DOCTRINE BRIEFS – LOVE
by W.W. Fereday
VEILED IN FLESH
by F. NICKELS
THE WAY OF THE WILDERNESS
by CHARLES JARRETT
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
NOTES ON REVELATION
by J. Flanigan
by E.R. Bower
IS DIVORCE PERMISSIBLE TODAY?
by R. McPIKE
KINGS AND PRIESTS
by H.H. Shackcloth
THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST – THE DEITY
by Wm. Hoste
HYMNS – AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY
BY J. Strahan
DOCTRINAL BRIEFS – LOVE
by W. W. Fereday
God is not light only; He is also love. Light and love are not mere attributes of the Deity, as righteousness and holiness; they are the very nature of God. Light condemns sin, and demands judgment upon it; love seeks the salvation of the sinner, and has provided an all-sufficient sacrifice for sin. Hence the magnificent Gospel message : "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John iii. 16). These words came from the lips of none other than the Only-Begotten Son Himself. The cross declares God’s love in all its fulness of meaning. What it cost Him to put the Son of His love in the sinner’s place none of us will ever comprehend. If the cross of Calvary fails to convince men of God’s fervent desire for their blessing, nothing else, whether deeds or words, could ever prove convincing.
Scripture describes man as a naturally loveless creature. Amiable qualities he may indeed possess, but love is lacking. "Hateful and hating one another" is God’s description of the revolted human family (Titus iii. 3). The whole law is summarised in the commandments to love God with all the heart, and one’s neighbour as one’s self. But where is the natural man who does either ? Christ is the true test of man’s condition in this as in everything else. He was once here tabernacling amongst us as God manifested in flesh. Was He loved as such ? Having become man He thereby became man’s neighbour; was He loved in that character either ? Both as God and man He was hated and rejected, even unto death ; what can be said for man in view of such an appalling fact ?
It would be as reasonable to look for grapes on a bramble-bush as to look for love to God in the heart of the natural man. The heart must welcome to itself God’s great love ere it can move aright towards God. The response soon follows the reception of the love of God. "We have known and believed the love that God hath toward us" says the happy Apostle. He adds almost immediately : "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John iv. 16-19). Love to God and Christ, love to the brotherhood, love to all men, flows naturally from the heart that has been filled and warmed with the infinite love of God. What is impossible to the unregenerate man is the most natural thing conceivable to all who are born of the Holy Spirit. They are partakers, through grace, of the Divine nature.
VEILED IN FLESH
by F. NICKELS, Cardiff
It has been said that the common badgers’ skins which were used to cover up the holy things belonging to the Tabernacle in the wilderness when it was in transit could take our minds to our Lord’s humanity which was also a covering for One who was "the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of His person" (Heb. 1,3). God’s earthly people only saw the animal skins, but they all knew that underneath were the things that belonged to the presence of God. In the days of our Lord’s humanity it was different. Only a minority recognized that the man, Jesus of Nazareth, was a divine visitor, and acknowledged Him as such. Martha said: "Lord I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God" (John 11, 27). Thomas said : "My Lord, and my God!" (John 20, 28), and Peter: "Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6, 69). The popular opinion of Him was much lower than this. It was generally thought that Jesus of Nazareth was a man who was given power by God to perform remarkable miracles (John 3, 2). The crowds who thronged Him could not make up their minds. Some accepted His claims, but others would not, so that there was a division because of Him (John 7.43). There was no halo around His head as artists like to depict Him, nor did He—as the saying goes–walk six inches above the ground that He might be distinguished from others. An old Puritan, thinking on these lines could write: "The mere outward form of our Saviour more confounded, than converted. His beholders."
The fact that the Son of God veiled the surpassing Glory which He had before the world was (John 17.5), amazes us, but we should also marvel that He should choose to come into our world as a little babe, just like ourselves. He could have by-passed childhood and youth, and come upon our time-scene as a full-grown man, just like Adam.
Of course this form of Christ’s coming had been marked out by God, Who gave His earthly people, through the O.T. prophets, special revelations as to how His Son should make His first advent. "Unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given" (Isa. 6.9), and "A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7.14). And so in fulfilment of prophecy, our Lord came into this world just in the same manner as we do, yet with a marked difference. His life was not just beginning, as ours begin at our birth. The babe that Mary held in her arms was the self-existing Eternal God Who was from the beginning (John 1.1), who was stooping to take on human flesh, apart from sin.
We are given much detail of Christ’s birth, but little of His childhood and youth, except for an isolated incident recorded in Luke when He was twelve years of age. After years of obscurity, our Lord comes on the pages of Scripture as a man of thirty years of age, who before His public ministry submitted Himself to John’s baptism. At this time God the Father opened heaven and expressed His delight in the way His Son had lived during those thirty ‘silent’ years, saying: "This is My well-beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3.17). This approval from heaven came to the man Christ Jesus, before He had done any of His gracious works of healing or had performed any of His mighty miracles. His first miracle was the turning of water into wine at the wedding feast (John 2.11). This point is made because from it we can see that it is not necessary to preach in public, or in other ways to be active in God’s service, in order to please God. We can please God without being prominent. This Paul underlines when he writes : "That we may live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour" (1 Tim. 2.2).
It seems that during the years of quiet family life as a village carpenter, our Lord was accepted as just one of the village community. But the fulness of the Godhead which resided in our Lord was not always to be veiled. Shafts of His glory were seen when He wonderfully opened blind eyes, cleansed lepers, and even raised the dead. These were but rays of His majesty that came through occasional openings in the veil, but God drew the veil much further back on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17). There Peter, James and John saw their leader’s face shine like the sun, and His ordinary home-spun garments became white and glistening with a heavenly whiteness. The apostles were dazzled and speechless, and it is not surprising that when they found their tongues, they said the wrong thing. Only these favoured three were allowed to see the glory that was inherent in the Man that people knew as Jesus of Nazareth. It was something that Peter never forgot (2 Pet. 1.17,18).
When we consider the great power and majesty that was in the man Christ Jesus, we must not allow ourselves to think that His humanity was not real humanity. Scripture would anticipate this tendency by assuring us that "in all points He was tempted like as we are" (Heb. 4.15), and to read the Gospels is to see that it is so. We see Him tired and thirsty sitting on a well-side asking a woman for a drink. At the end of a tiring day He laid down in a boat to sleep. He was guest at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and He liked to go to supper at a home in Bethany. All these everyday experiences would make Him appear like any other man of His time, but those who had the privilege of being close to Him knew He was Someone unique. Perhaps we could see a faint picture of His uniqueness in the O.T. character Samson, who. the Philistines knew from bitter experience, to be an exceedingly strong man physically, yet in his appearance he did not show it. Samson must have looked no different from any other man, for Delilah was told to find out where his great strength lay (Jud. 16.5,6). If he had been a giant with tree-trunk muscles, it would have been obvious where his strength lay. His enemies would not know that it came from his being Spirit empowered, and they would never have found his secret if he had not revealed it to the woman. But our Lord made no secret as to where His strength lay. He ever acknowledged His dependence on the Father (John 8, 28).
The Word of God speaks of the Incarnation as the "mystery of godliness" (1 Tim. 3 16), and in one simple, yet sublime sentence—"Who though He was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, that ye through His poverty, might be rich" (2 Cor. 8.9)—gives us to understand why He came and what His coming can mean to us.
THE WAY OF THE WILDERNESS
by CHARLES JARRETT, Malvern
Exodus 13. 17-22.
God’s people Israel, already knew deliverance from judgment as they had appropriated the blood and were now to know deliverance by power, from Egypt’s bondage. Ten times, including Ex. 4.23, God had demanded "Let my people go" and Pharaoh’s stubborn will was now broken. There was never any doubt as to the final result. Seven times in Ex. 6. vv. 6-8, God had said, "I will," and His promises cannot fail. They are just as certain for His people now. The Lord gives unto His sheep eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man seize them out of His hand, John 10.28.
There is fulfilment then to God’s purposes. "It came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go that . . . God led the people about." He directed their path and we see that He did not lead by the shortest way. A Bible atlas shows that the way to the land of the Philistines followed the coast of the Great Sea and was much nearer than the way that they were taken, through the Red Sea and the Wilderness of Sin. God was caring for His people and they went forth like sheep, guided in the wilderness like a flock. He led them on safely, so that they feared not, Ps. 78.52-53.
The short way would have brought the people into war with the Philistines, a test for which their faith was not equal. So, "God said, lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt." Before Israel were tested by warfare. God showed them His power over the flower of Egypt’s army, Ex. 14.7, and Jehovah was acknowledged as their strength and song and salvation, Ex. 15.2. God’s purpose at that time, to deliver from Egypt’s doom and dominion, is repeated in His dealings in this period of the Spirit’s presence. Gal. 1.4. To return to Egypt was not the way of salvation for Israel, nor is it for us. It was the very thing that the people proposed later. Numb. 14.4, when they heard the report of ten of the spies and for their unbelief they fell in the wilderness. The way of the wilderness was a long way, because of unbelief, but it was the right way, Ps. 107.7. In that way, the people learned, through the hunger they were allowed to experience, the unfailing supply of manna. Their clothes did not wear out; their feet did not swell in forty years, Deut. 8. 2-4. They learned their need of God and while they proved Him, God proved them. God still allows wilderness experience with its trials of faith as Peter shows in his first epistle. At no age in life or stage in spiritual development, are we self-sufficient. The near way will not provide the opportunities for our testing, by which faith will grow, yet be assured, there are wise ends in view and God is faithful who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, 1 Cor 10.13.
We read, "but God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness," Ex. 13.18, and "the Lord went before them by day … to lead them the way," v. 21. If, fellow-believer, yours is wilderness experience and you are very conscious of it, remember that the One who has chosen your path is with you in it, to lead by day and night, when the way is light and when it is dark. When the Lord Jesus said, "I will come to you," John 14.18, He was referring to His abiding Spirit, and He will not take away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, v. 22.
Our passage contains a touching reference to the faith and passionate hopes of the patriarch Joseph. Moses honoured the oath taken by the children of Israel when Joseph was about to die and he took the bones of Joseph with him, v. 19. See also Gen. 50.24-26. The Patriarch spent most of his life in Egypt. It was the scene of his earthly glory. Gen. 45.13, but his heart was set on the land that God sware to his fathers. "God will surely visit you and bring you out." It was by faith that Joseph gave commandment concerning his bones, Heb. 11.22. He believed that God would fulfil His promise to Abraham (although it still awaits fulfilment) and it seems he believed that God would raise him from the dead, as Abraham must also be raised, to come into the good of God’s promise. Gen. 13.14-17, and 17.8. Joseph experienced the greatest possible success in Egypt for he was made ruler over all the land. Gen. 41.43. How was it that his heart and affections were not taken up with Egypt? The answer lies in what God had said to Abram as recorded in Gen. 15. 13-14. His seed would be a sojourner (margin) in a land that is not theirs and after four hundred years of affliction. God would bring them out. Those events began with Jacob, Gen. 46. 3-4, but throughout Joseph’s life, he knew that the promises of future blessing were connected with the land that God would give, as He had declared to Abram, Gen. 15. 18-21, to Isaac, Gen. 26.3 and to Jacob, Gen. 28.13. For all his glory in Egypt, he knew that the nation would suffer the judgment of God, Gen. 15.14. So Joseph carried his responsibilities in the fear of God. He attributed his wisdom to God, Gen. 40.8 and 41.16. He recognised the purpose of God in his affliction. Gen. 45.5-8. and he looked for the fulfilment of the promise of God, Gen. 50.25.
Let us live in the world as those who will be taken out of it. Since we are chosen out of it, John 15.19, its pleasures and sins should not engage our hearts. Joseph said, "God will surely visit you," and we have the Lord’s last promise, "Surely I come quickly," Rev. 22.20. If our hearts are taken up with Him, we can at all times say, "Amen. Even so, come. Lord Jesus."
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(11) THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST
At the Incarnation our Lord took up humanity into His Deity. Deity is unchangeable. As the Image of the invisible God, the Son was always the visible representation of the invisible God to all creation. "Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5.2). So from ever-lasting. He has been the Begotten from the Father, and never in all eternity was unbegotten, (John 1.18). Yet manhood in Him is equally real with His Deity (1 Tim. 3.16; 1 John 5.20; John 1.14).
The Lord Jesus claimed for Himself powers and attributes belonging only to God (John 8.58). He "came forth from the Father (John 16.28). He came into the world as the Everlasting Father, the Ancient of Days. (Isa 9.6; 1 Tim. 1.17). The promised "Seed of the Woman (Gen. 3.15); "the Sun of Righteousness" (Mal. 4.2). The pre-incarnate manifestations, the theophanies were designed to prepare the world for His coming in human flesh.
"The angel of the Lord", "the angel of the Covenant" (Gen. 22.15; 31.11,13; Mal. 3.1). Inferred in Gen. 3.15;
Study the manifestations to Hagar (Gen. 16.7-14); to Abraham (Gen. 18.1-3; 22.11-13); to Isaac (Gen. 26.24,25); to Jacob (Gen. 28; 32.24-32; Hosea 12.4,5); to Moses (Exod. 3.2,6,14; 23.20,21; Acts 7.38); to Joshua (5.13-15); to Isaiah (Isa. 6.1; John 12.39-41); also Ezekiel and Zechariah.
Psalms 16, 22, both portray our Lord and Isaiah 7.14; 9.6 tell of His coming birth; Leviticus 2 proclaims His perfections.
PROOFS OF HIS MANHOOD
The Son of God took to Himself a human nature and gave it subsistence in the divine Nature. The assumption of the human nature involved no change as to the Person of the Eternal Son, it added nothing to it. He who always possessed Deity took also onto Himself humanity and became the God-Man. He has become man forever.
The title Son of Man is used only by our Lord, never by His disciples. It always relates Him to the earth and establishes His absolute identification with mankind (Psa. 8.4;
with Heb. 2.6). Our Lord used this designation over eighty times. The title speaks volumes to our heart concerning the sovereignty, sympathy and sufficiency vested in our strong Kinsman-Redeemer (Heb. 2.14,15).
He becomes complete and perfect man, possessing body, soul and spirit (Heb. 5.5; Matt. 26.38; Luke 23.46). His growth was normal, developing in physique and in wisdom (Luke 2.52). He knew tiredness (John 4.6); and thirst (John 4.7; 19.28).
In His experiences all that was proper to true humanity befell him, capable of surprise (Matt. 8.10); and tears (John 11.35; Heb. 5.7); affections (Mark 3.5; Luke 10.21;
John 11.5). He endured bodily suffering (1 Pet. 3.18; 4.1). Like every other man. He hungered (Mark 11.12); He slept (Matt. 8.24); He craved human sympathy (Matt. 26.36,40). When addressing Thomas He appealed to the reality of His human body as basis of belief (John 20.27; Luke 24.39).
His human ancestry is mentioned, born of the virgin Mary (Luke 1.31); and of the seed of David according to the flesh (Acts 13.23; Rom. 1.3; 2 Tim. 2.8). To some He was the Carpenter, the Son of Mary (Mark 6.3); the Son of David (Mark 10.47); That Man, the Man (Acts 17.31; 1 Tim. 2.5). To Mary, the Gardener (John 20.15); but to Thomas "My Lord and My God (John 20.28).
The Lord Jesus was racially the Son of Abraham. Morally the Son of Mary; vocationally the Son of Joseph; regally the Son of David; administratively the Son of the Most High; terrestrially the Son of Man; but eternally and celestially the Son of God.
The moral glories of Christ are the displayed excellencies of His character and conduct. The character of our Lord was perfectly symmetrical, without excess or deficiency. Our Lord had no strong points in His character because there were no weak points. He was without flaw because He was without sin. Every virtue was beautifully blended in Him. Mercy and justice were blended in all His actions and judgements. The perfection of His speech, "never man spake like this Man" (John 7.46; Psa. 45.2; Luke 4.22,36). He never had to recall a word, retrace a step, or regret a deed. He won the hearts of men by kindly sympathy and humanity. In Him the unique combination of majesty and humility (John 13.3-5; Phil. 2.5-8; John 10.38,39).
Perfect in service illustrated in the devotion of the Hebrew bondman (Ex. 21.1-6; Psa. 40.6). "Mine ears hast thou opened (pierced) (Heb. 10.7; Mark 10.45). His service was marked by tenderness (Mark 1.30,31); by prayer (Mark 1.35); by humility (Mark 1.37,38); and always motivated by love (Mk. 1.41; Luke 22.27). Perfect in suffering (Mk. 14.36). His whole life was one of undeviating obedience to the Father. He ever acted as One Who in virtue of His Manhood was dependent on, and in subjection to, the will of His Father (Heb. 5.8; Phil. 2.9). Perfection seen in Gethsemane and at Calvary seen in His cries from the cross.
- "All human beauties, all Divine
- In my Beloved meet and shine
- Thou brightest, sweetest, fairest One
- That eyes have seen or angels known."
- —R. McClurkin.
In Him no fault is found (John 18.38); In Him no sin (John 14.30; 1 John 3.5).
Yes "He is altogether lovely." In Him is every element of moral and spiritual beauty. Read of His perfection in the Song of Songs. 5.10-16.
Notes on Revelation
by JIM FLANIGAN, NORTHERN IRELAND
"THE GOLDEN LAMPS"
As is well known, chapters 2 and 3 of the Revelation are composed entirely of seven letters written to the seven assemblies named in ch. 1. The young believer should early learn the names of the cities, in order as the churches are addressed, and then learn to attach the meanings of the names, since these have a symbolic significance.
There are four interesting and profitable ways of approaching a study of these letters, viz.—
- 1. HISTORICALLY.
- 2. PROPHETICALLY. .
- 3. PRACTICALLY.
- 4. PERSONALLY
These were letters written to seven actual, existing, literal assemblies functioning at that time. They were located in a geographic circuit in Asia Minor, which we now know as Turkey. Outside of the Revelation we have mention of only two of these assemblies, Ephesus, and Laodicea (Col. 4.15-16). The city of Thyatira is referred to in Acts 16, but not in relation to the assembly, which was not yet in existence at that time. Only of Ephesus have we any real knowledge apart from the Revelation. We have the record of the beginnings of the work there in Acts 19, and of course we have Paul’s epistle to the assembly, written some ten years later. It is a sad reflection, that conditions so well known to us to-day, were actually prevalent in such early days of assembly testimony.
There appears to be what has often been called, a "Panorama" of the history of Christian profession. This we must consider in more detail as we peruse the letters, but here we offer five reasons to justify such a prophetic approach.
- The significance of the number "7". Why seven churches? Why seven only? There were others in this area. Why this particular seven? Is there not a prophetic significance in the divine selection of seven particular assemblies?
- These letters are an integral part of a book of prophecy. The whole book is a prophecy, and the letters form part of that whole. It is not that the book begins in ch. 4 and a copy is sent to seven churches; the book begins in ch. 1 and the letters are contained in the body of prophecy. There must be a hidden prophetic meaning.
- The word "mystery" is attached to the letters. This surely implies a deeper meaning.
- The analysis of ch. 1.19. The "things which are" must be the things of chapters 2 and 3. In ch. 4.1 John is caught up to see the things which must be after "these things." The logical interpretation is that "these things" are conditions in the days of present testimony, as envisaged in the letters.
- There is, in the letters, a most interesting series of allusions to Old Testament events. These are noted in chronological order. From the Paradise, the Tree of Life, and the Fall, in Ephesus, reminding us of Eden; through the persecution and tribulation of Smyrna, suggestive of Israel in Egypt; to the reference to Balaam and to the Manna of the wilderness, in Pergamos. Then follows Jezebel, and reference to Monarchy in Thyatira. In Sardis there is an echo of Zechariah ch. 3, as we read of defilement, and white raiment, and in Philadelphia we have the City, the Temple, and a new Jerusalem, reminiscent of Nehemiah. But the age of testimony ends in blindness, in Laodicea, as did the days of the remnant. Those who came back from Babylon degenerated to the blind Phariseeism of our Lord’s day. If the maxim is true, that history repeats itself, then here, in present day testimony. Old Testament history is being duplicated.
Any condition, of any assembly, in any place, at any time, may be found here. If the problem is here, so too, is the remedy. In a practical way, each of us may see his assembly depicted here, somewhere in the letters, and find also, the answer to every distressing condition. Always that answer appears to be a fresh appreciation of the Lord and His Word. The problem in each case may indeed be different; the environment and circumstances may be varied; but always there is that same appeal to a renewed recognition of some aspect of His Person. This is the unvarying answer to our varying need.
"Every thoughtful believer will find himself mirrored here"—so it has been aptly remarked. So, I read the letters, interpret the condition to which each of them is directed, and ask myself the question—"Am I an ‘Ephesian’ believer, gone cold in heart?" or, "Am I a ‘Pergamum’ type, marked by a certain worldliness, my separation gone?" "Am I suffering, like Smyrna; or weak, like Philadelphia?" Whatever my state, there is an answer, and a remedy—Himself! In grace the Lord adapts His approach to suit the condition, but always the antidote for our failure is a renewed attachment to Him.
Apart from the specific messages and directions to each church, there are several great basic, fundamental lessons to be learnt here relative to assembly testimony.
- The Centrality, Supremacy, and Sovereignty of Christ. He walks in the midst. He is Lord. He alone has authority. He alone removes a lamp or threatens judgment. Twenty-four times in seven letters, our Lord says, "I will." He alone has this right.
- The Responsibility, Autonomy, and Unity of the lamps. Their privilege is to shine for Him, and upon Him. They are individually responsible and accountable to Him, not to each other. But their joy nevertheless, is to shine together, unitedly, in a common testimony to Him. Each in its own district, each on its own base, but together diffusing their light for His glory. There is no amalgamation. There is no federation. There is no union. But there ought to be the sweetest fellowship and harmony, and an interest and care for each other as together we bear witness to Him.
- The continuity of assembly testimony. Right until the close of the period, the address is to the assembly. There may indeed be an appeal to the individual in the assembly, but still, the Spirit speaks to the churches (ch. 3.22). By all means let each individual believer see to his personal state and condition, but collective testimony has ever been the mind of God for His people, and we must foster and maintain ‘House of God’ character, so that He may dwell among us. A man’s house is where a man resides, and rules, and rests. The assembly must be that for God. From the initial, apostolic, "Ephesian" days, through the centuries to the "Laodicean" end times, local assembly testimony continues. The word "church" or "ekklesia" is never used of the mass of believers on earth at any given time. It is used of the Church which is His Body, and it is used of the local company—a gathering of saints called out and called together to be His testimony. His assembly, in a district. The term "church of God" is probably used exclusively in the New Testament of that local testimony. It is surely orderly for every believer to join himself to the assembly in his locality, and to feel his responsibility there; not passing other assemblies just to find a company more to his liking. How many problems might be solved; how many polarisations would be avoided, if each of us felt his responsibility to the assembly nearest to his home.
It is interesting to note the consistent symmetry in the structure of the seven letters. The basic pattern is the same in every letter.
- Each is prefaced by the command to John to write. Always the command is in the same form. If, in our Authorised version, there is a variation in the case of the Laodiceans, this is an A.V. rendering only, with little or no support in early manuscripts.
- There is then a particular approach by the Lord, in a manner suited to the condition of the assembly. Under some part of the description given in ch. 1 the Lord addresses each church. In wisdom and in grace. He adapts to the needs of His people.
- To each and every assembly He says, "I know," and based on His Divine (and therefore accurate) knowledge of the conditions. He conveys His message, sometimes commending, sometimes condemning, sometimes comforting, sometimes reproving.
- There follows a promise to the overcomer. These promises again vary, but are consistent with the conditions and difficulties which the faithful have had to meet in testimony.
- Each letter concludes with an appeal which is worded so as to give a wider application to the message—"He that hath an ear, let him hear …" That is, to all with spiritual perception the appeal is made. The Spirit is speaking to the churches. Initially, the letter may be addressed to one particular church, but the contents are, eventually, for all the churches, to be appreciated by every individual believer with a will to hear.
As is well known, the promise to the overcomer precedes the summons to hear, in the first three letters, but in the last four this order is reversed.
In two of the letters, Smyrna and Philadelphia, there is no reproof. This is not necessarily because there was nothing to reprove, but because the Lord, in grace, recognises the suffering of Smyrna, and the weakness of Philadelphia. In the circumstances. He will comfort and encourage, rather than condemn.
In the Laodicean letter, and perhaps, it may be argued, in the letter to Sardis also, there is no commendation. The sovereign Lord has His reasons for withholding praise from assemblies which ought to have known better, and whose condition was indefensible. In the other three epistles, to Ephesus, Pergamos, and Thyatira, praise and reproof are mingled.
Before proceeding to the actual text of the letters, we append the suggested meanings of the names, with the hope that young believers will early learn to attach the meaning to each assembly.
|(ii) SMYRNA||S-myrrh-NA – The sweet-bitterness of myrrh|
|(iii) PERGAMOS||Marriage. Mixture|
|(iv) THYATIRA||Continual Burning|
|(v) SARDIS||A Remnant escaping|
|(vi) PHILADELPHIA||Brotherly Love|
|(vii) LAODICEA||The Rights of the People|
There will be opportunity to enlarge upon, and involve, these suggested meanings in our study of the letters.
(to be continued).
by E. R. BOWER, Malvern Link, Worcs.
CHAPTER 3.8-10. The gathering of Israel and the nations
Israel is still waiting upon the Lord. From a Jewish prayer known as the Amidah, which is said standing, in silent devotion, we take the following extracts—"Sound the great Shofar proclaiming our freedom. Raise the banner to assemble our exiles, and gather us together from the four corners of the earth. Blessed art Thou, 0 God, who will gather the dispersed of Thy people Israel." "Return in mercy to Jerusalem, Thy city, and dwell therein as Thou hast promised. Rebuild it in our day as an enduring habitation, and speedily set up therein the throne of David."
"Who is like unto Thee, Almighty King, who decrees! death and life and bringeth forth salvation." (From "The Jewish Tradition" pp. 121-122).
And as Israel patiently waits, the world is fast becoming ripe for the gathering of the nations to receive from the hand of God, in indignation and anger, their just reward, but out of the purifying fires of God’s jealousy (see 1.18) will come a pure language embracing both Jew and Gentile;
not only the dispersed of Israel, but (as some think) the dispersed of the nations. (Genesis 11.1-9) God’s very Name is Jealous (Exodus 20.5; 34.14; Psalm 69.9; John 2.17)—a Name which demands absolute loyalty. The fulfilment of Zechariah 14.16 and of the prophecy of Caiaphas (John 11. 51-52) is near.
In the bringing of the offering (v.10) will be fulfilled Malachi 1.11, ". . . in every place incense shall be offered unto My Name, and a peace offering . . ." and it may be that Isaiah 66.20 is also seen here, "And they (the Gentiles) shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord … as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel unto the house of the Lord." This service will be with one consent, that is, with one shoulder. In the ‘pure language’ is there an indication of the passing of Babel’s curse?
CHAPTER 3.11-20. Israel restored. The rejoicing of God and His people.
Those who remember World War 1 may also remember the toast of the German nation—"Der Tag"—The Day. A day, which we all know did not materialize. As we read the prophets there is a phrase that occurs again and again;
a phrase which burns in the heart of every believing Israelite. It is, "In that day," and it is the thought of that day which has kept alive the faith of Israel; though scattered, they are united in the faith which anticipates ‘that day’. Through pogroms and the holocaust, Israel has suffered and often unspeakable agony. We have but to think of the horror of horrors recorded by recent history; of that which has been given the name of The Holocaust, and in which 75% of the Jewish population of Nazi Europe died. A Jewish historian asks, "Why are they (the Jews) so quiet? Why . . die . . without a single protest?" Does the answer lie within the pages of the prophets? Surely their suffering anticipates "that day". There is significance in the text upon an American memorial to the six million who died in The Holocaust. It reads, "Let there be light" and the dedication is to those who "gave their lives for the sanctification of the Holy Name." We recall that the literal meaning of ‘holocaust’ is "a burnt offering".
Why do we say all this? Simply as a point of emphasis within the signs of the times. The fig tree is putting forth its leaves. (Matthew 24.32).
When ‘that day’ comes it will be a day of rejoicing for gone will be their shame, their pride and their haughtiness. The answer given hitherto to the pleading of God their Father and the answer given to the call of their Messiah when He was among them, was an answer of pride, and their attitude supercilious. Pride in Abraham and in Moses;
pride in a Temple; spiritual pride. The Apostle Paul summarized this in Romans 10 and 11 and we do well to note his warning to the Gentile believers.
Surely the words of Zephaniah must have brought comfort and courage to the victims of so many persecutions of the people of God.
"I also will leave in the midst of thee (where the Lord was already!) an afflicted and poor people and they shall trust (flee for refuge to) in the Name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies, neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in her mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid." (See Leviticus 26.5-6).
The Tribulation Remnant will know that "the winter is past, … the time of singing is come . . . Come, my love, my fair one, and come away." (Song of Solomon 2.10-13).
Israel will in ‘that day’ experience the truth of Matthew 18.20, ". . . where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them" for this remnant will experience the Presence of the King of Israel in their midst, and they will rejoice and sing and the King Jehovah will sing with them (v.l7). God’s perfect love will cast out fear. (1 John 4.18; Deuteronomy 7.21). How wonderful is this portrayal of the love of God! Saving, rejoicing, resting, singing, gathering. "He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest (or, be silent; or renew) in His love. He will joy over thee with singing."
Before Zephaniah draws his writing to a close, the ancient promises of Deuteronomy 10.17 and 30.9; are brought to mind, "For the Lord your God is a God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty and a terrible . . ." and, "For the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as He rejoiced over thy fathers."
As we see this beautiful picture of the love of God for His people, we too should rejoice in the love of Him who loved the church and gave Himself for it; in the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me." (Ephesians 5.25; Galatians 2.20).
Zephaniah’s references to the Second Law—Deuteronomy —will have been noticed, and it has been pointed out by one writer that the prophets quote this book more than any two books of Moses put together, and it is of interest to note also that the phrase ‘this day’ is one of the key phrases of the book of Deuteronomy. The prophets looked to ‘that day’. Another writer (together with several others) holds that Deuteronomy is a "prophetic reformulation of the law of Moses to meet the needs of a new age."
The prophet Hosea wrote (3.4-5), "The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king . . . afterward shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God, and David their King; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days." Again, (13.10-11) "I will be thy King … I gave thee a king in Mine anger, and took him away in My wrath."
Zechariah (14.16) said, "And it shall come to pass, that everyone that is left of the nations . . shall . . worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles" and, (9.9), "Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion . . . behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly and riding upon an ass, . . ."
But! … "Behold your King!" "We have no king but Ceasar" "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews." (John 19.14,15,19)
Zephaniah has, in a graphic way, drawn attention, not only to near judgments upon Judah and the surrounding nations, but he takes a leap into the distant day of the Lord, and the restoration of Israel when a King will indeed rule in righteousness—the King once despised and rejected, but then in the midst. Thus whilst the Christian believer may draw lessons from Israels’s apostacy, he can also take comfort in the hope cf the glorious future which, if the signs are read aright, will shortly dawn. "When ye see these things, LOOK UP!"
IS DIVORCE PERMISSIBLE TODAY?
by R. McPIKE, Annbank.
The subject of divorce among the people of God has aroused much controversy, many tears have been shed, and much unhappiness resulted from it. Need this be, had we kept close to the Word of God, and not concentrated on the isolated "Except" clause of Matt. 19.1-3.
What is intended to be taught by God in the Marriage relationship?
- As it was established in Eden before sin came into the world, the God uttered words binding that relationship was not affected by sin, therefore those words are binding for all time. "What God hath joined, let not man put asunder." No enactments of men however high or honoured can reverse that statement. God cannot go back on His Word.
- To allow divorce on any ground is to refuse and rebel against the Divine command, and subsequent teaching of the marriage relationship involving Christ and the Church. (Eph. 5. 31,32) God’s eternal purpose is that they should be together. No believer subject to the Scriptures would entertain any divorce between Christ and the Church, even though the Church be unfaithful to Him, and moreover, no true believer would dream of divorcing himself from Christ. On the ground of this oneness between Christ and the Church, we reject entirely any view that would attempt to separate or divide that ONENESS. Basically marriage is not so much a union, as it is a unity, "Bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." One cannot be divided.
- To teach that Jesus Christ, the Son of God sanctioned divorce in Matt. 19 is to aver that He Who is God changed His mind concerning His initial commandment. "Are not the gifts and calling of God without repentance" (or change). Our Lord goes back to the primal word, "From the beginning it was not so." The "except" clause was not prescribed by the Son of God, but refers it to the Mosaic Law economy, brought in by Moses, who suffered a bill of divorcement by "reason of the hardness of men’s hearts." God allowed it, but did not originate it in the O.T.—Moses—not God sanctioned it. Prescribed by Moses under Law, it is not something permitted in the Age of Grace, where the initial marriage relationship of Adam and Eve is seen to be a figure of the oneness between Christ and the Church, something not known or revealed during the Law Period. If divorce is allowed then the figure of Adam and Eve has no meaning, and our Lord has capitulated to the pressure of circumstances, which we cannot allow, and the Apostle Paul was deceived concerning God’s purpose in marriage, as well as undermining the believer’s eternal security and relationship to Christ.
If we accept the words of Christ, as sanctioning divorce in Matt. 19, in the new age of grace, then God’s Son has countermanded God’s original commandment concerning marriage. Since God is unchangeable in all other matters, we expect Him to be in this also, else He ceases to be God, and Christ’s claim to be God is open to question. This never can be. Christ stated simply the first and original principle of marriage.
KINGS AND PRIESTS (2)
by H. H. SHACKCLOTH, Burn Market, Norfolk.
In our first contribution under this title we endeavoured to trace the Divine purpose as to the believer’s priesthood from its inception in the person and lineage of Aaron, and at the same time to take note of Israel’s failure as a nation to fulfil it. The implication stemming from this is that the church has the obligation to recognise its supreme function of priestly worship if the fulfilment of the revealed will of God is to be establihed. This is not to imply that the church merely replaces Judaism; it would be more true to state that its exercises by contrast are seen to be far in advance at the spiritual level of anything the supplanted system could achieve. The first was a prophetic shadow; the last the realised substance!
The apostle Paul writing to the Corinthian church (2 Cor. 3.6-18) contrasts the glory seen in the law of Moses and the law of the spirit of life in Christ, the birthright of the church. He admits that there was a glory belonging to the Law, but ‘if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.’ How embracive and how effecting it is, for, ‘we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from (His) glory to (our) glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord.’
The question then arises, ‘What are the distinctive features of the priesthood of the New Testament church?’
Firstly, the New Testament refuses to acknowledge any difference in status between the various members of the local church at the level of priesthood. The two tier system widely accepted by most denominational bodies, consisting of an appointed ministry over a supporting laity has no scriptural authority; the temporary character of the apostolic leadership is outside the discussion, since it ceases with their passing: also the recognition of spiritual gifts within the church is a separate matter, and has no bearing on universal priesthood, except to maintain that the gifts of the church were never intended to be invested in one individual.
Let us consider for a moment the apostle John’s Vision of the glorified church as it is described in the 5th chapter of Revelation. We note that when this great company of the redeemed is first mentioned after the translation of the church at the Coming of the Lord, the ultimate purpose of God defined originally in Exodus 19.5,6, has been achieved to the degree that the entire church, from first to last, is seen to enjoy the privilege of priesthood with no human distinctions to diminish any persons position. Whatever function any one of the people of God may have served on earth; whether it be evangelist, pastor, teacher or one of those much under esteemed ‘helps’ when once they are seen in glory, all such distinctions disappear. Every one is part of that vast kingdom of priests; God’s stated purpose being then finally fulfilled.
Dr. Handley Moule during the course of an address on the subject of ‘service,’ given to the students of Trinity College, Cambridge at the turn of the century, and based on the text ‘His servants shall serve Him’ Rev. 22.3,5, made a slight but significant digression in the following words, ‘I wish to point only to the word ‘servants,’ not to the promise, ‘they shall serve Him’; the verb in the latter place is a word fixing the sense specially to the service of adoration, but the noun in the former place is ‘his bondsmen,’ ‘his servants by possession ‘his slaves.’ Such is the title of the glorified.’
- Dr. Moule further amplified his remarks by saying— ‘His servants serve Him in His temple, and yet as Kings reign in His courts. All these things have an application (not fanciful but strictly scriptural) for the society and members of the true church on earth. All are revelations of a future which is yet in measure, a present too.’
- – ‘Christ is All p. 203/4.
W. E. Vine’s ‘Expository Dictionary of the New Testament’ quotes this verb ‘serve’ under both headings of ‘serve’ and ‘worship’ indicating that the worship and service of heaven can be regarded as an harmonious entity and incidentally confirming Dr. Moule’s comments.
It is then in this attitude of adoration and worship that the believer achieves his highest and noblest status,( we use the masculine gender for convenience only!).
Consider then the Present Position of the Worshipper.
Our Lord defines this in His very concise directions as He outlines the broad principles of the mystical Kingdom, the future church by the statement ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst (Mt. 18.20). Bearing in mind that the phrase ‘gather together’ is translated from the basic word for ‘synagogue,’ our attention is drawn to the gathering rather than the meeting place. Evidently our Lord intended that the worship of the church was to be based upon the simple order of the local synagogue rather than that of the temple with its lavish ritual and vestments.
From the details which may be culled from Eidersheim’s ‘Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah,’ we can see how wonderfully God overruled by bringing good out of the punitive judgement of the Babylonian captivity. It was out of the sheer necessity to improvise some means by which the captives could keep alive their faith, and instruct succeeding generations in the knowledge of the Law, that they met in whatever way their circumstances allowed, even if no other solution was possible except to meet in their primitive homes.
In the course of time synagogues were built, often as a gift to the local residents because of the prevailing Dearth; such an instance is implied in the building of the synagogue at Capernaum, its donor being the Roman Centurion whose servant the Saviour healed.
The would be worshippers met in this way, and formulated rules to suit the new situation, one of which stated that ten men of good repute could gather together and form a ‘synagogue.’
Our Lord made it even easier for His people to gather as a local church in that it was not essential that as many as ten, but as few as two or three might claim His presence when they met together in His name.
A further enrichment which has come to us since the formation of the church, is our possession of the Complete Canon of Scripture. We can supplement the often concise statements concerning doctrine and practice in the New Testament by allusions to the detailed descriptions set forth in the histories, and rituals of the old order.
It is sometimes urged that such an outmoded practice is tedious for present day believers. Bearing in mind that ‘all scripture is profitable’, and also that the resurrected Lord ‘beginning at Moses and all the prophets, expounded unto them the things concerning Himself.’ (Luke 24.27).
The only conclusion one can arrive at, is that rightly used the Old Testament has a tremendous contribution to make to our worship. If our worship meetings tend to lag, and the scriptures seem inappropriate; considering our Lord’s words, is it not due to the fact that we fail fully to relate them to Himself? The cause of our malaise, and its remedy lie entirely with ourselves.
In the Hebrew epistle the writer is seemingly pleading with the believer priest to enjoy to the full the position now conferred upon him as he writes, ‘Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, and having an high priest over the house of God, let us draw nigh with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.’ (Heb. 10.19-25).
This entire passage has allusions to the old rituals which no Hebrew believer could have misunderstood. Equally he would note with something akin to amazement the freedom in which every believer ‘perfected for ever,’ sanctified and having the new commandment operating in his heart and mind (ch. 10, 14-16) is pressed upon with holy boldness to enjoy the nearness of God, and to respond with spiritual worship. This applies to every believer present at the worship meeting. Those who are scripturally bound to observe silence are equally involved in worship with those who give vocal expression. This ‘giving of thanks’ should be representative of the feelings of the entire company that every one among them is so convinced that under the spirit’s guidance the thanksgiving is expressing the thoughts and feelings of the gathering that a positive amen is spoken at such a ‘gathering of thanks.’ (I Cor. 15. 15-17).
Our position today corresponds very closely with the clear guidance the Lord gave the Samaritan woman at Sychar’s Well, a both surprised and surprising hearer of one of the few definitive statements on the subject of spiritual worship found in the New Testament. ‘Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor Jerusalem worship the Father . . . But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.’ (John 4, 21,23).
The Doctrine of Christ – THE OFFICES OF CHRIST
1. CHRIST AS PROPHET.
The Hebrew for prophet, nah-be, is from a root ‘to cause to bubble,’ ‘to pour forth words,’ not of himself, but received from God. Christ, then, as Prophet is the Fountain of Truth, as implied in various of His titles—
- Wisdom (Proverbs 8);
- Counsellor (Isaiah 9.6);
- Witness (Isaiah 55.4);
- Apostle (Hebrews 3.1);
- The Word (John 1.1).
It was the Spirit of Christ, which testified in the O.T. prophets, and has continued to do so since Pentecost in His apostles and prophets and other servants; but His literal prophetic ministry was connected with His earthly life.
In Heb. 1.2 the Lord is contrasted in dignity with the prophets, but He was truly one Himself as He implied by such words as, "No prophet is accepted in His own country" (Matt. 13.5), and His works and words proved it (Lk. 7.16; Jn. 6.14; Jn. 7.40; Lk. 24.19).
The expression in John 6.14, "that Prophet that should come into the world," clearly refers back to the words of Moses, "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me, unto Him shall ye hearken" (Deut. 18.15). The Jewish Rabbis deny any Messianic reference here, but on the curiously inadequate ground that the concluding verses of the chapter could not apply to the Messiah. The true explanation is that while these refer to any presumptuous prophet who might arise, as numbers subsequently did, the promise points to the Messiah. The Rabbinic interpretation explains the question to the Baptist, "Art thou that prophet?" when he had just denied he was the Christ (Jn. 1.20, 21). Moslem controversialists take advantage of the error of the Rabbis to shew that the Scriptures recognize Mahomet, and that he is the prophet predicted by Moses. This is negatived both by Peter and Stephen (Acts 3.22; 7.35), both of whom use Moses’ words as foretelling the Messiah, the Lord Jesus.
The only argument the Pharisees seemed able to allege against our Lord’s prophetic claim was that "out of Galilee ariseth no prophet," which was conclusive, neither in fact nor premise, for our Lord was of Bethlehem; and even had He been of Galilee, their argument was invalid unless they would deny the prophetic gift to Jonah of Gath-hepher.
The personal prophetic ministry of Christ is characterized by (1) its Divine authority, "He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God" (Jn. 3.34; Matt. 7.29); (2) its spiritual vitality, "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life" (Jn. 6.63); (3) its eternal certainty, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Mark 13.31); (4) its judicial sanctions, "the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (Jn. 12.48); (5) its righteous basis (Acts 10.36; Eph. 2.17; Col. 1.20).
2. CHRIST AS PRIEST.
The Lord is not only the Apostle, but "the High Priest of our confession." The sphere of His priesthood is heaven. He is Jesus the Son of God, "that is passed into the heavens" (Heb. 4.14). "If He were on earth. He would not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law" (Heb. 8.4). Whereas He was of the tribe of Judah, "of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood" (Heb. 7.14). There is a common priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2.5; Rev. 1.6), but that is heavenly. Every "priest" on earth, be he Roman, Anglican, Greek Orthodox or Pagan is, as such, a counterfeit.
The central act of the Day of Atonement was the presentation of the blood of the victims in the Holiest of all by the High Priest, not in his official robes, but in his linen garments. So Christ, as the Righteous One, passed into the heavens by means of His own blood. There is no blood sprinkled on the mercy-seat above, but the Victim Himself bearing the sacrificial marks. Who takes His place on the throne and constitutes it a throne of grace. This was the initial act in His priesthood, and all His subsequent intercession and advocacy are based on the blood of an accomplished atonement.
- He is called of God. Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest, but He was made a Priest by Him that said unto Him, "Thou art my Son" (Heb. 5.5); and He is faithful to Him that appointed Him.
- He is a true Man, being "taken from among men." "It behoved Him to be made in all things like unto His brethren that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God" (Heb. 2.17).
- He is a tried Man. He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, being in all points tempted (i.e., in the sense of tested) like as we are (lit. ‘according to the likeness’ i.e., as far as it was possible for a sinless Person to be tested), yet apart from sin. He was never tempted to sin; there was nothing in Him to be enticed by it, but He passed through every test to the uttermost and was proved by each and all, fine gold (Heb. 4.15).
- He is of the order of Melchizedek. "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 7.17)—that is, a royal priest. "He shall be a priest upon His throne" (Zech. 6.13). Though anti-typical of much in the Aaronic priesthood. He was of another order. Some have believed that the incident of Gen. 14 was a Theophany, and that Melchizedek was our Lord Himself, but this is, we may be sure, quite mistaken. The Spirit of God merely uses the suppression of all details as to the parentage and birth and descent of Melchizedek to compare him to the Son of God in his endless life and priesthood. The facts detailed do not apply to our Lord on His incarnation; and are incidentally a proof of His Eternal Sonship.
- He is greater than Aaron. The fact that Melchizedek blessed Abraham and received tithes from him signifies the great superiority of his order, hence of Christ’s, to the Levitical.
- His Priesthood is Eternal. Christ is not made priest after the power of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life—"Thou art a priest for ever," a fact emphasized by the oath with which He was made a priest; "The Lord sware and will not repent." "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7.21, 25).
- He is exactly suited to our case. "For such an High Priest became us" (Heb. 7.26). He intercedes for His people in their trials as they pass through the wilderness, and becomes their Advocate if they sin. As High Priest over the house of God, He leads the worship of His people. He exercises the ministry of comfort and refreshment to them also, as Melchizedek to Abraham. Perhaps this character of His priesthood will be manifested in a peculiar way towards Israel in a coming day, when He comes in glory. Then He will indeed minister "bread and wine" to the weary, though victorious remnant. In the meanwhile He bears His people’s names as a constant memorial in His Father’s presence.
3. CHRIST AS KING.
The reign of Christ, though in a spiritual sense true now, is in its literal sense future. "The Lord shall reign for ever and ever" (Exod. 15.18). The first relation between God and Israel was a Theocracy. "He was King in Jeshurun" (Deut. 33.5). "I will be thy King" Hos. 13.10. In asking for a king Israel rejected Jehovah, that He should not reign over them (1 Sam. 8.7). A period of autocracy followed under Saul, the people’s choice. He failed to carry out the will of God and the Kingdom was given to David, to whose seed it was promised for ever. This was the period of vice-realty, to be fulfilled in Christ. But for the sins of Solomon and his successors, the Kingdom was taken from Israel and given to the four great Gentile Powers, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. This formed an interregnum. But it was revealed to Daniel that a fifth Kingdom should be set up by the God of heaven, which should destroy and replace the other Kingdoms, but should itself stand for ever (Dan. 2).
During the domination of the fourth Gentile Empire the Lord Jesus was born King of the Jews—the direct descendant of a long line of kings and heir to the throne of David. What could that Kingdom be, announced by John the Baptist, the Lord Himself, the twelve and the seventy, but the fifth Kingdom—the Kingdom of Heaven then at hand? The "Sermon on the Mount" contains the laws governing its setting up, conditional on the repentance of Israel and based on the atonement of Christ, which must in any case be offered. In Matt. 8 and 9 are displayed the powers of the Kingdom and the credentials of the King, but as they are twice (see chs. 9 and 12) deliberately ascribed to Beelzebub by the leaders of the nation, from ch. 13 onwards the message in modified and the literal Kingdom is postponed,* instead, the parabolic form of address is adopted and the Kingdom presented in a new form—in mystery. In a sense this latter was no mystery, but that a Kingdom should exist in the absence of the rejected King was an undreamt of development. The seven parables of Matt. 13 present us this phase in various aspects—the "mysteries of the Kingdom."
The Kingdom exists now, even in those who submit to the claims of the Lord—"righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." But when He returns in glory He will destroy His enemies, judge the nations and set up His Kingdom for a thousand years. At the end of this period, Satan will be freed for a short time to lead the last great rebellion of demons and men against the rightful King. But it will be suppressed by fire from heaven, and when the wicked dead have been judged, and the last enemy—death, destroyed, then the Son will deliver back the Kingdom to God, purged from every stain and "evil concurrent"—but none the less will continue to reign as the Viceroy of God the Father for ever and ever, for "of His Kingdom there shall be no end" (Rev. 11.15; Luke 1.33).
"’Objection has been taken to this truth, as implying something derogatory to the sovereignty of God; but this in no way follows, as a comparison with Numbers 13 and i4 shews. Their entrance into the Land of promise was offered to Israel, but postponed by their unbelief. Instances of the same principle abound; e.g., God’s warning to Nineveh; His judgment on Nineveh; and on His people Israel (Jonah 1.3; 3.10; Joel 2.17, 18). The final accomplishment of God’s purposes is assured, but He makes the ‘when’ depend in measure on the obedience or rebellion of man.
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (2)
ROCK OF AGES
AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY (1740—1778)
by JACK STRAHAN, Enniskillen
"Rock of Ages’ is a great hymn and has found its way into millions of hearts. Dr. John Julian says, "No other English hymn can be named that has laid so firm and broad a grasp upon the English speaking world as ‘Rock of Ages.’ This hymn has also been translated into many other languages. Dr. Pomeroy once found himself in an Armenian church in Constantinople. The worshippers there were singing but he could not understand their language. Nevertheless he discerned the effect; their hearts were stirred and tears were streaming down many of their faces. When he enquired as to the meaning of the words which they sang, he learned that it was the Arabic translation of ‘Rock of Ages.’
This hymn was written over 200 years ago by a young man in his early twenties. His name was Augustus Montague Toplady. The circumstances of the writing of this hymn are of interest. Toplady, at that time curate-in-charge of the parish of Blagdon in the south of England, was one day overtaken by a severe thunder-storm in Burrington Combe, a rocky glen which runs up into the Mendip Hills. There was no habitation near at hand, so he took refuge between two massive pillars of rock. There the precipitous limestone crag towering about 100 feet high, is split right down its centre by a deep fissure. It was in this fissure or cleft that Toplady found refuge and shelter from the fury of the storm. Picking up a playing card which was lying at his feet, he wrote on its underside the words of this world famous hymn,
- ‘Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
- Let me hide myself in Thee;
- Let the water and the blood,
- From Thy riven side which flowed,
- Be of sin the double cure,
- Cleanse me from its guilt and power.’
What was it though that provoked the writing of these words? It was the personal experience of the writer—not only that natural experience of sheltering from the raging thunder-storm in the cleft of the rock, but much more so, his deeper spiritual experience of salvation and safety in the Lord Jesus who is the true ‘Rock of Ages.’ This latter experience had become his when he was a lad of 16. It happened in Co. Wexford in the south of Ireland. While there travelling with his mother one evening and passing a barn, they heard singing. They stopped and ventured to enter. When the singing was over a simple servant of God named James Morris ministered fervently from that lovely Scripture text. ‘Ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ’ (Eph. 2.13). It was that night and under those words that young Augustus Montague Toplady was brought nigh to God and found refuge and safety in the Lord Jesus, the ‘Rock of Ages.’ "Strange that I," he himself said later, "who had so long sat under the means of grace in England, should be brought nigh by the blood of Christ in an obscure part of Ireland, amidst a handful of God’s people met together in a barn, and under the ministry of one who could hardly spell his own name. I shall remember that day to all eternity."
When the words of this hymn first appeared in print about 12 years after their writing, they were entitled ‘A living and dying prayer for the holiest believer in the world.’ So they have been, and so they still are—the deep heart breathing of the soul. Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, asked for them and quoted them in his dying moments, "Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee." "For," he added, "if in this hour, I had only my worldly honours and dignities to depend on, I should be poor indeed!" Nor are these words only for the noble and the rich. They meet the need of every storm-tossed soul, directing each away from personal toil, personal attainment, personal zeal or even tears of contrition to Christ alone for salvation,
- ‘Not the labour of my hands
- Can fulfil Thy law’s demands ;
- Could my zeal no respite know,
- Could my tears forever flow,
- All for sin could not atone :
- Thou must save, and Thou alone.
- Nothing in my hand I bring ;
- Simply to Thy cross I cling!
- Naked, come to Thee for dress ;
- Helpless, look to Thee for grace ;
- Foul, I to the fountain fly ;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.
Tune . . . HOW SWEET THE NAME OF JESUS SOUNDS
- Blest Name, all other names above,
- The Name that speaks repose,
- It is an ocean tide of love
- Whose fulness no man knows.
- Did ever name such comfort bring
- To hearts bowed down with care?
- What other name can mortals sing
- Or plead with God in prayer?
- O precious Name that whispers peace
- Into the troubled breast,
- That makes the surging billows cease
- And bids the storm to rest.
- Jesus, on Thee our hopes depend
- Of everlasting bliss,
- When life’s departing day shall end
- Thy Name our refuge is.
- O wondrous Name of Love Divine
- The Name that sets us free,
- The joys of earth we here resign
- To gather unto Thee.
- —J. M. Jones. Queensland.