origin of the message.
Nevertheless, the Epistle to the Hebrews stands in conspicuous contrast with that of Paul to the Romans, for in the latter the problem is as to how to get the prisoner out of the criminal court, while in the former it is as to how to bring the once defiled sinner into the sanctuary.
If Peter brought the Gentiles into the light of the gospel it is this anonymous author who brings the Jews out of the shadow of Judaism.
As one peruses the book of the Acts, an ever pressing question in the mind is "What precisely was the gospel which these early evangelists preached?" and while that question is answered partially by the addresses of Peter and Paul as recorded in Acts 2, 10, 13 and 17 yet nowhere do we find the question so clearly and fully answered as in the Epistle to the Romans. The theme of that
Epistle from beginning to end is "The Gospel of God," as it affects sinner, saint, and Jew. Space would forbid an exhaustive analysis of this subject but an examination of that letter will show that Paul names the Central Theme of the Gospel—Christ: His own office in relation to the gospel—a trustee. He defines the need of the gospel in chapters 1 to 3: he states the facts of the gospel, the condition laid down in it, and the glorious results of the gospel in the lives of men now, and their destinies later.
But in view of God's foreknowledge of the propensity of men in all ages to "boast" in their own works, how wise and gracious it is that He has preserved for us Paul's letter to the Galatians in which the gospel is defended from Judaistic attempts to intermingle law with grace, and works with faith. For if in Romans the gospel is stated, in Galatians it is defended, the lines of defence being historical, logical, and appellative.
This raises another question :—
Seeing that the Gospel was preached, what of those who believe and of those who reject its testimony?
These questions are respectively answered in 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. The former shows that the hope of those who believed, which had hitherto been earth-centred, was now directed heavenward to obtain eternal glory there; they now wait for God's Son from heaven, Who would deliver them from the wrath of God which was coming on the godless world.
In the case of unbelievers, however, the 2nd Epistle reveals the awful doom of such as "receive not the love of the truth" nor "obey the gospel"; that it is "eternal destruction" from the presence of the Lord. It is not annihilation (which is never the thought in the Greek word here translated "destruction") but the eternal shutting out from the light of His presence in the gloom of "the blackness of darkness." ,,
Again, after the gospel had been preached and the preachers had moved on, how did the disciples conduct themselves? This question is fully answered in 1st and 2nd Corinthians. The Jewish synagogue and the heathen temple were abandoned, and they gathered together "in church". These periodical gatherings were for the purposes of observing the Lord's Supper, prayer, ministry, etc., all the details pertaining to which may be ascertained by a careful study of these two letters.
Paul not a few times speaks of "faith, hope and love," and these six letters answer thereto.
In Romans and Galatians the gospel is presented for "faith's" acceptance.
In Thessalonians the "hope" of the believer is presented, a hope which is unaffected by life or death.
In Corinthians "love" is presented as that which tends to make the machinery of "spiritual gifts" work smoothly.
To quote another: There exists "A company brought into touch with God through living faith, their lives illuminated by heavenly hope, and their hearts knit together by holy love."
While all Scripture is God-breathed, yet some parts of it are on a higher plane than others. So the New Testament generally is on a higher plane than the Old, and so too, this second class is on a higher plane than the first class. For here we find the Lord Jesus Christ as the chief theme of these letters.
In Ephesians, Christ is presented as the One who loved the Church and gave Himself for it. He is "Head over all things," He is the "beloved One." This letter takes us back into eternity past, and carries us on into eternity future, and shows that events on earth in the meanwhile effect the accomplishing of a purpose made before all ages to be realized in future ages. Its main theme is The Church, that which is dearest to the heart of Christ. Its election, constitution, resources, ministers, individual responsibilities, and conflict form the main themes of its six chapters respectively.
In Colossians the same Blessed Person is presented, only this time in such a way as is calculated to correct the tendency of the believers to adopt the world's philosophical systems, and religionists' veneration of angels. The Lord is here presented chiefly as Head of the Body, and the four chapters of the Epistle may roughly be said to deal with (a) The Person (b) His work (c) His claims, and (d) His people.
These two Epistles have been likened to two great mountain peaks, between which is a deep valley, the Epistle to the Philippi-ans, the famous second chapter of which speaks of the humiliation of our Lord Jesus.
It is an Epistle that shows the effect in the Believer's heart of the truths contained in the other two Epistles. The presentation of Christ in such a way finds a response to such an extent that Paul is able to say "For me to live is Christ: to die gain." "To depart and be with Christ is very far better." Christ was the one object of his life.
Paul is one who gives practical display of what he enjoins. He had a humble mind as chapter 2 shows. He had a heavenly mind as in chapter 3.; and in the midst of all the disturbing events of earth he had a tranquil mind (see chapter 4).
But what shall be said of the short letter to Philemon? Surely it is a concrete case exemplifying the application to life of the truths of the former three Epistles, and that in the case of the least intimate of earth's relationships, viz., Master and Servant. Observe how the Spirit of Christ fills His servant Paul, who is able to say "If he hath wronged thee, put that to my account." This for ever shuts the mouth of objectors who might charge Paul with writing high ideals, but failing to display them in action. Here is a case in point, doubtless one of many.
While Ephesians speaks of the Catholic Church in regard to the Purpose of God, 1 Timothy deals with the local church as God's witness on earth. His earthly witness in Israel having failed, that people has been temporarily set aside. Meanwhile, another witness exists. Companies of believers from all races, form on earth God's testimony. Each company should be "the pillar and base of the truth" in the particular place where it is found. Hence in 1 Timothy and Titus much is said concerning "behaving in the house of God," and the ministry of "bishops" and "deacons" therein. They are Epistles which have to do with regulations and conduct "in the house of God" i.e., the assemblies of God's people.
Thus far Timothy and Titus are in accord, though it may be observed that Paul's letter to Titus is wider. In its second chapter he shows the importance of proper "behaviour" in this present age. Five definite reasons are given why the Christian should be well behaved, viz:—
That the word of God be not blasphemed.,
That he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed.
That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
That we should live soberly, righteously, and godly.
That we might be free from all iniquity.
2nd Timothy is a suitable close to the series, having to do with testimony in the world. In the midst of a cruel, cold, opposing world how refreshing to read from the pen of the veteran Paul— "I am not ashamed": "be not thou therefore ashamed." (Ch. 1 vv. 12,16,8). All that is requisite for last days is to be found "in Christ Jesus", a key phrase in this letter. In the midst of foes "God is our Saviour."
Paul, the warrior, has been contesting in respect of a good cause: the runner has not fainted but "finished his course": the trustee has not proved unworthy but has "kept the faith." He now confidently awaits "the victor's crown," which the Righteous Judge will award Him in the day of His appearing.
Thus he looks on to the next great thing on earth — the Kingdom.
May God enable us to "follow Paul" in these matters, and to "love His appearing." The danger is ever-present that we may be like Demas who forsook the spiritual and ardent servant, "having loved this present world."
"THE PROPHECY OF NAHUM"
by E. R. Bower.
No. 1 — AN INTRODUCTION
The prophecy of Nahum is not only a 'minor' prophet, it is a prophecy which although having much attention paid to it over the years, has now apparently become neglected, perhaps it appears to have little or no relevance to our day or to the future. Nothing is known of Nahum or of Elkosh, but his oracle against the "exceeding great city" (Jon. 3.3) of Nineveh lives on as one of the books "written aforetime" and "for our learning" (Rom. 15.4). The story of "Jonah and the Whale" is a familiar one, but for many the significance of Jonah's prophecy is passed by, and Nahum's burden overlooked. Between the visit of Jonah which brought Nineveh to
repentance, and its utter destruction there is an interval of possibly a century and a half, although dates are uncertain. During that interval and probably near its end, Nahum comes upon the scene with his vision of Ninevah's overthrow. His vision may be coincident with the Assyrian invasion of Israel and Judah; with the collapse of the northern kingdom of Israel; and with the siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 18and 19). Sennacherib, king of Assyria, had to withdraw from the siege of Jerusalem and return to Nineveh where he was assassinated within the temple precincts (2 Kings 19.36,37). Commentators appear to be agreed in naming Sennacherib as the wicked counsellor; the counsellor of Belial (margin) of whom Nahum speaks but others consider Rab-shakeh ('chief of the captains' — a title and not a proper name) to be the wicked counsellor and Sennacherib as the man of Belial (1.11). Sennacherib's assassination fulfilled Nahum's prophecy (1.14). "I will make it (the temple) thy grave: for thou art light (in the balance)." Cf. Dan. 5.27. For the background of the books of Jonah and Nahum see 2 Kings 18 and 19; Isaiah 36 and 37. The wicked counsellor is a foreshadowing of the vile person who will stand up in the last days and speak great things against the God of gods, but will be brought to an end. (Dan. 11). Writers who see this foreshadowing of the "man of sin" think that the evil counsellor and the man of sin will be renegade Jews. If Rab-shakeh is seen as the evil counsellor then his knowledge of the Jew's language might bear this out. The story of Nineveh as seen in the contexts of Jonah and Nahum centers upon the sobering thought that God does not forget; He is not mocked (Gal. 6.7); man does not "turn up his nose" at God lightly. As we read Nahum's graphic poem (and his word painting is of forcible terseness), we see pictured before us those reminders that God does not forget. He still fufils His own law, "visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate Me" (Ex. 20.5; 34.6,7). Would that the perpetrators of modern terrorism and of war would remember this! Nineveh forgot the mercy extended to them by God over the three or four generations after Jonah's call to repentance. Now His Name was blasphemed and Nineveh had become a byword for cruelty and oppression — "the crudest of all the great empires of antiquity. They gloried in their records of a ferocity at which we stand aghast." (Sayce). "Judged from the vaunting inscriptions of her kings, no power more useless, more savage, more terrible, ever cast its gigantic shadow on the page of history as it passed on the way of ruin. They cut down warriors like weeds, or smote them like wild beasts in the forests and covered pillars with the flayed skins of rival monarchs" (Farrar, quoted by "Precious Seed" 1967). Having experienced the mercy of God, they were now to experience His vengeance.—To be continued.
LEVI - 'THE LAW IN THE HEART'
by H. Shackcloth
There is a day known to the Lord when He will fulfil His long awaited promise to receive His redeemed people unto Himself. Following this there is another day, concerning which, the disciples asked of the Master, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel', with the reply, 'It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power' Acts 1.6,7.
However, we may be assured that one prophetic fulfilment is being enacted in preparation for this event. We refer to the statement 'He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd doth his sheep.' Jer. 31.10.
Whenever Israel displeased God in an extreme degree the punishment was either, at first, captivity or later, dispersion; even as we write we note how that God either uses the events of history to hasten the return of His people or perhaps fashions history to further it, which may be occurring now with the singular return of a large number of Israelites from Ethiopia.
This return is the precursor of the time when a further prophecy will be fulfilled, 'Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.' Jeremiah 31.31. This is said to be distinct from the Sinai Covenant, 'which, my covenant, they brake, although I was a husband unto them', saith the Lord. 'I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.' (vv. 32,33).
These statements can refer only to blessings for Israel quite distinct from those vouchsafed to the Church. We take to heart the words of the Lord to His disciples, as the remnant of Israel, 'When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth night.' Luke 21.28.
The Millennium — (3)
by J. E. TODD
Because of God's promises to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David, the prophets looked forward to the golden age for Israel when all these promises would be fulfilled. Being prophets their vision enjoyed the advantage of divine inspiration. The earthly glories of that coming age form the climax of most of the prophetic book of the Old Testament. The prophets' vision was of Jerusalem and the land of Canaan inhabited by the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob under a king of David's line enjoying uninterrupted peace and material prosperity while ever the earth exists.
Here follows a sample statement from each prophet with some further readings, for this subject fills a considerable portion of the prophetic writings.
David prophesied, 'To Israel for an everlasting covenant. Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance' (1 Chron. 16.13-18 and repeated in Psa. 105.7-11).
A psalmist, Ethan, prophesied, 'Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie to David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me' (Psa. 89.35-36, read the whole Psalm and also Psalms 2,72 and 110).
Isaiah prophesied, 'Thou (Jerusalem) shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken' (Isa. 62.3-4, see the whole chapter and also chapter 2).
Jeremiah prophesied, 'Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city (Jerusalem) shall be built to the LORD . . . Shall be holy unto the LORD; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever' (Jer. 31.38-40).
Ezekiel prophesied, 'They shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever' (Ezek. 37.25, read verses 15-28).
Hosea prophesied, 'I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon' (Hos. 14.5, read verses 4-9).
Joel prophesied, 'But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation' (Joel 3.20, read the whole chapter).
Amos prophesied, 'I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel.. . And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God' (Amos 9.14-15).
Micah prophesied, 'He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us ... Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old' (Micah 7.19-20, read verses 11-20).
Zephaniah prophesied, 'At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you . . . when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the LORD' (Zeph. 3.20, read verses 14-20).
Zechariah prophesied, 'And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited' (Zech. 14.11, read verses 11-21).
The future vision of these prophets can be summed up in the words of their fellow prophet Daniel, 'I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.'(Dan. 7.13,14).
This is confirmed by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, 'O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken ... and beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.' (Luke 24.25-27).
by Charles Stanley
What must I do to be saved? How often has this question been asked since the words were first uttered by the jailor of Philippi? How necessary it is that the divinely-given answer should be before us in this our day, when thousands are clinging, with a terrible zeal, to human righteousness and fleshly ordinances as a means of salvation! How refreshingly simple is the reply of the Spirit given through the apostle: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." But how difficult it is to persuade the sinner that this is all that God requires of him! And yet, turn to whatever portion of God's word I may, I fail to find that man has ever been his own saviour.
Take an example. On the sands of the desert were stretched a multitude of Israelites, writhing in the throes of death, through the bite of the fiery serpents, the reward of their sin. (Num. 21). What can save them? If their prayers and works of righteousness, surely the time to do so has now arrived. Their religion is one of works and ordinances, but they have sinned, they are guilty—yea, they are lost and dying, and nothing can for one moment avail them, save God Himself, the One against whom they have sinned; and, blessed be His name, He interposes, and, by the mouth of His servant, Moses, proclaims His salvation.
"One look" at the serpent of brass, and the deadly wound is healed, the Israelite is saved from death. It was a salvation outside of man, it was God's salvation; man had neither to merit it by good works, nor obtain it by ordinances—he had simply to BELIEVE it.
All that he could do was to turn his dying eye to the uplifted serpent, and this was all Jehovah required of him, for He had said to Moses, "Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live." The bitten Israelite's faith grasped the promise of God, and expressed itself by a look. Healing and life were the immediate result.
Thus has it ever been. Man in his extremity has always had to go for help and succour to that God, whom, in his moments of prosperity or trial, he has treated with proud neglect. But, blessed be His name, flowing from His heart is an exhaustless supply of grace, which is ever at the service of all who, confessing their sins, turn away from creature help, and trust implicitly in Him.
And now a word with you, reader, if unconverted. Know you not that you are suffering from the bite of a serpent more terrible than those which retribution brought upon the sinful Israelites in a bygone day? In what are you trusting for salvation from the awful consequences of your sin, the hell towards which you are travelling so rapidly? Who can rescue you from that dread abyss, on the brink of which you are even now tottering—that abyss of eternal judgment?
Will your ceremonies, baptism confirmation, teetotalism, blue-ribbonism, reformation, the keeping of feasts, and observance of holy days, your good works and prayers, avail you in this matter? No! No! No! Not all the ceremonies and good works in the world, ten million times repeated, can ever atone for one sin; they do but come in as a barrier between your soul and God. I tell you. He will accept neither you nor them. You are lost, poor sinner, and none but God can save you, and He will only save you in one way.
You must come to Him as the prodigal came to the father, in Luke 15, just as you are, in all your nakedness, wretchedness, filthiness, and unworthiness, with no good thing about you, and nothing to recommend you to God but your need, your penitence finding expression in the cry, welling up from the heart conscious of its guilt, "I have sinned," with faith that God can, and will forgive, you, through the work of His Son.
Listen, while Jesus proclaims the gospel of God's salvation.
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3.14-16).
How unspeakably precious is this! The blessed Son of God is using the story of Israel's sin and Jehovah's mercy, to illustrate God's present way of saving sinners. As then, so now, the sinner of that day looked, and lived. The sinner of today, weary of that sin which threatens him with God's eternal wrath, looks back in faith to that wondrous scene at Calvary where Jesus suffered, the Just for the unjust; sees Him there as the One who came from the glory, out of the love of His heart, to bear in His own sinless person the judgment due to fallen man; and believing God has raised Him from the dead, receives everlasting life.
Oh! mystery of mysteries—love unfathomable, unutterable— God's love to man!—to man who had trampled His glory underfoot, and whose vile heart took perpetual delight in transgressing His holy laws. Yet forth from the Father came the Son of His love, and trod the earth as the "Man of sorrows," and the Father traced, with ineffable delight, each step of His blessed journey, while was sounded forth from the glory the Father's voice of loving recognition: "This is my beloved Son." Wondrous word, the heart of Jesus, dishonoured by man, was refreshed and cheered by the sense of the Father's full delight in Himself.
It was the Father's presence, the abode of eternal light and love, exchanged for a world which understood and loved Him not; the cold indifference of men pressed upon that loving heart, and grieved it to its core. It was the joy of heaven exchanged for a cross and a grave. The form of God, with its supernal glory veiled, that He might assume a body prepared for Him, in which He could suffer and die.
Only the Father and the Son will ever know the depths of the sorrow and anguish of Gethsemane and Calvary: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" was the dying cry of the Son of God. Dost thou know, my reader, why God forsook Him in the hour of His awful agony? It was because He was bearing sin, and a holy God hid His face from the Sin-bearer, in order that He might bless the sinner with eternal glory.
Yes, Love's gift in death has satisfied infinite Holiness. The heart of the Father finds eternal rest and satisfaction in the shed blood of His dear Son, that blood which is to Him the blessed proof of a perfect obedience rendered in the scene of man's terrible failure. Heaven's gates are thrown wide open, a holy God, seated on a throne of grace, beckons the prodigal to Himself, and offers him the kiss of eternal reconciliation; bids him come just as he is, and partake of the feast which everlasting love has spread, bids him come and partake, without money, and without price.
Loudly sounds forth from God's own lips, over land and sea, the glorious proclamation of pardon and peace. Hearken, oh, poor, perishing world—hearken to what a God of love is saying to thee: "PEACE HAS BEEN MADE THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE CROSS." 'HE THAT BELIEVETH ON THE SON HATH EVERLASTING LIFE." The message is to the poor, as well as to the rich and the noble, and the command to His servants is, "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."
The presence of the Son of God on earth, His wondrous death at Calvary, His resurrection and ascension to glory, His being seated at the right hand of God—all this explains why God does not make man's salvation depend upon his own obedience and righteousness. Salvation has been procurred for the sinner by the work of another, the divinely-appointed Substitute, who Himself bore God's wrath against sin, and rose from under it triumphant, bursting asunder the bands of death and the grave, and crushing beneath His pierced feet the enemy of souls—thrice blessed proof of an accomplished redemption.
Here may the weary, heavy-laden sinner find rest, joy and everlasting peace.
Hail, glorious Saviour! Worthy art Thou to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing throughout the eternal ages, Amen.
And yet—oh, sorrowful truth!—spite of all this, millions of unsaved men and women are marching on towards hell, supremely indifferent to what God has done in love to save them from its endless woes.
And millions of others are groping about in a maze of ordinances, vainly seeking for a salvation which has already been procured for the sinner by the atoning death of the Son of God.
Oh, my reader, as you value your deathless soul, let me beseech you to tear from your heart everything in which you are resting for salvation apart from Christ. Look away from everything to Him, just as the dying Israelite looked away from everything to the serpent of brass. Look unto Him, the all-glorious, God-appointed Saviour, once nailed to a cross of wood, from whose pierced side flowed that blood which alone could make atonement for the soul. Base ALL your hopes, for time and eternity, upon Him who shed His precious, precious blood, AND UPON HIM ALONE.
Think of it, "one look," and the virus of the serpent's bite was annulled, the Israelite leaped to his feet, made perfectly whole. One look of faith at Jesus, and the load of sins is gone, buried for ever in the sea of God's forgetfulness; all fear of wrath removed, and everlasting life gained.
Oh, do you not believe, my reader?—God asks nothing more of you, He waits to save you—He waits, I tell you. What a wonderful sight, God waiting to receive the sinner! The God who, in His mercy, came to the rescue of rebellious Israel in the wilderness, has sent His only-begotten Son to suffer in the sinner's stead, and to bear his judgment; and He now waits to pardon all who accept that Son as Saviour. Oh, will you not accept salvation in God's own way? You are not expected to save yourself, or even to contribute towards your salvation. Jesus, the Saviour, procured salvation, amid inexpressible sorrow and agony, at Calvary, for all who shall believe in Himself.
All things are now ready, sinner; the banquet is spread, the guests are pressing in through the open door of grace. Will you be among the blessed number? Pass in, poor wanderer—pass in.
Oh! says some one, my sins are so many and great. Of course they are; the wound of the bitten Israelite, no doubt, smarted dreadfully, but that did not hinder him from looking away from his wound to the God-appointed means of healing.
Jehovah had not said, Whoever is occupied with his wound shall live, but, Whosoever looketh shall live. Jesus did not say, Whosoever is occupied with his many and great sins shall receive everlasting life, but, Whosoever believeth in ME.
God speaks of man's ruin, and of His own gracious remedy, in the same breath. For example, we read in Romans 3 : "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" but what follows immediately afterwards? "Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." The man who has sinned, and come short of His glory, is he whom God justifies FREELY.
Instances could be multiplied shewing that God's mode of dealing with the sinner, is, to convince him of his sin and danger, and then point him to what He has done, in His boundless love, to put away the sin, and avert the judgment.
Hence, when a sinner is convicted of his guilt, then God would have him look outside himself, away from his own helplessness and vileness, to His Son, once lifted up at Calvary, and obtain salvation by believing in Him.
God sent the earthquake, to awaken the Philippian jailor out of his sleep of indifference, and shew him his need of salvation; and his lips gave immediate expression to the fear of his startled soul— "What must I do to be saved?" In an instant came the answer— "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
There need be no pause between conviction and salvation. All the exercises of soul, the doubts, fears, cries, groans, and endeavours to find something meritorious in oneself, always end in the believer's ultimately looking away from himself to Christ, and finding, to his joyful astonishment, that real peace and salvation are connected, entirely and absolutely, with Him and His finished work.
Food for Thought
Lust and Immorality are a canker to the mind ... a corrosive to the conscience ... 'and a curse to a nation.
Words break no bones ... but they do break hearts.
In creation we see God's Hand: in redemption we see HIS HEART.
People judge Christianity by what they see in Christians.
Ponder the wonder of Jesus.
To show your love for Christ... live for Christ.
A well-read Bible is the sign of a well-fed soul.
The only place to hide sin is under the BLOOD OF JESUS.
When God wipes our tears, sorrow gives way to eternal song.
—Anthony Orsini, USA.
DOORS IN THE REVELATION (No.1)
by B. Currie, (Belfast)
In his gospel John has more references to doors than any of the synoptic writers. These are to be found in chapters 10,18 and 20 where we note such well known references as "I am the door," 10.9; "Peter stood at the door without," 18.16; "the doors were shut" 20.19. In total there are nine such references.
When he wrote the Revelation John referred to three doors:—
3.8 "I have set before thee an open door," — this door opens OUT FOR SERVICE,
3.20 "Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him and sup with him, and he with Me," — this door opens IN FOR COMMUNION,
4.1 "After this I looked, and, behold a door was opened in heaven," — this door opens UP FOR RAPTURE.
We shall briefly consider each in turn.
1. A DOOR OPENED OUT FOR SERVICE — Rev. 3.8.
There are some who would take this verse and give it a very wide application and insist that service is open for all and sundry. However this is not the case in the New Testament which constantly and consistently insists that prerequisite conditions are necessary for service. The list of qualifications necessary for a deacon (Gk.— a servant) is found in 1 Tim. 3.8-13, and clearly indicates that high moral, doctrinal, and personal characteristics must be seen in any who wish to serve.
The verse being considered shows that such is true, not only concerning an individual, but also for an assembly. The open door is set before an assembly, Philadelphia, which is one of the two (Smyrna being the other) not rebuked. This is an immediate indication that the door for service is not open to every group claiming to be an assembly. In fact the verse gives three reasons why the open door is set before it:
a) "thou hast a little strength,"
b) "hast kept my word,"
c) "hast not denied my Name."
a) "thou hast a little strength"
It is very clear that this is not a rebuke but a commendation. The Lord appreciates a little power to continue in the ways which are pleasurable unto Him. The expression is in contrast to that which was seen and experienced in the early days of church testimony — Acts 4.33 "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus." The words "power" and "strength" are the same Greek word, dunamis. We can learn that we cannot expect the "great power" of pentecostal days in a time of general departure and declension but there will be found assemblies of Philadelphian character which have "a little power."
This "little power" is detected in a two fold way, one positive and one negative.
b) "hast kept my word"
This is the positive indication of the little power. The verb to keep means to watch, to guard as Acts 12.5 "Peter therefore was kept in prison," also 16.23 "charging the jailor to keep them safely." It has the implication of treasuring and honouring as Matt. 19.17 "keep the commandments," John 19.16 "he keepeth not the sabbath day," John 14.15 "if ye love Me keep My commandments," 2 Tim. 4.7 "I have kept the faith," Rev. 22.7 "blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book." This is but a selection of the seventy-five occurences of the word in the New Testament to impress upon us that strength is not measured by numbers attending meetings, nor evangelical zeal, nor by interdenominational activity, but by how much we watch, guard, treasure and honour the word.
In order to keep the word we must first of all know it and then obey it. The scriptures are neither old fashioned nor archaic since God's standards and moral requirements do not change. It is incumbent upon all Christians to read the Bible carefully and prayerfully with a submissive spirit willing to obey its precepts. Slipshod and hurried reading without meditation will not produce all that is implied in "keeping" and cannot therefore indicate "a little strength" which means that the Lord will not open doors for service.
c) "hast not denied my Name"
This is the Name in which we have been saved — Acts 4.12, baptised—Matt. 28.19, gathered—Matt. 18.20, in which we pray — John 14.13,14, and in which discipline is carried out — 1 Cor. 5.4. The fact that things are done in His Name implies both His absence and that we are acting as His representatives. Thus to dishonour His Name means that we are not giving a true representation of Him during His absence.
The verb to deny means "to abrogate, forsake or renounce" — W. E. Vine. It is used for example, of Peter denying the Lord, Matt. 26.72 "again he denied with an oath" and of Moses forsaking and renouncing Egypt, Heb. 11.24 "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter."
Thus the indication of "a little strength" is seen in those who by neither life nor Up deny His Name. It is before such an assembly that the Lord sets an open door. Where a company has moved away from the basic principles and by their actions and associations compromise His word and His Name we can be sure that their door of service has been opened by a hand other than the Lord's.
(To be continued).
Three Men of God
BY R. D. ELWOOD, (NEWTOWNABBEY)
The only three men recorded in scripture that "walked with God," are ENOCH, NOAH, and LEVI.
In Gen. 5.18-24 we read of Enoch. His name means, "INITIATED or DEDICATED," and he dedicated his life to God.
His walk with God was habitual, and he had this testimony that he "pleased God." He lived by faith and was translated up to God by faith. (Heb. 11.5).
Enoch is a picture of the "Saved on earth" at the second coming of the LORD JESUS CHRIST to the air to collect His Bride from this old world and all its wicked ways.
Enoch was the seventh from Adam and that would speak to us
of perfection. This perfection we shall enter at His coming, note 1 John 3.2 ... "When He shall appear we shall be like Him ... and Phil. 3.21 . . . "Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His Glorious Body ..."
Enoch prophesied as a Prophet that the "Lord cometh." He lived a year for every day of the year, that is to say, he lived for 365 years on earth before God took him away.
In Gen. 6.9 we read of Noah "walking with God," and his name means "Rest or COMFORT," and he lived for 950 years.
In his generation Noah "found grace in the eyes of the Lord".. Gen. 6.8 (his Salvation).
God talked with Noah... His communion. Gen. 6.13.
God covenanted eight times with Noah ... His promises. Gen. 9.13. Eight would speak of Resurrection, or something new. The evidence of God's promise is His rainbow in the sky. Noah did what God commanded,... His obedience. Gen. 6.22.
Noah was the tenth from Adam and ten would speak of man's responsibility, (e.g. the ten commandments). Noah typifies the King, as after the flood he was sovereign over the whole earth. Gen. 9.2-3.
In Mal. 2.4-7 we read of Levi. His name means "JOINED or ATTACTED." (the third son of Jacob), and Levi became God's appointed tribe to serve Him. His work was "a Marriage of Service, or joined to God," and was a mediator for the children of Israel.
Levi had the covenant of Life and Peace and spoke the Law of Truth without sin. He walked with God in peace and equity and justice and Godly fear. He turned many from their sins.
Levi would speak to us of the PRIEST.
In contrast when we come into the New Testament, there was only one person that walked with God, and He is "THE LORD JESUS CHRIST." He is the PROPHET, THE KING, and THE PRIEST, who is so anointed by God Himself.
In Luke 7.16, He is declared as a "GREAT PROPHET." In Rev.
17.14, He is declared as the "LORD of Lords, and the KING of Kings, Lk. 1.33 also declares "Of His Kingdom there shall be no end. In Heb. 6.20 He is declared as a HIGH PRIEST for ever. As a testimony the Heavens opened on at least three occasions and declared Him to be the "One in whom God was well pleased." (In whom He found Great Delight).
He is the unique Son, the Beloved of the Father. Matt 3.17, Matt. 17.5, and John 12.28.
... His words were oracles... His acts were miracles. Some of old time have been king-priest, some have been king-prophets, and some priests have prophesied, but our LORD JESUS CHRIST is the only person who can be PROPHET, PRIEST, and KING. It is this calibre of person that we can put our trust on in every situation. Col. 1.10.
The Love of Jesus
by C. H. Mackintosh.
In looking at Revelation 1.5, 6, we can trace the following actings of love: first, love thinks of its objects. This marks the motive in operation to be unaffectedly pure, for when the heart regales itself by meditating on its object, it seeks not to be noticed, to be praised or exalted for thinking of its object; its reward is found in the very thought itself—a reward, a pleasure with which nothing can compare.
Secondly, love visits its object. It could not be content with merely thinking: the same principle that leads love to think with pleasure, induces it to visit its object; and, moreover, we can trace the same purity, elevation, and disinterestedness, in the visit as in the thought. It does not think upon its object in order to please or attract the attention of any one, neither does it visit in order to effect such ends; it has its own real, substantial enjoyment, both in thinking of and visiting its object.
Thirdly, love suffers for its object. It rests not satisfied with merely thinking of, or visiting its object—it must suffer. In order to exhibit itself in all its reality and intensity, love must put itself to cost for its object; it must spend and be spent, not because it expects a return, but simply because it will express itself in a way not to be mistaken. Love never thinks of what it may reap for itself in thus suffering. No: it simply contemplates its object, in thinking of, visiting, and suffering for it.
Fourthly, love exalts its object. This is the climax. In the exaltation of its object, loves sees the fruit of previous thought, visitation, and suffering. Hence, love feels exquisite happiness in exalting its object, for in so doing, it reaps the wished-for harvest.
Let us now apply the above blessed characteristics of love to the Lord Jesus, and see how His love exhibited all of them. Did not He ponder in His own eternal mind His much-loved church before the foundation of the world? Yes, truly "His gracious eye surveyed us ere stars were seen above." Did He rest satisfied with merely thinking about us? No: He veiled His glory; He came down into this cold, heartless world, as into a vast quarry, from whence He hoped to hew out stones for the temple. He made His way down into this "roughly valley" of ours, which had "neither been eared nor sown." "The day-spring from on high hath visited us;" but He did not rest satisfied with coming down to look at us in our misery and degradation; He determined to suffer for us, to groan, to bleed, to die for us; He hath washed us in "His own blood," which marks the intensity of His sufferings for us. What, then, was all this for? Why those ineffable sufferings of Jesus? Why the groans and bloody sweat in the garden? Why the mysterious hour of profound darkness, together with the cry, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" Simply that the love of Jesus might exalt its object. And He has exalted His object, yea, to the highest point of elevation: "He hath made us kings and priests unto God."
Thus we have seen how the love of Jesus has thought of, visited, suffered for, and exalted its object: this is for our comfort. But then we should remember that if we love Jesus, we too will often like to think of Him, to contemplate His grace, ponder over His perfection; moreover, we will pay frequent visits to the secret of His sanctuary, not to gain a name as persons of much prayer, but simply to indulge the desires of our hearts after Him "who is the fairest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely." Again, we shall be ready to suffer for Him, not in order to commend ourselves to our brethren as persons of great energy and zeal, but to express the high estimation in which we hold His blessed Person. Finally, it will be our constant effort to exalt Him in every place: our constant cry will be, "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together." Let us earnestly pray for such a deep tide of Divine love in our poor, cold, narrow, selfish hearts, as will make our service not the mere spurt of imperfect zeal, kindled by the unhallowed spark of human opinion, but the calm, steady, constant flow of unalterable affection for Jesus—that affection which has its primary joy in pondering over its object, ere it comes forth as an actor or a sufferer in His cause.
"Come, saints, praise the Lamb, His mercies proclaim, And lift up your heads and sing of His name; His love to the church, which He purchased with blood, To make her His bride and the temple of God."
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (3)
— by John Hawthorne, (N. Ireland)
Among the many Christian homes into which children were born was one in the North of England, a farm house outside Whitewaven. The parents were Robert Hawthorne, a Scot, saved out of a "kirk" family and received into Low Waters Assembly, Hamilton and Anne (nee Boadle) a farmer's daughter whose parents were disinherited after leaving the Church of England. They became foundation members of Hope Hall Assembly, Scilly Banks, which is now sadly extinct. The child was John Hawthorne, their firstborn. At the time of his birth there were six saved relatives in the home and when father was there — seven. That, plus the fact that his mother was a Sunday School teacher, would clearly indicate the nature of his upbringing.
Early impressions were made by the death of his grandfather but Satan soon subtily dispelled these with the reminder that the family were "long-livers." The second and lasting impression was the learning of the truth of the Lord's coming. This truth was forcibly impressed upon the three children, two girls having been born, after the family had moved to live in Belfast. Mother was visiting a friend on the far side of the city of Belfast and we lived on the East side. The time of her expected returned passed by and longer until we were convinced that the great event had actually happened, leaving us behind for the inevitable judgement of God upon the ungodly. On a subsequent Lord's Day in Ballyhackamore Hall at the close of the remembrance of their Lord the saints sang No. 106 in the Believers Hymn Book. "It may be at morn, It may be at midday, or that the blackness of midnight will burst into Glory . . . when Jesus receives from the world His own." This dispelled a thought in young John's mind that he might wait until the summer when he would normally go to his grandmother for holidays and always have the opportunity to attend test meetings — a suggestion his mother had made earlier. Although only in his tenth summer John desired salvation on that very day and got it in the Sunday night meeting in the gospel hall. The speaker was the late Wm. Campbell — the "wee panio man" — to distinguish him from the preacher's son. He spoke from the healing of the leper in Mark 1. As the hearers were directed to Christ's person and power John recalled those precious words:—
My sins deserve eternal death,
But Jesus died for me.
Resting on that fact and with assurance from John 3.16 — the latter half — he was saved on the seat without his mother or sister being aware of what had transpired. This was made known about 8.20 p.m. by inserting a little note in the clock rim on the living room mantlepiece.
What is to be done with young children like this professing to be saved? Usually two things which are WRONG, viz: prop them up when they have nothing or knock them down when they could have life. What happened John? His father said to all enquiries — "He is of age ask him." Likewise the brethren in old Mourne Street assembly, with which the parents were then connected. They waited until John was 16 and satisfied on testimony and evidence, they baptised and received him, these included such worthies as Capt. Hill, S. Roberts, T. Eccles, T. McKeown (Sen.).
Another question now arises — What is there in the assembly for young folk? There was and still is Sunday School work, open-air and tract work locally. Saturday village work according to the area of the city wherein one resides. There are now vast new housing estates that have not been tracted by assembly workers.
All these activities are good training ground for "full time" work if one is led so of the Lord. Eventually when moving around the province is secular employment in the Telephone industry, one was afforded the privilege and honour of sharing in series of gospel meetings. The earlier labours with J. Thompson, Alex. Little, R. Beattie and others. Encouragement was received from these brethren and other full-tune evangelists as well as from different assembly elders including Bloomfield where we were then in fellowship. While travelling to the funeral of late Wm. McCracken, who was now father-in-law, one of these said to me — "My servant is dead — arise and go." No doubt a reference to Joshua 1.2. The decision to leave work and fully serve the Lord was not quickly or lightly taken, indeed it proved to be akin to the experience of salvation. However, January 1968 saw the step taken. Since then labours have been shared with various brethren in Ireland and elswhere. We can only say "By the grace of God I am what I am — 1 Cor. 15.10" and "Having obtained help from God I continue until this day." — Acts 26.22. As we feel the rapid approach of the Lord's coming and the increasing and abounding spiritual darkness with accompanying carelessness we would make one appeal — Brethren pray for us. — 1 Thess. 5.25.