IS THE CHURCH’S RAPTURE IMMINENT?
by the late William Bunting
DANIEL THE PROPHET
by the late C. J. Atkins
SOME ASPECTS OF DISCIPLESHIP
by Andrew Borland
TABERNACLE AND TEMPLE
by Edward Robinson
by O. B. Wylie
THE SIN OF HYPOCRISY
by W. R. Lewis
by the late WM. BUNTING
THREE times over in Revelation 22 our Lord repeats the words “I come quickly” and this is his last message from the throne. The Lord does not indicate in sending these last messages from the throne that anything at all intervenes before His coming again, and from that alone it is clear that His coming must be most imminent.
In John 14 our Lord very definitely promised that He would come back again. That promise we know is sure. There is no doubt about it, “His promise is yea and amen, and never was forfeited yet.” As He said “I will come again” then most surely He will come again. That coming will be one, and yet it will be in two distinct stages. If the Lord is going to come with His saints, then He must come for His saints. There will be the one coming in two parts. How long will intervene between the two stages? No one knows what time will intervene between the first coming and the second.
At His first advent there were two Darts in His coming. He came to go to Calvary, and yet He did not so there directly, He came first to Bethlehem. Remember that His coming again will be in two stages. When He will come no one knows. It is futile to guess. No man can be wiser than God. We have to thank God for His word because He has said “of that day and that hour knoweth no man.” How foolish to try and fix a date. Many have tried, but have sadly failed. We are not to be ignorant of the world conditions that will obtain in the period of time in which our Lord will come. The Lord has plainly told us that we are not to be ignorant of the times. I don’t mean that we are to look for signs, it is for Him that we look, but the Lord means that we should be intelligent and that we should look at the signs. He does not mean that you and I should be found sleeping when He returns. We should be widely awake.
In the word of God we are given many signs, but all of these signs have to do with the second stage of our Lord’s coming again. Not one of them has to do with the first stage of His coming. It is very important to see that. If we see these signs, even in their beginning, in their most initial stages then we know that the hour is rapidly approaching when Christ the king will come—Israel’s king, and if we know that the return of their King is near, then the coming of our Lord will be so much nearer “When you see these things begin to come to pass!”
If we see these marks, these signs, these indications, in their budding, then we should know that we are in the last and closing days, and that the end is rapidly approaching. It will be possible only to look at the principal signs that are mentioned, in the New Testament.
Religious Sign : I would suggest that the sign in the religious world is at least five fold. Peter tells us that there will be false teachers. Are there false teachers today? You know very well that there are many—Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Science, Evolution, etc. There is the Apostacy, Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2, 1 Timothy 4, that there will be this falling away, it is to come in the latter times. We see the signs of these today. It began well over 100 years ago in Germany.
Modernism : It undermines the foundation of the Bible. It denies the virgin birth, the Lord’s life was sinless, bodily resurrection, eternal punishment. It undermines the cardinal truths of the Christian faith. That is the second sign we see in the bud.
Romanism : 17th Chapter of Revelation. That at the time of the end there is going to be a great re-union in Christendom, and that Rome will be the head. In connection with the City of the seven hills. At the time of the end there is going to be a great re-union of the Churches, and Rome will be the Mother harlot, and the other systems will be like the daughters.
Spiritism : Began just over 100 years ago in America in 1848, and it has spread rapidly, so that today there must be in England and Scotland 1,000 Spiritist Churches, and it is reckoned that there are in the world more than 60 million Spiritists—people who believe that it is possible to communicate with the dead. 1 Timothy 4—The doctrine of Demons.
Laodiceanism: That apathy description in Revelation 3, that Christless state. Christ is standing outside. Is that not what we see today in the religious world?
Social Sign: “In the last days, men shall be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” Is not there a mad craze for pleasure. It is an age of pleasure. Moral Degeneracy — Luke 17 “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man.” History repeats itself. The last days are to be marked similarly. Think of the divorce courts, of the gambling, drinking, desecration of the Lord’s day.
Violence: We are told that in the last days perilous and fierce times will come. Life is not treated as sacred today as it once was. House breaking, robbery, stabbing, wounding. In one city in America there is a murder every day in the year. There is the social sign plainly to be seen.
Industrial Sign: Revelation 12—At the time of the end trade federation is going to increase, only it will not be possible for one to buy or sell, unless he has a particular mark. James in chapter 5, tells us that in the last days there is going to be a conflict between capital and labour. It is closely linked with what we have in Revelation 13. We can look at it, and we can see the word of God beginning to be fulfilled before our very eyes. Industrial Disputes—strikes etc.
Scientific Sign : Daniel says that in the closing days knowledge will increase, and the close of this age will be similar to the close of the ante diluvian age. In Genesis 4, 5 and 6 you see how the people were gaining knowledge, they were able to build cities, were masters of music, etc. Becoming wealthy, they lived in an age of luxury and comfort, and so it is in the days in which we live. Knowledge has increased, and it has been claimed that in the last 50 years, man has learned more than he learned in all the 500 years before. It is an age of brilliant achievement. Telephone, Radio, Television, Space Exploration. What will men be reaching for next? It is an age of scientific discovery and knowledge.
International Sign: The word of God teaches us that at the time of the end power in Europe is going to be given into the hands of one individual—power to one man. We know that Italy had her Mussolini. Germany had Hitler. France had Napoleon. That is a tendency of the times in which we live. At the time of the end there is going to be a united Europe. The Roman empire is going to be revived. The frame work of a united Europe is already in existence. There will be to the north and to the east another combine of nations. It is all before us in this blessed book. Communism has spread at an amazing speed.
At the end of the focal point of interest is going to be Palestine. The middle east. All eyes turn to the middle east. Our Lord said “behold the fig tree and all the trees” The fig tree is Israel and the other trees are all the tribes and nations.
Jewish Sign : The fig tree is Israel—The Jewish people. Do we see today new national life entering into the Jewish people? In the year 1500 there were only one million Jews living in the world. They had been persecuted century after century. Then there was that prophecy in the Old Testament that tells us the people shall dwell alone and shall not be reckoned amongst the nations. You know that today if a Jew goes along the street, and you see him, you know him, he has his identity upon him and he cannot hide it. The Jewish people have increased in numbers There were approx. 18 million Jews in the world at the beginning of the last war. There are 13 million Jews in the world now. (written in 1960).
The first world war was declared on the 4th August 1914. That was the 9th of the month ‘ab’ according to the Jewish calendar. It was upon that day many hundreds of years ago that Nebuchadnezzer laid their temple in ruins. On the 9th of the month ‘ab’ the Jews assembled at the wailing wall and prayed that God would visit their people. They were saying their prayers at the wailing wall when the message came that Britain had declared war on Germany, and because it was on that date they believed that God was going to answer their prayers.
On the 9th of December 1917 Lord Alanbey, at the head of the British forces, entered into Jerusalem, and standing on the steps of the tower of David he was given the keys of Jerusalem. The Jewish flag fluttered. It was the first time for 2,000 years. At the end of the war Palestine was given back to the Jews as their national home. The Jew was appointed governor of the country. Is all of that not wonderful, is it not a sign of the times in which we live. 12 years ago the Jews were given their independence.
We are living in wonderful times, and there is no doubt about it, the end is near. We look at the signs, we look at the international picture, and the world is rushing on to Armageddon. It is the destiny of the nations today. The Jews are back in their own land.
Militant Sign: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” This is being fulfilled. Two greatest wars in the history of mankind—that is the militant sign. Our Lord has said that at the time of the end there shall be earthquakes, and we know that these things are beginning to be fulfilled. In 1926 there took place the greatest earthquake— in China in which two hundred thousand people were killed. Three years later the Japanese earthquake where a quarter of a million people perished.
Famines : in 1918 it was a famine that brought Germany to her knees. That is the fear of man today, for they say that the population of the world is increasing so rapidly that the time is coming when there will not be food for the people to eat. Here are the signs that God has given in His word.
The Great Anti-God Sign : The sign of Psalm 2. When the kings of the earth unite, and they will say let us break our bonds assunder. They don’t want God any more. Do we see anything in connection with that?
- Paul – “The mystery of iniquity”
- Peter – “Scoffers”
- John – “Anti-christs”
- and it all comes to a head in Psalm 2.
The Great Anti-God movement. Revelation 19. That is what you see today in Russia. For today there is a great anti religious propaganda that the world has ever known. The shocking blasphemous statements that those men have made. One is shocked by such blasphemy. The picture of a man climbing a ladder with hammer in his hand, and he is climbing the ladder to kill God. That is part of the great anti-God movement (propaganda) that is going on today.
What shall we say to these things? What shall we say? Oh, blind eyes if they cannot see the signs of His coming again. Is it not remarkable how nature has struck her heaviest blows. All of these things that I have mentioned, take place at the same little period of the world’s history. What is the meaning? The meaning is this—He is coming. Oh, that I could believe it as I ought to. But He is coming. The little while will soon be past—He is coming—the Lord is coming. Is the rapture of the church imminent? Yes it is—He says in this chapter “Behold I come quickly” It is the last message from the throne. May God sanctify it to our hearts.
by the late C. J. ATKINS
The Desolation of the Sanctuary, and the Latter Times of Indignation.
FROM the beginning of chapter 8 to the end of the book, the prophecy concerns the future of Israel, the Jew, and accordingly the language reverts to the Hebrew, which was the language used first, up to ch. 2 v. 3. In the intervening chapters, the inspiring Spirit was moving Daniel to write events among nations during the “times of the Gentiles” and so the Chaldean language was used. The beginning of chapter 8 gives the history of events immediately following the fall of Babylon but the last few verses concern “the latter time … when the transgressors are come to the full” v. 23.
Two years had passed since Daniel had the vision recorded in the previous chapter, and the end of the might of Babylon was very imminent. Though Daniel was still in Babylon, the thoughts concerning his previous vision remained in his heart for constant meditation (Ch. 7. 28), until once more in vision, he is transported to the mighty fortress city of Shushan, to the palace, the winter residence of the Persian kings, and beside the canal Ulai connecting the two rivers on the south and east of Shushan, a new revelation unfolded to him. The chapter gives details of the vision, and an interpretation by the angelic messenger Gabriel, the interpretation adding further details to include events yet to come. The vision of ch. 7. mainly concerns the western empire of Rome as does the latter part of ch. 9 but the vision of ch. 8 is concerned mainly with potentates who will arise in the eastern and northern empires as further described in ch. 11 v. 15, 40. Much of the vision has now been fulfilled with meticulous detail, but as in other scripture, there is a pause between the partial and the complete fulfilment.
The vision concerns the empires represented by the silver and the brass of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, the Persian and the Greek empires. Daniel, captive in Babylon which was still the world power, is given a picture of the rise of the Medo- Persian empire, portrayed as a ram with two horns, the higher horn coming up last denoting the later rise of the Persian power over the Median. The ram as seen overcoming all opposition pushing westward and northward and southward” (8. 4). This was a foreview of history, for the armies of Cyrus pressed forward conquering Babylon, Mesopotamia and Asia-minor, then northward overrunning Armenia and the lands about the Caspian sea, then southward to Palestine, Egypt, Ethiopia and Libya.
The vision revealed that suddenly “an he-goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes” v. 5. Two hundred years before the meteoric rise of Alexander the Great took place, Daniel gave a graphic picture of the speed of conquest and the fury of the Greek forces led by the youthful Alexander. When Daniel prophesied Greece was a collection of small independent, often warring states, and not until Philip of Macedon welded these states into one united power could it have been conceived that such a nation could become a world empire. In the year 334 B.C. Alexander his son, with lightening rapidity crossed the Hellespont, fought a series of successful battles, routed the Persian forces at Issus (333 B.C.) and completely overthrew the might of the Persian empire. In the short space of twelve years, Alexander’s armies subdued Persia, Egypt, Babylonia, Syria, and had pushed on in conquest to Northern India and Western India. Then in the height of his power, yet with his health undermined by debauchery, at the age of 32 years, Alexander was taken by a fever and within eleven days was dead.
Daniel sees the ram powerless before the fury of the he-goat. How aptly the words “he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns, and there was no power in the ram to stand before him.” v. 7. describes the ruthlessness with which the Greek armies sought to repay old scores, venting their fury as they remembered how the Persian armies of Xerxes in earlier years had savagely crushed the tiny Hellenic states. “And the he-goat magnified himself exceedingly: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken” v. 8. What a lucid description of the sudden termination of the awful brilliance of the conqueror, when at the zenith of his power. The great horn was broken, but “instead of it there came up four notable horns towards the four winds of heaven. And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the glorious land.” (v. 8, 9). There were none of the line of the youthful Alexander to succeed to his power, but his dominions were divided by four of his generals. Ptolemy was acknowledged as ruler of Egypt and the adjoining states, Cassander took over control of Macedonia and all Greece, Lysimachus took the sovereignty of Thrace, Cappadocia and northern Asia Minor, and Seleucus took Syria, Babylon and Media. From this latter division there arose the little horn which became the most important part of the vision. Apart from a brief reference to Greece in Zechariah 9. 13, only two of these divisions, Egypt and Syria, have any further part in the prophecies, but these two are of great importance because of their impact on God’s people Israel. After the death of Alexander, the ruling line established by Seleucus continued to rule over Syria for about a century and a half, until, after intrigues and murder, Antiochus Epiphanes took control of the kingdom in 176 B.C. He is described in v. 23 as “a king of fierce countenance.” As foretold in the vision, sinister tentacles had stretched out toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land,” that is, Palestine. Whilst this king boastfully took the title Epiphanes, “the illustrious,” his hard pressed subjects surreptitiously referred to him as Epimanes, “the madman.” In tyrannical mania he fiercely persecuted the Jews, and with determination to introduce the worship of Zeus to all his kingdom, he robbed the temple in Jerusalem, set up a statue of Jupiter in the holy of holies and in mockery of the Levitical sacrifices, sacrificed a sow upon the altar, scattering the broth in the sanctuary. Truly of the little horn was it said “it waxed great even to the host of heaven; and some of the host and of the stars it cast down to the ground, and trampled upon them. Yea, it magnified itself, even to the prince of the host” v. 10, 11. In all this outrage there was the permissive will of God: for as v. 12 states, it was “through transgression” (or “by reason of transgression”). In the early history of the nation, even as the children of Israel took possession of the land, Moses had warned “If thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God … all these curses shall come upon thee … the Lord shall scatter thee among all peoples” Deut. 28; 16, 64, and as Jeremiah foretold “Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good from you. Jer. 5. 25.
Although God permits forces of evil to be used to fulfil His purpose in chastisement, He always retains control and withdraws the power allowed when His purposes are accomplished. Though the “little horn” is permitted to wax strong against God’s people and to cast down priests and leaders from the sanctuary, though “it cast down truth to the ground, and did its pleasure and prospered” v. 12, yet Daniel heard angelic watchers questioning “how long … concerning the burnt offering and the transgression that maketh desolate, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden underfoot?” v. 13, and the answer is given to Daniel “unto two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed” v. 14. The time period is specified precisely as 2300 evenings—mornings (not days as in the A.V.); that is a twenty four hour period. History records how the zealous Judas Maccabaeus, leading his people in resistance, cleansed the sanctuary of its defilement on the 25th of December, 165 B.C. Going back nearly seven years, i.e. 2300 days, brings us ito 171 B.C., the year when Antiochus Epiphanes began his activities of murder, robbing the temple, appointing his own priest in the temple, and thus preparing for the act of abomination in 168 B.C.
As the prophet stood wondering what the awful vision concerning the future of his people and the fate of the sanctuary could mean, a voice called from above the waters of the river Ulai beside which he stood, summoning the angel Gabriel to interpret the vision. First the angel warns the prophet that the fulfilment is for a future time, “the time of the end” v. 17 and then explicitly declares that the ram and the he-goat represent the Medo-Persian and the Grecian empires. Very frequently prophecy is given with a more immediate as well as an ultimate fulfilment. For example, in the days of the prophet Isaiah judgment from God upon the disobedient people was imminent through Sennacherib the king of Assyria (2 Kings; 17. 19 ; 18. 19–22) but the term the Assyrian is used both by Isaiah and his contemporary Micah, in a very different setting in reference to the final judgment on Israel. The angel speaking to Daniel refers the vision to “the latter time of the indignation: the appointed time of the end” (v. 19), and in v. 23 to “the latter time of their kingdom.” This latter time of indignation at the time of the end is the period so often mentioned, the time of Jacob’s trouble, the great tribulation; the latter time of their kingdom is the end of the times of the Gentiles. This is marked off by “the day of the Lord” that great and terrible day of judgment. Thus Isaiah writes “Ho Assyrian, the rod of Mine anger, the staff in whose hand is My indignation! I will send him against a profane nation, and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge … to .tread them down” Isaiah 10.5-6; but when the Assyrian has completed the work of judgment, his overthrow is foretold in ch. 14: “as I have nurposed, so shall it stand: that I will break the Assyrian in My land, and upon My mountains tread him underfoot” (v. 24, 25). Similarly the prophet Micah predicts not only the birth of the Lord, in Bethlehem, but also tells of His overthrowing of the instrument of judgment, “and this Man shall be our peace: when the Assyrian shall come into our land … and He shall deliver us from the Assyrian” (Micah 5. 5, 6).
From the angelic interpretation of the vision given to Daniel it is evident that whilst v. 9-12 have been fulfilled in the evil activities of Antiochus, the verses 23-25 await the fulfilment when the “little horn,” “the king of fierce countenance” shall stand up. “His power will be mighty, he shall destroy the holy people, he shall magnify himself in his heart, and in their security shall he destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of Princes; but he shall be broken without hand” v. 24, 25. This evil one, and his activity at the time of the end is described more fully in ch. 11. 40, where, as the king of the north, he forms with the king of the revived Roman power and the Antichrist, a triumvirate of evil which, standing up against the Prince of Princes, shall be destroyed; “for He is strong that executeth His word: tor the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” Joel 2. 11.
The vision being completed by the destruction of the evil one by Divine power, Daniel is told to “shut thou up the vision; for it belongeth to many days to come” v. 26. As a document is carefully concealed in archives, so this prophecy remains, written for our instruction, partly fulfilled in type, but awaiting the fuller elucidation at the time of the end. The heart of the aged prophet was so closely bound up with his people, the people of God, that his acute distress at the revelation of their future unparalleled suffering completely overcame him and he was exhausted and “sick certain days” v. 27, but still pondering on these things, he resumed his duties, “the king’s business.” We today, surely near to the times of the end, having had such revelations, not only of judgment, but also of the Lord’s purposes of grace, should be moved to do “the king’s business” with a sense of urgency considering the nearness of the coming of the Lord and thereafter, “the Day of the Lord.” Let us remember “it will not be except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped … setting himself forth as God.” 2 Thess. 2. 3, 4. “So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught.” 2 Thess. 2. 15, for “in the last times there shall be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts … but ye beloved … keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have mercy, who are in doubt; and some save, snatching them out of the fire.” Jude 18, 20-23. Let us follow Daniel’s example in our yearning for the good of these needy souls, and in our earnest prayer and attention to the King’s business.
by ANDREW BORLAND
5. God or Mammon
Two points emerged from our consideration of the parable of The Unjust Steward. Advice was given: ‘make friends to yourselves by (the use of) the mammon of unrighteousness.’ A caution was advanced: ‘Ye cannot serve God and mammon.’ Almost instinctively one was urged to pursue that train of thought as it is developed in several parts of the New Testament, its frequent recurrence indicating that it is of great importance for the Christian to learn what God intends he should do with his material wealth. One of the most instructive passages is 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9.
Here is a subject which needs constant ventilation. Every generation of Christians is faced with the same problems in connection with stewardship, and instruction based on the principles laid down in the Scriptures is necessary. Few of us intuitively understand what is required of us. Further, new claims are constantly being made upon Christian generosity. For example, there is the expanding missionary enterprise which calls for sympathetic support. Modern means of communication reveal more rapidly the needs of those who engage in the spread of the gospel.
Certain aspects of this important subject call for passing notice. It is obvious to every critical observer that mention of the Christian’s obligation with regard to New Testament teaching is generally neglected. Perhaps that neglect is due to the fact that such ministry is unpopular, because it is inferred that it imposes restrictions on spending money on the accessories of living rather than in promoting the cause of the kingdom of God. Further, teaching on the subject is difficult. It has countless ramifications, repercussions in many directions. But despite the difficulties attendant, such teaching is imperative, for every aspect of assembly work clamours for support. Moreover, ministry on the obligation to give is funda-mentally scriptural. The theme is to be contacted in all parts of the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments.
There are incessant warnings against a materialistic attitude to life. ‘If riches increase set not thy heart upon them.’ ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth.’ ‘The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.’ Think, too, of such warning examples as Gehazi, Judas, Ananias and Sapphira, and Demas. On the other hand the Bible records examples of generous giving. Abraham refused to be enriched by gifts from the king of Sodom, but gave tithes of his goods to the king of Salem. When the Tabernacle was to be erected the Israelites, persuaded by Moses, gave magnanimously, so that they had to be restrained from bringing their gifts. In preparation for the building of the Temple, David, the princes, the people and Solomon, provided material in abundance for the magnificent building. The early Church presents succeeding generations with an example worthy to be followed. Barnabas stands out as a gentleman of generous disposition, giving his possessions to the cause of the gospel. However, it is almost imperative to turn to 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9, for extensive teaching on this subject.
The Epistles to the Corinthian church have certain remarkable features. They contain, as do no other epistles, extended passages on important themes. 1Corinthians 12 has the longest and most detailed reference to a local church under the illustration of a body. The same epistle has the moving poem on Christian love, chapter 13. Chapter 14 is the only one which deals exclusively with the operation of tongues. An entire chapter, and a long one at that, is devoted to a defence of the Resurrection chapter 15. But to the subject of giving TWO whole chapters are devoted, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Perhaps that fact should put the subject of Christian generosity in true and proper perspective.
The background to the teaching is interesting, as it is also important. Financial assistance was urgently needed for Judea. Poor saints in Jerusalem were in straitened circumstances, and were dependent upon the generosity of other Christians. It was Paul’s concern that churches in Europe should respond to the need. He called such a response, ‘ministering to the saints’ (8:4). His intention was to provoke a feeling of fellowship, a koinonia, as he termed it, an expression which conveys the idea of haying things in common. The churches in Macedonia, in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, had promised assistance and had responded magnificently. (8:1) The church in Corinth had given Paul assurance that they would help, but a year had passed and their promise had not been fulfilled. (8:10-11) Now Paul was minded to send a deputation, consisting of Titus and other two brethren, to provoke the Corinthians to action (8:6; 16-19). Paul himself, was assuming responsibility, along with those three, to convey the gift to Jerusalem (8:4;19).
The churches in Macedonia were set forward as an example to be followed. In the first place, it should be noted that the source of their generosity was their dedication of themselves. They gave their own selves to the Lord. (8:5) That was a voluntary acknowledgment of the primary claims of Christ as their Master overall. If they had known Miss Havergal’s hymn they would have been willing to sing, ‘Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.’ Further they gave themselves to the apostle, that is, they admitted the claims he had upon their interest in the project, and submitted to him as the Lord’s servant. (8:5).
Those Macedonian churches had not succumbed to self-pity. They had endured ‘a trial of great affliction’ (8:2), and were not deterred by their poverty, called ‘deep poverty’ (8:2). In contrast, not withstanding, they were inspired by the ‘deep joy’ of being able to respond to the call and send out of their meagre means something to lighten the burden of poverty in Jerusalem. So concerned were they about the part they should play that they gave beyond their actual ability, ‘beyond their power were willing’ (8:3), that is as one has put it, ‘to their last penny.’ Even still more touching is the fact that they were so keen to help that they ‘begged and begged.’ ‘praying us with much entreaty.’ (8:4). They acted so sacrificially, because they considered ministering to the needs of their fellow Christians an expression of fellowship.
Church history abounds with examples somewhat similar to that of the churches of the first century in Macedonia. Many a poor widow, like the one mentioned in the Gospels, has given sacrificially to the Lord’s work. It is most exhilarating to look through the columns in ‘Echoes of Service,’ and ‘Look on the Fields to note among the many magnificent gifts, some which, in all probability, had their source in the exercise of some poor saint.
From those chapters certain principles are to be inferred
- Christian liberality should be considered as the prime activity among believers. It is better than faith, eloquence, understanding, diligence, affection (8:7). ‘See that ye abound in this grace also’ has been translated in the Jerusalem Bible as ‘we expect you to put the same into this work or mercy.’
- The keenness of some should be an incentive to the more sluggish, provoking a healthy rivalry. That spirit is called ‘the forwardness of others’ (8:8).
- Giving is a proof of the sincerity of Christian love and compassion. It expresses concern for the welfare of others (8:8).
- When a decision has been made its implementation should be immediate, and the response should be worthy of the effort.
It is not a reflection on the character of our Christian profession that our practice in this realm of activity falls very far short of the example set before us by the churches in Macedonia in the first century? The question is worth pondering.
by EDWARD ROBINSON
Comparison and Contrast
To deal exhaustively with such a vast subject would with-out doubt require much greater space than is available within the scope of a short article. However it will not be without profit if there is engendered and stimulated an interest and further research into these two great features of the truth presented to us in the Old Testament, affording as they do in great detail instruction as to the manner in which God is to be served by His people. Whilst conditions in the Old and New Testaments are, of course, quite different it is the same unchanging God whose service is the primary occupation of those whom He has called by His grace into such blessed service.
Perhaps our first instruction would be to note the circumstances under which each of these two systems was constructed and was to function. The Tabernacle (after the pattern given to Moses, Exodus 25 onwards) was for service and testimony in the wilderness. Its dimensions, significantly, were small, in contrast to those of the Temple, suggesting no great outward display, albeit what was inwardly great, ‘a Sanctuary that God might dwell therein.’ It may well be that at the present time there is oftentimes more for the heart of God in a small company of lovers of the Lord Jesus meeting in a simple room than from a distinguished congregation in a most beautiful cathedral. It teaches us what is seemly in a scene where our Lord is still rejected, a lesson which the Corinthian Christians, reigning as kings before the time, had never learned. On the other hand, the answer to the magnificence of the Temple, at least in its literality, probably awaits the millennial day of display. At the same time we remember always that truth such as is seen figuratively in these two great systems of worship and service cannot be placed in water tight compartments: a matter that is underlined in that the four main articles of furniture, the ark, the mercy seat, the table of shewbread and the candlestick (or lampstand) are common to both Tabernacle and Temple.
Turning to some of the details, it is both interesting and instructive to note the species of wood employed. In the Tabernacle the acacia or shittim wood is exclusively used, its predominating features being hardness and durability. It is indigenous to the wilderness and the qualities suggested will readily be discerned as necessary to the circumstances in those whom the apostle exhorts to endurance ‘as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.’ How beautifully and in surpassing degree did those features shine out in the pathway of Jesus (typified in the ark and also in the mercy-seat); but then the boards of the Tabernacle ‘standing up,’ are also of the same material, speaking of ourselves as taking character from Christ, ‘all of one,’ the same stock (Hebrews 2:11). By contrast, a prominent feature in the construction of the Temple by Solomon (himself typical of Christ in His millennial glory) is the employment of the cedar tree with all its beauty and dignity. Other woods, of course, were used, as the olive tree (suggestive of the Spirit) and fir tree, an ever-green speaking of the freshness in life which is to mark at all times our response to God and to Christ. The predominating feature of magnificence is ever to be kept in mind (in a spiritual sense, of course) and we remember, whilst passing through wilderness circumstances, that we are connected with that which is supremely great and of surpassing excellence. True inward dignity should mark every occasion of our gathering together that it may indeed be said ‘God is amongst you of a truth’ (1 Corinthian 14:25). A vision of the glory that is to follow also greatly helps in keeping the sufferings of this little while in true perspective.
In both Tabernacle and Temple the central feature is, as indeed it must be, the Ark, small, its dimensions the same in each, reminding us of the One who is in all circumstances the same. These dimensions given to us—2½ x 2½ x 1½— provide one of those touches which to the initiated mark out the Scriptures uniquely as having the Holy Spirit as their divine Author. These half cubits convey in a subtle way something of the inscrutability of the anti-type of the Ark, beyond our normal calculations. Had we been designing the Ark the measurements would probably have been something like 2X1X1, neat and tidy with cubic content easily arrived at. How carefully at all times the Holy Spirit safeguards the deity of Christ, as also doubtless is suggested in the overshadowing of the Ark by the wings of the cherubim. The mercy-seat too (Romans 3:25, ‘Propitiation’) is a beautiful figure of Him, the Mediator, by Whom we are able to meet with God. Again, the Table of Shewbread and the candlestick have reference to our fellowship and our responsibility in testimony. We learn elsewhere that the priests were to partake of the shewbread and are reminded of the Table of the Lord (1 Corinthian 10). This is a term quite often used as though synonymous with the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthian 11). Although obviously having a connection (the loaf and the cup, in reverse order, being mentioned in each), the two chapters are distinct. The Table (as here in the tabernacle system) speaks of the goodness of God in all that He provides for our enjoyment in the fellowship generally: a wider thought than that of the Supper which is a specific occasion for the calling to mind of our Lord Jesus. The candlestick is the light we bear testimonially, reflecting that of the Light of the world Himself. There is the necessity for daily dressing and trimming and the warning as in Revelation 2 of the possibility of the removal of that corporate testimony should there be false representation.
There is an almost bewildering amount of detail set forth in these two great systems, yet none without significance. The numeral ten and its multiples is used throughout the Tabernacle (apart from the reference to the seven branches of the candlestick). This numeral, of course, is suggestive of the responsible side (as distinct from privilege), as seen in the Commandments. The offerings include the blue (heavenly characters), the purple (a royal colour), the scarlet (the distinctiveness of the Christian in a non-Christian society), and there were to be coverings for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red and also badgers’ skins. The former would speak of men like Peter (especially after Pentecost) and Paul after his encounter with the Lord on the Damascus Road. The ram speaks of maturity and strength, ‘dyed red’ the change from what is merely of nature. The curtains were of goats’ hair reminding us of the need for separation, even religious (the goat, unlike sheep, being marked by isolation), a feature seen also in the man born blind (John 9) and found alone by the Lord as cast out of the religious system. Similarly the badgers’ skins suggest in this animal the need of continual vigilance in order to the exclusion of the introduction of evil. Then there are the metals employed: it is most interesting to observe that the further we penetrate inward, the more rare and precious the metal used, surely an encouragement to us to cultivate in greater intimacy the presence of the Lord when so many are content to move little further than the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins (great and blessed though this is). Brass would indicate the judgment of sin, that feature of self-judgment so necessary for our preservation and as preparatory for moving on in divine things. Next the silver, moving our hearts in the appreciation of the One Who loved us and gave Himself for us, effecting redemption and, complementary to this, asserting His redemptive rights over us—we are not our own. The boards of shittim wood are in sockets of silver: we are able to stand in all the good of this redemptive work and as we see the sockets firmly in the ground to be here in this scene steadfastly and effectively in the testimony of our Lord. Finally, God would indicate His pleasure in all that has been done in overlaying all with gold. In the Tabernacle setting this would set forth divine righteousness in testimony, corresponding to the anointing which confers divine credentials and the committal of God Himself to the whole system. Taches and loops of both brass and silver speak of what holds us together in such a fellowship, even as John indicates in his first Epistle (1:7) ‘If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.’ Incidentally the Tabernacle itself is anointed with oil (though not the Temple), pointing on to Pentecost, when the Spirit would descend to endue with power the vessel of the testimony, the Church, fitted for a scene of adversity until translated to be for ever by the side of her great Lover as His Bride for all eternity.
by O. B. WYLLIE
IN his instruction to Timothy to sustain him as “a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and good doctrine whereunto he had attained” (1 Timothy 4:6), Paul warned against failure to keep—to retain as his possession—two graces which are essentially bound together in every spiritual man, namely, faith and a good conscience (1 Timothy 1:19).
Faith is the result of the Spirit’s work within us. To absorb “the faith … once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), so that it becomes the controlling and guiding power of life in its every aspect, is impossible apart from the Spirit’s aid. He alone can guide us into all truth; and it is His sole prerogative to receive of the things that are Christ’s and show them unto us (John 16:13-14). That characteristic of faith, also, that believingly takes God at His Word, and is exercised in prevailing prayer, is ours only as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Failure to maintain a good conscience involves grief to Him, which results in His normal activity in relation to the truth being suspended. Progress in it then becomes impossible, and stagnation of soul is inevitable. Tn this unhealthy condition the germs of doubt soon develop, and the grip on divine principles, once held in unwavering conviction, weakens and is ultimately relaxed. Yet there are many of the Lord’s people who through failure to heed the command, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God . . .” (Ephesians 4:30), continue in a state of broken communion, not realising the danger to which they are exposed.
The failure of those teachers who had turned aside unto vain jangling, desiring to be law-teachers (1 Timothy 1:6-7), lay in the fact that they had ceased from the pursuit of that essential objective, the saving blend of faith and a good conscience. Inevitably, then, service representing a stewardship of God (verse 4)—the only divinely acknowledged service—no longer occupied them, but instead, a carnal aim that a warped judgment made more important. “In Thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:9). Once the vision has been darkened by a defiled conscience it is no longer possible to discern the mind of God. Let this solemn fact sink deep into the heart of every reader. Apart from that close communion with our Lord in which He delights to have us, our apprehension of divine things is marred. How could it be otherwise when He through whom true discernment alone is possible has ceased to minister to our souls? And He never resumes His work until that which grieved and hindered Him is confessed and put away.
In stressing the urgency of the need to hold faith and a good conscience in even balance Paul reminded Timothy of some who had made shipwreck concerning the faith. This calamity had befallen them, not merely through turning aside from the all-important objective under review. They had certainly failed in that respect, and the resultant state made way for a deliberate act of thrusting from them (R.V.) a good conscience. That is, at a definite point in their experience, as conscience would still rebuke the false move, the choice was made to act in defiance of it. Repentance comes only as God grants it; and for sin of such a wilful character, never, without the deepest of soul-chastening. The voice of conscience thus refused, and the means of guidance cast away, their shipwreck concerning the faith was as definite as their choice.
Two of these are named, and actually charged with blasphemy. It is the truth of God as interpreted by the Spirit of God that presents the true character of our glorious Lord. As their error was divergent from that truth so they misrepresented Him; and—let us mark it well—it was this that constituted them blasphemers . What hope for such cases? None apart from discipline. Delivery unto Satan involved excommunication if nothing more; but therein appears a ray of hope. “That they may be taught” (R.V.) has the significance of “taught by discipline.” Any hope of their recovery there-fore lay in their submission to that discipline.
These solemn facts should impress each heart with the need to pray as the Psalmist in Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts . . .”
by W. R. Lewis
THE sin of Ananias and Sapphira was no sudden temptation, but a deep-laid plan conceived in the heart to imitate a devotedness they did not possess; to gain a reputation they did not deserve. Judgment swift and terrible deals with the transgressors that the rest may fear, for “holiness becometh the House of the Lord for ever.”
With this solemn example before us of the natural heart, how we need to guard against catching at the good opinion of others or being ready to take a degree of credit to ourselves which we do not honestly deserve, while we may shrink maybe from the real approach and obloquy for the Gospel’s sake. We have to do with the Searcher of hearts. Our words and deeds may be altogether at variance with our hidden principles, but there can be no hypocrisy in our thoughts. “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” God sees what is the governing motive there, and what He sees there, that we really are, be the censure or approbation of man what it may.
Well may we pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts” (Ps. 139:23).
- Thy love sustains us on our way,
- While pilgrims here below;
- And grace to help us day by day,
- Thou dost, O Lord, bestow.
- — Sir Edward Denny.
Our memories of the past year in connection with “Assembly Testimony” are mixed. We have been impressed with the fact that many of the Lord’s dear people, who showed a deep interest in the magazine from its beginning, have been taken home, to be “with Christ, which is far better.” To the sorrowing relatives we extend our deepest sympathy. Naturally, we shall miss the encouraging letters they sent us, but we are thankful for the “love,” so great and everlasting, that “sustains us on our way,” and which has been made very precious to us by our kind and gracious God. As we contemplate another year it is most encouraging to know that our God is a gracious God, Who assures us, His grace is sufficient for our every need.
We are glad to report the circulation of the magazine continued to increase. We pray that through the rich grace of our faithful God, the many readers will be edified and encouraged in these days of sad and increasing world-wide lawlessness and gross wickedness. We greatly desire the prayers of the Lord’s people, that the written ministry may be blessed to His dear saints, and to the strengthening “of the’ things that remain” in our assemblies for His glory. His word is sufficient to guide us in all matters affecting our assemblies if only our wills are subjected to it. May this grace characterize all of us more and more “until He come.”
What the coming year may bring to us we do not know, but we solicit prayer that the Lord will guide us as we seek to continue the magazine, so that each issue shall be such as He can richly bless to His dear saints found reading it in the five Continents of earth.
Hearty thanks is tendered to the writers who have so willingly spent many hours labouring to produce the papers submitted. We also warmly thank those who have so kindly helped in distributing the magazine. We would also warmly thank the dear saints who personally, or through the assemblies, forwarded those gifts which enabled us to continue the free issue of the little paper to any who could be profited by it. All this practical fellowship moves our hearts in gratitude to God, Who gives this exercise to His people, which, we know, is well-pleasing to Him.
It is with much pleasure we express our thanks to our Editor for his gracious services. Without his unstinted help, in the midst of many other duties, we could not possibly continue.
- I am waiting for the dawning
- Of the bright and blessed day,
- When the darksome night of sorrow
- Shall have vanished far away ;
- When for ever with the Saviour,
- Far beyond this vale of tears,
- I shall swell the song of worship
- Through the everlasting years.
- I am looking at the brightness
- (See, it shineth from afar)
- Of the clear and joyous beaming
- Of the “Bright and Morning Star.”
- Through the dark grey mist of morning
- Do I see its glorious light;
- Then away with every shadow
- Of this sad and weary night.
- I am waiting for the coming
- Of the Lord who died for me ;
- Oh, His words have thrilled my spirit,
- “I will come again for thee.”
- I can almost hear His footfall
- On the threshold of the door,
- And my heart, my heart is longing
- To be with Him evermore.