EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS
by Dr. J. Boyd
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS—INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE
by J. B. Hewitt
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
by E. Robinson
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
by J. Scott
by DR. JOHN BOYD
CHAPTER 4:7-9—PAUL’S AFFAIRS
v. 7 All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, Paul now deals with practical matters in the sending of this letter to the Colossians. His messenger was Tychicus, but he had more work for him to do, namely, (1) to inform them of how Paul was faring, (2) to comfort their hearts, (3) to accompany Onesimus, and help him in his reconciliation to Philemon, the master whom he had defrauded and deserted (Philemon 16-18). who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord: Paul had a good opinion of the ability of Tychicus for these tasks; he had been his fellowtraveller, an Asian (Acts 20:4), possibly from Ephesus (2Tim. 4:12). The apostle calls him ‘a’ or rather, ‘the’ (R.V.) beloved brother. The definite article indicates that he was well-known as such by the church. Paul also designates him ‘a faithful minister’ of the Lord, on behalf of the churches, and one who with Paul had faithfully served the Lord as a willing bondservant.
v. 8 Whom l have sent unto you for the same purpose, that he might know your estate, The R.V. changes this rendering to a translation of what is found in the earlier manuscripts, ‘Whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye may know our estate.’ The most important purpose in sending Tychicus was as stated in v. 7, that they might learn Paul’s state, which is repeated here. For such a task Tychicus was well fitted.
and comfort your hearts; Paul had a constant desire to comfort the churches, especially Laodicea and Colosse. He felt assured that the message brought by Tychicus concerning the Lord’s presence with him, and his welfare, would encourage them to continue in the faith, and bind them together in love (2:2).
v. 9 With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. Paul commences here to commend Onesimus to the assembly at Colosse. He was now a brother, whom Paul had led to the Lord. In this mention of Onesimus there is no reference to his previous defection, merely ‘one of you.’ But the apostle refers to the Roman believers’ appreciation of him as, ‘a’ or rather, ‘the’ (R.V.) faithful and beloved brother, that is, one well-known as such (v. 7) by the saints there, in the short time since his conversion.
They shall make known unto you all things that are done here. Onesimus is set before the Colossians as one with Tychicus, to acquaint them of the relationship that existed between him and the saints at Rome.
CHAP. 4:10-14—SALUTATIONS FROM PAUL’S FRIENDS
v. 10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, Paul now sends salutations from saints in Rome to the Coloss ian believers. The first salutation comes from Aristarchus, who was from Thessalonica. He had gone with Paul to Jerusalem, and later to Rome (Acts 27:2). He is here called Paul’s fellow-prisoner, a title also given to Epaphras in Philemon 23, whilst there Aristarchus is merely called a fellow-labourer. What this term ‘fellow-prisoner’ implies is difficult to ascertain. It may have been a voluntary sharing of the apostle’s imprisonment, by various companions at different times.
Mark joins with Aristarchus in this salutation. He is John Mark, the cousin (R.V.), a word loosely used for a nephew or cousin, of Barnabas. He had accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:5, 15:37). How he had arrived at Rome we are not told, but apparently he had been restored to fellowship with Paul, and had met with him in the capital city.
(touching whom ye received commandments; if he come unto you receive him;) Paul had previously commended Mark to the Colossian church. We are not told when. Whether or not he had been with them before this letter was written is not clear.
v. 11 And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. Jesus Justus is included with Aristarchus and John Mark in the greeting. All three are designated as Jewish believers.
These only are my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me. These three were the only Jewish Christians, who had preached the gospel with Paul at Rome, and had given him any consolation by their help.
v. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, Epaphras had possibly been saved through Paul’s preaching, and had brought the gospel to his native city, Colosse. Paul calls him a bondservant of Christ, a fellow-bondservant with himself (1:7). He was then with Paul at Rome, whither he had brought to him the news of the Colossians’ welfare. The Colossian believers would be cheered by his greeting.
always labouring fervently for you in prayers, The fact that he had brought the gospel to them, and continued in the prison to wrestle in prayer for them, gives point to Paul’s title for Epaphras, ‘a fellow-servant of Christ with him’ (1:29).
that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Epaphras’ desire for them was that they should be thoroughly instructed in divine things, and be fully persuaded in all the will of God, that is, to know the will of God, and be determined to carry it out to the utmost of their ability. How the faithful spiritual father cares for the progress of his children in the faith!
v. 13 For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, Paul had seen, and now bears witness to Epaphras’ labour for their sakes, to produce this desired result.
and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. Epaphras apparently occupied himself, when at home, with evangelising not only Colosse, but the two neighbouring cities as well. It would seem that the word of the Revisers, ‘labour,’ better fits the description of the activity of Epaphras than the ‘zeal’ of the A.V. He was a man of unceasing toil, and of agonising prayer.
v. 14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demos, greet you. Luke first comes to our notice in the Acts of the Apostles (note the ‘we’ 16:10). This was some short time after Paul had suffered from the stoning at Lystra (Acts 14:19). It may be that he gave medical attention to Paul at that time (Gal. 4:13-15), for it would seem that the churches to which the Epistle to the Galatians was written included those around Derbe, Lystra and Iconium. Paul designates Luke as lit., ‘Luke the physician, the beloved one’—two epithets that indicate his personal relationship to the writer of the Acts; he was Paul’s medical attendant, and also very dear to him on this account.
Nothing is told us here of Demas, but in Philemon 24 he is described at that time as a fellowlabourer of Paul. Later Demas defected from Paul, and turned towards the world (2Tim. 4:10).
—(To be concluded)
by J. B HEWITT, Chesterfield
(1) The Inspiration of Scripture
(Continued from November/December, 1978. The editor was visiting California assemblies and this was unfortunately overlooked)
Unfolds a Divine Plan, Eph. 1:8-10; John 20:31. The Scriptures reveal the processes of redemption; how man fallen, corrupt and condemned can be reconciled, forgiven and restored in Christ.
In the Pentateuch the foundation principles of redemption are revealed; in the historical books the external historical development of redemption in the chosen nation, in the poetical books the internal spiritual development of redemption in individuals; in the prophetical books God’s future purposes concerning the Kingdom. The New Testament follows on, dealing with the fulfilment of God’s purposes in Christ and in His Church, a heavenly people. Dr. Griffiths Thomas puts it thus: “In the Pentateuch the revelation of God to His People, in the Gospels the revelation of Christ to His Church, and in Acts to Revelation the realization of Christ in His Church.”
Reliable in its Prophecies, Luke 24:25-27; Psalms 2 22, 40, 110. The first general prophecy is found in Genesis 3:15, which is the seed of the Old Testament Messianic idea. Some other prophecies in Genesis are found in chapters 12:7; 13:15; 17:7; 22:18; Compare these with Gal. 3:16, 29. There are clear predictions of Christ’s birth and birthplace, Isa. 7:14; Mic. 5:2; Matt. 1:21; 2:6, His flight into Egypt, Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:15, His residence in Galilee, Isa. 9:1-2, Matt. 4:14-16. The Calvary Psalms are most impressive and instructive. Psalm 22 gives a detailed version of the whole scene of the crucifixion, at least ten New Testament counterparts are here. Study Psalm 31:5, and Luke 23:46; His condition on Calvary, Psa. 31:9-18 with 2 Cor. 5:21. Psalm 38 gives the cry of the suffering Saviour, v. 11 with Luke 23:49. Note in this Psalm verses 3, 5, 7 R.V., 10. Psalm 40 is an utterance of Christ, compare v. 6-8 with Heb. 10:5-7, and His passion is depicted in verses 12-17. Psalm 41:9 is referred to in John 13:18. Psalm 69 vividly portrays the Saviour, v. 4, 9, 21, and the New Testament fulfilment should be searched out. Psalm 88 predicts His cry of despair, v. 1-6, the approach of death and the wrath of God, v. 7, 16, 17, and His anguish, v. 14, 15. As we read these accounts our hearts bow in adoring worship.
Exposes Man’s Failure and Sin. The ruin of humanity from Genesis 3 onwards is a dark depressing picture, see Gen. 6 and 7; Psa. 14; Isa. 53:3, 6; Rom. 3:9-20; 5:6-7; Col. 1:21. Man stands condemned at the bar of God, a slave of sin in helpless and hopeless captivity to the law of sin and death, Eph. 2:1-3; 1 John 5:19 R.V.; Job. 42:5-6; Isa. 6:1-5. The hope of humanity is in Jesus Christ, His death, resurrection, ascension and exaltation. His death is referred to 175 times in the New Testament. His death and resurrection are the theme of the Gospel, 1 Cor. 15:1, 3, 4; Gal. 1:4; 2:20; 4:5; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Tim. 2:6; 1 John 2:2; Rom. 5:18 R.V.; Rev. 5:9-10 R.V.
Saves the Soul, Jas. 1:21-23; 1 Pet. 1:23; 2:2. It demands obedience, Deut. 17, 19, 20; supports life, Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4, it comforts, Psa. 119:82; Rom. 15:4, rejoices the heart, Psa. 19:8; 119:111. It should be believed, John 2:22, known, 2 Tim. 3:15; appealed to, 1 Pet. 1:16, read and searched, Isa. 34:16; John 5:39; 7:52; Acts 17:11. May we love it exceedingly, Psa. 119:97, 113, 159, 167, delight in it, Psa. 1:2, hide it in our hearts, Psa. 119:11, and let it dwell richly in our hearts, Co. 3:16.
Throughout the Scriptures we are pointed to Christ and the things concerning Himself.
- In the Pentateuch Christ typified or Christ announced.
- In the Psalms Christ vivified or Christ acknowledged.
- In the Prophets Christ prophesied or Christ anticipated.
- In the Gospels Christ crucified or Christ arrived and atoning.
- In the Acts Christ glorified or Christ acclaimed.
- In the Epistles Christ magnified or Christ alive in the saints.
- In the Revelation Christ satisfied or Christ abiding through all ages.
It is very fitting that this short letter written by Jude “the brother of James” (probably James “the Just,” our Lord’s kinsman according to the flesh—hence Jude is also a kinsman, as well as a bondslave of his Lord)—and which takes its readers back in thought to the Book of Beginnings —Genesis—should itself be an introduction to the Book of the End—Revelation—in which the prophetic word of Enoch is seen to be fulfilled.
Of the similarity of this epistle of Peter’s second epistle, or of the similarity of both letters to the apocryphal book cf Enoch, it is not the purpose of this note to pursue. Nor is any question raised as to the authenticity of the letter. It has been accepted as part of the canon of Holy Scripture and as such is a subject for thoughtful study—especially, as already stated, in view of its place within the canon.
The letter is written in a series of ‘triplets’ (which are noted as we proceed) and its object is to exhort the “beloved in God’’ (one version of v. 1) to contend for the faith—a faith being undermined by those who denied God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
v.1. “Jude, the bondslave of Jesus Christ, and brother of James!’
- Triplet No. 1. Name, description, relationship.
- The term “bondslave” or “bondman” — also used by Peter and by Paul was one which, in the world of that day, meant long, arduous, continuous, and not always pleasant, service. To the Jew, Exodus 21:2-6, would remind them that if he loved the Lord, and would not “go free,” he should serve Him “for ever”—for life—and in complete obedience to, and complete dependence upon. Him.
“to them that are called, beloved in God the Father, and preserved (or kept for Jesus Christ”).
- Triplet No. 2. Called, beloved, kept.
- Note the position of the beloved, “IN God the Father, and KEPT for Jesus Christ.
- “elect of God, holy and beloved” (Colossians 3:12). “kept by the power of God” (1Peter 1:5).
- “called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
v. 2. “mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.”
- Triplet No. 3. Mercy from God to man; hence peace between God and man; hence love of all towards all.
- Triplet No. 4: Linking triplets 2 and 3 we have, “Called by God’s mercy; preserved in peace; beloved in love.”
- God is not niggardly in His grace, His mercy, His love, or His peace; each is multiplied over and over again to His called ones.
- Multiplication may also refer to “begetting,” i.e. love will beget love.
v. 3. “Beloved, using all diligence (or, having it laid upon my heart) to write to you concerning our common salvation, I had need to write to you, exhorting you to contend (or, fight in defence of) for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints”
- We are told that the word “contend” means to stand over a thing to fight in its defence. Cf. the builders upon the walls of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 4:16-18). Fighting as well as building.
- Jude has an important matter—a burden—resting heavily upon him; it was imperative that he write, but who the immediate recipients of his letter were we do not know. This we do know, however, it comes to all who have been “set apart” by God the Father, and who are preserved in Jesus Christ. It comes to “the saints.”
- What had been delivered to them could not be changed. It was like the “one sacrifice for sins,” and as our sanctification, “for ever” (Hebrews 10:4-17). The word “delivered” has the force of something “handed over.” Given into custody for safe keeping.
- Remember how the law dealt with the question of things delivered “unto his neighbour to keep?” See Exodus 22:7-15.
- Why was this exhortation necessary?
v. 4. “For certain men came in stealthily, who were of old written down beforehand (their judgment was foretold in ages past) for this sentence (i.e. that which follows), impious, changing the grace of our God into wantonness, and denying the only Master, our Lord Jesus Christ”
- Romans 1 speaks of those who “changed the glory of God into an image” and “changed the truth of God into a lie” (vv. 23, 25). One of the fruits of sin is “change.” And how subtle are these “changes.” As subtle as those who crept in—true agents of the one who crept into Eden’s garden—the serpent, “more subtle than any beast of the field.” (Gen. 3:1). Cf. “beast” Jude 10.
- Galatians 2:4 “false brethren unawares brought in to spy our liberty, which we have in Christ Jesus . . .”
- 2Peter 2:1 “false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them . . .”
- “Our God,” “Our Lord Jesus Christ,” “Our liberty.” Not their’s.
v. 5. “But I would remind you, though ye have all (once for all, as v. 3) known (or understood) all things, that JESUS, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, in the second place destroyed them that believed not!”
- Those to whom this letter was originally addressed were not now being instructed, but rather reminded of that which they had previously been taught. “Jesus” is a strongly evidenced reading, and if correct, then it would appear as if Jude identified the Lord Jesus Christ with the Angel of Jehovah.
- Numbers 14:35, “I the Lord have said, ‘I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against Me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die’.” This is the great disaster that befell Israel. Cf. Deuteronomy 1:35. In Exodus 23:20 God had said, “Behold, I send an Angel before thee … beware of Him, and obey His voice, provoke Him not … for Mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in.” At the border of the land, Israel refused to go in (Numbers 14). Cf. 1Corinthians 10:4, “. … they drank of that spiritual Rock that went with them (Margin); and that Rock was Christ.” A double reminder of the power of God; firstly in mercy, for He brought them out of Egypt. Secondly, in judgment, for they were destroyed in the wilderness.
v. 6. “And the angels who kept (same as v. 1) not their own first state (domain, principally, rule, power, dignity) but left their own dwelling (the Greek word occurs only here and 11 Corinthians 5:2 where it is translated as the “HOUSE not made with hands eternal in the heavens”) He hath kept (as v. 1) in eternal bonds under gloom unto the judgment of the great day.”
- Jude is, once again, reminding his readers of what they already knew and (as Peter does) draws their attention to the examples of God’s judgment upon the angels who had sinned, and the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Peter wrote, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and delivered them into chains (or, dens) of gloom, reserved unto judgment.”
- Note: Tartarus occurs only in 2Peter 2:4 (translated ‘hell’); in Greek mythology was the deep abyss below Hades, where the giants were imprisoned.
- The irruption of fallen angels was the subject of a Jewish tradition, as we see in the book of Enoch to which reference has been made; and to which Josephus the Jewish historian also refers, (Antiq. 1 chap. 3) but it is to Genesis 6 we turn. “The sons of God (LXX ‘angels’) saw the daughters of Adam that they were fair.” *
- * The Editor is aware that this is an interpretation with which all will not agree, he prints it however for the interest of the Lord’s people.
- The nature of their fall is clearly stated: “they left their own estate”—their spiritual body, and the time of their fall was in the days of Noah (1Peter 3:20; 2Peter 2:7).
- The sin of the angels was as that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 7). Notice the “great day”—only here and Revelation 6:17—“For the great day of His wrath is come.” Whose wrath? That of the Lamb.
v. 7. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them in like manner having given themselves to fornication, and having gone astray after other flesh, are set forth as an example, undergoing the penalty of eternal fire”
- Triplet No. 5. Egypt, the angels and Sodom and Gomorrah. The “keyword” is “rebellion”—Israel in the wilderness gathered together against God; the angels; the cities of the plain.
- In passing, are the words of Eliphaz (Job 4:18; 15:15, 16) a result of a knowledge of the rebellion and fall of the angels? “He putteth no trust in His servants (i.e. in heaven); and His angels He chargeth with folly … He putteth no trust in His holy ones; yea, the heavens are not clean in His sight; how much less one that is abominable and corrupt, a man . . .” And did this necessitate Hebrews 9:23? “It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens be purified with these sacrifices; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.”
- Perhaps “folly” might be added to “rebellion.” v. 8. “Yet in like manner these also (those of v. 4) in their dr earnings (cf. Acts 2:17, “dream dreams”), defile the flesh, reject lordship, and speak evil of (insult, scoff, blaspheme) glories (the heavenly or unseen principalities and powers (?)”
- Triplet No. 6. Defile the flesh; reject lordship; speak evil of glories.
- “Yet”—despite the warnings examples in Israel in Egypt and the wilderness; Sodom and Gomorrah and the angels. We pause to emphasize the depth of folly seen in the redeemed people of God; in vile Sodom; and among the angels. And these sins had crept in unawares!
- Why “dreamers?” Written to those who were the called ones, but perhaps chiefly to Jewish believers, what would this word convey? “Certain men … impious, changing the grace of God into wantonness, and denying the only Master, our Lord Jesus Christ. . . these dreamers of dreams.”
- The law said, (Deut. 13:1-5), “If there arise … a dreamer of dreams … saying, ‘Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them’ … that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt … so shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.” Cf. Balaam, to whom the epistle later refers; Jeremiah 23:25-32; Zech-ariah 10:2;—“The diviners have told false dreams.” The doom of the dreamers (v. 4) is foreshadowed in the law. The word for “dreamer” used in this passage is that used by the LXX version of Isaiah 56:10, “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark: sleeping (or, dreaming), lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough …” So that those who had crept in unawares were “dreamers” of the false kind; ignorant and slumbering in their sins. “His watchmen”—whose? Whose but those of Israel.
- The fifth column avoids the sleeping watchmen, whether in Eden’s garden, Israel, or the Church.
v. 9. “Yet Michael (the prince of the people of Israel— Daniel 10) the archangel (only Michael has this title) (Cf. 1 Thess. 4:16; Daniel 12:1) when disputing with the Devil he reasoned about the body of Moses, did not dare to condemn him with scoffs (or, bring against him a judgment or railing, or use insults—Gr. “blaspheme”) but said, “The Lord rebuke thee”
- “Moses died in the land of Moab … and He (God) buried him in a valley . . .” (Deut. 34:5-6).
- .. death reigned from Adam to Moses . .(Rom. 5:14).
- Moses is seen in resurrection upon the mount of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17).
- So many attempt to do what the archangel did not even dare to do! But Michael and his angels will meet the Adversary again! (Rev. 12). Cf. Zechariah 1:1-2, “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan…’ .”
- “The manner of some” is to stay away
- From the Table spread on the Lord’s own Day;
- A dinner hot or an hour in bed—
- Such are the things they prefer instead.
- “I met a friend and he hindered me”
- Can any friend such as Jesus be?
- He said “This do” and can they forego
- Thus giving Him joy, Who loves them so?
- By “The manner of some” when the Gospel’s told
- You would think their hearts were very cold;
- It has no music to charm their ear,
- Or sure they would come its message to hear!
- And yet by that Gospel their souls were saved.
- Unless, as I fear, they are self-deceived;
- To have no care for the tidings glad.
- And yet to believe them is terribly sad!
- “The manner of some” is never to see
- The place where prayer is wont to be,
- Where saints together approach the throne
- Is where, alas, they are never known.
- Yet where in petition the saints agree
- “I am in the midst of two or three”
- Are the Saviour’s words, and the promise is plain:
- But those who don’t ask, what can they obtain?
- “The Manner of Some” when the Word is read
- Is to do some other business instead.
- When Truth is ministered by the Lord
- Through His servants they never hear a word.
- Too busy, too careless, they come not nigh,
- So the streams of blessing pass them by.
- What wonder they weary are and lean
- Yet many such too often are seen.
- “The manner of some,” when they can spend
- A holiday month or even week-end,
- Is to choose some spot where none are found
- To gather together on scriptural ground.
- Yet many a “two or three” would be
- Delighted a brother’s face to see;
- But no! they rather prefer to choose
- Some other place and fellowship lose.
- Can such be Christians, saved by Grace,
- And of God’s spirit the dwelling-place
- Of one another members too—
- Yet never acting as members do
- Forgive them, O Lord; but let them be
- A solemn warning also to me—
- Lest I permit these trivial things
- To hinder the blessing obedience brings.
- “As the manner of some” is “Forsake not” saith He.
- “Assembling together” though but “two or three”
- His presence is promised; the promise is true;
- The joy of His Presence is rapturous and new.
- Then prove it my Brother, my Sister, be there—
- Assemble together for praise and for prayer;
- The blessing will follow, and glad we shall be
- All waiting together our Saviour to see.
I have received a very courteous letter from Mr. A. G. Bamford, chairman of the conveners of the Annual Men’s Conference at Swanwick. He tells me that Bill Spencer is the editor of “Evangelism Today.’’ He is a believer, a Christian journalist, but I do not know if he is in assembly fellowship. The report that appeared in the various magazines was Bill Spencer’s own account of what was said. His report was not seen by any of the conveners until it appeared in the press.
Mr. Bamford rightly suggested that any review that I intend to make should be based on the printed report which should soon be available and not on Bill Spencer’s review. This, as I stated in the last issue, has always been my intention. The report will need almost a line by line review. I shall value your prayers.
I have however in my possession tapes of four of the addresses, one each by the four speakers. I must say that I am both alarmed and deeply distressed by some of the things that they said, especially as two of the speakers are editors of two influential assembly magazines.
Any wishing to obtain the Printed Report (I suggest all elder brethren should read it—you will be able to check what I say and will also be aware of the dangers arising) will be able to obtain it from Henry T. Walter, Ltd.
by EDWARD ROBINSON, Exmouth
It is a very blessed thing to know God as a Saviour God and the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, for which we give thanks continually. However, the apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians states, ‘Some have not the knowledge (are ignorant) of God: I speak this to your shame.’ (15:34). These words are, of course, addressed to Christians: they refer to a true inward knowledge and understanding of the nature and character of God. They raise a question as to how far and in what degree this is true of ‘some’ Christians to-day. The question is not merely academic but will be found to have a profound effect on our walk and manner of life as Christians. This is shown by his word to the Ephesian believers, contrasting their walk with that of Gentile unbelievers, ‘But ye have not so learned Christ and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus.’ (Eph. 4:20, 21). Earlier (v. 13), referring to the end in view of the ministry by the gifts to the church from her ascended Lord he states ‘Till we all come (arrive at) in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect (full grown) man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’
It is a subject to which Paul repeatedly returns in his Epistles. Indeed, so important to him is this feature of entering further and further into the understanding of the Person of Christ that his estimation is (Phil. 3:8), ‘I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.’ This knowledge is obviously something more than the initial knowledge of Christ as Saviour and Lord and is in fact an expanding and progressive understanding of the Lord Jesus and thus of God, for all that is to be known of God is centred and confined essentially in Christ. Something of the depth of Paul’s own personal entry into these things can be measured by his words to the Philippians, to whom he wrote with such warm feeling, ‘But MY God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’ (Phil. 4:19). So John tells us ‘No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (i.e. God),’ (John 1:18).
The Old Testament also bears witness to the importance of our subject: we are told that both Noah and Enoch walked with God. We can well imagine what blessed intercourse with God they enjoyed. Jehovah Himself says of the response for which He looked, ‘For I desired mercy (loving kindness) not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.’ (Hos. 6:6). How much greater our privilege since God has come so near to us in the Person of His Son: so we sing
- Thy Heart, our God, made known—all, all is told ;
- The glory of Thy love, all time before,
- He to our raptured hearts doth now unfold,
- And moves our souls to worship and adore.
- O circle of affections all divine,
- The foretaste of eternity’s bright scene,
- Where all the glories of His love shall shine,
- In everlasting joy and peace serene.
- Thou speakest, Lord, of Him Thou hast revealed,
- Thy Father, Whom Thou lov’st, His glory Thine,
- Thou, His eternal joy, Thyself didst yield
- To bring to pass His thoughts of love divine.
The desire and prayers of Paul for the Colossian saints is expressed in these words ‘that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.’ (Col. 1:10). Such a verse makes clear that this increase is closely related to our walk and conduct and to a growing fruitfulness in the service of God. How then is this increase in knowledge to come about? Obviously, the study of the Person of Christ as portrayed in the four Gospels plays its part, but even more relevant is the daily occupation and communion with Christ and with God. This linking of the features which are to mark ourselves with those which we have seen in fullest expression in our Lord Jesus Christ is emphasized by Peter when he says ‘But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (2Pet. 3:18). All the help we need in such exercises is assured to us as we move consciously in the gain of the indwelling Spirit of God, ungrieved and unquenched.
This help of the Holy Spirit is beautifully illustrated in Genesis chapter 24. Abraham’s servant, who ‘ruled over all that he had’ (figurative of the Spirit) is commissioned to seek a bride, Rebecca, for his son, Isaac. We may be sure that the subject of their conversation as they journeyed across the desert was the bridegroom (even as the Spirit delights now to unfold to the bride of Christ all the glories of the true Isaac). What communications would pass between the servant and Rebecca as he furnished her with the gold, silver, clothing and precious things suited for presentation to the bridegroom, until his final word ‘That is my master,’ and she became his wife. So we sing as the church nears the end of the journey in this scene—
- We wait the consummation
- Of Love’s own work divine,
- And now, in adoration,
- We joy that we are Thine.
Our experiences in this waiting time are all ordered of God for the increase of our knowledge of Himself and of Christ and we learn how true the verse—
- In the desert God will teach thee,
- What the God that thou hast found,
- Patient, gracious, powerful, holy.
- All His grace shall there abound.
And we find at the end of the journey as we reach the Father’s house—
- There no stranger God shall meet thee,
- Stranger thou in courts above,
- He, Who to His rest shall greet thee,
- Greets thee with a well-known love.
by late JAMES SCOTT (continued)
A TRIUMPHANT COMPANY
Having looked at the Scriptures which deal with the great tribulation in relation to the Jews, we have now to consider one where Gentiles only are in question. In Rev. 7 we have 144,000 Israelites sealed for millennial blessing; then John sees a great multitude which no man can number come out of “all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues.” We must not confound this company with the church, or heavenly saints, for they have already been translated, and John sees them on thrones at the beginning of chap. 4. But if they are neither Israelites nor Christians, who are they? That is just the question put to the apostle, and which he is unable to answer: “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, Who are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?” John seems to have had no difficulty with the elders whom he saw on thrones in chap. 4: nor about the sealed Israelites at the beginning of chap. 7 but here we have a vast company which he is unable to identify: “And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them (spread His tabernacle over them). They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any (burning) heat. For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed (shepherd) them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (vv. 14-17). The point of special interest to us in this article is, that they are Gentiles who have passed through the Great Tribulation, and John sees them emerge a triumphant and victorious company.
We have now to consider whether this is a heavenly or an earthly people. That they belong to the former class seems so evident, that many of our brethren consider there is not even room for discussion. One learned writer has declared that if the language does not refer to heaven it would be difficult to imagine language that would do so. We might reverse the statement and throw the onus of proof upon our erudite friend; but unfortunately for this purpose he is no longer with us. The fact that they are “before the throne” (v. 9) might seem conclusive, were it not that we find language of a similar character used to describe a moral position. When the angel Gabriel rebuked Zecharias for his unbelief, concerning the child that was to be born, he said: “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19), though at that moment he was in the temple in Jerusalem. Again when Elijah asked Obadiah to go and call Ahab his master, he assured him that, “As Jehovah of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him to-day” (1Kings 18:15). And have we not been reminded, again and again, that when the high priest, on the day of atonement, sprinkled the blood seven times before the mercy seat it was to give us (typically) a righteous standing before the throne? But it will be asked, did not John see the throne in heaven? (Rev. 4:2). Yes, and such is its position meantime in relationship to the world, and God is known as the “God of Heaven.” To Nebuchadnezzar it was said, “The God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory” (Dan. 2:37). In the kingdom age it will be otherwise; for when referring to the millennial temple He addresses the prophet thus: “Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I shall dwell in the midst of the children of Israel” (Ezek. 43:7). And if this Gentile company are to have, as we firmly believe, the status of Levites in the kingdom (Isa. 66:21), where would we expect to find them serving if not in the temple where, as we have seen, God will have His throne?
It is distinctly stated that this company, “come out of great tribulation,” but there is not even a hint that they have been translated, which must of necessity take place if this scene is in heaven, as some maintain. Seeing that the Rapture takes place before the tribulation, and that every living saint will be “caught up,” it is obvious that this theory calls for a second translation; a contingency which Scripture knows nothing of, and any suggestion as to their having been martyred, and subsequently resurrected, is equally unfounded.
Not only is this company said to have come out of the Great Tribulation, and to have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, but it is added: “therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple” (v. 15). John says that he saw no temple in the holy city; for it requires none: “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Rev. 21:22); but Ezekiel gives us a full description of a magnificent temple yet to be built in Jerusalem, and where, as we have seen, God will have His throne (chaps. 40-43). Consequently there need be no difficulty about this saved company of Gentiles serving God in His temple. Further, we would like to ask those who sympathise with the learned brother, who is so positive that the language here can only refer to heaven, how they account for the terms “day and night” occurring in this connection; seeing that these ordinances have to do with earth, and not with heaven? Moreover, it is expressly stated in reference to the latter that, “There shall be no night there” (Rev. 22:5). But it may be asked, how can it be said of a people on earth, that “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any (burning) heat. For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed (shepherd) them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of water; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Chap. 7:16, 17). Seeing we have practically the same statement in reference to Israel in the kingdom age (Isa. 49:10), why should there be any difficulty when saved Gentiles are in question? We have already drawn attention to the use of the terms “day and night” Which are only applicable to earth, but what of the “sun”? It is said that the sun shall not light on them, nor any burning heat. Here again, we suggest that such language can only refer to the earth, with which the ordinances of sun and moon are set to function (Gen. 1 16, 18); while heaven, we are told, has no need of them. “And the city has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it,” and again, “they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light” (Rev. 21:23; 22:5).
Further we are told that, “He that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them” (chap. 7:15, R.V.). Obviously such a merciful provision is not required in heaven where, as we have seen, there is neither “the sun … nor any burning heat.” That it is for earth is evident for the same provision will be made for Israel, who, unquestionably, are an earthly people; “And Jehovah will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence (canopy). And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and rain” (Isa. 4:5, 6). It will be the wilderness provision over again, though doubtless in a fuller measure; and, as we have seen, it is one in which this saved company of Gentiles will share.
We have now to consider the Church in relation to the Great Tribulation. The only Scripture which deals definitely with this subject is the epistle to Philadelphia where it is expressly stated that, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10). We have seen that the Jewish remnant, and the great company of saved Gentiles, will be preserved in the midst of the fiery trial, as the three faithful Hebrews were in Babylon; but here we have a company who won’t even be in it, for they are to be kept from it. Obviously it is one thing to be preserved in the time of trouble, and quite another to be kept out of it; and not only out of it but from the hour which denotes a point of time, and this can only be done by taking them out of time into eternity. This is exactly what our Lord promises to do: “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). We are reminded of how in a past day, ere the judgment fell upon the antediluvian world, God kept His faithful witness from it by translating him; while Noah and his family were left to go through it, though distinctly preserved. It is not difficult to see that Enoch is a type of those who will be raptured before the tribulation, and that Noah represents the remnant who will pass through it.
Nor will it do to draw a distinction between the hour of temptation, and the great tribulation; and to say that while the Church will be kept from the former, she must nevertheless pass through the latter. Assuming, as we are asked to believe, that the temptation referred to, is the setting up of the “abomination of desolation” in the holy place, and the faithful being kept from bowing the knee to it; that would come very far short of meeting the requirements of the Scripture we are considering: “I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world” (Rev. 3:10). As we have seen, an hour is a point of time, and if the Church is on earth at all, When the image of the Beast is set up, then it definitely follows that she has not been kept from the hour of temptation. What then becomes of the promise? It is a poor exchange, to barter the blessed hope for the day of wrath. It has been suggested to us that the “hour of temptation” may commence as soon as the false king is accepted; while as yet his words are “smoother than butter” and no danger threatens (Psa. 55:21).
There is yet another aspect of this question, for the exponents of it are by no means agreed among themselves. As we have seen, there are those who contend that the whole church goes through the tribulation; while others, with more show of reason perhaps, teach that though Christ will indeed come for His saints before that time of sorrow, only those who are ready, or watching, will be taken, and the remainder left to share with the ungodly the horrors of that awful time. As for being ready, it ought to be apparent that this does not depend on our faithfulness, but upon the merits of Christ’s atoning sacrifice; and that the Father’s love, and house, are the birthright of every child: “Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). But, it will be asked, does not the parable of the ten virgins teach that it is those that are ready who go in, while the others are denied admittance? Yes, but the contrast is not between the watchful and the unwatchful saints, but between those who have oil in their vessels and those who have none. The oil is the well-known symbol of the Holy Spirit, and we are distinctly told that, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9); how then could he hope to get in? But is it not said that at the coming of Christ “one shall be taken, and the other left” (Matt. 24:40); and if so, does it not point to a partial rapture? Unfortunately for those who think so, the rapture is not in question in this and kindred Scriptures; but the coming of the Son of Man, when He will “gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity” (Matt. 13:41). At the coming of the Lord for His saints, those taken are for heavenly glory, while those left will have judgment; but at the coming of the Son of Man those taken are for judgment, and those left are for Millennial blessing.
We venture to suggest that much of the confusion that exists concerning this most important and solemn event would be avoided if due consideration were given to what is known as dispensational teaching, and the Jewish setting of the Olivet discourse. If the church, or any portion of it, has to go through the tribulation, and is only caught up to meet the Lord as He is coming out of heaven to take His Kingdom, then it surely follows that the saints in question never enter heaven at all, seeing that they return with Him on His mission of conquest. What then becomes of the Father’s house and the many mansions to which He promised to take us? And what of that all-important manifestation at the judgment seat of Christ: and the Bride’s preparation for the consummation of all her hopes; and the marriage of the Lamb? Events which must of necessity take place in heaven. The system we are considering would seem to make no provision for these most momentous events. How then is it possible to “Comfort one another with these words” (1Thess. 4:18), if we have nothing but the horrors of the tribulation in prospect?
- “But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait;
- The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
- Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
- Blessed hope! Blessed rest of my soul!”
- “I go to Prepare a Place for You” —John 14. 2.
- “I’m going Home!” What blessed thoughts
- This tender word conveys
- For nowhere on this earth is found
- A sweeter, happier place.
- No matter where on earth we dwell
- In tent or mansion fair
- What draws us to this hallowed spot
- Is this—our love is there!
- Though humble be our dwelling place
- We would not change with Kings—
- For wealth or fortune cannot buy
- The happiness Love brings
- What matter though the furnishings
- Be rather old and bare
- We would not change for anything
- They’re wealth beyond compare.
- The care-worn weary traveller
- Who o’er the world must roam
- Knows nothing more enchanting
- Than the blessed light of Home.
- The child will cry and languish
- Of “illness” he will moan
- But the root of all the trouble
- Is a longing to be “Home!”
- And after hours of travail
- Throughout a busy day
- The peasant with a cheerful heart
- Will wend his homeward way.
- Free from his toil and labour
- He can with pleasure rest
- For Home is the place we grumble most
- And yet are treated best!
- Oh blest anticipation!
- According to His Word
- There is a Home prepared in Heaven
- For those who love the Lord.
- No home on earth is like it
- Nor can with it compare
- For every one is happy
- Nor could be happier there.
- No sin or shame or sorrow
- Shall mar that Home so bright
- Where Jesus is’tis Glory
- And joy and peace and light.
- Oh, how our hearts are yearning
- To see His lovely face
- To hear His voice so gentle
- To be in His embrace.
- We’ll worship and adore Him
- The Lamb for sinners slain
- And sing His praise for ever
- No more to part again.
- — By E. S. HADDOW, M.A., Ayr.
- “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil 4:11).
- “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1Tim. 6:6).
- True contentment is the gift of God, and not the certain effect of anything upon earth. It is as easy without wealth as with it; in fact, it is more often the possession of the poor than the rich. The heavens give forth refreshing rains and abundance of sunshine without pipes, conduits or human devices. Happiness and comfort flow immediately from God Himself, as light issues from the sun, as the rain descends from the clouds. The cheering rays of the sun penetrate alike the hovel and the mansion. Every man is contented or discontented as the temper of his mind is transformed and controlled by the Spirit of Christ, or the spirit of the restless world.
- —WORDS IN SEASON.
- The essence of sin is found not so much in any particular act or word, as in the disposition to do that which is wrong, or speak that which is wrong. Sin is deeper than sinning. Sin is the root, and sin is the fruit. We are told that “sin is the transgression of the law.” The Revised Version reads, “Sin is lawlessness,” which is a little closer to the original idea. Sin is not simply the transgression of the law, sin is the disposition to transgress, it is the will. God sees that will in every sinner’s heart, and takes not so much account of the outbursts of a sinful will in conduct as of the existence of the sinful will behind the conduct. Even before the word is spoken that is wrong, there is the disposition which is opposed to God, the will contrary to His will.
- —DR. A. T. PIERSON.