Outlining the Book of Revelation
By Wm. Bunting.
IN seeking an answer to the question, “Is there a National Future for Israel?” we have adduced positive, undeniable, scriptural evidence, affirming that there most certainly is. Amongst other things, we have seen:
- That the promise of Israel’s future regathering is as sure of fulfilment as were the warnings of the nation’s scattering (Jer. 31. 10, 31-37; Hosea 3. 4, 5).
- the very places from which they will be regathered are named—Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, the isles of the sea, and the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11. 11-12).
- That the ancient enmity between the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom of Israel will end, and all the tribes will be reunited (Isa. 11. 13; Ezek. 37. 15-24; 48. 1-29; Luke 22. 30; Rev. 7 1-8).
- That the natural seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will yet inhabit the land promised to them as an everlasting possession, and will never again be scattered nor brought under a Gentile yoke (Gen. 12. 7; 13. 15; 26. 4; 28. 4, etc.; Jer. 31. 8, 40; Ezek. 34. 12, 13, etc.).
- That the future boundaries of the Land will be those which are so carefully described in Ezekiel 47 and 48, and the future area of restored Jerusalem that which is defined in Jer. 38-40, and that then the magnificence of the city and rebuilt Temple will be exactly as foretold in Ezekiel 40-48.
- That these things will take place “in the latter days” (Jer. 30. 24; Ezek. 38. 8, 16), after the “many days” of Hos. 3. 4, 5, and not “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21. 24), and the Israelitish saints of Rev. 7. 1-8 have been “sealed”.
- That all this was guaranteed by the Abrahamic Covenant which was ratified by Divine oath, and is absolute, unconditional, and irrevocable (Gen. 22. 16-18), and that Israel’s subsequent backsliding and apostasy, therefore, cannot annul it (Jer. 31. 37; Rom. 11. 29).
In light of all this wealth of promise and prophetic data, we repeat that it is incontrovertible that Israel has been destined by God to fill a role in the future of world affairs. The evidence of this in Scripture is clear, consistent, and convincing. Moreover, it is confirmed by the miracle of the Jews’ separateness, uniqueness, and marvellous preservation down the centuries, and of their again attaining the status of sovereign Statehood in their own beloved Land in modern times, as we have already seen. This is a story which has no parallel in the entire history of mankind. Other peoples, it is true, have regained political independence. Arthur W. Kac, M.D., however, has pointed out that “with the exception of Israel all these nations lived in their respective countries at the time they acquired national sovereignty. The Jews in Palestine constituted a minority of Palestine’s population when the State of Israel was established. The political independence which the Jews won in Palestine was accompanied by the liquidation of many centuries-old Jewish communities in various countries and the transfer of large numbers of Jews to Palestine. There is not another similar instance in the history of the world” (“The Rebirth of the State of Israel”, p. 5). What has happened before our very eyes since May 1948 goes far to prove the utter falsity of the system of prophetic interpretation advocated by Philip Mauro and other A-Millennialists, who so confidently and glibly assured their readers that there could be no national future for Israel. Only one who is ignorant of the facts of history, or whose spiritual judgment is warped and perverted by prejudice, can now be misled by such erroneous teaching. The phenomenal rebirth of Israel as a nation is God’s most astounding present-day sign of the rapidly approaching end of “the times of the Gentiles”. To bring this about He has in the first half of this twentieth century permitted two world wars—the most destructive wars in the annals of human conflict—and the most fearful persecution the Jewish people have ever suffered. Portents of such colossal magnitude and world-wide impact are not to be ignored or disregarded as Nelson did the signal of his Commander-in-Chief at Copenhagen.
THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF THE RETURNED NATION
The spiritual life of the returned Jewish nation to-day, viewed in the light of prophecy, is also most significant. In it Judaism is the State religion. Consequently the study of the Old Testament is encouraged and is a regular subject in public schools. The Law of Moses has been restored to the place it had in the nation prior to the year 70 A.D. Indeed Dr. Kac says “that the State of Israel is becoming one of the great world centres of Bible research.” It is not surprising, therefore, that Scripture is frequently quoted in speeches in the Knesset (Parliament). Many new synagogues have also been built, which normally are well attended, and Sabbath observance is strictly enforced by the rabbis, of whom there are now approximately five hundred officiating in Palestine. Besides, it is well known that Jews in all lands ardently hope for the day when it will be possible to rebuild their Temple upon the old foundation which was chosen by God Himself (2 Chron. 3. 1), but where the Moslem Dome of the Rock now stands.
It must be added, however, that with many Jews religion is but an empty form. They have little or no depth of honest conviction. They lack faith and feeling. Their Judaistic ceremonies are performed without love or heart devotion. Some such Jews are characterised by a cold, extreme orthodoxy, which carries them to the point of the ridiculous. Their whole round of religion is outward, traditional, and devoid of true spiritual meaning.
On the other hand, there are Jews with a genuine Messianic longing. The very realization of their hopes in the establishment of their State has created a spiritual vacuum—an aching void—in their hearts. Victory, national independence, and material prosperity have failed to yield them satisfaction. Religion to them is not just an empty round. They piously yearn for the coming of their long promised Messiah. Part of one of their prayers runs thus: “Send speedily our Anointed Redeemer to us who await Thy final salvation. Be revealed in the ineffable glory of Thy strength to all the inhabitants of the earth”. (“The Fall and Rise of Israel”, p. 396, by W. L. Hull).
There is also a class of Jews, however, both in Palestine and countries of the Diaspora, which is entirely irreligious. It is rationalistic, modernistic, and materialistic. This class is large and influential, and is found mainly amongst the intellectuals, who are becoming increasingly indifferent to Judaism and the Divine teaching of the Law. Many of these indeed openly declare their sceptical and atheistic views.
Now, all of this is precisely what the study of prophecy would teach us to expect. Scripture clearly indicates that following her regathering the nation will be free from idolatry and will resume the worship of the true God. The Temple services will be renewed, which, of course implies that present Jewish aspirations to rebuild God’s House will in his time be fulfilled (Dan. 11. 31; Matt. 24. 15; 2 Thess. 2. 4; Rev. 11 1, 2), and animal sacrifices will again be offered upon His altar (Dan. 9. 27; 11. 31; 12. 11; cp. also Hosea 3. 4, 5).
Nevertheless, Scripture also teaches that Israel will be regathered in unbelief. The dry bones will be joined together (compare Mr. Isaac Ben-Zui’s statement in our last chapter), but the nation will be spiritually dead until the Divine Spirit “breathes upon these slain, that they may live” (Ezek. 37. 1-10). Such indeed will be her unbelief that “the many” of Israel will enter into covenant relationship with the vile “prince that shall come”, at the beginning of Daniel’s seventieth week (Dan. 9. 26-27). The spirit of idolatry, cast out by the Jews’ captivity in Babylon, will return to the nation, and with it “seven other spirits more wicked …. and the last state . . . will be worse than the first” (Matt. 12. 43-45; cp. also chapter 24. 15). Yea, “the man of sin” will yet “sit in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2. 4). It is clear therefore that Israel’s future worship of God will at first be in large measure a mere outward form. The vast majority of the people will be utterly godless.
The fact, however, that the unholy alliance of Dan. 9. 27 will be welcomed by the majority (“the many”) only, and not by all Israel, implies that in that day there will be a remnant of the nation faithful to God. Daniel 11. 32-35 (which had a partial fulfilment in the Maccabean period); 12. 3; Zech. 13. 8, 9; Rev. 7. 1-8; 11. 3-7; 12. 7, and several other passages indicate the same thing. Through this remnant, saved and sealed, a witness will be borne to all Israel and to the Gentile nations.
All of this is, we repeat, what prophecy teaches regarding Israel’s spiritual state in a future day, and as we have now seen, there is a threefold correspondence between it and the nation’s present religious condition. Is not this remarkable? Can we not discern in it the hand of God? What we see to-day is, we have no doubt, a preparation for what will obtain in Israel at the end-time. Coming conditions, like coming events, “cast their shadows before”. But if these things be so, how can it be reasoned that there is no future for Israel?
That tens of thousands of people should return to the prescribed form of their ancestors’ worship, in as great a measure as it is humanly possible for them, after being “scattered and peeled” in over one hundred Gentile countries for almost 2,000 years, is surely amazing. That these people should be willing to leave the lands where in many cases they and their forefathers have dwelt for centuries, and willing in leaving them to sacrifice all their earthly possessions, as great numbers of Jews have done, to settle in a small country surrounded on three sides by vast hostile, threatening Arab armies, in order to get back to Jerusalem, the ancient centre of their worship, is still more amazing. That they should be willing and eager to do all this, however, while in a state of unbelief, without the love of Christ burning as an impelling power in their hearts, is a phenomenon so amazing that it has no parallel in human history. How then can we account for all this, if we exclude the thought that God has brought it about because He has a future for Israel?
(To be continued).
By S. Jardine, Belfast.
‘‘REACHING THE CLIMAX”
Chapter 21. 9-21.
THE whole of the book of Revelation with its symbols, visions and predictions converges on one great sublime event, the personal and pre-millennial return to earth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Having cared for His Church throughout her earthly career, we see how by translation to the Throne she will be secured from “the hour of trial” that is to visit dwellers on the habitable earth (3. 10; 4. 5). Then for a period, purposely shortened, “the wrath of the Lamb” will be expressed in opened seals, sounded trumpets and outpoured vials (Chapters 6-19). But this is not the objective of the prophecy, nor indeed is “the eternal state” of 21. 1-8, and no statement of ours would dare minimize the vast embrace and importance of that truth. No, the considered aim of the book is to have its readers look with joy and holy expectation upon the ultimate display in glory of Christ and His Church (21. 9—22. 5). Here on earth they were shamefully treated and here they shall be triumphantly vindicated. That is why that after tracing coming events right up to “the Eternal State”, the Spirit of God takes us back to what is essentially a millennial scene, “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife now viewed as the Holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of the Heaven from God.” Here is the great climax, when 2 Thess. 1. 7-10, shall have its actual fulfilment. “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels . . . when He shall come to be glorified in His saints and to be admired in all them that believe.”
For a fourth time John is seen to be “in the Spirit”, and on this occasion is conveyed to an exalted position by an appropriate escort (21. 9-10). The presence with John again of one of the Angels of the Bowls’ judgments recalls another tour of inspection down on the wilderness level, the Seer had had to make (17. 1). Then the Angel-guide had him view “the Harlot”, the Satanic travesty of the Bride who also is the great city Babylon, the vast corrupt system of religion “which reigneth over the Kings of the earth.” Now the Angel-guide takes him to the mountain elevation to inspect the wonders of God’s Masterpiece, the Lamb’s wife, in her perfected and glorified state. Her general aspect shows that God’s purpose is fully attained : she is reflecting and radiating the beauty and glory of her blessed Lord, “having the glory of God and her ‘LUMINARY’ (lit. see Phil. 2. 15) was like unto a stone most precious, as it were a Jasper stone clear as crystal.” There is not a trace of failure, not a note of discord, nothing but the glorious perfection of the “STONE MOST PRECIOUS.” Here without question is the consummation of the mystery of God’s will, when in the dispensation of the fulness of times He will head up all things in the Christ (Eph. 1. 9, 10).
Down through the ages there have been many bright flashes of the Divine Majesty from behind the clouds of time and the curtains of His providence. In the wilderness, on Mount Sinai, within the Holiest of all, God made His glory known (Ex. 16. 7; 24. 16; 40. 34). Moses desired to see it and had a partial answer to his prayer (Ex. 33. 18). Because of that glorious presence Aaron was strongly charged not to draw near except upon the great day of atonement. Think of a time when, because of that glory, the Priests could not minister in the newly consecrated Temple of Solomon. But what is man? Ezekiel saw the gradual and reluctant withdrawal of that glory, the expression of Divine habitation amongst His people, and this because of their sinful folly (Eze. 1. 28; 3. 12, 23; 8. 4, etc.). But how gracious is this “God of Glory” when we see Him condescend to “tabernacle amongst us”! “We beheld His glory” is the inspired comment, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth” (John 1. 14). A man who had been himself overwhelmed and revolutionized by a sight of “the Lord of Glory” could later write : “God shone into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4. 6).
These, to us, amazing and soul-thrilling Self-revelations of our peerless Lord, will have their full interpretation when the Church, the City foursquare is placed on display over the millennial earth. Her appearance will be that of glory, borrowed glory (LUMINARY). Christ will then have a perfect vehicle for the expression of His beauty and excellency, as well as His wisdom and power. To miss this is to miss the focus of the prophecy.
A more detailed description follows. The “Holy City” has a massive wall in which are twelve portals each having a covenant inscription. The wall reveals that CHRIST’S people are eternally HIS OWN. In time He would have His Church “unto Himself, a people for His own possession”, in eternity we see this wholly realized. The names of the tribes of Israel are reminders of God’s purposes of salvation through the Jews (John 4. 22), and of the communications that will ever be possible between the earthly and heavenly peoples, both as here in the Kingdom and in the Eternal State as well.
“Twelve” figures largely in this context, appearing eight times, as well as the related numbers three and one hundred and forty four, etc. Twelve is the governmental number (Matthew 19. 28), which suggests the shared authority of the Lamb and His Bride. To the wall of the City there are twelve foundations, which like the gates have inscriptions, the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. These, it will be recalled, initiated, by the power of the mighty Spirit of God, the great work of founding the Church upon the chief-corner stone, the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2; Eph. 2. 20).
The Angel-guide now acts as Surveyor and with his golden reed takes the measure of the City. It is four-square and twelve thousand furlongs in every dimension (1,500 miles square). The Jasper wall also reveals a measurement in height of one hundred and forty four cubits. This, like other instances of measurement in the Scriptures, points to the absolute knowledge of our Lord of His people as their rightful Proprietor and Protector. It includes the thought of the complete provision He has made for their eternal security and bliss. Compare Zech. 2. 1-5; Ez. 47. 3; Rev. 11. 1-2.
The material of which the City is made is “fine gold like unto fine glass”. Everywhere in the Word of God we find “gold” playing an important part in the sacred structures, the Tabernacle and Temple. Divine nature can be inferred from the striking words of Lam. 4. 2 : “Precious sons of Zion comparable to fine gold”. The intrinsically pure and precious character of a righteous God will be found therefore in the Church in this her glorified state. Possessors of divine nature now (2 Peter 1. 4) will be incorporated in that glorious City then.
The foundations of the wall of the City are next inspected and what brilliance and variety are here! There being twelve foundations, twelve shining stones are seen in their adornment. The idea of stability is thus conjoined with beauty, and both are found in Christ, “the Rock of ages” and “the altogether lovely One”. The Jasper recalls the very Being of God as in Ch. 4. 3. The Sapphire is the Heavenly blue. Chalcedony combines grey with purple, blue and yellow. The Emerald is green, while the Sardonyx unites the qualities of the Sardius and the Onyx. Sardius is blood-red, Chrysolite is gold-stone and the Beryl a transparent sea-green colour. Topaz is golden, while the Chrysoprasus has a bluish hue and green and yellow mixture. The Jacinth is violet and the Amethyst purple. The mystic colours and glowing lustre of these gems suggest spheres of contemplation and exploration for the glorified saints. The intricacy of Sovereign counsels and the diversified glories of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ are all bound up in the completion of “the Church which is His Body”.
The gates were numbered, placed, inscribed, kept open and each one was a massive pearl. The preciousness of His Church to the heart of Christ is emphasized, and the depths to which He was willing to go to redeem her (Matt. 13. 46; Eph. 5. 25). Attention is again drawn to the use of the singular where “the street” is mentioned, and that this street is of the purest gold like transparent glass. Is this not to proclaim in beautiful figure that then, all the ways of the saints will be one, characterized by the gold of divine nature, of divine righteousness?
(To be concluded).
By John Stubbs, Darlington.
1 Corinthians 12, 13 with 14.
IN order to appreciate the import of chapters 12 and 13, let us consider them in their relationship with chapter 14, and in so doing we will gain a complete view. If in chapter 12 we have spiritual gifts and in chapter 13 the true power for ministry (love), in chapter 14 we have the exercise of spiritual gifts in the assembly. It is interesting to note in connection with these three chapters 2 Timothy 1. 7, where Paul mentions that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”. The spirit of power is what marks chapter 12, the spirit of love is what marks chapter 13, and the spirit of a sound mind is what marks chapter 14. The gifts of chapter 12 must be permeated in the love of chapter 13 or they will be of no avail in chapter 14. The persons with the gifts of chapter 12 must be imbued with the spirit of chapter 13 or they will be of no use in chapter 14. As it is often illustrated, in chapter 12 we have the machinery, in chapter 13 we have the oil for the machinery, in chapter 14 we have the machinery in function. In chapter 12 we have the power of the gifts; chapter 13, the principle in which the gifts should be exercised; chapter 14, the purpose of the gifts, the application being in an assembly setting. Hence we see why the subject matter of chapter 13 occurs between chapters 12 and 14. Thus we would do well to give practical expression to the principles contained in the foregoing chapters. If we aspire to be spiritual we must acknowledge that the things that Paul writes are the commandments of the Lord. The spiritual believer in God’s eyes is the one who submits to the commandments of the Lord. (See chapter 14. 37).
Chapters 14 and 15
In chapter 15 we have the truth of the Resurrection. What an’ incentive it would be to promote the godly order in chapter 14, if we all lived in the light of the Coming of the Lord!
The truths presented in this epistle have a practical bearing upon every department of life: chapter 6—business life; chapter 7—family life; chapter 10—social life; chapters 11 to 14—assembly life; and chapter 15—the future life. Touching these two chapters F. W. Grant in his Numerical Bible writes the following: “The connection with what has gone before is evident and beautiful. Resurrection is of course the basis of the Church. Christ risen is the Rock upon which He has been building His Assembly.”
Chapters 15 and 16
Finally the development of truth culminates in chapter 16 where we have the subject of Giving. That the apostle answers the Corinthians’ enquiry as to monetary collections last does not lower the fact of its importance, but surely adds to, rather than detracts from, its significant place in the assembly. Note that chapter 16 commences with a conjunction, “now”, thus linking the matter of giving with that of the previous chapter, for there is nothing like the truth of the resurrection to loosen the purse-strings of God’s children. Our giving is not to be a mere formal custom but an assembly act on each Resurrection Day (the first day of the week). In chapter 12 Paul refers to spiritual gifts for the edification of the saints. Now he would refer to material gifts for the poor saints at Jerusalem. Whilst ministering to the spiritual needs of the saints we should not neglect their material needs. If Israel under law were commanded to give a tenth, what should we, who enjoy many more privileges than they, give under grace?
Now it will be readily admitted that other connections may be seen by the reader between the foregoing chapters. We have but sought to set out in outline some of them. In doing so it has not been one’s purpose to press anything unduly, or to let imagination govern one’s interpretation or application of Holy Scripture. We trust, therefore, that the Lord will be pleased to own for blessing and edification these outlines of truth. May we then in our assembly life seek to be in the good of them, and in faithfulness to the Lord, seek to work them out under the divine guidance and control of the Holy Spirit.
Erratum: On page 53 of previous issue, “fast” in the third line from the end of Mr. Stubbs’ paper should read, “feast.” W.B.
IT was with profound regret that friends learned of the Home-call of our beloved brother, Mr. Charles H. McCalister, which took place at Banbridge Hospital on the 23rd of August. He had been ill for about two years, and had suffered much in his last days from extreme pain and weakness.
Mr. McCalister was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. George McCalister, who for many years were in fellowship in Dromore Assembly. He was born in the year 1900, and was saved through the preaching of the late Mr. John Hutchinson in 1924. The interesting account of his conversion appeared in these pages a few years ago.
Our brother was proprietor of the footwear business which was established many years ago by his father in Princes Street, Dromore. As a business man he bore an excellent testimony, and never seemed to miss an opportunity of speaking for his Lord. He was a true soul winner, and delighted to preach the Gospel. In hospital he witnessed to all— Doctors, nurses, fellow-patients, and visitors until he was unable to speak.
Mr. McCalister was Correspondent of Dromore Assembly for the past 20 years. He was a true, wise and trusted guide. He was as straight as a rule in all his dealings, and was very forthright and practical. The Assembly, in which he was beloved by all, owed much to him. He took a deep interest in the work of God everywhere. He and his beloved wife, who predeceased him by 9 years, were most hospitable to the Lord’s servants and people. Many were their acts of kindness and self denial.
Since the inception of this magazine, Mr. McCalister took a deep interest in all that pertained to it, and has acted as joint-treasurer with Mr. Hogg for a number of years. We certainly shall miss him.
In his last illness his sister-in-law, Miss M. Mahood, bestowed much care upon him. His funeral was one of the largest ever seen in our town. Brethren Robt. Beattie, J. G. Hutchinson, J. K. Duff and W. Bunting shared in the funeral services. We rejoice that our dear friend “fought a good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith.” Now he has gone in to “see the King in His beauty”. We deeply mourn his loss, but we only say, “Good night, beloved brother, we shall meet thee in the morning.”
An Outline of Bible Teaching
By Dr. J. W. McMillan, India.
11. The Witness of the Local Church.
JTACH individual Christian is called upon to be a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 24. 48; Acts 1. 8), and this can always be done by private conversation with those with whom we come in contact day by day (1 Peter 3. 15). This is called “personal evangelism” and all believers, brethren and sisters alike, can do this valued service. Hospital visitation, tract distribution, and such like avenues of service give good opportunities for this. After a Gospel meeting is held, believers should always be ready to speak to ones who have shown interest and to explain to them matters which they do not understand. For obvious reasons, it is usually best to do such work with others of one’s own sex.
But the local church will also have opportunities to help in “mass evangelism”, when one brother (who should possess the gift of an evangelist) preaches the Gospel to a number of people. Such gatherings can be held in many places.
- Often the assembly meeting room is suitable for a regular meeting or a special series of meetings (James 2. 2)
- Sometimes cottage meetings in the homes of believers give good opportunities to reach neighbours and friends (Acts 18 7).
- A secular building (a theatre, school, or the like) may be ideal in some cases (Acts 19. 9).
- A temporary structure (a tent or a pandal) erected on some open place may attract more people than any of these. Such are usually best used in fine weather.
Those evangelists whom the Lord has called to give up secular employment, for the sake of the Gospel, should be encouraged to go to centres where there are no believers, and seek to win souls in these places, and practical fellowship should be extended by the church to those who are doing this vital work. When they visit their home assembly or other established assemblies, they should be given an opportunity to tell of the work that the Lord is doing with them (Acts 14. 27).
New assemblies normally come into being in one of two ways.
- An evangelist goes to a place, souls are saved, baptised, and formed into an assembly.
- An assembly “hives” off to form a new testimony. This is very useful in cities, as a number of suburban assemblies may be able to reach a bigger number of people than one large central gathering. Also, in a large assembly there is a very real danger that the majority of the work be left in the hands of a small minority of brethren : in a small assembly, there is usually more room for development and use of gift.
All unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross but different; the likenesses are superficial, the differences fundamental.
From this cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new evangelistic technique, a new type of meeting, and a new type of preaching. This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same, and its emphasis not as before.
The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam’s proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai. The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather it is a friendly pal, and if understood aright it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure, only now he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious movies instead of singing bawdy songs and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment though the fun is now on a higher plane morally if not intellectually.
The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist does not demand abnegation of the old life before the new life can be received. He preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands : rather it offers the same things the world does, only on a higher level. Whatever the sin-made world happens to be clamouring after at the moment is cleverly shown to be the very thing the Gospel offers; only, the religious product is better.
The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living, and saves his self-respect. To the self-assertive it says, “Come and do your boasting in the Lord.” To the thrill-seeker it says, “Come and enjoy the thrill of Christian fellowship.” The modern message is slanted in the direction of the current vogue, thereby catering to human taste and reasoning.
The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere, but its sincerity does not save it from being false. It is false because it is blind. It misses completely all the meaning of the cross.
The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt violent end of a human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life redirected; he was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise, modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all the man completely and for good. It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck swift and hard, and when it had finished its work the man was no more.
The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him, and then raising him again to newness of life.
That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men, is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of the hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel with the world; it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life on to a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die.
We who preach the Gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish goodwill between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business men, or the Press, or the world of sports, or modern education. We are not diplomats, but prophets, and our message is not a compromise, but an ultimatum.
God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. It stands always on the far side of the cross. Whoever would possess it must pass under the rod. He must repudiate himself and concur in God’s just sentence against him.
What does this mean to the individual, the condemned man who would find life in Christ Jesus? How can this theology be translated into life? Simply he must repent and believe. He must forsake his sins and then go on forsaking himself. Let him cover nothing, excuse nothing. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God’s stern displeasure.
Having done this, let him gaze with simple trust upon the risen Saviour, and from Him will come life and rebirth and cleansing and power. The cross that ended the earthly life of Jesus now puts an end to the sinner, and the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.
“I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not another gospel: only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema. For am I now persuading men, or God? Or am I seeking to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.”
(Galatians 1. 6-10, R.V.).
- “Help us, O Lord, to bear the Cross
- And count all else for Thee but loss,
- Thou Holy Lamb of God.
- Keep us, dear Lord, close to Thy side,
- To walk with garments undefiled
- Protected by Thy rod.
- “Beneath Thy shadow we abide,
- And with Thy fruit are satisfied—
- The fruit of love Divine.
- There’s healing in Thy leaves, O Lord,
- And sweetness doth Thy fruit afford—
- Gifts from that heart of Thine.
- “Until that day when Thou shalt come,
- To take us to our heavenly Home,
- To sorrow not again.
- Do, Lord, enrich Thy Church below,
- Protect her from her every foe
- Till glory dawns. Amen.”
- (Robt. McClurkin).