Having Loved His Own Which Were In The World (4)
In the preceding verses the Lord had shown His own the provision that He would make for them in the Father's house. He now tells them of the support He will provide in His absence. Love seeks to give them eyes of faith and the comfort of love in view of His going away.
He first of all tries their hearts as to their response: “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” He is surely saying, “Am I dear to your hearts as your Lord? Then hold very dear what I say to you!”
To responsive love which values Him He promises that He will beg the Father to send One in His place. How much the Lord loved His own! In His absence He would have them cared for by One who would never leave them but would support them in every way even as He had done.
The One who would come to them is the Spirit of Truth. The world had no room for the Lord. It was about to reject Him completely — the Truth — whom it had seen and heard, and therefore it could not see or receive the Spirit of Truth. His own had received Him who is the embodiment of truth and therefore they could receive and know the Spirit of Truth.
But the Lord with all His burdens feels the sorrow of His own at losing Him. For even One in His room and stead is not Himself and He had made Himself everything to them. He tells them again that He will come to them, not as coming from the Father's house for them, but as coming to them now by the same Spirit of Truth whom the Father would send. He knew that their hearts desired Himself.
Very shortly the coming events would separate Him from the world and He would (re)enter another sphere. There, in that spiritual realm not seen by this world, His own would behold Him. Because He lives, His own would live also. They would have His life. At that day (no doubt when the Spirit should come), they would not only know of the intimate fellowship between the Father and the Son, but also have part themselves in that fellowship which had been unknown to them before: “Ye in Me, and I in you.” True responsive love is to have His commandments and to keep them. The Lord addresses each one of His own personally here, sounding out the desire of their hearts. The one who loves and values Him is especially loved by the Father and also knows the love and company of the Lord in a personal way. Not only so, but to anyone who loves the Lord and values the Word — the revelation — which He brought, there would be made known the love of the Father in a special way, together with the abiding presence of the Father and the Son.
This wonderful sphere of fellowship would be known and enjoyed in a fuller way by the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, sent in the Name of the Son. He would teach and bring to remembrance all the communications of the Son, that nothing might be lost. Love would make them the depositories of the truth by the Spirit of Truth.
It was time for Him to go away. The path that He must tread alone is before Him. He knows that His coming trials would trouble them. Thinking of them and knowing their sorrows, He bestows peace and also His personal peace which He had known during His life on earth. Having His peace, their hearts would not be troubled or afraid. If love desires the best for its object, He has fully shown His desire for them. But likewise, He counts upon their love for Him, that they would desire His happiness. He would therefore have them rejoice that He was going home, back to His Father, the One from whom He had come. His foreknowledge of what lay before them all was made known for their strengthening. The hour of the ruler of this world was at hand, though he had no claim upon the Lord. It was also the hour when the father would be glorified and when the lord's devotion to Him unto death would be seen by this world. He was going to display before it that He loved the Father even unto death and was totally obedient to His will and commandment. He would have His own witness it also: “Arise, let us go hence.”
(The brother who has written this series of articles
wishes to remain anonymous)
What is the Christian's Inheritance?
In considering any subject brought before us in the Word of God it is important that we take our thinking about it from the Scriptures. The writer has come to the conclusion that this has not always been done in relation to the question at the head of this article, and the result is that there is some confusion about it.
Christ is Himself the heir of the inheritance.1 The Lord pressed this point in the parable of the unfaithful husbandmen. “But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance” (Matt. 21:38; Mark 12:7; Luke 20:14). His claim upon the inheritance was repudiated and He was cast out of the vineyard (Israel) and slain. That is the point at which the Epistle to the Hebrews begins. Could this rejection of the rightful heir overturn God's purpose? Of course not. “God... has spoken to us in the person of the Son, whom He has established heir...” (Heb. 1:1). The matter is fixed and inviolable. The inheritance is Christ's and shall never be wrested from Him.
1The Greek for heir is kleeronomos, and for inheritance is kleeronomia.
The inheritance of which Christians are heirs is this same inheritance of Christ. We are children of God and “if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17). And it is by reason of our identification with Christ that we have title to it, for He it is “In whom... we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11).
This really brings us to the point where we can begin to answer our question. The verse in Hebrews 1 which tells us Christ is the established heir, goes on at once to tell us what the inheritance is: “... the Son, whom He has established heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds” (v. 2). And Hebrews 2 shows us that it is as the Son of Man that Christ will inherit everything He has created as the Son of God: “Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet. For in that He put all in subjection under Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we see not yet all things put under Him” (Heb. 2:8).
Is Christ in possession of His inheritance at the present time? No, He is not. The verse just quoted from Hebrews 2 makes that very clear. The same point is noted in Ephesians 1: “in whom (Christ) also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession...” (Eph. 1:12-14). The purchased possession is the inheritance, and at the appointed time Christ will redeem it by His power. Meanwhile He and His people
wait in patience. So far as the saints are concerned, they have the “Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance, until” the waiting time is over. This statement of the Scripture is very clear. It is not said that the Holy Spirit gives the earnest of our inheritance but that He is Himself the earnest of our inheritance. He is the guarantee that when the appointed time comes we shall possess the inheritance with Christ. The appointed time is referred to in verse 10 of Ephesians 1: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him.”
This is consistent with the other references to the inheritance in the New Testament.2 For example, Colossians 3:24 and Hebrews 9:15 speak about the (future) reward of the inheritance and the present promise of it respectively. 1 Peter 1:4 and 5 speak of the reservation of the (heavenly side) of the inheritance for the saints, and of the preservation of the saints for the inheritance. They are kept “unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.” That “last time” marks the point of transition to the “fulness of times” already referred to in Ephesians 1.
2The references are — Matt. 21:38; Mark 12:7; Luke 12:13, 20:14; Acts 7:5, 20:32; Gal. 3:18; Eph. 1:14, 18, 5:5; Col. 3:24; Heb. 9:15, 11:8; 1 Peter 1:4. The references in Acts 26:18 and Colossians 1:12 in the King James are a translation of the Greek word “kleeros” which Mr. Darby translates “portion” in Colossians 1:12.
Why then should there be any difficulty in relation to this subject? In the opinion of the writer the confusion arises because the inheritance is sometimes confused with our present spiritual blessings in Christ. It should be noted, however, that while verses 11-14 of Ephesians 1 bring the inheritance before us, verses 4-7 speak of the present spiritual blessings which belong to us as Christians. The two things are not mixed together indiscriminately, but carefully distinguished from one another.
It may also be found helpful to bear in mind that the earthly Canaan is for us a double-type. We, like the children of Israel, are traversing a wilderness and “the Land” is the goal, the ultimate end, that we have before us. In Hebrews 2 that is “the world to come, whereof we speak” (Heb. 2:5). This point of view is developed very fully in Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 where the inheritance is connected with the rest, God's rest, that we are moving onto.
The other side of this double-type is that once in the land of Canaan the children of Israel had to fight in order to possess what God had given them. That is where the figure changes. The land is then a type of our present spiritual blessings in Christ, and there is conflict involved in really entering into the enjoyment of them. Joshua in the Old Testament (typically) and Colossians in the New, speak of the entry into these blessings. Ephesians, especially chapter 6, shows us how to stand the ground once it has been gained.
It will be seen therefore that we need to distinguish things that are distinguished in the Scriptures.
R. F. W.
From Our Archive
The Cross (1)
(A Gospel Preaching at the Grove City Conference)
Matthew 27:33-36; John 19:25-30, 38-42.
I want to take you with me tonight, and to stand by the cross of Jesus. It is a familiar story, perhaps, to everyone of us here but I am assured not a familiar story to everyone in this country, as it is not in the country from which I come — England. A brother told us of an incident that happened at one of the high schools in the south of England. A new teacher arrived at the school and she was set over a class of girls aged fifteen to seventeen. She was a Christian woman and when it came to the Scripture lesson she began to tell them the story of the Cross. She arrived at the place where He was taken into Pilate's hall but before she could get much further in her address to the girls the school-bell rang. School was to be dismissed. There were four girls in that class that gathered around the teacher, and this was the question that they asked: “Did He get off?” Could you credit that? “Did He get off?” My friend, I'm going to assume here tonight that you know very little about the cross, and I'm going to speak to you about it. I want your heart to be affected by the story of the cross; and if you stand by it with me tonight, I trust that that stony heart of yours is going to be broken.
I realise, dear friends, that there's no appealing on my part that is going to affect anything. If the story of the cross doesn't affect your heart, if it doesn't break you down in true repentance to see this Blessed One whose love has been so great toward you, if you don't see that that love demands your love and your obedience, there's no appealing on my part that will be in any way successful.
They led Him out to this place of a skull, Golgotha, to crucify Him. There are two sides to this question, dear friend. He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, but men with wicked hands took and crucified the Lord of Glory. And here in the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew we have what they did to Him in great detail. We learn, perhaps, a different aspect of the story when we come to John's Gospel.
The first thing that they want to do, as no doubt they did to others who were to be put to death, is give them this stupefying drink that would make them insensible to all that was going on. But my friend, Jesus refused that. Peter tells us that “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” There are three wonderful things in that verse. When men want to write to impress you and me, they write volume upon volume. But listen what God puts into the space of this short verse: “Christ also hath once suffered for sins” — propitiation; “the just for the unjust” — substitution; “that He might bring us to God” — reconciliation. And think of it, dear friend, the Word of God — it has a majesty, it has a dignity of its own so that men need not elaborate on it whatsoever. It is a Word that comes from God Himself. And it comes with mighty power to grip the heart and conscience. That's the confidence of the preacher as he seeks to make known the story of the cross to men and women. He's not depending upon his ability. What a poor thing it would be. But he's depending upon the mighty power of God, and the use of that precious Word, simply though it may be spoken, to reach hearts and consciences. I trust it's going to reach yours tonight, dear friend.
He refused the stupefying drink. He was quite sensible to all that was going on, and they took Him there and they nailed Him to that cross. You know what the Word of God says? “Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.” I want to say, dear friend, because of your sins, you're in a cursed position; but there's One who has borne the curse by hanging upon Calvary's tree.
They heaped upon Him every indignity. He was stripped of everything, even of His clothes. But there was one thing they couldn't take from Him and that was His body. And listen, friend, the Bible tells us that He gave His body. He gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, in due season. And the reason for the testimony going forth, the testimony that He gave Himself a ransom for all, is that you might receive it. The testimony comes to you for your obedience. It's looking for an answer in the hearts of men and women here this evening. That's what God is looking for.
But they heaped upon Him every indignity. They mocked Him and scourged Him; spit in His blessed face. My friend, I say to you here tonight, does this not touch your heart — to think of the Lord of Glory suffering such indignity, such hatred and enmity from man? Does it not touch your heart tonight? Oh, I want you to come near to the cross tonight, to see it as you have never seen it before.
There was a young fellow got converted in Northumberland. He wasn't very long in seeing his place and he asked the saints, “What about me taking my place to remember the Lord?” They could see he was in dead earnest. They gave his name out that very Lord's day, and the next Lord's day he broke bread. He remembered the Lord, the One who died for him upon the cross of Calvary. He'd only been converted about three months. After the Breaking of Bread the others got up and they began to discuss how much they had sold their cows for at one of the farm sales. They were discussing anything and everything but the Lord Himself. The young man was still sitting in his seat, with tears — tears rolling down his cheeks. You know what he said to them? He said, “Have you got used to this?” Have you got used to this? I make no further comment. It speaks for itself.
I ask you tonight, young friend, how many Gospel meetings have you attended? How many times have you heard this story of the cross of Jesus, in His wonderful love going there and dying for you and suffering all these indignities at the hands of men, as well as the judgment of a righteous and holy God? How many times have you heard it? Let me ask you, have you got used to it? Have you got so used to listening to this story that it means nothing to you? Jeremiah the prophet, in his Lamentations asks, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow, which is done unto Me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce anger.”
Oh, friend, that you might rightly value the cross of Jesus and His sacrifice in laying down that sinless, spotless, holy life, as a sacrifice for sins. I ask you, is your heart not affected by it?
We read of these people, “And sitting down, they watched Him there.” It seems as though they had come to the end of their tether. There wasn't another thing that they could think to do; and in cold blood they sat down, and they watched Him there in His agony.
I just want to emphasise these two words: “Him there.” Why was He there? Pilate's wife wanted to give her husband a bit of good advice, as she thought. “Have thou nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him.” Advice that Pilate couldn't take, and advice that you can't take either, friend. You've got to do with Jesus just as much as Pilate had.
Pilate says, “I find no fault in Him.” His wife said He was a just person. Those weren't the only witnesses, you know — witnesses that you and I would never have thought of bringing forward. Judas says, “I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.”
Him there? Why was He there, friend? He was there because you and I should have been there. He was there answering to the holy God in your place and in my place. He became, as the Proverb said, He became surety for a stranger and He was made to smart. Listen, this is no cheap salvation that we are preaching to you tonight. It's a salvation that cost God Himself the very best, the very choicest of heaven's store for you, the rebel sinner.
Visiting one of the villages in the Lake district over in England, and after having a Gospel meeting in the open air, we went around the doors giving out little gospel booklets. I knocked at a door and the lady's voice inside shouted, “Come in,” and in I went. She said, “What is it?” “Oh,” I said, “I've brought you a little gospel booklet to tell you the way to heaven.” “Oh,” she said, “you know, I've had a good upbringing,” and she began to tell me of the good upbringing she had had. She said that from a girl, as far back as she could remember, she was taken to church three times each Sunday. She said that she had good parents who were church members, and she had been brought up to attend church regularly.
Dear friend, it's not a good upbringing that many people want, it's a good downbringing. I said to her, “Oh, I've had a good upbringing too,” and I quoted from Psalm 40: “He brought me up... out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God.” I said, “That's the good upbringing that I've had.” Naturally speaking, I had no good upbringing, friend. Not speaking in any way disrespectfully of my parents, I was dragged up. Were you brought up in a Christian home? Never cease to thank God for it. You know what I was used to? — a drunken fight, that started on Saturday night and went right over until about the Tuesday when everything was spent up, and our clothes were put into the pawn, and that money was spent as well. That's the bringing up I had. Thank God for the other bringing up. “He brought me up... out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth.”
I tell you dear friend, I appreciate the grace of God that picked me up, saved my precious soul, and gives me to stand before you here tonight. Have you been affected by the cross of Calvary, by Jesus dying for you?
In the nineteenth chapter of John we have a company of people standing by the cross. But before we go there, again let us remind ourselves of these two words — I don't want to pass over them so easily — Him there. Listen friend, those are two words that you'll never forget if you go to hell for all eternity, as you will if you refuse Him. Him there! Christ, hanging upon the cross of Calvary for you a sinner, and you refused Him as your Saviour. Don't come away with the idea that God is a sort of kind, old grandfather, that is going to say to you after you have set the gospel message to one side, and neglected this salvation, “Well, of course, you weren't a good lad; you could have been better, but come on in,” and take you to heaven. My friend, there's no such representation of God in the Scripture of Truth. God is a righteous God, and if you want to know how God is going to deal with you about your sins, God has demonstrated that at the cross of Calvary. He didn't spare our first parents in the garden of Eden for one sin; He turned them out. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins. He cast down the angels that sinned, and they're reserved in everlasting chains of darkness unto the day of judgment. Listen, friend, He didn't spare His own Son when He took your place and mine. The very heavens above Him were as brass, and in anguish He sobbed out those words, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He was forsaken, friend, that you might be accepted. The judgment was poured upon His blessed head that you might go free. Do you appreciate that? He's looking into your heart tonight. He's searching places that I cannot see. He's looking into your heart tonight and He knows just exactly what your attitude is. Friend, I trust that it's affected, that it's melted with the story of the cross of Jesus.
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
Judgment in the Life of a Believer and the Assembly
Isn't judgment a very serious subject? Yes, it is indeed and may the Lord give us a deep impression of this. But I hope to show that there are features connected with our subject that should be a joy to our hearts and a reason to praise our God and our Lord and Saviour more and more. The Bible distinguishes at least five different forms of “judgment” which have a relation to the believer. Let us study them briefly.
1. The substitutionary judgment of Christ
Right at the beginning of our meditation we find something that is an eternal joy to our hearts. There is a judgment that every sinner deserves — eternal punishment in hell. But the believer knows that this punishment will never reach him because Another has already borne the judgment in his stead. In the three hours of darkness on the cross of Calvary our blessed Lord bore the entire weight of divine wrath. “All Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over Me” (Ps. 42:7b), but “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it” (Song of Sol. 8:7). And why did He take all this upon Himself? Oh, our hearts know the answer. It was for you and me. He bore the judgment of God for all those who have come to Him as their Saviour in repentance and faith. The words which a future remnant in Israel will utter can surely be applied to us: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).
Although there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ (Rom. 8:1; John 3:18; John 5:24), that does not mean that there is absolutely no more judgment in the life of a believer. As long as we are walking here on earth there is need for judgment in the sense of chastening, or discipline. And the first (and best) thing God expects from us is that we do this ourselves.
Self-judgment should be a constant feature of the believer's life. In connection with the Lord's supper the apostle writes to the Corinthians: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). This self-examination is not merely a matter for Saturday evening or Lord's Day morning. Rather, it should be our constant attitude to search our hearts, motives and consciences in His presence. In writing this the author of this article is fully aware of his own shortcomings in these respects. But self-judgment is the only way to escape further forms of divine chastisement.
3. Judgment in the governmental ways of God
with a believer
The Corinthian saints had not always followed the instructions of the apostle, which meant that some of them had eaten and drunk unworthily. The result is stated clearly by the apostle: “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation (judgment — J. N. D. Trans.) to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (1 Cor. 11:29-30).
If we fail to judge ourselves and bring our conduct into accord with the Word of God so that we “walk worthily,” then God our Father has to discipline us in His ways with us on earth. This sounds very serious — which it definitely is — but we should be glad that our Father deals with us in this way. It proves that we are sons. “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons... but He (chasteneth us) for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness” (Heb. 12:6-10). The actual experience of godly discipline is of course something we don't like, but the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews knew about that and so he says: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:11).
There are two dangers as far as our reaction to godly discipline in our lives is concerned: “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him” (Heb. 12:5). On the one hand we could despise His chastening, or regard it lightly. Perhaps there are those who, when a problem arises and there are difficult circumstances, roll up their sleeves and think “problems are there to be solved” — and we don't see the chastening hand of the Lord in the matter.
On the other hand there is the possibility that we faint when we are rebuked of Him. This is just the opposite danger. We feel more or less overwhelmed by all the difficulties and sorrowful circumstances, — and we don't discern the loving hand of our Father in His dealings with us.
May the Lord give us all to be rightly exercised by all the ways of God with us.
4. The judgment of the assembly
There was unjudged evil of the grossest kind in the midst of the assembly in Corinth and the apostle has to tell them: “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Cor. 5:12-13). If there is wickedness or evil in the midst of a local assembly, the holiness of God requires judgment by the assembly in the putting away of the wicked person. The same thing is also stressed by the Lord Jesus Himself in Matthew 18: “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven... For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them” (vv. 18, 20).
Whenever this sad, serious and holy necessity arises, and the saints, gathered to the Name of the Lord, have the duty to bind the sin on someone, then this judgment of the assembly is recognised in heaven. Of course, this is true as well of the happy occasion of the restoration of the sinner, and the consequent loosing of the sin in the judgment of the assembly. Next to the demands of the holiness of God this restoration of the one put under discipline is the aim of such an act.
It shouldn't need mentioning that an act of discipline which is recognised in heaven is also recognised by all the local assemblies on earth. The one put away from the saints in Corinth was out of fellowship in Ephesus, Phillipi and all the other assemblies. The same one received again (2 Cor. 2:6-8) was received for the breaking of bread at all other places as well. This is still the pattern for those gathered to His Name in fellowship with one another.
5. The judgment seat of Christ
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). We started our meditation thinking about the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. And after some challenging considerations about judgment in a believer's life we close now with another thought that is challenging and encouraging as well.
When the believer appears before the judgment seat of Christ, he won't be judged in the sense of condemned. That matter was settled at Calvary. But he will be revealed. It should be a joy for the believer to think that at this moment he will — for the first time — see his own life entirely in the way the Lord Jesus sees it. And in our glorified bodies we will completely agree with this judgment. All this will lead to eternal heavenly worship.
There is not room here to dwell in detail on this important matter of the judgment seat of Christ. However, in the listing that follows I give some of the ramifications of the subject, together with the Scripture references. This is done as an incentive to personal study, which I trust will be of great value and blessing.
1. All men without exception have to appear before the judgment seat (2 Cor. 5:10; Ecc. 12:14).
2. This tribunal has three different “sessions”:
a) 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:10
b) Matt. 25:31-33
c) Rev. 20:11-12
3. It is the judgment seat of God in contrast to a human judgment (Rom. 14:11-12). Even the perfect Servant committed His work to His God (Isa. 49:4).
4. Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, will be the judge (John 5:22, 27; Acts 10:42; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16).
5. Believers won't be judged or condemned there (John 3:18; 1 Cor. 11:32; Rom. 8:1).
6. They will appear there with glorified bodies (2 Cor. 5:10).
7. The appearing of the saints before the judgment seat will take place between the rapture and the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7, 8).
8. All deeds will be rewarded there (2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Cor. 3:13).
9. We have to give account of all our words (Matt. 12:36).
10. The counsels of the heart will be made manifest (1 Cor. 4:5).
11. Hidden things will be brought to light (1 Cor. 4:5; Rom. 2:16).
12. Faithfulness in service will be rewarded (Matt. 25:21).
13. The position of the believer in the kingdom depends on the verdict at the judgment seat (Luke 19:17).
14. Present personal faithfulness bears upon the future collective part of the church (Rev. 19:8).
15. Each one has to give account of himself (Rom. 14:12).
16. A servant may lose reward by the unfaithfulness of those whom he was instrumental in bringing to the Saviour (1 John 2:28; 2 John 8).
17. It is possible to suffer loss at the judgment seat (1 Cor. 3:14-15; Rev. 3:11).
18. The thought of the judgment seat encourages us to be well-pleasing to Him (2 Cor. 5:9).
19. To walk in the light of the judgment seat will give us a good conscience (1 Cor. 4:4; l John 2:28).
20. Because Christ will be the judge we fulfil the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:11ff).
21. The truth of the judgment seat makes us respect the freedom of others in matters of Christian liberty (Rom. 14).
Statements 1-4 speak about the Judge.
Statements 5-7 speak about the believer and the judgment seat.
Statements 8-17 speak about what happens at the judgment seat.
Statements 18-21 speak about the present result in a believer's life when he is occupied with the truth of the judgment seat.
“The Sermon on the Mount” (14)
Hatred Among Brethren
In Matthew 5:21-48 the Lord Jesus gives six examples in which He warns against wrong interpretation and application of the commandments by the scribes and Pharisees. He does not set aside the law as such but in this way shows His disciples various important details.
Firstly, He reminds them that many of the commandments which God gave to Israel only referred to outward conduct.
Secondly, He points out that by their interpretations the scribes had narrowed down the application of these commandments so that sometimes little remained of their true meaning.
Thirdly, He shows them that it was not only the outward keeping of the commandments that mattered but the desire of the heart to live in accordance with God's thoughts and to His glory.
The sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill”
The Lord Jesus begins the first of the six examples with the words, “Ye have heard that it was said to the ancients” (A.V. — “them of old time”). The “ancients” here are not only the contemporaries of Moses, since the following text contains an addition to the original commandment. The audience of the Lord Jesus had heard two things: First, that the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” was given by God, and second, what they knew had probably been added by the scribes since the Babylonian captivity, “and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.” It would seem that “judgment” here means the judges and officers mentioned for example in Deuteronomy 16:18 who were to be appointed in every town in Israel.
“But I say unto you”
The Lord Jesus now sets His own words over against this commandment with its human addition: “But I say unto you.” These words occur five times in this part of the fifth chapter. He speaks with the same authority as the One who had once given the law, for He is the Son of God. Yet He does not set aside the law by His words but extends its application to man's condition of heart. Whilst the commandment only forbade the extreme manifestation of hatred, i.e. killing a person, the Lord shows that anger with a brother (which means the Jewish “brother” here) deserves the same punishment as killing itself.
If in the opinion of the Rabbis only the murderer was subject to this judgment, the Lord's words show that the one who was angry with his brother for no reason was subject to the same judgment. The one who called his brother “Raca” (Aramaic: “reka” — fool, lunatic) was subject to be called before the Sanhedrin (the supreme Jewish court at that time), and whosoever should say “fool” was to be subject to hell (“Gehenna”): eternal damnation. If the last of these three sins, which hardly differ from one another, led to eternal damnation, then the others would do so as well. God does not look at the outward appearance but into our hearts.
The following two examples in verses 23-26 then deal with the right condition of heart. The first one shows how necessary it is to have a good conscience and the second one teaches us that time for repentance is limited.
First example: “Be reconciled to thy brother”
“Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (vv. 23-24). We should remember that the Lord Jesus was addressing His disciples and still had the sacrificial system of the temple before Him. Nevertheless, His words have something to say to us too.
It cannot be pleasing to God if we come before Him in worship without having first put our relationship with our brother in order. How easily relationships can be broken! Perhaps it was only a misunderstanding, or I may have deliberately hurt a child of God, a brother or sister. Anyway, he or she has something against me. The Lord says in this case, “Go.”
The disturbed relationship between believers can only be put in order again by reconciliation and this is unlikely to be achieved without an honest confession. Only then can brotherly love flow again freely. Our fellowship with our God and Father is then restored as well: “And then come and offer thy gift.”
Second example: Use the time
“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say to thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing” (vv. 25-26).
In the past it was common to leave a convicted debtor in prison until all his debts were paid (cf. Matt. 18:30, 34). The Lord says here in symbolical language: “There is the opportunity to be reconciled with the adverse party in a peaceful manner before it is too late, even though one might find this difficult. But the time for reconciliation will cease. The one who is not prepared to act in this way, however, will have to bear the consequences.” The very serious nature of the Lord's teaching in this place becomes clear when comparing the passage with a similar one in Matthew 18:34-35.
Wrong spiritual applications of the latter part of this example (v. 26, cf. Luke 12:57-59) have lead to much confusion, of which the doctrine of “purgatory” is probably the saddest proof. Nowhere in Scripture is it taught that a man must suffer a temporal punishment of God, after his death, in order to be eternally saved. No; once death has come in the eternal destiny of the soul is decided: one is either eternally and perfectly saved or eternally lost! This verse therefore can only refer to circumstances on earth.
These words of the Lord Jesus are in agreement with various Old Testament prophecies concerning the people of Israel. When the future time of Jacob's trouble has come to an end the word of the prophet Isaiah will be fulfilled: “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2). When their King and Saviour was with them to deliver them the Jews were not prepared to receive Him or to respond to the call to repentance. Therefore God had to reject this unbelieving people (Rom. 11:25).
The setting aside of Israel, which will climax in the great tribulation, will last until He has completed His whole work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem (Isa. 10:12; Zech. 13:8-9).
Christ's Greatness in the Epistle to Laodicea (3)
(Continued from page 248)
As I mentioned earlier, our Lord also addresses the Laodiceans in His love and in His care, because He continues to be the great Lover as well as the great Physician, for He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). In His earthly ministry He had said, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matt. 9:12). Those who (think they) are whole are unaware of their need of a physician; and those who (think they) are righteous do not see their need of the Lord's the gracious intervention.
This ignorance is illustrated in a striking way in Samson's history. When Delilah had seduced him to reveal his secret, he thought that the resources he had used formerly were still available to him. But he was tragically mistaken and the Philistines bound him and put out his eyes as if to mock at his ignorance (Judges 16:20f). I believe that Samson's early days illustrate the condition of Philadelphia, as described in Revelation 3:8ff. His decline demonstrates how easily one can “backslide” into a Laodicean condition which is characterised by a false sense of security.1 In a similar way God says of the ten tribes, represented by Ephraim, “Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not; yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not” (Hosea 7:9). Verse 10 in Hosea 7 speaks about pride and verse 11 that Ephraim is “without understanding” (J. N D. Trans.).
1Judges 16:28 shows that, as this happened to Samson, one may return to the condition of Philadelphia.
Some other verses where we find this same word either as a noun, verb or adjective help us to understand its meaning. “Destruction and misery are in their ways” (Rom. 3:16); “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). In James 4:9 we read: “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” In James 5:1 “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.” All that is done only
results in further failure. This is true for man in the flesh and for the born-again believer acting according to the flesh, and indicates that the natural man is under God's impending judgment. In comparing the passages in the Old Testament (Septuagint) where these words are used, I have come to the conclusion that the word wretched indicates a sure and quickly coming judgment.
In 1 Corinthians 15:19 Paul states: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” This is the only other time we find the same word in the Greek text and it helps us to understand the passage in Revelation 3. The Lord evaluates the situation and says that, despite the high pretension of needing nothing, the assembly in Laodicea needs God's mercy. And it is the object of the Lord's kindness and mercy! This is not God's mercy and kindness towards the miserable sinner (Rom. 9:18; Rom. 11:31; Eph. 2:4), nor the merciful attitude of our High Priest with regard to the question of our sins (Heb 2:17).
The word miserable in Revelation 3:17 underlines the Laodicean's desperate need of alms!2 In their own reckoning they are very rich, and they despise help from others as a consequence, but in reality they are in need of alms themselves. Yet the Lord is still ready to provide help, even for the Laodiceans! How merciful He is (Heb. 4:16). He supplies the wisdom from above, which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy.” (ASV James 3:17). And the Lord wants this fruit to be reproduced in the lives of believers, even in Laodicean days (Luke 10:37). If it is absent, then “judgment will be without mercy to him that has shown no mercy. Mercy glories over judgment” (James 2:13).
2There is an intimate link in the Greek between mercy, pitiable and alms.
This adjective is derived from a verb meaning to crouch; to fall down as it were like a beggar. Thus it is used for one who obtains his living by begging, as distinguished from one who, though poor, earns his living by daily hard labour. It indicates a condition of great need and of helplessness regarding the need. The Laodiceans were not aware that this was their condition!
What a contrast this critique is with the commendation the Lord gives to Smyrna, the suffering church! “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)” (Rev. 2:9). The Laodiceans obviously didn't know these riches: was it because they did not experience suffering? Is this not a great challenge for Christians today, many of whom are living in an affluent society? We shy away from suffering and tend to be guilty of compromise,3 instead of standing firm for the truth of God.
3The agreement made in 1994 between Evangelicals and Catholics in the USA reflects this attitude.
Paul's example puts us to the test today: “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:10). Our blessed Lord is, of course, always the perfect Model: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to... preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18). “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). The poor saints in Macedonia are still an example for us today (cp. also Luke 6:20; Matt. 5:3). In Laodicea there was total ignorance with regard to their condition. Nevertheless, the Lord has good tidings, (now from the glory, whereas in Luke 4 He acted while on earth), even for them, as we will see in Revelation 3:18.
In the Scriptures, beggar and blind are often mentioned in the same clause or sentence. The word used here by the Lord is a derivative of a verb that means to cause or emit smoke, or to wrap in a mist. It has a figurative meaning of: “1) to make proud, puff up with pride, render insolent; to be puffed up with haughtiness or pride; 2) to blind with pride or conceit, to render foolish or stupid; 2a) beclouded, besotted.” (Thayer/BDB). In this context I think of Isaiah 6:9-10 where the Lord says, “Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and
shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” This was the condition of the Pharisees, as the Lord explained several times in the Gospels (e.g. Matt. 15:14; John 9:39-41; cp. 12:35-50). Sad to say a similar condition was found in Laodicea. It is a condition which may affect any Christian, as Peter had already warned: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:9). However, the Lord came into this world to the end that “blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to them” (ASV Matt. 11:5). In a different context, as we hope to see, this also applies to Laodicea.
This word means, “uncovered, bare, exposed; poorly dressed, in need of clothes; perhaps wearing only an undergarment (as in John 21:7).” What does it mean in the context of the Lord's message to Laodicea? I suggest that the Christians there were not clothed with Christ, as we are supposed to be.
What happened to the young man in Mark 14, who witnessed our Lord being taken captive, speaks of a lack of experience and maturity. He still had to learn identification with the Lord's death.4 However, this fifth accusation of the Lord concerning Laodicea rather speaks of a state of indifference towards Christ, so that practically and morally speaking they were not clothed with Him.
4The word for the linen cloth in Mark 14:51 is the word used for the linen wrappings in which the Lord's body was laid in the grave (Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53).
In contrast to this we read, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ” (Gal 3:27), referring to our position here on earth. Furthermore in Ephesians 1:6 we read that God has accepted us in the Beloved and other passages confirm the idea that God sees us as clothed with Christ. This is the position that every Christian has before God. However, the passage in Revelation 3 has to do with actual practice. Are we practically clothed with Christ?
A. E. Bouter
(To be continued, if the Lord will)
Studies in the book of Revelation (3)
(The Plumstead Conference, April 1995)
Continued from page 238
“... out of (the) tribe of Juda, twelve thousand sealed; out of (the) tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand; out of (the) tribe of Gad, twelve thousand; out of (the) tribe of Aser, twelve thousand; out of (the) tribe of Nepthalim, twelve thousand; out of (the) tribe of Manasseh, twelve thousand; out of (the) tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand; out of (the) tribe of Levi, twelve thousand; out of (the) tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand; out of (the) tribe of Zabulon, twelve thousand; out of (the) tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand; out of (the) tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand sealed” (vs. 5-8).
Almost every part of the heavenly city has the number twelve stamped upon it and this emphasises the fact that it is a heavenly administration. The place of the twelve tribes is going to be the place of rule on earth, the administration among the nations during the kingdom. As we said a little earlier, Israel will be head and the nations will be the tail.
Twelve is usually the number of fulness in God's government as opposed to seven which is the fulness of God's counsels in glory. Here it is not really government which is immediately in view but a testifying remnant to be spared through the tribulation to come. It is precious to God's heart to have those of the remnant for His own.
Should we regard the twelve thousand referred to in each case as a symbolical number or an exact number? To my mind it speaks about the precision of God's election but I would like some help on that.
It would be in keeping with the whole book to accept it as a symbol rather than an actual number. To give a more precise answer to the question I find rather difficult.
A difficulty arises in taking the twelve thousand literally when a comparison is made with Revelation 14.
The question whether it is symbolic or literal does not contradict the fact that there is an election. It will be very important for those of this company to be sure that none will be lost in a time when the power of Satan will be so manifest. They may be horrified by the circumstances they are facing but they are made to realise that they have not to be careful, because God knows them. And this kind of moral teaching has practical consequences for us too, even though it is related to another company. The same basic principles apply to the Christian.
Election is always in relation to persons whereas predestination is in relation to place and blessing.
Election is a secret known to God's family and we get convinced of this fact once we believe. When I was a young man I remember one gentleman told me, “I cannot believe because I am not one of the elect.” However, that was something outside his knowledge. People do not come to Christ because they are not willing to do so. We know there is no unrighteousness with God and that is sufficient.
Is there a special reason for the order in which the tribes are mentioned here? The royal tribe, Judah, is mentioned first. Our Lord arose out of Judah and maybe there is a point there we ought to take account of. Others have a placing which is also significant. Then we might also notice some absences, more than one I think, and some replacements. I wonder if we might dwell on those points with profit.
Judah and Reuben are mentioned in that order rather than the order in which they were born. The reason is found in 1 Chronicles 5 where it says that Reuben sinned against his father and lost his position as the firstborn. “And the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph's” (1 Chron. 5:1b-2). In other words the birthright became Joseph's and the position of Reuben as chief among his brethren passed to Judah of whom came the royal tribe. Obviously those two names are beautiful emblems of the Lord Jesus Himself. The Lord Jesus is the Lion out of the tribe of Judah and He is also the true Joseph.
The tribes of Dan and Ephraim are omitted from this list, although we find Joseph, the father of Ephraim, mentioned in his place. When we look at their history in the Old Testament we find them particularly identified with idolatry. But we also see grace coming in because God is not finished with these two tribes. In Ezekiel 48 when the land is distributed amongst the tribes both Dan and Ephraim are mentioned and remarkably Dan is mentioned first. God has not forgotten them but grace has come in and they have been restored.
It should be borne in mind, however, that although Dan is mentioned first in Ezekiel 48 he is the furthest away from the sanctuary. Judges 18 tells us of the priest taken from Micah's house by the six hundred men of the tribe of Dan. The priest took the ephod and the teraphim and the graven image and went in their midst. In the same chapter we read that “the children of Dan set up the graven image; and Jehonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses; he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan.” Isn't it extraordinary that the grandson of Moses, he and his sons, were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land? When you read further you find the tribe of Dan is associated with the tribe of Ephraim in connection with idolatry, and these two are the tribes omitted in the list in Revelation 7.
When he pronounced his prophecies in Genesis 49 Jacob said, “Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel” (v. 16). I think it is on that account that Dan has a place in Ezekiel 48. But as to his behaviour, “Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.” The first omission is that of Dan and because God wants the fullness of His purpose exemplified here, He replaces the missing name with another one. Joseph is in his place because Joseph had a double portion but we can ask ourselves, why should Manasseh be mentioned and Ephraim missing? I think that explains what has already been said. Ephraim was in a terrible position. It is possible to trace the succession of Ephraim's failures in the book of Judges and all his history is terrible. In Hosea we read that “Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned” (Hosea 7:8). He has the same character as Moab. “Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel” (Jer. 48:11). Of Ephraim it says, “Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not; yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not” (Hosea 7:9). He has no idea of his real moral state which is the worst possible state to be in.
There was also the point between Judges and Hosea when Jeroboam wished to set up an alternative sanctuary to Jerusalem. He made two golden calves and set up one in Dan and the other in Bethel, which is in Ephraim.
Which is the worst idolatry because Bethel means “the house of God.”
It is interesting to notice in connection with Gideon's victory that the men of Ephraim said to Gideon, “Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites?” (Judges 8:1). They were obviously getting rather full of themselves and the trouble that came out subsequently in the division of the nation seems to find its first mention in connection with Gideon in this chapter.
We have to learn from the relative behaviour of Gideon and Jephthah. Gideon was wise enough to calm this situation down. Jephthah was full of pride and produced a division and killed 42,000 people, and for what? For a difficulty in the language. Honestly, are we any better at this moment when we see division all around us? (Judges 11-12:7).
Is there any justification for the thought that the false prophet will arise out of the tribe of Dan? I have seen this in print in the past.
I believe the only basis for such a statement is the absence of any mention of Dan here, and in Genesis 49 where the time of antichrist corresponds to the time of Dan. But it is well beyond the Scripture to say that the antichrist springs from Dan.
I think the idea came from one of the church fathers, Ignatius, who mentioned this based on Genesis 49 and Revelation 7, but we don't find it in the Scripture.
The prophet Hosea said also that “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone” (Hosea 4:17). So actually Dan and Ephraim are together guilty of the sin of idolatry.
Is there a reason why in this chapter Dan and Ephraim are missing and in Deuteronomy 33 Simeon is missing and not these tribes?
Simeon and Levi were guilty of taking the sword against the people in the land who had dishonoured their sister, and they did this without the knowledge of their father who condemned their action very strongly. The result of that sin was judged in the fact that Simeon did not have an inheritance apart from his brethren, but it was joined with Judah's, as is very clear in Joshua. Levi really regained the favour of God by his action at the time of the golden calf in the wilderness (Ex. 32:26-29). The four tribes or four names which speak so wonderfully to us about the Lord Jesus are Judah, Levi, Joseph and Benjamin.
The fact that there are omissions in other lists of the tribes in the Bible indicates all the more strongly that this particular list is a literal listing of the tribes. No one can press the argument that the peculiarities we have been talking about indicate that the list in Revelation is a purely spiritual one. Some cultists assert that it is.
I think that is important because there are some that apply this to themselves saying it's their core group, whether it be Adventist, Pentecostal, Russellite or whatever. Also Protestants generally say “Well, it's just a nice way of describing the church.” That is completely defective for the reasons that have been rightly given already.
I was thinking primarily of the Jehovah's Witnesses who take this as referring to themselves. They have to take it up in a spiritual fashion because to accept the literality of the list would destroy their whole theology!
“After these things I saw, and lo, a great crowd, which no one could number, out of every nation and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palm branches in their hands” (v. 9).
Do you think we can move on to the Gentiles? When you consider the shortness of the time and the great multitude that are the result of the testimony it is obviously the hand of God at work.
The number of the world's population has increased several fold even in the last one hundred and fifty years. It is remarkable how the gospel of the kingdom and the everlasting gospel will be received.
It says out of every nation, tribe, people and tongue, so it will be a world-wide response to the preaching.
I think that most of those here will be from nations which have hardly been exposed to the gospel before. We know that in our countries there is not a hunger and a thirst for the gospel at this moment and the ground is desperately hard. Mention was made earlier of 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 and those who have refused the gospel of the grace of God will have no opportunity to believe the gospel of the kingdom. Acts 28 is so clear: Paul said to the Jews, “you don't want the gospel: then we will go to the nations.” Today so-called Christian countries refuse the gospel of the grace of God: then the gospel of the kingdom will be sent elsewhere. I was only two weeks ago in Thailand where there are millions of people and very few have heard the gospel of grace.
One can see how well capacitated the Jew is even naturally to carry the everlasting gospel. When you link their ability in language with their knowledge of the Scriptures they seem to be ideally suited as tools for this work. They are able to carry the message world-wide when the Spirit of God takes them up.
It says here concerning this Gentile company that they “stood before the throne.” There are diverse opinions about this statement and the question arises, are these saints in heaven or are they on earth? What does the expression, “before the throne” convey? The angels are said to be around the throne, that is, on high, but the context here seems to show that this company is on earth. I suggest that here the expression, “before the throne,” carries with it the idea of acceptance.
I agree. Standing “before the throne” is to be taken morally. In a sense the saints in all dispensations can be said to stand before the throne in that they live constantly in the presence of God and this manifests itself in their thoughts and actions. As Christians we have a position that goes beyond these saints in Revelation, although standing before the throne is cross-dispensational.
Is this not one of the great anticipative visions that are given us in Revelation? Quite often we see the end result before the steps leading up to it are stated. I suggest that in verse 9 we have the end result of the preaching of the everlasting gospel seen in this great crowd that is found standing before the throne. They are clothed with white robes and have palm branches in their hands which plainly indicates not only acceptance but also that they are in the gain of the victory.
In chapters 4 and 5 we see the heavenly saints in heaven forever. Then the seals are broken in heaven by the Lamb who sits on the throne but the results are seen on earth. Here we are brought back to earth with the apostle in order to get the teaching of the Holy Spirit in relation to the earth: “I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth.” We see anticipatively what happens on the earth and I think that, with the exception of the two witnesses of Revelation 11 who will be called up to heaven, all the saints in this period remain on earth. Ezekiel makes it clear that the temple will be rebuilt, and God will be there (Jehovah Shammah). Zechariah shows that even the nations will have to come and worship in Jerusalem and if they don't they will have no rain. However, the company here in verse 9 is on earth but is in relation with heaven because heaven contains the throne at that moment.
Is it correct to say that these believers will not worship the Father although they have been born again? They are believers but not Christians and they do not have the privileges of the church as the body of Christ.
When we look carefully we find that they are standing before the throne, they have white robes, and palm branches in their hands. It is evidently a vision of what will be the ultimate result. They say, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” In their response they don't get beyond the words that are here before us. Salvation is there but clearly they are not brought into Christian blessing.
“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” was the gospel preached when the Lord was here. It is rather striking that these Gentiles are said to have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The Lamb seems to be mentioned quite often with regard to this Gentile company and the preaching they listen to obviously includes something about the relevance of the blood of Christ as being the means of redemption.
Whichever family we consider, whether it be the assembly or whether it be the remnant, blessing is all on the basis of the work that has been accomplished on the cross.
The Difference Between Obstinacy And Firmness
To stand by error, and the truth refuse;
To close the eyes against unwelcome light;
The crooked paths, through prejudice, to choose;
For one's own will, and thoughts, and ways to fight;
To fear to have the sleeping conscience stirred,
By letting in truth's quick and searching ray;
When ignorance to knowledge is preferred,
And dull obscurity to heavenly day:
By marks like these is stubborness descried,
Offspring of foolish selfishness and pride.
To stand by truth, to suffer loss and pain
Rather than swerve from duty's sacred way;
To count reproach an honour; suffering gain, —
Endured, because we will God's will obey;
Ne'er to abate one jot of what is right,
Though crowds deride or flatter, smile or frown;
To brave the dungeon, rack, or tyrant's might;
Or, harder still, refuse a proffered crown:
This is true FIRMNESS, such as Heaven approves,
The noble steadfastness our Father loves.
J. G. Deck (1807-1884)
News from the Field
Report of the visit of Andrew Poots and Edwin Cross to Bhutan, Nepal and India, November/December 1995
(Continued from page 256)
Our programme for India lay before us. Calcutta with its teeming millions came first. Here the monsoon was still bringing heavy rain and we wondered whether we could make it by car to the meeting. This is located in a village on the edge of the city. We arrived there and spoke about the literature work which is undertaken in Bengali. In the meeting there is a convert from Bangladesh who desires to take the truth to his contacts in that country. A letter was shown to us that had been received from 'mother Theresa' expressing thanks for sending her the Good Seed calendar. She expressed real appreciation of its message. He had also received a letter from her previously in which she said that she took the book calendar with her on her journeys and read it every day.
Our days from 19th-30th November were wholly occupied in Andhra Pradesh. First we were in Nellore for a conference where about 250 came together, mostly recent converts from tribal animism. These primitive people have received the Word with gladness and are cleaving to the Lord with singleness of heart. In this district there are 10 assemblies.
My health was affected by contaminated water taken in Siliguri, so I went on to Tenali where we met brother Yohan. His recent heart attacks have taken their toll upon him. It was good to see him again after so long a time. Andrew went to the Tadepalligudem area where there have been meetings since the 1950's. Brother Wilts stayed there some time in those days to assist the testimony in various practical and spiritual matters. The meetings there have seen some spiritual growth. There are 10 localities where brethren meet, in 8 of which there is the breaking of bread. Andrew also reported that he had great joy when the gospel was preached because many responded, some with tears in their eyes.
The Tenali conference brought about 1,400 persons together under the sound of the ministry of the Word. Many came from the surrounding villages, there being some ten meetings in this area, but brethren also came from as far as Kerala and Karanataka States. Some also came from Maharashtra and Gujarat and from Bhutan. The subject of the conference was 1 Corinthians: 1:9 and the 10th and 11th chapters. We trust that the truths of these passages which were laid before the brethren will be taken up in real exercise and maintained in the many gatherings represented. During the last day over a dozen new converts from Hinduism were baptised in a nearby canal.
After this busy time, Andrew and I travelled on to Kurnool for meetings, which were held in the open air under an awning. About 100 were present, including several from different denominations. It was here that we were interviewed by “All India radio.” This gave us the opportunity to give an account of the hope that lies within us. the broadcast was scheduled for 24th December.
I went on ahead to Baganapele to attend an evening meeting of the local assembly. The town lies in a remote guard area, which means that after sunset vehicles are escorted by police on account of the political unrest and banditry. The road took us down a narrow gorge sided by rocks and mountains. This caused me to think of the Lord's story of the merciful Samaritan. I prayed we might not fall among thieves! At our destination I was introduced to the local company of believers which numbered some 100 or more. It was a joy to behold their order. They live in a town with 40,000 Muslims. In that area there are some dozen other assemblies. Before leaving Andhra we had the joy of spending a day in the state capital, Hyderabad. There is a small meeting there comprising about 30 or 40 souls.
The final leg of our visit brought us to Bombay. How glad we were to be there, to spend time with the brethren and to participate in the meetings in English. We could rest and we are immensely thankful to the Lord for the great care lavished upon us. While there we could speak together about the great literature needs in India and beyond. We had a good impression of the labours of brother Ronny Fernandes. Also visiting Bombay were brothers from Patna and Baroda, Nepal and Bhutan who are engaged in spreading the printed testimony in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarathi and Nepali. On the Lord's day afternoon I had the joy of baptising a young sister in the Ocean. She is very keen to go on for the Lord, in spite of domestic opposition. She is an avid reader of the books of Hamilton Smith.
In the evening we went to the Tamil speaking meeting in Bombay. It is located in a slum area. We left the busy main road, turned down a narrow alleyway between some shops, and went through a labyrinth of alleys, past an open sewer and scurrying rats. The tiny meeting room is up a flight of stairs. Here about 30 or 40, including a dozen children, came together for the ministry of the Word. We were also joined in this upper room by a very active mouse! The corrugated iron walls were hung with Trinitarian Bible Society Scripture texts in English, also A. E. Booth's chart “from eternity to eternity” hung on a wall. We were translated into the Hindi and Tamil languages. There is also a Telegu meeting in Bombay, but lack of time prevented us from visiting the brethren there.
On the whole we were greatly encouraged by our visit to the sub-continent. The numbers in fellowship have increased greatly. When I was last in India there were perhaps only 15 meetings in practical fellowship, where saints gather on the ground of the one body, but now there are over 80 such assemblies. The literature work, especially in the north, is expanding and having a good effect. Literature is being prepared in 13 Indian vernaculars. There are now assemblies in neighbouring countries and there is the prospect of the work spreading still further. A good number of gifted men have also been added to the numbers who can instruct the humble country folk in the truths of Christianity.
There are many problems and responsible brethren will always find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. There are so many astonishingly poor people who suffer immensely under a grinding poverty. There are many orphans and undernourished, neglected children. The iniquitous caste system still exerts its pressure, even influencing believers in marriage choices. The unchristian dowry system, whereby a father must pay his future son in law to take his daughter in marriage, still persists. The ignorance of many means that diseases such as polio and leprosy, besides almost every other kind of tropical disease, are found untreated among the saints. The problems of India are exacerbated by poor medical resources, lack of hygiene and sanitation. There are beggars everywhere, and even little children are sent out at all hours of the day and night to beg.
What must be done to help? Are brethren to become a development agency? These areas are really the responsibility of government and our involvement in them brings a diversion of energy as well as all the dangers that go along with the supply of material things. The brethren need our prayers. The literature work is a front line ministry which needs to be further encouraged and augmented. The preaching of the gospel and the ministry of edification also needs to be promoted in the various localities. Small regional conferences will probably be more useful in this respect than the larger ones. It may also facilitate the spread of the testimony if an English language conference could be held. This would bring about economies of time, save us from being mistranslated (which occurred sometimes and perhaps too often) and give us the opportunity of going deeper into the truth with those able to teach others.
We thank God for the privilege He granted us to behold this corner of Lord's work and trust that this brief report will stimulate further prayer in regard to the immense field that stretches out before us in Asia.
E. N. C.