ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
TRAITS OF THE TRIBES
by I. McKee
THE LAMB IN REVELATION
by W. Banks
COMFORT FOR CHRISTIANS IN A CHANGING WORLD
by R. Reynolds
A DECLARATION OF THOSE THINGS
by D. Williamson
FROM LAW TO GRACE
by W. Lavery
by J. Riddle (England)
THE FIRST BOOK OF PSALMS
No.50: PSALM 30 (Part 1)
This Psalm carries the superscription, “A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David”, with which the Revised Version agrees. This is the first time in the Psalter that a Psalm is called a song. According to J.M. Flanigan1, “it is thought that while the Psalms were always sung with an accompaniment, the song may have been sung with one voice only, but, since Psalm 30 is both a Psalm and a song, it was apparently intended to be sung either way.”
- 1 Flanigan, J.M. “What the Bible Teaches – Psalms”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock.
As it stands, the superscription evidently refers to David’s own house, which was constructed by courtesy of Hiram, king of Tyre, who “sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons: and they built David an house” 2Sam.5.11. Somewhat later, when “the king sat in his house, and the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies”, he began to feel rather guilty, saying to Nathan, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains” 2Sam.7.1,2. It has been pointed out that it was evidently the custom to dedicate a new house. A man was not expected to fight in the army if he had not dedicated his house. Before a battle, the “officers shall speak unto the people, saying, ‘What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it’” Deut.20.5. As J.M. Flanigan2 observes, some therefore feel “that it is reasonable to assume that David so dedicated his palace of cedar, though such a dedication is not actually recorded”. This certainly seems a most acceptable explanation.
- 2 Ibid.
We must take the opportunity to say that the Lord’s people today should follow David in recognising Christ’s lordship over their homes:
- Naught that I have mine own I call,
- I hold it for the Giver:
- My heart, my strength, my life, my all,
- Are His, and His for ever!
God’s people were to affix the Word of God to the “posts” and “gates” of their houses, to remind them that the Lord had given them “houses full of all good things” Deut.6.9-11.
However, other explanations have been offered, and in particular that the words “and Song at the dedication of the house” are an interpolation, leading to a revised superscription as follows: ‘A Psalm – a song at the dedication of the house – of David’. This raises the possibility that the superscription refers to the Temple later constructed by Solomon, for which David made preparation in securing the site, 1Chr.21.18-30; 2Chr.3.1, and providing materials, 1Chr.22.1-5. While David did say of the Temple site, “This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel” 1Chr.22.1, it seems rather tortuous to link this with Psalm 30! The first suggestion (that the superscription refers to the dedication of David’s own house) seems much more logical.
But that is not the end of the problem! The Psalm itself is clearly David’s thanksgiving for deliverance from illness and death: “O Lord my God, I cried unto Thee, and Thou hast healed me. O Lord, Thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit … Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness” vv.2,3,11. What, therefore, is the connection between the Psalm itself and its superscript?
There is a striking correspondence between the commencement of the Psalm and David’s meditation in his house. “I will extol thee, O Lord: for Thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me” Ps.30.1; “And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies …” 2Sam.7.1. It seems therefore that in Psalm 30 David is looking back. It could have been so different. He could have died. While it is tempting to look for a specific occasion, it seems more likely that David is speaking generally. After all, he had been in constant danger, especially in the dark days of Saul’s animosity towards him, of which he said, “There is but a step between me and death” 1Sam.20.3, leading him to seek refuge amongst the Philistines, 1Sam.27.1,2.
It is always good to look back, and trace the hand of the Lord in our lives and say, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness” Lam.3.22,23.
This Psalm divides into three sections:
- David exalts the Lord – vv.1-5. He acknowledges the Lord’s compassion;
- David exalts himself – vv.6-10. He acknowledges his own complacency;
- David exalts the Lord – vv.11,12. As D. Kidner3 observes, “The exuberance of
verses1-5 returns, enhanced by the chastened recollections of verses 6-10.”
- 3 Kidner, D. “Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 1-72”. Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester.
DAVID EXALTS THE LORD – vv.1-5
We should notice the following in these verses: first, he extols the Lord, v.1; second, he explains the circumstances, vv.2,3; third, he exhorts the saints vv.4,5.
He Extols the Lord – v.1
“I will extol Thee, O Lord; for Thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me”, or “I will extol Thee, Jehovah; for Thou hast delivered me” J.N.D., with a marginal note on “lifted me up”: “strictly, ‘drawn me up’, as out of a well”. David uses the word for pulling a bucket from a well.4 It is reminiscent of Joseph, whose brothers “drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit” Gen.37.28. In David’s case, the well was as deep as death, v.3.
The word “extol” (rum), often rendered “lift up” (see, for example, Gen.7.17; Ps.27.6; Ezek.10.17), means, literally, ‘to make high’, and signifies having high thoughts of God. There is an apparent play on words here: ‘I will lift Thee up on High, O Lord, for Thou hast lifted me up’.5 “Lifted up” refers to David’s deliverance from death, v.3, and from the associated despair and despondency. How glad we are that “through death” the Lord Jesus has destroyed “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil”, and delivered “them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” Heb.2.14,15.
- 5 Flanigan, J.M., ibid.
The result of David’s deliverance, “and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me”, is peculiarly Old Testament in character. Deliverance from death there signifies Divine vindication, whereas this is not necessarily the case in the New Testament. Peter was told “by what death he should glorify God” Jn.21.19, and end-time believers will overcome the devil “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” Rev.12.11. In passing, the words “and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me” serve to remind us that we should “give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” 1Tim.5.14.
If David wished to end his life on a triumphant note, and not to give “the enemy the last laugh”6, then he had a kindred spirit in Paul: “But none of these things [the ‘bonds and afflictions’ v.23] move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” Acts 20.24. His desire was fulfilled: see 2Tim.4.7.
- 6 Kidner, D., ibid.
He Explains the Circumstances – vv.2,3
“O Lord my God, I cried unto Thee, and Thou hast healed me. O Lord, Thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.”
The threat to his life had evidently come from sickness rather than war: “O Lord my God, I cried unto Thee, and Thou hast healed me.” Sadly, one of his successors did not cry unto the Lord in his sickness. It was said of Asa that “in the thirty and ninth year of his reign” he “was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians” 2Chr.16.12.
While we recognise that the Lord’s people are by no means exempt from the common lot of man, including illness, and that there are valuable lessons to be learnt when illness comes, not to mention the sovereignty of God in it all, this does not mean that we should not pray for Divine help in our disabilities and indifferent health. God is still Jehovah Ropheka, “I am the Lord that healeth thee” Ex.15.26. At the same time, we must always make our requests with the proviso “Thy will be done”, and this is sometimes far from easy.
The Psalm may indicate that in David’s case here his sickness might well be attributable to his pride and complacency: “And in my prosperity I said, ‘I shall never be moved.’ Lord, by Thy favour Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: Thou didst hide Thy face, and I was troubled” vv.6,7. He had forgotten that in His mercy and grace, the Lord had made his “mountain to stand”, and was made aware by sickness of his sin in congratulating himself: “I said, ‘I shall never be moved.’” It was a case of “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” 1Cor.10.12. If these were the circumstances of his sickness, then he had certainly learned the lesson: “Thou hast healed me … Thou hast brought up my soul from the grave … Thou hast kept me alive”. How dependent we are upon His grace and power!
David was delivered from the very jaws of death. Like Daniel! Like Mordecai! Like Paul, who was delivered “out of the mouth of the lion” 2Tim.4.17. As A.F. Kirkpatrick7 observes, “So desperate was his sickness that his recovery was as life from the dead, a veritable resurrection from the grave.” The words “grave” (sheol) and “pit” (bor) are not synonymous. The first refers to the unseen realm of departed spirits, whereas the second refers to the grave. It should be said that in the Old Testament the word “grave” A.V., translates two different words: one (qeber) referring to the grave in the usual sense of the word, and the other (sheol) referring to the unseen state. Each occurrence of the word “grave” A.V., should therefore be carefully checked. In the current passage David is saying, in effect, that “he was already as good as dead when Jehovah raised him up again”8.
- 7 Kirkpatrick, A.F. “The Book of Psalms”. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
He Exhorts the Saints – vv.4,5
“Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness [‘give thanks to His holy name’ R.V.]. For His anger endureth but a moment; in His favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
The word translated “remembrance” (zeker) occurs in Ex.3.15, where it is translated “memorial”. Moses was told, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you:’ this is My name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations.” “His name is that which brings to remembrance all that He is and does.”9
The words “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints [chasid] of His” v.4, should be placed alongside other references to the “saints”, such as: “O love the Lord, all ye His saints [chasid]” Ps.31.23; “O fear the Lord, ye His saints [qadosh]” Ps.34.9. The joy of the “saints” is emphasised in Ps.132.9 (“let Thy saints shout for joy”); Ps.132.16 (“her saints shall shout aloud for joy”); and Ps.149.5 (“Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds”). The Lord’s people certainly have good cause to sing! See, for example, Ps.40.1-3. Hannah speaks for us all here: “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory” 1Sam.2.8.
The cause for thanksgiving and rejoicing here is given: “For His anger endureth but a moment; in His favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” The contrasts should be noted: “anger … favour”; “moment … life”; “weeping … joy”; “night … morning”. We must notice in particular the contrasts:
Between “anger” and “favour”
David is doubtless thinking of the Lord’s discipline in his own life. “Thou didst hide Thy face, and I was troubled” v.7. David had experienced the Lord’s “anger” in the adversity through which he had passed. But judgment is “His strange work” Isa.28.21. It is withdrawn once it has accomplished its purpose. It is so in family life. Children are chastened if necessary, but once discipline has brought the desired result, the normal happy and harmonious relations are resumed. There is, most certainly, an analogy in spiritual life.
Between “weeping” and “joy”
In context, this continues the contrast between “anger” and “favour”, but we can justifiably apply the contrast elsewhere. It has been nicely said that sorrow is a night-visitor. The word “endure” means ‘lodge’, or ‘tarry’, and, as D. Kidner10 points out, it “suggests by itself the overnight visitor”. So, for example, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy … I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” Jn.16.20-22. Mary Magdalene, who had “stood without at the sepulchre weeping”, left the sepulchre “and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord” Jn.20.11,18. Matthew tells us that “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary”, having been told that the Lord had risen, “departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy” Matt.28.1,8. The words “joy cometh in the morning” remind us that “when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore” Jn.21.4.
- 10 Kidner, D., ibid.
For ourselves, weeping in the night will soon give place to joy in the morning. It has been rather beautifully said that “mourning only lasts until morning”. Paul puts it like this: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” 2Cor.4.17,18. We should notice the contrasts:
- As to his experience: here – “affliction”; there – “glory”;
- As to the intensity of his experience: here – “light”; there – “weight”;
- As to the duration of his experience: here – “moment”; there – “eternal”.
This does not mean that glory will be commensurate with suffering, that is, that glory is dependent upon suffering. Paul is not speaking of a correspondence between the two, but of a contrast between them. The verse does not teach that suffering merits glory. On the contrary, the glory is said to utterly outweigh the suffering. The latter is called “light affliction”, not because it was inconsiderable (see, for example, 2Cor.1.8-11; 11.24-28, as well as 2Cor.4.8-11), but because of the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”. It is also “light affliction” because it is confined only to this life (“but for a moment”), as opposed to eternity. It teaches us, too, that God will ensure that the suffering of His servants will be compensated beyond their imagination. Hence Rom.8.18: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
The remaining two sections of the Psalm will be considered in Paper 51, Lord Willing.
To be continued (D.V.)
by Ian McKee, N. Ireland
We come to Jacob’s eleventh son, Joseph. Until now we have considered the tribal heads, the tribe, and relevant lessons from James’ Epistle. However, as Joseph’s sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, became the tribal progenitors, our established formula of consideration does not easily apply. Also, the life and times of Joseph, Gen.37.1-50.26, have been the subject of many valuable volumes. Hence we shall confine our comments to those aspects of Joseph’s life that relate particularly to his two sons, before considering the tribal history and traits of Manasseh and Ephraim.
JOSEPH – THE MAN
The Scripture record concerning Joseph makes for enthralling and compulsive reading. There is great benefit from a study of his life: the parallels with that of the Lord Jesus Christ; the various garments Joseph wore; his ever-changing circumstances; the challenges he faced; his tears; etc.
Joseph’s birth was special. Prior to the birth of the first of Jacob’s sons we read, “And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb: but Rachel was barren” Gen.29.31. After the birth of ten sons, six to Leah and two each to Bilhah and Zilpah, “God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, ‘God hath taken away my reproach:’ and she called his name Joseph; and said, ‘the Lord shall add to me another son’” Gen.30.22-24. Her confidence that God would give further blessing is contained in the name “Joseph”, which means ‘He adds’ or ‘may He add’.
Scripture itself provides succinct commentary on Joseph’s life. The Psalmist writes: “Moreover He called for a famine upon the land: He brake the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: to bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom” Ps.105.16-22.
Joseph also features in Stephen’s defence before the Sanhedrin: “And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, and delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance. But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh. Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him …” Acts 7.9-14.
When Joseph’s years of heartbreak and hardship were finally behind him, he became Pharaoh’s chief minister, with years of awesome, beneficial, responsibility. Well might Pharaoh call “Joseph’s name Zaphnath-paaneah” Gen.41.45, variously interpreted as ‘revealer of secrets’ or ‘saviour of the world’.
Of all the sons of Jacob, Joseph was the one with the greatest association with Gentile society. He lived for the majority of his life in Egypt and, on his promotion to high office by Pharaoh, was given “to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On” Gen.41.45. During the following seven years of plenty two sons were born who would later become tribal heads. Interestingly, they were sons of a Gentile mother!
Evidently Asenath did not compromise Joseph’s faith in God, although in each of the three occasions she is mentioned in Scripture she is referred to as “the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On”. Joseph’s trust in God is acknowledged in the names given to his sons: “Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: ‘For God,’ said he, ‘hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.’ And the name of the second called he Ephraim: ‘For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction’” Gen.41.51,52.
Seven years of dearth follow, during which Joseph’s brethren are reconciled to him and Jacob and his entire family relocate to Egypt. In the list of “the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt” Gen.46.8 et seq., the following statement is included: “And unto Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, which Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On bare unto him” Gen.46.20.
There is a certain symmetry in the narrative: the first seventeen years of Joseph’s life were spent with his father, Gen.37.2, and the final seventeen years of Jacob’s life were under the protection and care of Joseph in Egypt, Gen.47.28. However, “it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, ‘Behold, thy father is sick:’ and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim” Gen.48.1. Joseph’s two sons were by now in their twenties: they were certainly not the infants as often portrayed in children’s Bible picture story books!
So when Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim came to visit, the ailing Jacob “strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed” Gen.48.2, to rehearse God’s goodness and earlier revelations. Then he says to Joseph, “And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh [note the switch in the order of their names], which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt … are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance” Gen.48.5,6. Here the double portion of inheritance due to the firstborn, Reuben, is transferred to Joseph, the firstborn of Jacob’s only intended wife, Rachel. We have earlier considered Reuben’s forfeiture of his double portion: “forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel” 1Chr.5.1. Ephraim and Manasseh are from this point to be recognised as sons of Jacob, with equal status as tribal heads. Hence Joseph received the double portion in his sons.
Joseph brings his two sons forward to be blessed by Jacob, although they are not immediately recognised, owing to Jacob’s failing sight. Joseph’s obeisance to his father is followed by “Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him” Gen.48.13.
However, Jacob crossed his hands over: “Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn” Gen.48.14. In blessing Joseph’s sons Jacob also expressed his gratitude to “the God which fed [‘shepherded’] me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” Gen.48.15,16.
Joseph, noticing what his father had done, sought to stop him before he pronounced specific blessings on Ephraim. He remonstrated, “Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head” Gen.48.18. But Jacob refused and prophetic insight prevailed. Manasseh “also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations” Gen.48.19. Jacob then blessed them, saying, “In thee shall Israel bless, saying, ‘God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh:’”, and “he set Ephraim before Manasseh” Gen.48.20.
JOSEPH – JACOB’S PROPHECY
Jacob’s deathbed blessing of Joseph is the longest section of his prophecy, Gen.49.22-26. It first depicts Joseph as a fruitful tree in a well-watered garden: “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well: whose branches run over the wall” Gen.49.22. Joseph’s personal character is like a vine bearing fruit, bringing forth more fruit and then much fruit, per Jn.15.1-5, due to his experiences in the ‘school of God’, which did not embitter him. He drew upon hidden resources, not from a well of still water, but from a hidden spring or fountain. His fruitfulness was not restricted: Joseph was a blessing to all Egypt; preserving his own family; and to the progress of Divine purpose. The title “Zaphnath-paaneah” was rightfully his!
Jacob then refers to the painful experiences of Joseph, which must have created a frisson of acute embarrassment to ten of Joseph’s brothers then present: “The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him” Gen.49.23. Joseph had suffered from envy, malice, kidnapping, exploitation, imprisonment, etc., “but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)” Gen.49.24. Joseph’s strength under trial was dependent on the enabling support and infusion of strength from “the mighty God of Jacob”. It is good when fathers and sons draw similarly on Divine resources.
Jacob assures Joseph that the God Who sustained him in the past will not fail him in the future: “Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb” Gen.49.25. There will be blessings of nourishment and fertility, all guaranteed by the Almighty.
Jacob counts his own blessings and expresses his desire for Joseph: “The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from [which can be rendered ‘prince among’] his brethren” Gen.49.26. Jacob, in appreciation, feels that God has blessed him more than He did Abraham and Isaac and longs that those blessings will be perpetuated to Joseph and subsequently from generation to succeeding generation. Surely we too should count our blessings, and pray that succeeding generations will experience even greater manifestations of God’s goodness!
JOSEPH – MOSES’ PROPHETIC BLESSING
Moses’ blessing of Joseph is similarly extensive, sharing many of the prospective features in Jacob’s prophecy. “And of Joseph he said, ‘Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath, and for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon, and for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the [ever]lasting hills, and for the precious things of the earth and fulness thereof, and for the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush: let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that was separated from his brethren’” Deut.33.13-16.
His blessing encompasses the two tribes descending from Joseph: “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh” Deut.33.17.
JOSEPH – IN THE FUTURE
Joseph’s fame was secured in Egypt, and his name will be on one of the three gates on the east side of the Millennial city, Ezek.48.32. Suffering always precedes glory. It was another descendant of Rachel who said, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” Rom.8.18.
To be continued (D.V.)
By William M. Banks, Scotland
THE WRITING IN “THE BOOK OF LIFE” OF THE LAMB – Rev.13.8
There are eight references to the “book of life” in the Authorised Version. Seven of them are in Revelation: 3.5; 13.8; 17.8; 20.12; 20.15; 21.27; 22.19 (“tree of life” J.N.D., R.V.), two of which are linked with the Lamb: “the book of life of the Lamb” 13.8, and “the Lamb’s book of life” 21.27. The last reference, 22.19, is likely to be to the “tree of life”, leaving six in Revelation and the other one in Phil.4.3. The Lord perhaps referred to this book in Lk.10.20: “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”
It is likely that Heb.12.22-24 also refers to this same book: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling”. Assuming this to be the case gives a total of nine references. Two are intimately linked in a negative sense with ‘earth dwellers’ Rev.13.8; 17.8, and two with the Great White Throne judgment, Rev.20.12,15, leaving seven distinct subject considerations in all.
“The book of life is the register of the redeemed whose names are entered at the moment of their conversion to Christ.”1 As noted above, in 13.8 and 21.27 it is called “the book of life of the Lamb” and “the Lamb’s book of life” respectively. In 13.8 the emphasis is on the fact that it contains the names of the followers of the Lamb in difficult times, in contrast to the worshippers of the beast. In 21.27 the emphasis is on the fundamental qualification necessary for entrance to the Millennial city, namely, having one’s name “written in the Lamb’s book of life”. In each case it also indicates the price paid that the names may be added: Calvary’s suffering. The Lamb was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” 1Pet.1.20, and “slain from [apo = ‘away from’ = ‘since’]” it, Rev.13.8.
- 1 Allen, J. “What the Bible Teaches – Revelation”. John Ritchie Ltd., 1997.
For those with names written in the book of life it is:
- A reason for rejoicing – Lk.10.20
- The basis of an appeal for unity – Phil.4.3
- An assurance of citizenship of an illustrious city and the enjoyment of a unique company – Heb.12.22-24
- The recognition of faithfulness and security – Rev.3.5
- A qualification for entrance into the Millennial city – Rev.21.27
For those whose names are not written in the book of life it is:
- An evidence of links with the “beast” – Rev.17.8 (wondering) and Rev.13.8 (worshipping)
- The evidence for and basis of entrance to eternal punishment in “the lake of fire” – Rev.20.12,15
FOR THOSE WITH NAMES WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF LIFE IT IS:
A Reason for Rejoicing – Lk.10.20
The seventy evangelists were pleased that the spirits were subject to them. However, the Lord has a word for them: “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” The Lord is teaching that it is more important to have our name written in heaven, and to rejoice in that, than to be able to perform miracles in the realm of the spirit world, which power, after all, was given by Christ, v.19. Their success anticipated the final downfall of Satan himself, v.18. Success can breed pride but recognition of our salvation experience reminds us of a continuing debt to God.
Indeed this very idea of dependence on God is articulated by the Lord in the next section: “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight. All things are delivered to Me of My Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him” vv.21,22. The intimacy of our relationship and having our names “written in heaven” is a result of the initiative and revelation of the “Father”, Who is mentioned no fewer than five times in these two verses.
The Basis of an Appeal for Unity – Phil.4.3
Paul is appealing for help and unity: “And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life”. The context is an appeal to “be of the same mind in the Lord” v.2; compare 2.1-11. Recognition of Lordship and a common bond will ensure it: fellow-labourers here, on earth, are going to share the same heaven there, with names in the book of life to prove it! There is thus a twofold basis of appeal: the present and the future – present service and future prospect. Prophetic certainties should have practical consequences.
An Assurance of Citizenship of an Illustrious City and the Enjoyment of a Unique Company – Heb.12.22-24
The Church of ‘firstborn ones’ have their names “written in heaven” v.23. This is an interesting title for the Church of the present dispensation. It shows the dignity and honour in which the Church is regarded and is particularly significant in the context in which it is found. The link with “heaven” and having our names “written” there is doubly important in this context.
The writer is contrasting two mountains in vv.18-29: Mount Sinai, vv.18-21, and Mount Sion, vv.22-24, with an appropriate conclusion in vv.25-29. These mountains represent two dispensations, “the one of preparation and promise, of weakness and failure; the other of fulfilment and perfection, of life and power, the power of the endless life”.2 “Ye are not come” v.18, unto the former, “but ye are come” v.22, unto the latter. The fundamental appeal of the conclusion, vv.25-29, is to make sure we leave the former and live in the good of the latter: “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” v.28.
- 2 Murray, A. “The Holiest of All”. James Nisbet and Co., London, 1902.
There are seven features that are predicated of Mount Sinai: “(1) the mount that might be touched, and (2) that burned with fire … (3) blackness, and (4) darkness, and (5) tempest, and (6) the sound of a trumpet, and (7) the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more” vv.18,19. Note “and” is repeated five times in a cumulative sense, with increasing intensity evidenced in each additional statement until the voice which “commanded” v.20, even terrified Moses, vv.20,21. The first two are linked with touch, the next three with sight, and the final two with hearing. We are glad we are “not come” to this mount! Judaism must be left behind with its bondage and fear: “… let us go on unto perfection” Heb.6.1!
Interestingly there are seven features linked with Mount Sion: “(1) the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and (2) ‘to myriads of angels, the universal gathering’ J.N.D., and (3) church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and (4) … God the Judge of all, and (5) … the spirits of just men made perfect, and (6) … Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and (7) … the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel”. Note the six-fold repetition of “and”, again in a cumulative sense. The first feature indicates the place we will occupy, the second to sixth the persons we will meet and the seventh the price we will appreciate to make it possible to have our names written in heaven!
What an amazing honour to be mingling with such an outstanding company: “angels … God the Judge of all … the spirits of just [justified] men made perfect [resurrected Old Testament saints], and … Jesus the mediator of the new covenant”. And all this in “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem”, details of which are given in Revelation chapter 21; and all based on our names being “written in heaven”; and all because of the value and application of the “the blood of sprinkling”.
The Recognition of Faithfulness and Security – Rev.3.5
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.” All believers are overcomers, but to overcome in some spheres is more difficult than others. The background here is the church at Sardis and the circumstances associated with that city. Many important names were inscribed in the annals of Sardis, including King Midas (of the golden touch) and King Croesus (of fabulous wealth).
Apparently a careful civic register was kept. However, having their names in a book up there was vastly more than sufficient compensation for failing to have it in a record of earth down here. It could be removed at Sardis but “not” (meaning ‘never’, ‘by no means’) blotted out from the book of life. The assurance is a double negative, an affirmation of the security of the believer. In addition they will be clothed in white, will be comforted by assurance and will have their name confessed before the Father and His angels, v.5.
A Qualification for Entrance into the Millennial City – Rev.21.27: “they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life”
John has been describing the wonder and beauty of the Millennial city, from Rev.21.9. There have already been four references to “the Lamb”: in vv.9,14,22 and 23. There will be a further two: in 22.1,3, making a total of seven in the completed description. Since “the Lamb” is so prominent in the detailed description of the city it is not surprising that He is going to control entrance to it. What a pity it would be if those with the wrong characteristics were permitted entry. The standard must be high.
There are three negative features emphasised and one positive fundamental necessity to enter the city: “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” The three negative features are preceded by a double negative strengthening the denial and emphasising the impossibility of defilement, idolatry or any semblance of falsehood being permitted entry. The one positive feature is the link with “the Lamb”, having our name written in “the Lamb’s book of life”, to enjoy the blessings of the Millennial reign, in the satellite city. The city of course has eternal characteristics and will remain the home of the redeemed in eternity, 21.1-8. Again it is the link with the Lamb that makes the difference. He has paid the necessary redemption price at Calvary to provide the righteous basis for entry.
FOR THOSE WHOSE NAMES ARE NOT WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF LIFE IT IS:
An Evidence of Links with the “Beast” – Rev.17.8 (to wonder); Rev.13.8 (to worship): in 13.8 the reference is to “the book of life of the Lamb”
“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is” Rev.17.8. “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of lifeof the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” Rev.13.8.
Those that are linked with the beast are described as they “that dwell on the earth”, or ‘earth dwellers’, in both of the above references. They have a large place in the Book of Revelation. Their general features are indicated by the twelve references to them, 3.10; 6.10; 8.13; 11.10 (twice); 12.12; 13.8,12,14 (twice); 17.2,8. Their horizon is earth-bound; they are at home here on earth during their life, but unaware that they will dwell for eternity with the one they wonder at and worship!
They do not have their names “written in the book of life from [‘since’] the foundation of the world” 17.8. There is no spiritual life to make a proper assessment of events transpiring on earth. The result is that they wonder at the beast (the antichrist, the man of sin) 17.8. They cannot discern his true features. Their assessment is based on the value system of the world. The fact that the miraculous and supernatural appears to be associated with him (“… was, and is not, and yet is”), causes them to wonder. He is still here after an apparent disappearance! Is he not a wonder?
They not only wonder at the beast; they worship him as well, 13.8: wonder leads to worship! This of course is the order with the believer as well. The moment we cease to wonder we cease to worship. The earth dwellers are happy to be identified with the beast in contrast to the Lamb. It is a matter of priority: the beast or the Lamb? Has not the beast made war with the saints and overcome them, 13.7? Does not he have power “over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations” 13.7? They prefer to have their names identified with him as a successful earthly potentate, rather than having their names in the book identified with the Lamb, and thereby to be associated with tribulation and suffering. Their focus is on the present rather than the future.
The Evidence for and the Basis of Eternal Punishment – Rev.20.12,15
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” Rev20.12. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” Rev.20.15.
In v.12 the book of life is used to confirm the ground of exclusion from eternal bliss. The book of life will be available and open to all who appear at the Great White Throne judgment. It may be consulted along with the other “books”. These books contain a record of the life of the accused. They also will be open and may be consulted to prove accuracy. The record of every action, every thought, and every word will be available for examination, to confirm the rightness of the judgment. The judgment is not arbitrary: it is “according to their works”, so accuracy is essential. Equally, “the book of life” may be consulted to confirm that their name is excluded from it.
In v.15 the book of life is used additionally as the confirmation of the ground on which people will be “cast into the lake of fire”. The book is available for examination, and it may be examined. The fact that a name is “not found” indicates that a search has been made. What a tragedy to realise one’s name is excluded from the book of life!
To be continued (D.V.)
by Roy Reynolds (N. Ireland)
“I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me …” Psalm 40.17
We are all too often painfully aware of our pettiness and poverty. Weakness, frailty and fragility are characteristic of us and all we attempt to do. We are often embarrassed by our failures and inability to complete satisfactorily the tasks upon which we embark. Because of this we are constantly needy; in need of strength, help, support, patience and many other things besides.
How blessed that there is One Who is able to impart the very help we need! Furthermore He is willing to supply all that we need. “The Lord thinketh upon me” Ps.40.17. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” Heb.4.16. Let us not be discouraged by our infirmities or be paralysed by our very evident weakness. The apostle Paul wrote, “When I am weak, then am I strong”. He had learned the secret and the source of strength, for on an occasion when he was painfully reminded of his impotence, the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” 2Cor.12.9,10. To the Philippians Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” Phil.4.13.
- Poor, weak, unworthy though I am,
- I have a rich almighty Friend;
- Jesus the Saviour is His name;
- He freely loves and without end.
“Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden” John 19.41
Each of the Gospel writers emphasises a different aspect of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew reports on the force which accompanied that unique death and tells of the rent vail, the quaking earth, the rent rocks, the opened graves and the resurrected saints. Mark comments on the fervency and faithfulness of the perfect Servant Who “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give to His life a ransom for many” Mk.10.45. Luke alone highlights the forgiveness that was enjoyed by the penitent thief, Lk.23.43.
John, however, is the only Gospel writer to mention the existence of a garden in the vicinity of Golgotha. He, by inspiration, wishes us to know that this death was to be both fragrant and fruitful. What a sweet savour ascended to the Father from this sacrifice, surpassing and eclipsing all the animal sacrifices offered on Jewish altars! And what fruit will result from the victorious and vicarious death of His beloved Son! Myriads who should have been under the judgment of God eternally will bear testimony forever to the grace of God and the greatness of the Saviour’s sin-atoning death.
- Sin-atoning Sacrifice,
- Thou art precious in mine eyes;
- Thou alone my rest shall be,
- Now and through eternity.
By Jack Hay (Scotland)
COUNSEL FOR THE JUDGES
2Chronicles chapter 19 devotes a few verses to the aftermath of the Ramoth-gilead debacle, which we considered in the previous paper. Ahab had been slain, for despite his cunning and his precautions, what Job declared held good: “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee, Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass” Job 14.5. He could not cross the boundary that God had set! As for Jehoshaphat, he “returned to his house in peace” 2Chr.19.1; in great mercy God had preserved his life.
Jehoshaphat’s indiscretion was not airbrushed, and before he arrived home God’s servant Jehu “went out to meet him” with a stinging rebuke, v.2. Jehu’s courage is commendable, for in similar circumstances Jehoshaphat’s father, Asa, had treated Jehu’s father, Hanani, very badly. Hanani had featured when Asa’s spirituality was in serious decline, charging him with foolishness for collaborating with the Syrians and warning him that for the future there would be nothing but wars. Asa’s fury was boundless and Hanani was jailed, the king compounding his sin by oppressing the people at the same time, 2Chr.16.7-10. Jehu must have wondered if he would face a similar fate, and yet, commissioned by God, he confronted Jehoshaphat with the seriousness of his offence. Whether with the people of God or with sinners, there is need for boldness; Jehu exhibited that boldness. “Be not afraid of their faces” was the word to the youthful Jeremiah embarking on years of persistent opposition, Jer.1.8. “In nothing terrified by your adversaries” was the word to the Philippians when Paul encouraged them to be “striving together for the faith of the gospel” Phil.1.27,28. May we be “bold in our God”, as he was, 1Thess.2.2.
The king was charged with helping the ungodly, 2Chr.19.2. The lesson is that we should never assist sinners in advancing their evil cause. When the Lord Jesus cleansed the Temple, He “cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple” Matt.21.12. Buyers were as culpable as sellers, in that, for their own convenience they were encouraging them. Never throw your weight behind anything displeasing to God. It is a tribute to God’s grace that “the Lord helped [Jehoshaphat]” 2Chr.18.31, when he was helping the ungodly!
Jehoshaphat’s association with Ahab was such that God’s servant branded it as “love” for one who “hate[d] the Lord” 2Chr.19.2. Ahab’s hatred of Jehovah was expressed in him ousting Him for Baal, his devotion to Baal precluding any affection for the living God. “Love not the world” 1Jn.2.15, for involvement with those who are pursuing its ways is really to love them who hate the Lord. Ahab’s hatred for the Lord was further expressed in his hatred for His people. He bitterly and bluntly acknowledged his hatred of Micaiah: “I hate him” 2Chr.18.7, hence the warning from John’s pen again, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” 1Jn.3.13. They may mask their contempt for you and your Saviour, but at heart they are hostile, so avoid Jehoshaphat’s lapse; do not love those who hate the Lord, except to care for their souls.
- Can I take part with those who nailed Him to the tree?
- And where His name is never praised, is that the place for me?
- Nay, world! I turn away, though thou seem’st fair and good.
- That friendly outstretched hand of thine is stained with Jesus’ blood.
- (Margaret Mauro)
The meaning of the reference to God’s wrath being upon Jehoshaphat is unclear, 2Chr.19.2, but it could indicate that the humiliating defeat that he had shared was the result of God’s displeasure with his conduct. It was a warning that God would inevitably frown on any future collaboration with ungodly God-haters of the northern kingdom, such as transpired much later in his life, 2Chr.20.35-37. When the God-fearing co-operate together, it pleases God, and He records it in His “book of remembrance”, promising them a place among His jewels, Mal.3.16,17. Conversely, when His people, “the holy seed”, “mingle themselves” in their associations, God is “angry” with them, Ezra 9.2,14. Let us be like the Psalmist: “I am a companion of all them that fear Thee” Ps.119.63.
Jehu’s rebuke for Jehoshaphat was tempered by a word of commendation. The previous incident had been out of character, and as a general rule “good things” had been found in him, particularly the fact that he had rid the land of the iniquitous groves, and had positively set his heart “to seek God” 2Chr.19.3. The rejection of “Asheroth” R.V. (“groves” A.V.), with all the immoral ramifications connected with the goddess, allowed the development of his relationship with God. Let us be like him, and, indeed, like the people of the previous generation who “sought Him with their whole desire” 2Chr.15.15.
It appears that Jehoshaphat’s lapse had affected his people, possibly stalling any revival that had been triggered by his accession to the throne. Concerned about that, he embarked on a campaign to bring “them back unto the Lord God of their fathers” 2Chr.19.4. To effect this, “he went out again among the people” v.4, R.V. Spiritual leaders must be among their people. “The elders which are among you … Feed the flock of God which is among you” 1Pet.5.1,2. “Know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord” 1Thess.5.12. Constant interaction between the shepherds and the flock is crucial; frequent absences either for secular employment or for the Lord’s service would make it difficult for a brother to function as an overseer in the assembly. Jehoshaphat knew the value of his visible presence among his people.
Additionally, he was keen to install suitable men as judges throughout Judah, and to give priests and Levites responsibility for Jerusalem. Their task was to apply God’s law to the lives of the people. Jehoshaphat had learned an important lesson from Jehu’s intervention: that his waywardness had incurred God’s “wrath” 2Chr.19.2. He was now putting in place teaching from the Word with a warning “that they trespass not against the Lord, and so wrath come upon [them]” v.10. If we apply spiritual lessons personally, it is legitimate to encourage others to heed the same warnings.
I will summarise the counsel that he gave to these judges. First, he encouraged them by telling them they were acting in God’s interests, and could count on His presence: “ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you” v.6. In your own service, have that sense of calling, appreciating the dignity conferred upon you as a servant of the Most High. Paul never forgot that as an ambassador for Christ it was “in Christ’s stead” he was beseeching people to be reconciled to God, 2Cor.5.20. That sense of calling helps us to maintain dignity and avoid being overly casual as we engage in our activities; we are His representatives, and just as He promised His presence to these ancient judges, so He has promised His presence and enabling “unto the end of the world” Matt.28.20.
A controlling factor for Jehoshaphat’s men was to be “the fear of the Lord” 2Chr.19.7,9, and it should still be an overarching attitude in our lives today. Proper respect for Him will promote holy living, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” 2Cor.7.1. Peter shows that if we “pass the time of [our] sojourning here in fear” 1Pet.1.17, that respect for the Almighty will permeate every area of our lives. It will influence us as subjects of the state, 2.17; asservants in the workplace, 2.18; as spouses in the home, 3.2; and as stewards in the world, 3.15, stewards of the gospel.
Another essential for these judges was impartiality, reflecting the character of their God, with Whom there is “no respect of persons, nor taking of gifts” 2Chr.19.7. Jehoshaphat knew that graft and exploitation make people sour. Corruption and nepotism contributed to the clamour for a king in Samuel’s day, 1Sam.8.1-6. Exploitation led to a divided nation in Rehoboam’s time, 1Kings chapter 12. Jehoshaphat wanted his people to be contented, without grievances. He knew that the sceptre of Messiah’s kingdom would be “a right sceptre” Ps.45.6, and he wanted standards of righteousness and equity to prevail in his kingdom. That should be true of assembly life today, with an even-handed approach towards all, and never a complaint that ‘blood is thicker than water’!
Faithfulness was another prerequisite for these judges, a faithfulness that would not shrink from warning against trespassing “against the Lord” 2Chr.19.10. Paul exhibited such faithfulness as, at Ephesus, with a tender heart, he “ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” Acts 20.31. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” Prov.27.6. Allied with faithfulness, these judges would need courage: “Deal courageously” 2Chr.19.11. Every verdict arrived at would leave one side of the dispute disgruntled. Without fear or favour they had to pass judgment, and any threatened repercussions would be in the Lord’s hands, for “the Lord shall be with the good” v.11. In modern situations each must have the same resolve to do right whatever the consequences, knowing that a righteous Biblical stance has the Lord’s backing.
To be continued (D.V.)
“A declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us” Luke 1.1
by Dennis Williamson, N. Ireland
HE IS RISEN
“He is risen.” These were the words heard by a devoted woman who arrived at the tomb, grappling in her mind with the thought of the removal of the Lord’s body. What a pleasant surprise it must have been to her heart’s emotions as well as to the anxiety of her thoughts! The One she longed for was not a disappointment. He is risen, Matt.28.7; Mk.16.6; Lk.24.6; Jn.20.9.
He would reveal Himself to her in due course. It was a beautiful gesture of the Lord, to satisfy this humble soul first of all. No doubt He appreciated her fearless devotion after her special deliverance: she had been forgiven much, and she loved much! Other followers of the Lord Jesus were reluctant to believe; but not Mary Magdalene! This woman had already experienced His power in her life and that removed all doubt. Would that we, who have known His power in our lives, were equally responsive. Doubting will not, and did not, and could not, change fundamental facts like these, but it does hinder our enjoyment of them. Of course, we understand that this is the very design of Satan, so that he might render ineffective our usefulness for the Lord.
The Lord’s message to His own on resurrection ground was “Peace be unto you” Jn.20.21,26. Clearly He desired them to be in the enjoyment of the peace that came from the knowledge that He had risen. In the opening chapters of Leviticus, which present the offerings from the Divine standpoint, the peace offering is the last of the sweet savour offerings to be described; but in the order of our experience it comes first, for this enjoyment of peace in our souls is the basis of our future development in the Christian life.
Returning then to the fact that “He is risen”, this truth has stood the test of centuries of unbelief and attack, but, like the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture, it remains eternally firm. True Christians love it, and enjoy every feature and record of it. So foundational it is to our faith that without it we “are yet in [our] sins” 1Cor.15.17.
The different narratives of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus in the four Gospels combine to furnish us with the relevant facts. To doubt these is to cast aspersion upon the veracity, accuracy and reliability of the Word of God, which reflects negatively upon the character of God. Equally, on the other hand, to honour them is to submit to the God of the Word. Our attitude in these matters reveals a lot about us.
The Bible is sufficient proof for the believer of the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from among the dead. It is accurately described, honestly recorded and visibly confirmed by various individuals and groups of people who saw Him alive after He rose from the dead. These sightings (better ‘appearances’) were not apparitions. He appeared in the morning, at midday, and in the evening, to both men and women. He also appeared to groups of people together, 1Cor.15.5-8; Acts 1.3,4. These were bodily appearances of the Lord, but, knowing the human tendency to doubt, He appeared to the disciples as they met together, and Thomas, who had doubted the week before, was with them. The Lord appeared in the midst of them, the doors being shut, and said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thine hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.” The answer of Thomas is revealing! His words were: “My Lord and my God” Jn.20.27,28. Thomas saw for himself the wounds: they were mortal wounds but they were in a living man. This was enough for Thomas. A week earlier it is recorded of the rest, when Thomas was absent: “Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord” Jn.20.20. We are told by John that this experience with Thomas was a sign, among others, not all of which were recorded. However, the reason for those that he did record is “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name” Jn.20.31. Yes, there is life in the risen Lord, Rom.10.9! One has said, “Facts are stubborn things”; in other words, the truth stands, even if people try to deny it. These facts concerning the resurrection and its implications will not alter, whether we believe them or not. People are called upon by God to believe, for their blessing. Whether or not they believe will not change the facts in any way; though, on another level, it will make a huge change for them personally, for it will determine their eternal destiny.
From the Old Testament we learn something of resurrection of the dead. It is clearly universal; it includes all people who have died: both the righteous and the wicked. It is described in general terms, rather than specific. Resurrection in the New Testament, beginning with the resurrection of the Lord, is distinctly seen to be an out-resurrection from among the dead ones. This, of course, was predicted in the Messianic Psalm 16. Referring to the Lord it says, “Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption” Ps.16.10. This is quoted again in Acts 2.27; 13.35, and in each case the sense is more accurately gained from the New American Standard Bible (original edition), which says, “For Thou wilt not abandon My soul to Sheol; neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.” Personally, I feel this is proper, and leaves less room for speculative theories, which are feeble at best.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus underscores the value and effectiveness of His work on the cross, Rom.4.25. It also impacts upon the security of the believer, presently and eternally, Rom.8.34, and is the basis of all future prophecy relating to the purpose of God in Christ, Eph.1.10. Therefore its importance is not to be underestimated.
Reference has already been made to the historic details of the resurrection of Christ in the Gospels. If we include with these the records in the Book of Acts, there are perhaps sixteen or so appearances of the Lord after His resurrection. It will yield blessing to search them out. And yet, withal, there are many who persist in their denials of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Just to mention some fallacies, without dwelling upon them too much: some say the disciples went to the wrong tomb. Really! With the presence of the guard and the appearance of the angels? I think not! Again, prompted by the chief priests, and indeed bribed, the soldiers were told to circulate the story that His followers came at night, while they slept, and stole the body. This would have meant the forfeiting of their own lives, so the chief priests with the elders devised a plan to relieve the soldiers of blame, Matt.28.11-15. How subtle, when all they had to do was to produce the body! What a feeble excuse; the empty tomb and the graveclothes undisturbed are eloquent silent witness to the testimony that “He is risen”. Epicurean philosophy may deny any existence beyond death. The Stoics denied the idea of personality beyond death. Plato believed in the immortality of the soul, but denied bodily resurrection. These all have their advocates today, with many other theories. Over against this we have the Word of God. We could delve in, and examine the reasons given for these ideas, but years have taught us that it is at times futile to research secondary sources when we have the primary source before us in the infallible Word of God. For each child of God it is vital to take the Scriptures and believe them implicitly. The strategy of Satan will be utterly refuted by the revelation of God. This is not open for debate, however appealing to the natural mind, but to faith which gladly reposes on the truth of God. It alone is self-sustaining.
Lord Lyttelton, a Member of Parliament, but also a self-confessed infidel, was challenged by the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. He set out to disprove the record and hence the experience. The more he examined it, the more he came to see the error of his views, and he became convinced of its veracity and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. He said of Christ’s resurrection: “If the literal, bodily, resurrection of Christ is not to be believed, then no event in human history is credible.”
Another valid confirmation of the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the fact that the disciples who saw Him after He rose were ready to lay down their lives for that which they witnessed and believed. Just fifty days after the event Peter preached about the resurrection, and taught the truth regarding it, Acts chapter 2 (and he also did so in chapters 3 and 4). Many who were there could and did happily verify what he said, for they also were witnesses, Acts 4.33. The Sadducees were grieved, as were others, that they preached “through Jesus the resurrection from the dead” Acts 4.2, and Peter and John were arrested. In spite of this, God overruled and the number of believers rose: “many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” Acts 4.4.
In the early days of the Church no true believers denied the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, but some were carried away by doubts about their own resurrection. For this reason the apostle Paul explains in some detail the truth of bodily resurrection in 1Corinthians chapter 15. As he does, he takes an illustration from the miracle of harvest, among others. In v.38 he says regarding what is sown and then raised: “God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him”. This sovereign action of a Creator-God is emphasised to say that when resurrection occurs for the believer he or she will be given a body ably suited to his or her new sphere. It will be in one sense the same body as we now have: as to identity; and at the same time different: as to glory, because it will be fashioned like unto the Lord’s own body of glory, Phil.3.21.
How much, after all, rests upon this truth? This is answered for us in this very chapter, 1Corinthians chapter 15. Between the statement in v.14, “And if Christ be not risen …”, and the statement in v.20, “But now is Christ risen from the dead”, Paul gives a list of consequences if Christ is not risen:
- Preaching is vain, this refers to the content of preaching, not the act, v.14;
- Faith is vain (empty), that is, there is the crust without the kernel, v.14;
- We are found (discovered, detected, caught out) false witnesses of God. He is misrepresented, v.15;
- We are yet in our sins, v.17;
- Those who have passed on are perished, v.18;
- We have no future hope, v.19;
- We are of all most miserable, to be pitied, v.19.
How wonderful after all this to read the authority of the Word of God: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” v.20! Because He lives, we shall live also, Jn.14.19. As Paul so rightly said, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” Rom.8.18. This is all because of the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To be continued (D.V.)
by William C. Lavery (U.S.A.)
Most will agree that Matthew’s Gospel portrays our blessed Lord as the great Teacher. In chapters 5-7 He taught the Principles of the Kingdom, in chapter 13 He taught the Parables of the Kingdom and in chapter 24 He taught the Prophecies concerning His coming Kingdom. We should not be surprised that at the conclusion of this Gospel the great Teacher commissions His disciples to go and teach.
Mark’s Gospel records the Lord as the great Evangelist and often uses a word translated “straightway”, “immediately”, and “forthwith”, to impress upon us the busy life of our Lord reaching out to poor sinners. At the close of Mark’s Gospel the Lord sends the disciples into all the world to preach the gospel.
John’s Gospel is the Gospel of the great Shepherd. His early chapters show the loving Shepherd seeking and finding lost sheep, and in chapter 10 He leads them out of the confines of the Jewish fold. After saying, “I lay down My life for the sheep” v.15, He introduces other sheep that were not from the Jewish fold and the result is one flock and one Shepherd, v.16. John’s Gospel draws to a close with Peter seeing John following the Lord and he also obeys the words of Jesus, “Follow thou Me” Jn.21.22. The good Shepherd is leading His sheep!
Luke’s Gospel is the Gospel of the Priest. It commences with Zacharias’ priestly ministry and concludes with a preview of the priestly ministry of our Lord. Zacharias and Elisabeth were an exemplary couple, both were of the family of Aaron, “and they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” Lk.1.6. They were both elderly, and grieved over the fact that they had no children for Elisabeth was barren, vv.7,25. Her barrenness reflected the barren condition of Israel under the Law. As Zacharias approached the golden altar in the Temple to offer incense an angel appeared and declared to him that Elisabeth would bear a son, vv.11-13. A conversation with the angel followed and the people that were waiting in the Temple court wondered why Zacharias delayed in coming out, v.21. Did they expect a priestly blessing? None was forthcoming, v.22. Because of Zacharias’ unbelief he had been struck deaf and dumb, vv.20,62. Israel had been tested by the Law and had failed miserably. Their barren condition remained.
Now Zacharias was of the course of Abia (Abijah), the eighth course of the divisions of the sons of Aaron, 1Chr.24.10. The number eight signifies a new beginning, and a great change was taking place at that time. Zacharias and Elisabeth may well have envisioned their son, John, dressed in priestly attire and following in his father’s footsteps, but God had a different plan that ushered in a new beginning! John was not clothed in fine linen but in rough camel’s hair and a leather girdle. He was not a priest in the sanctuary but a prophet in the wilderness.
John also had the tremendous honour of introducing and being the forerunner of our great High Priest. The dispensation of Law was drawing to a close. This is illustrated in the incident in Lk.10.30-35, where the representatives of the Law (the priest and the Levite) did not help the poor traveller who was on his journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. Perhaps they thought that he was already dead, and they did not want to be defiled! In contrast, the Samaritan, a lovely picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, came to where he was and showed compassion to the poor wounded traveller, binding up his wounds and providing care for him in the inn. Drawing the spiritual lesson from the parable, we see that the Law could not help a perishing individual, but the Lord can, and He comes right to where he is, and meets his need. The Lord was not a priest here on earth for He descended from the tribe of Judah but He did many priestly acts that are recorded by the writers of the Gospels.
Immediately after the Lord entered His earthly ministry He was tested for forty days in the wilderness, Lk.4.1-13, and His triumph over the devil proved His perfect manhood and the suitability for His earthly ministry. Before the Lord was carried up to heaven He was here for forty days and His actions were a prelude to His heavenly ministry. The subject of the first section of Luke chapter 24 is the resurrection, for He must be raised from the dead to be a great High Priest “after the power of an endless life” Heb.7.16. After the resurrection the Lord drew near to the two on the road to Emmaus. His identity was hidden from them and they imagined that He was a stranger and the only person who did not know what had transpired in Jerusalem, but actually He was the only One Who did know fully! They had hoped that He would have redeemed Israel. Their knowledge of the empty tomb, instead of causing them to rejoice, gave them great concern. Now the priests were the teachers in Israel, Mal.2.7, so the Lord, the Priest, graciously unfolded to them from the Scriptures the things concerning Himself, Lk.24.27, and as He taught them their heart burned within them, v.32. He loved them and did not strongly upbraid them for their unbelief but as a priest He ‘trimmed their lamp of testimony’ so that it would burn all the more brightly in the darkness of His absence. Another may have extinguished their ‘lamp’ because of their unbelief but He is our great High Priest Who succours the tempted and sympathises with the weak and Who will guide us safely through this wilderness world and bring us into our promised inheritance.
During the Emmaus journey our Lord was a great example for us. We also are priests who should help and encourage our fellow-believers by reminding them of the things concerning Himself! Later the Lord was made known to them as they dined in the house and afterward vanished out of their sight, or, as it has been rendered, “ceased to be seen of them” vv.30,31. Though unseen, He is always with us and will never leave us or forsake us.
Finally the Lord appeared in the midst of the gathered disciples and His first word to them was “Peace” v.36. He then asked, “Why are ye troubled?” v.38, and after He showed them His hands and His feet, vv.39,40, they, no doubt, forgot all their troubles and were fully occupied alone with Him and His love for them. Zacharias had offered incense on the golden altar and afterwards he could not bless the people but after the Lord Jesus came from the ‘brasen altar’ of Calvary and before His ascension He lifted up His hands and blessed the waiting disciples, v.50. The disciples then returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were found continually in the Temple court worshipping and blessing God, vv.52,53. From His exalted position in heaven our great High Priest continually showers manifold blessings upon us. May our hearts respond with thankfulness and worship and joy to the One Who loves us and gave Himself for us!
‘Not My King’
The coronation of King Charles III was watched by a peak TV audience of around 20 million viewers in the UK, while many thousands lined the route of the royal procession in London, supervised by 11,500 police officers. Inside Westminster Abbey just over two thousand guests, including Presidents, Prime Ministers and Kings and Queens from other nations, respectfully watched the ceremony. The steadily falling rain could not dampen the spirits of the crowds, many of whom had camped out for hours to secure a prime location from which to get the best possible view of the pomp and pageantry.
While so many were eager to be present and show their appreciation and support for the King, there was a comparatively small but vocal number of protesters who left no one in any doubt that they had absolutely no respect for the man who was going to Westminster Abbey to be crowned King. They held their placards aloft with a simple, unambiguous message inscribed on them: “Not my King”. They wanted to make it abundantly clear that they had no allegiance to this Monarch and no love for the Royal Family. Their boos and chants were drowned out by the overwhelmingly larger numbers who joined in the singing of the National Anthem and cheered enthusiastically as the procession moved past.
A similar scene was enacted almost two thousand years ago, but on a much grander scale. Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor, was interrogating a prisoner in Whom he could find no fault and therefore he was unwilling to punish Him and desired to release Him. He said to the multitudes of Jews who had thronged the narrow streets of Jerusalem outside the Praetorium, the Governor’s palace where he conducted many trials, “Behold your King!” John 19.14. The immediate response, without delay or dissent, from the amassed crowds was, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him … We have no king but Caesar” John 19.15. The loud, angry voices conveyed a unanimous message of total rejection of this King, the Son of God. Shortly afterwards that innocent, sinless Man Whom the world refused was led, cross-laden and thorn-crowned, to Golgotha, to be put to death by the most cruel and violent method of execution: crucifixion. This world is stained with the blood of Christ and is guilty of His murder.
The amazing aspect of it all is that the Lord Jesus never complained or protested His innocence for He knew that only by His death, bearing the punishment of sins that we had committed, could salvation for guilty sinners be provided and God’s righteousness be upheld. Because of that voluntary but undeserved death we can be pardoned though guilty, for “Christ died for our sins” 1Corinthians 15.3.
Some of the anti-monarchy protesters were arrested to prevent them from disrupting the day’s events and were detained for several hours, but beyond that no further action was taken. It was therefore deemed not a serious crime to reject the newly-crowned King Charles III, but it is most costly to say no to Christ. He is the only Saviour of sinners and without Him you have no hope of Heaven. You can escape the consequences of your sins only by accepting the Lord Jesus as your personal Saviour. What a momentous decision rested on Pilate’s shoulders when he asked, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” Matthew 27.22. It is an individual and inescapable question; its importance cannot be exaggerated; how will you respond?
- Immortal life’s in the question,
- And joy through eternity:
- Then what will you do with Jesus?
- O, what shall the answer be?
- “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” Proverbs 18.13
- This proverb is particularly pertinent when there is a dispute between two parties. It is natural that, in giving its case, each side will stress the points that show it up in the best light, and will hide, or at least tend to minimise, details that do not. How much trouble we would avoid (for ourselves and for others) if we heeded the counsel in this verse! How often we are told things, and then we give our opinions, without full possession of the facts, or having heard only ‘one side of the story’. Let us not be like King Darius, who allowed himself to be rushed into hastily signing a decree, without full knowledge of the case, Dan.6.8,9. He certainly came to see the “folly” of his actions, and felt the “shame”: “Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself”