Scripture Notes

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I.

Hebrews 12:22, 23.

The perplexity of the ordinary reader of this passage is caused by the confusion of the punctuation. The various clauses are plainly marked in the original; and they should run as follows: "Unto Mount Sion; and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; and to an innumerable company of angels, the general assembly; and to the 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 the sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." It will thus be observed that the words, "The general assembly," belong not to the church, as in our Bibles, but to the innumerable company of angels. It is these that constitute, as has been well said, the universal gathering of the invisible world (see, for example, Rev. 5:11), for they belong to heaven, not through grace, as in the case of the church of the firstborn, which "are written in heaven," but through creation, although this might be said, in another way, to be also of grace. And yet, and this is the marvel of grace, the church of the firstborn, brought into association with Christ, and sharing with Him all that He will inherit, in virtue of redemption, will eternally occupy a place above that of angels, in nearness to, and intimacy with Him who loved the church and gave Himself for it. But the question is asked, Why is God here introduced as "the Judge of all"? If the character of the whole scene is apprehended, the answer will be indicated. What, then, the apostle here presents is the complete order of millennial blessing in its several parts, not as yet realized, but as already embraced by faith. This is seen from the first words of this scripture "Ye are come unto Mount Sion." Now Sion is on earth, and represents sovereign and royal grace, grace established in the king when all else had failed (see 1 Chron. xxi), but only to be fully exemplified hereafter in Him who is both the root and the offspring of David. And because Mount Sion is royal grace, it is brought in here in contrast with Sinai. Next, we have the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, which will not be completed until the Lord's return, and which will not be displayed in the glory of God until His appearing. Then after the general assembly of angels, and the church of the firstborn, both being in heaven, "God the Judge of all" follows. It must again be recalled that what we have here is the millennial scene of blessing; for it is in connection with this that God is introduced as the Judge of all, as looking down upon earth, then to be under the sway of the true King, and ordering all according to the revelation of Himself in relation to the kingdom. The object, indeed, of the King, who will reign in righteousness, is to make good in government, all that God is, "for He cometh to judge the earth: He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with His truth" (Psalm 96:13). We understand from this, the introduction, in the next place, of "the spirits of just men made perfect," for they will have a special interest in the glories of that day (see Matt. 8:11); and finally, we are reminded that all the blessing of that time, as it has been secured through the blood of the new covenant, will be administered through Jesus as its Mediator (Compare Hebrews 9:15).

II.

Romans 4:13.

In the exact words given in this scripture there is no promise recorded, in the Old Testament, that Abraham should be "the heir of the world." But this is undoubtedly the sense and meaning of "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 22:18), for we are taught authoritatively, in Galatians 3:16, that "thy seed" signified Christ. The promise then looks onward to that future time when Christ will exercise His sovereignty over all the kingdoms of this world, and when "He shall reign for ever and ever." (See Revelation 11:15.) If any difficulty is felt in that the promise was made to Abraham that he should inherit this dominion, it will be removed by the first verse of the gospel of Matthew, where we read that "Jesus Christ" was "the son of David, the son of Abraham." It is another instance of the fact that Christ is everywhere before the mind of the Spirit; and that He therefore is the key for the interpretation of Scripture (See also Heb. 1:2.)

III.

Revelation 12:5.

"Her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne." The question raised is, whether this refers to Christ alone, or whether the Church is included. So far as the words go, the "man child" must indicate Christ, inasmuch as it is said that He "was to rule all nations with a rod of iron," but there are other considerations to be taken into account. The symbolic woman, in verse 1, "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars," is Israel clothed, according to the purpose of God, with supreme authority, "invested with the glory of perfect administration in man, and all the original reflected glory of this under the old covenant, under her feet." But all this could only be realized in Christ as the Messiah; and hence Satan, as the enemy of God and man, sought to destroy Him as soon as He was born into this world; and finally succeeded in uniting the chosen nation with the Gentile power in His rejection. This of necessity, all the while however according to God's eternal counsels, postponed the establishment of the kingdom, and consequently the child (Christ) was caught up unto God and to His throne - that throne which will be the source of His power in the kingdom. The very next verse (v. 6) shows that the time here introduced - the last half of Daniel's seventieth week - is subsequent to the "rapture" of the saints, as described in 1 Thess. 4. In order therefore to comprehend the events of Rev. 12, the Church must be included in the Child who was caught up unto God, and to His throne. The remarks of another may open this out more fully: "Satan, as the open, infidel enemy of God and God's power in Christ, sought to devour the Child as soon as born, who was to have the rule of the earth from God. But the child, Christ, and the assembly with Christ, is caught away to God and His throne - does not receive the power yet, but is placed in the very source of it, from which it flows. It is not the rapture as regards joy; for it goes back to Christ Himself, but the placing Him, and the assembly in and with Him, in the seat from which power flows for the establishment of the kingdom. . . . The assembly, or heavenly saints (as Christ, note!) go up to heaven to be out of the way. The Jews, or earthly ones, are protected by providential care upon earth."