The King Enters Jerusalem - When the crowds cheered the Savior as he entered the Holy City the disciples perhaps thought the kingdom of heaven was near. By the Sweat of Your Brow - The text describes the penalty which God inflicted on a rebellious Adam when he and his wife were expelled from Eden. Carpenter - Jesus’ ministry lasted for only three-and-a-half years. What did he do for the first thirty? Epiphany Shining - The years from 1775-1799 constituted a period of revolution: the American War of Independence (1775-1783), followed by the decade of the French Revolution (1789-1799) and on into the social and economic disruptions of the 1800s, many of which were influenced by the Industrial Revolution. Resurrection - Christ’s death is at the heart of the Gospel message, and the means whereby we are justified by faith. But had Christ died and not been raised, there could be no salvation at all. The Coming World Krisis - There is no soul to live on after death, either in heaven or in a torture of hell. The Golden Wedge of Ophir - Like riches, another great desire, common to all mankind, has been for lasting life and health. The Man for All Seasons - At Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the disciples perhaps imagined that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Under the Harrow - An exegesis of 2 Sam. 12: 29, 31 and 1 Chron. 20: 3. And the Word Was Made Flesh - The Word who was “made flesh” is denoted in the Greek text as Logos, the one who spoke and acted for God, as though God himself. “If you had been here”: A study in John 11: 1-44 - Jesus tarried in Bethabara two additional days before going to the aid of Lazarus, who had now died. The Permission of Evil - The best explanation for suffering. Sovereignty (Part 1) - A study on Judges 21: 25. Sovereignty (Part 2) - A study on Judges 21: 25. STUDIES IN THE PSALMS - Psalm 21 - Psalm 123
q&a Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” 1 Tim. 2:5,6 “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus . . . .” Could Man have been brought about by Evolution? Isa. 45:7 “I form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” What is a covenant? Why is Israel important to the world? Was Paul one of the twelve apostles? Does 1 Sam. 8:4-7 show that monarchy as a form of governance is disapproved by God?
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him - 1 Cor. 2:9, NIV
an assortment of long- and short-form articles
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The King Enters Jerusalem - When the crowds cheered the Savior as he entered the Holy City the disciples perhaps thought the kingdom of heaven was near. By the Sweat of Your Brow - The text describes the penalty which God inflicted on a rebellious Adam when he and his wife were expelled from Eden. Carpenter - Jesus’ ministry lasted for only three-and-a-half years. What did he do for the first thirty? Epiphany Shining - The years from 1775-1799 constituted a period of revolution: the American War of Independence (1775- 1783), followed by the decade of the French Revolution (1789- 1799) and on into the social and economic disruptions of the 1800s, many of which were influenced by the Industrial Revolution. Resurrection - Christ’s death is at the heart of the Gospel message, and the means whereby we are justified by faith. But had Christ died and not been raised, there could be no salvation at all. The Coming World Krisis - There is no soul to live on after death, either in heaven or in a torture of hell. The Golden Wedge of Ophir - Like riches, another great desire, common to all mankind, has been for lasting life and health. The Man for All Seasons - At Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the disciples perhaps imagined that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Under the Harrow - An exegesis of 2 Sam. 12: 29, 31 and 1 Chron. 20: 3. And the Word Was Made Flesh - The Word who was “made flesh” is denoted in the Greek text as Logos, the one who spoke and acted for God, as though God himself. “If you had been here”: A study in John 11: 1-44 - Jesus tarried in Bethabara two additional days before going to the aid of Lazarus, who had now died. The Permission of Evil - The best explanation for suffering. Sovereignty (Part 1) - A study on Judges 21: 25. Sovereignty (Part 2) - A study on Judges 21: 25. STUDIES IN THE PSALMS - Psalm 21 - Psalm 123
links . . . our sister site - ukbiblestudents.uk unaffiliated Bible Students sites - USA bibletruthexaminer.com biblestandard.com biblestudentarchives.com chicagobible.org Britain lhmm.co.uk Poland badaczebiblii.pl [Bydgoszcz congregation] zborbielawa.pl [Bielawa congregation]
q&a Proverbs 22:6  “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” 1 Tim. 2:5,6 “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus . . . .” Could Man have been brought about by Evolution? Isa. 45:7 “I form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” What is a covenant? Why is Israel important to the world? Was Paul one of the twelve apostles? Does 1 Sam. 8:4-7 show that monarchy as a form of governance is disapproved by God?
April 2017. No copyrights asserted.
a miscellany of long and short articles
BY THE SWEAT OF YOUR BROW All Scripture references are to the New International Version, unless stated otherwise. Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. – Genesis 3: 17-19 – __________________________________________________________________________________ IN HIS FIRST speech in the House of Commons as Prime Minister, May 13, 1940, Winston Churchill promised the British people “blood, toil, tears and sweat” in the war against Germany. The phrase has since entered the language and is quoted often. In addition to conjuring up memories of the extraordinary efforts exerted by the nation on the battlefield and the home front, the words are reminiscent of the forecast of general human experience found in the book of Genesis. The text describes the penalty which God inflicted on a rebellious Adam when he and his wife were expelled from Eden. The composition of the soil outside the garden apparently resisted easy cultivation. “It will produce thorns and thistles” – shorthand for the work involved in tilling the land and removing stubborn and unwanted growth. “Cursed is the ground because of you” carries more than one meaning. First, the implication that Adam was to blame for the imposition of the Curse and its consequences. The cursing of the ground would be the most obvious, for Adam and his wife had lived in a region of the earth where drudgery was unknown. Second, the cursing of the ground, and its resulting complications, would be to his detriment, making life harder, wearing him out and eventually killing him. Third, the lessons learned by Adam and his descendants under such a life-and-energy-sapping regime would be to their eternal benefit. The aptly-named “permission of evil” under which mankind has labored for thousands of years, has taught them lessons which will at length inform their understanding of sin versus righteousness when Christʼs kingdom is set up on earth and the curse is rolled back. This beneficial use of the expression “for your sake” is illustrated by the following texts: Gen. 12: 10-16; 18: 26; 26: 24; 1 Chron. 17: 19. Man A Copy of the Creator God made Man – the species, male and female – in His “image and likeness.” The term suggests inherited traits, and also implies that Man was a semblance of the divine on earth, with free moral agency and rulership (sway) over the earth (Gen. 1: 26, 27; compare 5: 3: “Adam had a son in his own likeness, in his own image . . .”). Adam – and Eve after him – were created perfect, morally and biologically. Being perfect – their genes coded for life, not death – they could have gone on forever. Once they chose to disobey God, the process was disrupted, and they passed the defect on to all their offspring, along with an ever-shortening life span. In the Genesis narrative Adam is the one on whom the Curse is pronounced, because he bears the principal responsibility for the defection. From now on he would have to slog his way through a difficult existence, cultivating the ground to feed himself and his family, wearing himself out and dying from the exertion. We can only dimly comprehend the regrets and anxieties which plagued him. The statement in Gen. 3: 18 that “you will eat the plants of the field,” has sufficient latitude for us to conjecture what manʼs intended diet might have been had he remained perfect. Regardless, the curse of dying and death was passed on through the DNA to the entire human race. The ages-long struggle for the basic necessities of life – food, comfort, shelter and happiness – proves this is so. In her translation, At the Start: Genesis Made New (Doubleday; 1993), Mary Phil Korsak renders Gen. 3: 19, “soil you are and to the soil you shall return.” This is tantamount to saying that Adam was condemned to dig his own grave. ____________________________________ Man . . . who trusted God was love indeed And love Creationʼs final law – Though Nature, red in tooth and claw With ravine, shrieked against his creed. – Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92) – Forfeiting his perfect life in paradise, Adam emerged into a landscape of perspiration, and all aspects of life have been thorny and thistley ever since. Man formed in the image of God was reduced to competing with the animals for food and battling the vagaries of climate and weather. Quite a come-down for the fresh-faced, wholesome being of whom Hebrews 2 remarks: 6 . . . [God] made him a little lower than the angels; 7 [God] crowned him with glory and honor 8 and put everything under his feet. In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. [Emphasis added.] Now, after thousands of years of decline and much diminished, Man must appear from the heavenly perspective a rather pathetic figure, far removed from the glory of his creation. At his fall, life became complicated at many levels, not least in an incessant daily struggle for the basic requirements of habitation, health and security of the person. This state of affairs has been ameliorated in modern times – at least for certain swathes of the worldʼs population – through advances in hygiene, education and technology. But the elimination of death itself remains an impossible goal. The Calvinistic doctrine of “total depravity” is largely correct in asserting that there is no aspect of the human condition left undamaged by the Curse of sin and imperfection. Which is to say, we are unable to recommend ourselves to God or win salvation on our own merit. Even our free will is impinged on by the perverse tendencies of the fallen nature, scuttling oneʼs best intentions. As St. Paul puts it – “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Rom. 7: 18). Nonetheless, varying degrees of nobility, integrity, compassion, common sense, logic, etc., remain, so that the human condition is not one of total despair. This measure of optimism is what we would expect from a God whose chief interest is not in obliterating the race, but in saving it, albeit through a tough type of love, necessary to the end in view. ____________________________________ Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it Christopher Morley (1890-1957) The effects of the Adamic Curse are wide-ranging, penetrating every aspect of personal life – our bodies, minds, and even the environment in which we live. To the careless observer, this sends false cues as to the original intention, spawning distrust and contempt for the Creator, as if He could be so narrowly weighed and judged. It is not possible to arrive at unadulterated truth in any field, secular or religious. Believers and non-believers alike will only ever arrive at an approximation of it, like a Moses viewing the Promised Land from afar but forbidden to set foot in it. Most people, under the effects of the Curse, veer off into shades of religious indifference, confusion or agnosticism. Some take refuge in atheism, which offers freedom from the need to acknowledge a Divine Mind. The materialistic complexion of Science is not surprising, considering that some of the religious explanations on offer have proved to be untenable or unsatisfactory to practical minds. Intelligent people seek rational and testable explanations for the way things are and will naturally pursue other avenues than those dependent on faith. Unfortunately, most scientists deny there is a Maker, and since they are wedded to faulty assumptions about origins, they tend to overlook the obvious. No longer “thinking Godʼs thoughts after him” (Kepler), they have substituted their own ideas. Nonetheless, Godʼs truth, like rain, falls on both “the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5: 45), and they will arrive at the right conclusions eventually, but by a circuitous route. The atheistic perspective has cascaded into all disciplines and most scientists and researchers now adopt as fact the notion of undirected human evolution. Because it assumes very long ages for the development and progression of life in general, such a view crashes head on with the Bible – on the origin of humankind, the length of time humanity has existed, and the ultimate goal  of civilization. Sunshine On the Horizon Faith is not an easy quality to sustain, and even those who do believe are often plagued with doubts. This, too, is an effect of the Curse; for Godʼs loving purposes are obscured by clouds of ignorance and misunderstanding. In addition, faith is often attached to the wrong object. Religion which does not have Jesus at its center worships a falsehood and can never grasp the full implication of Manʼs fall and his alienation from God or the permission of suffering and evil. Everyone has need of a Redeemer, who is Christ alone. But in this matter consensus is hard to achieve. The thorns and thistles of doubt and ambiguity, and the hard graft needed to root up prejudice against “religion,” deters many from making the effort. Belief in Christ is the only prescribed way to salvation. However, not everyone is able to exercise a saving faith under present conditions, the push and pull of other attractions and forces being too strong, disillusion too deep. For such people – the majority – their opportunity for salvation must wait until Christʼs return and the establishment of His kingdom on earth, when faith will give way to sight and all questions will be answered. Using the figure of a mountain to represent this kingdom, Isaiah 25: 7 tells us that On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations: . . . The word “sheet” is from the Hebrew word for molten, a term also used in connection with the golden calf-image of Ex. 32: 4. More or less impenetrable, this figurative cover has overshadowed humanity, filtering out the light of truth. In that day of worldwide deliverance, not only will errors and misunderstandings be resolved, but the human family will come to know that their experiences with sin and suffering have brought them everlasting benefits, and they will rejoice to see a bright future opening up. Verse 8 continues: He will swallow up death for ever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. ____________ February 2014.
BY THE SWEAT OF YOUR BROW All Scripture references are to the New International Version, unless stated otherwise. Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. – Genesis 3: 17-19 – ____________________ IN HIS FIRST speech in the House of Commons as Prime Minister, May 13, 1940, Winston Churchill promised the British people “blood, toil, tears and sweat” in the war against Germany. The phrase has since entered the language and is quoted often. In addition to conjuring up memories of the extraordinary efforts exerted by the nation on the battlefield and the home front, the words are reminiscent of the forecast of general human experience found in the book of Genesis. The text describes the penalty which God inflicted on a rebellious Adam when he and his wife were expelled from Eden. The composition of the soil outside the garden apparently resisted easy cultivation. “It will produce thorns and thistles” – shorthand for the work involved in tilling the land and removing stubborn and unwanted growth. “Cursed is the ground because of you” carries more than one meaning. First, the implication that Adam was to blame for the imposition of the Curse and its consequences. The cursing of the ground would be the most obvious, for Adam and his wife had lived in a region of the earth where drudgery was unknown. Second, the cursing of the ground, and its resulting complications, would be to his detriment, making life harder, wearing him out and eventually killing him. Third, the lessons learned by Adam and his descendants under such a life-and-energy-sapping regime would be to their eternal benefit. The aptly-named “permission of evil” under which mankind has labored for thousands of years, has taught them lessons which will at length inform their understanding of sin versus righteousness when Christʼs kingdom is set up on earth and the curse is rolled back. This beneficial use of the expression “for your sake” is illustrated by the following texts: Gen. 12: 10-16; 18: 26; 26: 24; 1  Chron. 17: 19. Man A Copy of the Creator God made Man – the species, male and female – in His “image and likeness.” The term suggests inherited traits, and also implies that Man was a semblance of the divine on earth, with free moral agency and rulership (sway) over the earth (Gen. 1: 26, 27; compare 5: 3: “Adam had a son in his own likeness, in his own image . . .”). Adam – and Eve after him – were created perfect, morally and biologically. Being perfect – their genes coded for life, not death – they could have gone on forever. Once they chose to disobey God, the process was disrupted, and they passed the defect on to all their offspring, along with an ever-shortening life span. In the Genesis narrative Adam is the one on whom the Curse is pronounced, because he bears the principal responsibility for the defection. From now on he would have to slog his way through a difficult existence, cultivating the ground to feed himself and his family, wearing himself out and dying from the exertion. We can only dimly comprehend the regrets and anxieties which plagued him. The statement in Gen. 3: 18 that “you will eat the plants of the field,” has sufficient latitude for us to conjecture what manʼs intended diet might have been had he remained perfect. Regardless, the curse of dying and death was passed on through the DNA to the entire human race. The ages-long struggle for the basic necessities of life – food, comfort, shelter and happiness – proves this is so. In her translation, At the Start: Genesis Made New (Doubleday; 1993), Mary Phil Korsak renders Gen. 3: 19, “soil you are and to the soil you shall return.” This is tantamount to saying that Adam was condemned to dig his own grave. ____________________________________ Man . . . who trusted God was love indeed And love Creationʼs final law – Though Nature, red in tooth and claw With ravine, shrieked against his creed. – Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92) – Forfeiting his perfect life in paradise, Adam emerged into a landscape of perspiration, and all aspects of life have been thorny and thistley ever since. Man formed in the image of God was reduced to competing with the animals for food and battling the vagaries of climate and weather. Quite a come-down for the fresh- faced, wholesome being of whom Hebrews 2 remarks: 6 . . . [God] made him a little lower than the angels; 7 [God] crowned him with glory and honor 8 and put everything under his feet. In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. [Emphasis added.] Now, after thousands of years of decline and much diminished, Man must appear from the heavenly perspective a rather pathetic figure, far removed from the glory of his creation. At his fall, life became complicated at many levels, not least in an incessant daily struggle for the basic requirements of habitation, health and security of the person. This state of affairs has been ameliorated in modern times – at least for certain swathes of the worldʼs population – through advances in hygiene, education and technology. But the elimination of death itself remains an impossible goal. The Calvinistic doctrine of “total depravity” is largely correct in asserting that there is no aspect of the human condition left undamaged by the Curse of sin and imperfection. Which is to say, we are unable to recommend ourselves to God or win salvation on our own merit. Even our free will is impinged on by the perverse tendencies of the fallen nature, scuttling oneʼs best intentions. As St. Paul puts it – “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Rom. 7: 18). Nonetheless, varying degrees of nobility, integrity, compassion, common sense, logic, etc., remain, so that the human condition is not one of total despair. This measure of optimism is what we would expect from a God whose chief interest is not in obliterating the race, but in saving it, albeit through a tough type of love, necessary to the end in view. ____________________________________ Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it Christopher Morley (1890-1957) The effects of the Adamic Curse are wide-ranging, penetrating every aspect of personal life – our bodies, minds, and even the environment in which we live. To the careless observer, this sends false cues as to the original intention, spawning distrust and contempt for the Creator, as if He could be so narrowly weighed and judged. It is not possible to arrive at unadulterated truth in any field, secular or religious. Believers and non-believers alike will only ever arrive at an approximation of it, like a Moses viewing the Promised Land from afar but forbidden to set foot in it. Most people, under the effects of the Curse, veer off into shades of religious indifference, confusion or agnosticism. Some take refuge in atheism, which offers freedom from the need to acknowledge a Divine Mind. The materialistic complexion of Science is not surprising, considering that some of the religious explanations on offer have proved to be untenable or unsatisfactory to practical minds. Intelligent people seek rational and testable explanations for the way things are and will naturally pursue other avenues than those dependent on faith. Unfortunately, most scientists deny there is a Maker, and since they are wedded to faulty assumptions about origins, they tend to overlook the obvious. No longer “thinking Godʼs thoughts after him” (Kepler), they have substituted their own ideas. Nonetheless, Godʼs truth, like rain, falls on both “the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5: 45), and they will arrive at the right conclusions eventually, but by a circuitous route. The atheistic perspective has cascaded into all disciplines and most scientists and researchers now adopt as fact the notion of undirected human evolution. Because it assumes very long ages for the development and progression of life in general, such a view crashes head on with the Bible – on the origin of humankind, the length of time humanity has existed, and the ultimate goal of civilization. Sunshine On the Horizon Faith is not an easy quality to sustain, and even those who do believe are often plagued with doubts. This, too, is an effect of the Curse; for Godʼs loving purposes are obscured by clouds of ignorance and misunderstanding. In addition, faith is often attached to the wrong object. Religion which does not have Jesus at its center worships a falsehood and can never grasp the full implication of Manʼs fall and his alienation from God or the permission of suffering and evil. Everyone has need of a Redeemer, who is Christ alone. But in this matter consensus is hard to achieve. The thorns and thistles of doubt and ambiguity, and the hard graft needed to root up prejudice against “religion,” deters many from making the effort. Belief in Christ is the only prescribed way to salvation. However, not everyone is able to exercise a saving faith under present conditions, the push and pull of other attractions and forces being too strong, disillusion too deep. For such people – the majority – their opportunity for salvation must wait until Christʼs return and the establishment of His kingdom on earth, when faith will give way to sight and all questions will be answered. Using the figure of a mountain to represent this kingdom, Isaiah 25: 7 tells us that On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations: . . . The word “sheet” is from the Hebrew word for molten, a term also used in connection with the golden calf-image of Ex. 32: 4. More or less impenetrable, this figurative cover has overshadowed humanity, filtering out the light of truth. In that day of worldwide deliverance, not only will errors and misunderstandings be resolved, but the human family will come to know that their experiences with sin and suffering have brought them everlasting benefits, and they will rejoice to see a bright future opening up. Verse 8 continues: He will swallow up death for ever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. ____________ February 2014.
CARPENTER By W.R. All Scripture references are to the New International Version, unless noted otherwise. Where the Scripture is not paraphrased or quoted, click on the citation to read it. FIGURES OF SPEECH used by Jesus in His parables frequently drew upon the everyday language of His hearers. A variety of topics framed lessons about the kingdom of God. Some examples: Agriculture – Matthew 13: 3-9; Financial Management – Matthew 18: 23-35; Fishing – Matthew 13: 47, 48; Housekeeping – Luke 15: 8-10; Weddings – Luke 14: 7-11; Work – Matthew 20: 1-16. According to tradition, Jesus practiced the carpenter’s trade before He began His religious ministry at the age of thirty. This article questions whether this occupation exerted a lasting influence on Him, and if references to the craft appear in His parables and sermons. Two texts in the New Testament bear directly on the subject. They document the amazed reaction of the local congregation to the power and content of Jesus’ early appearance and His preaching at the synagogue in Nazareth, His home town, to which He had just returned. The wording of each is similar, with one principle difference, shown in italics. Matthew 13: 55: Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Mark 6: 3: Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us? And they took offense at him. These are the only biblical texts in which Jesus is explicitly linked to the profession of carpenter, and they are composed from the chatter of the Nazareth Jews. Jesus Himself did not make the claim. In Matthew 13: 55, the description of Jesus as the son of a carpenter (generally, an artificer), serves to show that both father and son were presumed to share the same occupation. Mark 6: 3, in identifying Jesus Himself as a carpenter, conveys the same information. There is no inherent contradiction in the overheard testimony. Either the book of Matthew or Mark – or both – report what some in the crowd actually said, but at the very least they both record what was meant. Neither Matthew nor Mark pronounce a theological statement on the true sonship of Jesus; they simply report the remarks of the group, who understood Joseph to be the father. It was customary in Hebrew culture to identify the son with his father. The prefix ben denoted “son of,” as in Ben-hadad (son of Hadad), or Benjamin (son of the right hand). Carpentry In Jesus’ Day The profession of carpenter had a long and honorable history in Israel, reaching back to the construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness. In Jesus’ time, the carpenter carried out tasks similar to those of his predecessors, functions not unlike those of our own times. His tools of the trade would also have been similar, allowing for the periodic advances in technology. In Joseph’s toolbox and on his workbench we would have found the standard implements: hammer, adze (a small ax with a curved blade), compass, plane, saw, chisel, awl, drill (turned by hand with rope-bow), and a miscellany of other pieces. Like his peers, Joseph would have made (and repaired) furniture for the household, such as chairs, tables, footstools, bed frames. In conjunction with builders he would have made to specifications, windows, doors, staircases, banisters in new construction or in renovations, and so on. For the fishermen, oars, masts for their sails, and perhaps he effected repairs of the decking and hulls of small vessels. (There was then no large-scale shipbuilding in that part of Israel.) For the farmers he would probably have manufactured ploughs, threshing instruments, carts and yokes for oxen. In times of war he may have been called upon to make chariots. An expert carpenter may have produced intricate carved pieces, not only in wood, but also in bone and ivory. Jesus may have apprenticed to Joseph and honed His skills to this degree. Jesus As Carpenter Of Jesus’ early life the Scriptures tell us next to nothing. His preaching ministry lasted for only three-and-a-half years. What did He do for the first thirty? Did those three decades prepare Him for His ministry of reconciliation? On the reasonable assumption that God does not waste time or effort, one may conclude that the first thirty years of Jesus’ life were packed with lessons necessary to the success of His later sacrificial service. Jesus would not simply have whiled away the years prior to His bap- tism at Jordan. He would have lived an exemplary life, one which brought blessings to those around Him, and one which prepared Him for His anointing at Jordan and death on the cross. During His interrogation He tells Pilate, “for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world,” a clear statement that His entire life – from birth to death – was pursued with pur- pose (John 18: 37). But the Scriptures offer few clues about Jesus the carpenter – how long He might have en- gaged in the profession, how expert He was at it, what artifacts He produced. Possibly Joseph died early on and Jesus was obliged to maintain the business to support His mother. Jesus had brothers, and perhaps they helped in the enterprise themselves or pursued other forms of employment to sustain the family income. The Bible does say that Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men” (Luke 2: 52). From this statement we may conclude, without the need to speculate, that Jesus the boy, Jesus the adolescent, and Jesus the adult was liked and respected by the Nazareth community, of which He was a valued member. Jesus As A Growing Man It’s not likely that Jesus obtained His knowledge without effort. The success of His mission on earth depended on His being an “overcomer,” an achievement which required determination and devotion to the will of God in the face of opposing forces. During His formative years He no doubt encountered opportunities to resist temptation and to build up the integrity of His character. Hebrews 5: 8 establishes the general principle that Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered; His character and His understanding were improved upon by experience. He was prepared by suffering to be a merciful and faithful high priest to all who would believe (Hebrews 2: 17, 18). This is, perhaps, one aspect of Jesus’ humanity that cannot be adequately addressed by the doctrine of the Trinity, a construct which imposes limitations on the practical interpretations presented here. In evading the force of the argument that Jesus was capable of improvement – and therefore not omniscient nor omnipotent as the Second Person of the Godhead – the doctrine builds a wall of separation between Jesus the “100 per cent Man” and Jesus the “100 per cent God.” This contortion dictates that for the first thirty years of His life Jesus maintain willing ignorance of the fact that He was God. At the age of twelve He called Jehovah “father” (Luke 2: 48, 49). This was not an immature point of view, for He did likewise even after His anointing by the holy spirit at Jordan, when He became the Christ and the heavens were opened to Him. See, for instance, Matthew 11: 25; John 1: 14; 6: 39, etc., etc. Jesus As Scholar Such a comprehensive knowledge as Jesus possessed would not have been conferred on Him by a miracle. Commensurate with His growing intellect, He probably improved on His education by taking advantage of opportunities available beyond the immediate family sphere. He might have been largely self-taught, but it is not likely that He learned everything in total isolation. Perhaps He pored over the Books of Moses and the Law at the synagogues in Nazareth and more distant towns, taking advantage of the scroll libraries available. Perhaps He reinforced His knowledge through conversation and debate, as He had in the incident at the Temple, when He was just a lad. Perhaps Jesus spent hours alone in contemplation and prayer. Perhaps His love of solitude – retiring from the crowd – was cultivated during long sessions of deep study, and hikes into the surrounding hills (Matthew 14: 13; Luke 5: 15, 16). Jesus would have read and spoken the common languages of the day – Aramaic (Syriac), Hebrew, Greek and Latin, the language of Rome. [Indirect corroboration is shown in the fact that the sign tacked to the cross appeared in three languages, meant to be understood by all who passed by (John 19: 19, 20).] Jesus would have acquired an expert understanding in the history and culture of His own people, as well as in Greek and Roman culture and in topical matters. And as with His progress in education, He would have become more skilled in carpentry the longer He kept at it. Jesus As Teacher By the age of thirty, Jesus was no doubt educated to the level necessary in matters secular and religious, to a degree sufficient to understand the world in which He would have to operate as the Messiah, and in the syntax, structure, interconnectedness, prophecies and principles of the Hebrew Scriptures. We see the results of His studiousness when at the beginning of His ministry He was confronted by the devil in the wilderness. The thrust and parry of Jesus’ arguments on that occasion evince His depth of understanding of the Word of God and His infallible memory (Matthew 4: 1-11). As already noted, Jesus culled analogies from nature and society, but there appear to be no references specific to the carpenter’s trade. Perhaps this fact suggests that He spent less time in the profession than is generally assumed. Could it be that the terms of art were too obscure for the average person to grasp? This explanation seems unlikely. The average man about the house would, of necessity, have been reasonably pro- ficient in household repair, and would surely have known the various tradesmen, including the carpenter, especially in such a relatively small geographic area. Citizens and tradesmen of all sorts – smiths, weavers, potters, masons – would have rubbed up against one another in the course of a normal week, in the town, the countryside, on the beach, and at the synagogue on the Sabbath. No doubt the local joiner would have been called out to fix a broken railing or to add a chair at the Smith’s and the Brown’s. Could it be that the carpen- ter’s craft was not one which lent itself to useful allegory? Again, this seems unlikely, consid- ering that the principal raw material of it is the tree, which features in many biblical analogies. Writers of both the Old and the New Testament referred to the trades, such as pottery (Jeremiah 18: 1-4; Romans 9: 21) or weaving and spinning (Job 7: 6; Luke 12: 27). Jesus As Liberator Possibly one of the most eloquent and appropriate figures of speech coming from the lips of Jesus the Carpenter is that found in Matthew 11: 28-30 (comments added): Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke [Gk., zygos, singular] upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy [whole- some, purposeful] and my burden is light. [comp. 2 Corinthians 4: 17]   The yoke, a neck-harness made by a carpenter and fitted to beast or slave, signified the enslavement of the animal or man that wore it. In these verses, Jesus invites the soul weighed down by the onerous obligation of the Mosaic Law to set it aside and to take on the benign restraint of the Master’s will. As Jesus had obligated Himself to do the will of God – being always subject to the Father – so He exhorted His disciples to follow the example. For the Jews who attended to these words and believed in Christ, and for countless numbers of Gentile believers since, those yearning for freedom from the condemnation of sin, this blessed servitude has guided them to contentment and the freedom of new life. The yoke is our general acceptance of the Lord’s will; the burden is the details the Lord wills us to do, even unto suffering for His will. In taking the yoke in the spirit of love we find its weight is indeed light; . . . Love lightens every burden, eases every task, gladdens every sorrow, sanctifies every pain and surrounds with a halo of bliss even the smallest tasks and the most commonplace things.[fn] _______________ NOTES [fn] Paul S. L. Johnson, Daily Heavenly Manna and Devotional Service (Philadelphia; Paul S. L. Johnson; 1937), entry for Feb. 17. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Books F.W. Farrar, The Life Of Christ (London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.; 1881). The New Bible Dictionary (J.D. Douglas, ed.) (London: Inter-Varsity Press; 1970). Paul S.L. Johnson, Christ-Spirit-Covenants (Philadelphia: Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement; 1950). The Treasury of Bible Knowledge (J. Ayre, ed.) (London: Longmans, Green, and Co.; 1868). The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary (Merrill C. Tenney, ed.) (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House; 1967). Periodicals The Bible Standard and Herald of Christ’s Kingdom (Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement) The Present Truth and Herald of Christ’s Epiphany (Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement) _______________ April 2012
CARPENTER By W.R. All Scripture references are to the New International Version, unless noted otherwise. Where the Scripture is not paraphrased or quoted, click on the citation to read it. FIGURES OF SPEECH used by Jesus in His parables fre- quently drew upon the everyday language of His hearers. A variety of topics framed lessons about the kingdom of God. Some examples: Agriculture – Matthew 13: 3-9;  Financial Management – Matthew 18: 23-35; Fishing – Matthew 13: 47, 48; Housekeeping – Luke 15: 8-10; Weddings – Luke 14: 7-11; Work – Matthew 20: 1-16. According to tradition, Jesus practiced the carpenter’s trade before He began His religious ministry at the age of thirty. This article questions whether this occupation ex- erted a lasting influence on Him, and if references to the craft appear in His parables and sermons. Two texts in the New Testament bear directly on the subject. They docu- ment the amazed reaction of the local congregation to the power and content of Jesus’ early appearance and His preaching at the synagogue in Nazareth, His home town, to which He had just returned. The wording of each is sim- ilar, with one principle difference, shown in italics. Matthew 13: 55: Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Mark 6: 3: Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us? And they took offense at him. These are the only biblical texts in which Jesus is explicitly linked to the profession of carpenter, and they are com- posed from the chatter of the Nazareth Jews. Jesus Himself did not make the claim. In Matthew 13: 55, the description of Jesus as the son of a carpenter (generally, an artificer), serves to show that both father and son were presumed to share the same occupation. Mark 6: 3, in identifying Jesus Himself as a carpenter, conveys the same information. There is no inherent contradiction in the overheard testimony. Either the book of Matthew or Mark – or both – report what some in the crowd actually said, but at the very least they both record what was meant. Neither Matthew nor Mark pronounce a theological statement on the true son- ship of Jesus; they simply report the remarks of the group, who understood Joseph to be the father. It was customary in Hebrew culture to identify the son with his father. The prefix ben denoted “son of,” as in Ben-hadad (son of Hadad), or Benjamin (son of the right hand). Carpentry In Jesus’ Day The profession of carpenter had a long and honorable his- tory in Israel, reaching back to the construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness. In Jesus’ time, the carpenter carried out tasks similar to those of his predecessors, functions not unlike those of our own times. His tools of the trade would also have been similar, allowing for the periodic advances in technology. In Joseph’s toolbox and on his workbench we would have found the standard implements: hammer, adze (a small ax with a curved blade), compass, plane, saw, chisel, awl, drill (turned by hand with rope-bow), and a miscellany of other pieces. Like his peers, Joseph would have made (and repaired) furniture for the household, such as chairs, tables, foot- stools, bed frames. In conjunction with builders he would have made to specifications, windows, doors, staircases, banisters in new construction or in renovations, and so on. For the fishermen, oars, masts for their sails, and perhaps he effected repairs of the decking and hulls of small ves- sels. (There was then no large-scale shipbuilding in that part of Israel.) For the farmers he would probably have manufactured ploughs, threshing instruments, carts and yokes for oxen. In times of war he may have been called upon to make chariots. An expert carpenter may have produced intricate carved pieces, not only in wood, but also in bone and ivory. Jesus may have apprenticed to Joseph and honed His skills to this degree. Jesus As Carpenter Of Jesus’ early life the Scriptures tell us next to nothing. His preaching ministry lasted for only three-and-a-half years. What did He do for the first thirty? Did those three decades prepare Him for His ministry of reconciliation? On the reasonable assumption that God does not waste time or effort, one may conclude that the first thirty years of Jesus’ life were packed with lessons necessary to the success of His later sacrificial service. Jesus would not simply have whiled away the years prior to His baptism at Jordan. He would have lived an exemplary life, one which brought blessings to those around Him, and one which prepared Him for His anointing at Jordan and death on the cross. During His interrogation He tells Pilate, “for this rea- son I was born, and for this I came into the world,” a clear statement that His entire life – from birth to death – was pursued with purpose (John 18: 37). But the Scriptures offer few clues about Jesus the carpen- ter – how long He might have engaged in the profession, how expert He was at it, what artifacts He produced. Possibly Joseph died early on and Jesus was obliged to maintain the business to support His mother. Jesus had brothers, and perhaps they helped in the enterprise them- selves or pursued other forms of employment to sustain the family income. The Bible does say that Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men” (Luke 2: 52). From this statement we may conclude, with- out the need to speculate, that Jesus the boy, Jesus the adolescent, and Jesus the adult was liked and respected by the Nazareth community, of which He was a valued member. Jesus As A Growing Man It’s not likely that Jesus obtained His knowledge without effort. The success of His mission on earth depended on His being an “overcomer,” an achievement which required determination and devotion to the will of God in the face of opposing forces. During His formative years He no doubt encountered opportunities to resist temptation and to build up the integrity of His character. Hebrews 5: 8 es- tablishes the general principle that Jesus learned obedi- ence by the things He suffered; His character and His understanding were improved upon by experience. He was prepared by suffering to be a merciful and faithful high priest to all who would believe (Hebrews 2: 17, 18). This is, perhaps, one aspect of Jesus’ humanity that can- not be adequately addressed by the doctrine of the Trinity, a construct which imposes limitations on the practical in- terpretations presented here. In evading the force of the argument that Jesus was capable of improvement – and  therefore not omniscient nor omnipotent as the Second Person of the Godhead – the doctrine builds a wall of sep- aration between Jesus the “100 per cent Man” and Jesus the “100 per cent God.” This contortion dictates that for the first thirty years of His life Jesus maintain willing igno- rance of the fact that He was God. At the age of twelve He called Jehovah “father” (Luke 2: 48, 49). This was not an immature point of view, for He did likewise even after His anointing by the holy spirit at Jordan, when He became the Christ and the heavens were opened to Him. See, for instance, Matthew 11: 25; John 1: 14; 6: 39, etc., etc. Jesus As Scholar Such a comprehensive knowledge as Jesus possessed would not have been conferred on Him by a miracle. Commensurate with His growing intellect, He probably im- proved on His education by taking advantage of opportuni- ties available beyond the immediate family sphere. He might have been largely self-taught, but it is not likely that He learned everything in total isolation. Perhaps He pored over the Books of Moses and the Law at the syna- gogues in Nazareth and more distant towns, taking advan- tage of the scroll libraries available. Perhaps He reinforced His knowledge through conversation and debate, as He had in the incident at the Temple, when He was just a lad. Perhaps Jesus spent hours alone in contemplation and prayer. Perhaps His love of solitude – retiring from the crowd – was cultivated during long sessions of deep study, and hikes into the surrounding hills (Matthew 14: 13; Luke 5: 15, 16). Jesus would have read and spoken the com- mon languages of the day – Aramaic (Syriac), Hebrew, Greek and Latin, the language of Rome. [Indirect corrobo- ration is shown in the fact that the sign tacked to the cross appeared in three languages, meant to be under- stood by all who passed by (John 19: 19, 20).] Jesus would have acquired an expert understanding in the his- tory and culture of His own people, as well as in Greek and Roman culture and in topical matters. And as with His progress in education, He would have become more skilled in carpentry the longer He kept at it. Jesus As Teacher By the age of thirty, Jesus was no doubt educated to the level necessary in matters secular and religious, to a de- gree sufficient to understand the world in which He would have to operate as the Messiah, and in the syntax, struc- ture, interconnectedness, prophecies and principles of the Hebrew Scriptures. We see the results of His studiousness when at the beginning of His ministry He was confronted by the devil in the wilderness. The thrust and parry of Jesus’ arguments on that occasion evince His depth of un- derstanding of the Word of God and His infallible memory (Matthew 4: 1-11). As already noted, Jesus culled analogies from nature and society, but there appear to be no references specific to the carpenter’s trade. Perhaps this fact suggests that He spent less time in the profession than is generally as- sumed. Could it be that the terms of art were too obscure for the average person to grasp? This explanation seems unlikely. The average man about the house would, of ne- cessity, have been reasonably proficient in household re- pair, and would surely have known the various tradesmen, including the carpenter, especially in such a relatively small geographic area. Citizens and tradesmen of all sorts – smiths, weavers, potters, masons – would have rubbed up against one an- other in the course of a normal week, in the town, the countryside, on the beach, and at the synagogue on the Sabbath. No doubt the local joiner would have been called out to fix a broken railing or to add a chair at the Smith’s and the Brown’s. Could it be that the carpenter’s craft was not one which lent itself to useful allegory? Again, this seems unlikely, considering that the principal raw material of it is the tree, which features in many biblical analogies. Writers of both the Old and the New Testament referred to the trades, such as pottery (Jeremiah 18: 1-4; Romans 9: 21) or weaving and spinning (Job 7: 6; Luke 12: 27). Jesus As Liberator Possibly one of the most eloquent and appropriate figures of speech coming from the lips of Jesus the Carpenter is that found in Matthew 11: 28-30 (comments added): Come to me, all you who are weary and bur- dened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke [Gk., zygos, singular] upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy [wholesome, purposeful] and my burden is light. [comp. 2 Corinthians 4: 17]   The yoke, a neck-harness made by a carpenter and fitted to beast or slave, signified the enslavement of the animal or man that wore it. In these verses, Jesus invites the soul weighed down by the onerous obligation of the Mosaic Law to set it aside and to take on the benign restraint of the Master’s will. As Jesus had obligated Himself to do the will of God – being always subject to the Father – so He ex- horted His disciples to follow the example. For the Jews who attended to these words and believed in Christ, and for countless numbers of Gentile believers since, those yearning for freedom from the condemnation of sin, this blessed servitude has guided them to contentment and the freedom of new life. The yoke is our general acceptance of the Lord’s will; the burden is the details the Lord wills us to do, even unto suffering for His will. In taking the yoke in the spirit of love we find its weight is indeed light; . . . Love lightens every burden, eases every task, gladdens every sorrow, sanctifies every pain and sur- rounds with a halo of bliss even the smallest tasks and the most commonplace things.[fn] _______________ NOTES [fn] Paul S. L. Johnson, Daily Heavenly Manna and Devotional Service  (Philadelphia; Paul S. L. Johnson; 1937), entry for Feb. 17. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Books F.W. Farrar, The Life Of Christ (London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.; 1881). The New Bible Dictionary (J.D. Douglas, ed.) (London: Inter-Varsity Press; 1970). Paul S.L. Johnson, Christ-Spirit-Covenants (Philadelphia: Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement; 1950). The Treasury of Bible Knowledge (J. Ayre, ed.) (London: Longmans, Green, and Co.; 1868). The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary (Merrill C. Tenney, ed.) (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House; 1967). Periodicals The Bible Standard and Herald of Christ’s Kingdom (Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement) The Present Truth and Herald of Christ’s Epiphany (Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement) _______________ April 2012
EPIPHANY SHINING Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. — Titus 2: 13 — The geo-political events of the twenty-first century have their roots in the developments of the late 1700s, the beginning of the era styled by dispensationalists as the ‘Time of the End’, based on a reading of Dan. 12: 1, 8, 9: 1 And at that time shall Michael [Christ, ed.] stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a great time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time . . . . 8 And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? 9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. During this long period Jehovah has been shaping world events in such a way as will lead to social collapse in a time of great tribulation, referred to in Dan. 12: 1 and reiterated in similar language by Jesus in Matt. 24: 21. The years from 1775-1799 constituted a period of revolution: the American War of Independence (1775- 1783), followed by the decade of the French Revolution (1789-1799) and on into the social and economic disruptions of the 1800s, many of which were influenced by the Industrial Revolution. The breaking away by the United States stimulated Britain to fortify its empire elsewhere and to consolidate its control in India, rising to economic and military dominance. Napoleon Bonaparte stabilized France after its harsh and divisive revolution and proved an important actor in the dilution of papal authority, which had been a hin- drance to liberal progress. Napoleon’s wide-ranging campaigns against the British and her allies had the unintended effect of cementing Britain’s dominance in international affairs and its influence in laying the foundations of the modern world. Breaking New Ground The onset of the Industrial Revolution in Britain brought a new style of prosperity, rising levels of education and technical skills, and a growing urbanization stimulated by the railway, which in turn encouraged a mas- sive migration of workers from field to town. The resulting dislocation and shift from an agrarian order to one run by and in the service of the machine was on a scale unlike anything seen before. Mushroom-like, wealthy industrialists and paupers sprang from the same economic soil, defining the social landscape which Charles Dickens would later immortalize in his novels. The humane response to the distresses aggravated by these phenomena led to religious and secular move- ments to tackle the problems of overcrowding, pauperism, prison reform, drunkenness, ill-health, and so on. By the end of the 1800s there was a general expectation that a utopia was at hand, a new order in which the peoples of the world would live in harmony, their routines simplified by the new labor-saving de- vices and the thousand-and-one innovations in science, engineering, philosophy, chemistry, medicine and hygiene. The expectation was frustrated, shattered by the onset of the Great War in August 1914. The aftermath of the war precipitated what we might term the second phase in the development of the modern world. The economic, social and political upheavals, resulting in the re-drawing of national boundaries and the dissolu- tion of established sovereignties and other forms of government, spurred on the frenetic 1920s and 1930s and the eventual outbreak of a larger ‘total’ war in 1939. The ending of the Second World War in 1945 in- troduced what might be termed the third phase in the development of the contemporary world, signaled by the use and deployment of the atomic bomb. The decades which followed have been overshadowed by the lingering specter of this weapon, and the fears of humanity have coagulated around it. The Epiphany The word “appearing” in the Scripture text at the head of this article (Titus 2: 13) is the translation of the Greek word, epiphaneia, the root meaning of which is that of “bright light.” The context is the return of Christ, and denotes the introductory work of His Second Advent work in bringing under intense scrutiny things formerly hidden, on all levels – the exposure of persons, principles and activities, secular and reli- gious. The term may be applied both to a period of time and a process. The process would not be possible without the preceding events of history sketched above. Although God’s Plan moves irresistibly forward to a happy outcome, many of its features are unpleasant and will become severe in the short term. We are living in the period of the Epiphany. The general effects of this sustained bright shining will become increasingly radical, overturning long-held opinions, valued traditions, and uncovering falsehood, corrup- tion and casting doubt on all forms of authority. In short, it is an iconoclastic, destructive and scorching il- lumination, and will lead to the collapse of the prevailing order. The searchlight of the Epiphany catches everything in its beam. The penetration of the media in all its forms is such that no question is un-asked, and no subject is too impertinent, tawdry, vulgar, obscene or offensive to be broached, dissected and deconstructed. To what extent the unraveling of society will run before God says “enough” it is not possible to know. There is a natural tendency to exaggerate the present severity of immediate troubles, especially if we ourselves are weighted down with personal problems, or have a fretful spirit. But since we cannot know how much worse things will become, we cannot measure how much more time will elapse before Christ’s kingdom as- sumes control. Without a thorough understanding of the past, and being unable to predict the future, we are left uncertain as to where we are on the stream of time. It is true that Jesus says ‘‘Surely I come quickly’ (Rev. 22: 20). But this does not mean soon, for we do not know the starting point from which to measure “soon.” More accurately, it implies without unnecessary delay or undue haste. Christ’s kingdom will not come until  wickedness has run its course. This might take two or three decades. The observant student of prophecy will watch and wait patiently. ____________ March 2015
EPIPHANY SHINING Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. — Titus 2: 13 — The geo-political events of the twenty-first century have their roots in the developments of the late 1700s, the beginning of the era styled by dispensationalists as the ‘Time of the End’, based on a reading of Dan. 12: 1, 8, 9: 1 And at that time shall Michael [Christ, ed.] stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a great time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time . . . . 8 And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? 9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. During this long period Jehovah has been shaping world events in such a way as will lead to social collapse in a time of great tribula- tion, referred to in Dan. 12: 1 and reiterated in similar language by Jesus in Matt. 24: 21. The years from 1775-1799 constituted a period of revolution: the American War of Independence (1775-1783), followed by the decade of the French Revolution (1789-1799) and on into the social and economic disruptions of the 1800s, many of which were influ- enced by the Industrial Revolution. The breaking away by the United States stimulated Britain to fortify its empire elsewhere and to consolidate its control in India, rising to economic and military dominance. Napoleon Bonaparte stabilized France after its harsh and divisive revolution and proved an important actor in the dilu- tion of papal authority, which had been a hindrance to liberal progress. Napoleon’s wide-ranging campaigns against the British and her allies had the unintended effect of cementing Britain’s dominance in international affairs and its influence in laying the foundations of the modern world. Breaking New Ground The onset of the Industrial Revolution in Britain brought a new style of prosperity, rising levels of education and technical skills, and a growing urbanization stimulated by the railway, which in turn en- couraged a massive migration of workers from field to town. The resulting dislocation and shift from an agrarian order to one run by and in the service of the machine was on a scale unlike anything seen before. Mushroom-like, wealthy industrialists and paupers sprang from the same economic soil, defining the social landscape which Charles Dickens would later immortalize in his novels. The humane response to the distresses aggravated by these phe- nomena led to religious and secular movements to tackle the prob- lems of overcrowding, pauperism, prison reform, drunkenness, ill- health, and so on. By the end of the 1800s there was a general expectation that a utopia was at hand, a new order in which the peoples of the world would live in harmony, their routines simplified by the new labor-saving devices and the thousand-and-one innova- tions in science, engineering, philosophy, chemistry, medicine and hygiene. The expectation was frustrated, shattered by the onset of the Great War in August 1914. The aftermath of the war precipitated what we might term the second phase in the development of the modern world. The economic, social and political upheavals, resulting in the re-drawing of national boundaries and the dissolution of established sovereignties and other forms of government, spurred on the fre- netic 1920s and 1930s and the eventual outbreak of a larger ‘total’ war in 1939. The ending of the Second World War in 1945 intro- duced what might be termed the third phase in the development of the contemporary world, signaled by the use and deployment of the atomic bomb. The decades which followed have been overshad- owed by the lingering specter of this weapon, and the fears of hu- manity have coagulated around it. The Epiphany The word “appearing” in the Scripture text at the head of this arti- cle (Titus 2: 13) is the translation of the Greek word, epiphaneia, the root meaning of which is that of “bright light.” The context is the return of Christ, and denotes the introductory work of His Second Advent work in bringing under intense scrutiny things for- merly hidden, on all levels – the exposure of persons, principles  and activities, secular and religious. The term may be applied both to a period of time and a process. The process would not be possi- ble without the preceding events of history sketched above. Although God’s Plan moves irresistibly forward to a happy outcome, many of its features are unpleasant and will become severe in the short term. We are living in the period of the Epiphany. The general effects of this sustained bright shining will become increasingly radical, over- turning long-held opinions, valued traditions, and uncovering false- hood, corruption and casting doubt on all forms of authority. In short, it is an iconoclastic, destructive and scorching illumination, and will lead to the collapse of the prevailing order. The searchlight of the Epiphany catches everything in its beam. The penetration of the media in all its forms is such that no question is un-asked, and no subject is too impertinent, tawdry, vulgar, obscene or offensive to be broached, dissected and deconstructed. To what extent the unraveling of society will run before God says “enough” it is not possible to know. There is a natural tendency to exaggerate the present severity of immediate troubles, especially if we ourselves are weighted down with personal problems, or have a fretful spirit. But since we cannot know how much worse things will become, we cannot measure how much more time will elapse be- fore Christ’s kingdom assumes control. Without a thorough understanding of the past, and being unable to predict the future, we are left uncertain as to where we are on the stream of time. It is true that Jesus says ‘‘Surely I come quickly’ (Rev. 22: 20). But this does not mean soon, for we do not know the starting point from which to measure “soon.” More accurately, it im- plies without unnecessary delay or undue haste. Christ’s kingdom will not come until wickedness has run its course. This might take two or three decades. The observant student of prophecy will watch and wait patiently. ____________ March 2015
RESURRECTION By C.C. All Scripture citations are to the King James (Authorised) Version. “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” — 1 Corinthians 15: 14 — _______ THESE WORDS OF the Apostle Paul appear in his masterly treatise in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians on the subject of resurrection. In verses 1-4 he offers a synopsis of the Gospel message, highlighting its key tenets in vs. 3 and 4: 1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. It is true that the death of Christ – His ransom-sacrifice – is the heart of the Gospel message and the means whereby we are justified by faith. But had Christ died and not been raised from the dead, there could be no salvation at all. The Apostle underscores this fact in v. 19, when he asserts that the Christian life of self-abnegation and sacrifice would be meaningless without belief in the resurrection of Christ (em- phasis added): If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. Thus we should regard the death and resurrection of Christ as two linked and inseparable events. The fact that Jesus was raised from death by God, was the proof that He had offered an acceptable and worthy sac- rifice on the cross. Elect and Non-Elect In v. 29 we encounter an exquisite example of heavenly-minded altruism which sees beyond one’s present existence to an as-yet unrealized future: Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? This is one of the most puzzling texts of the New Testament, one usually overlooked in any discussion of the resurrection which fails to take the entire world into account. It can only be understood in the light of a salvation process which includes both the elect and non-elect. It does not refer to the practice of someone being christened or immersed in water in the name of a de- ceased person, a so-called “proxy” baptism. Rather, it refers to the living, sacrificial service of the members of the elect Church, the footstep followers of Christ during the Gospel Age. Their “baptism” was an immer- sion of their own will, a subjugation of Self in the Christian ministry, unto death. In 2 Cor. 1: 5 we read of the Church: For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. [em- phasis added] As Jesus warned the two disciples who expected an easy promotion into His favor, “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with . . .” (Matt. 20: 23; see also Luke 12: 50). Jesus had already been baptized in the ordinary sense at Jordan, so it is evident that in this instance He means something other than water baptism. Indeed, this particular baptism, in which He laid down His life, would be continuous, unbroken, ending only at His death. This baptism ‘for the dead’ referred to by Paul is an oblique reference to the sufferings of the members of the Church – the elect, those selected and called by God to suffer for Christ and who would live and reign with Him in heaven. In their sufferings they are forged to be like Christ, faithful and merciful ministers, equipped to rule with Him in the Millennial kingdom, offering life to the world of mankind – the non-elect. In short, they suffer so that they may bring blessings to others, as did the Savior. A Heavenly And An Earthly Resurrection The doctrine of resurrection, as expounded by Paul throughout the chapter, is the answer to the question of why Christ died. For He died that all mankind might have a practical opportunity to regain perfect and eter- nal life. His own victory over death both demonstrates and guarantees this outcome. In 1 Cor. 15: 22, 23, the two general classes of those to be resurrected are in view (emphasis added): 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: [the] Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. The first reference to “Christ” in v. 23 cannot refer to Christ Jesus, for He had already been resurrected when Paul wrote these words; nor was He subject to the Adamic death. Rather, it is a reference to the Church, His Body – the Christ. The word “coming” at the end of v. 23 is a translation of the Greek word parousia, which has the meaning of a manifested presence – that is, the time when Christ returns in His second advent and makes Himself known to the world. There are, then, at least two phases of salvation: one of Election and one of Free Grace. Each phase has its own historic period of operation, and each requires a resurrection to complete it. One is heavenly, the other is earth-bound. As far as humanity is concerned, their resurrection begins the process of their recovery from sin and imperfection, to righteousness and eternal life on earth. However, success for each individual is not guaranteed, but will depend on acquiescence to the godly government under Christ which will then prevail, a full recognition of Christ as Savior and King, and sincere obedience to the reasonable laws then in effect. This period is also referred to in Acts 3: 21 as “the times of restitution,” meaning the restoration of Eden-like conditions. To believe that Christ died implies that we also believe that we, too, will rise from death. For the resurrec- tion is made certain by the certainty of Christ’s death. The two go together. The one is the proof of the other. For [Christ] must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. – 1 Cor. 15: 25, 26 __________________ 2014.
RESURRECTION By C.C. All Scripture citations are to the King James (Authorised) Version. “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” — 1 Corinthians 15: 14 — _______ THESE WORDS OF the Apostle Paul appear in his masterly trea- tise in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians on the subject of resurrection. In verses 1-4 he offers a synopsis of the Gospel message, high- lighting its key tenets in vs. 3 and 4: 1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have re- ceived, and wherein ye stand; 2 by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scrip- tures; 4 and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. It is true that the death of Christ – His ransom-sacrifice – is the heart of the Gospel message and the means whereby we are justi- fied by faith. But had Christ died and not been raised from the dead, there could be no salvation at all. The Apostle underscores this fact in v. 19, when he asserts that the Christian life of self-ab- negation and sacrifice would be meaningless without belief in the resurrection of Christ (emphasis added): If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. Thus we should regard the death and resurrection of Christ as two linked and inseparable events. The fact that Jesus was raised from death by God, was the proof that He had offered an acceptable and worthy sacrifice on the cross. Elect and Non-Elect In v. 29 we encounter an exquisite example of heavenly-minded al- truism which sees beyond one’s present existence to an as-yet un- realized future: Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? This is one of the most puzzling texts of the New Testament, one usually overlooked in any discussion of the resurrection which fails to take the entire world into account. It can only be understood in the light of a salvation process which includes both the elect and non-elect. It does not refer to the practice of someone being christened or im- mersed in water in the name of a deceased person, a so-called “proxy” baptism. Rather, it refers to the living, sacrificial service of the members of the elect Church, the footstep followers of Christ during the Gospel Age. Their “baptism” was an immersion of their own will, a subjugation of Self in the Christian ministry, unto death. In 2 Cor. 1: 5 we read of the Church: For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. [emphasis added] As Jesus warned the two disciples who expected an easy promotion into His favor, “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with . . .” (Matt. 20: 23; see also Luke 12: 50). Jesus had already been baptized in the ordinary sense at Jordan, so it is evident that in this instance He means something other than water baptism. Indeed, this particular bap- tism, in which He laid down His life, would be continuous, unbro- ken, ending only at His death. This baptism ‘for the dead’ referred to by Paul is an oblique refer- ence to the sufferings of the members of the Church – the elect, those selected and called by God to suffer for Christ and who would live and reign with Him in heaven. In their sufferings they are forged to be like Christ, faithful and merciful ministers, equipped to rule with Him in the Millennial kingdom, offering life to the world of mankind – the non-elect. In short, they suffer so that they may bring blessings to others, as did the Savior. A Heavenly And An Earthly Resurrection The doctrine of resurrection, as expounded by Paul throughout the chapter, is the answer to the question of why Christ died. For He died that all mankind might have a practical opportunity to regain perfect and eternal life. His own victory over death both demon- strates and guarantees this outcome. In 1 Cor. 15: 22, 23, the two general classes of those to be resurrected are in view (emphasis added): 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: [the] Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. The first reference to “Christ” in v. 23 cannot refer to Christ Jesus, for He had already been resurrected when Paul wrote these words; nor was He subject to the Adamic death. Rather, it is a reference to the Church, His Body – the Christ. The word “coming” at the end of v. 23 is a translation of the Greek word parousia, which has the meaning of a manifested presence – that is, the time when Christ returns in His second advent and makes Himself known to the world. There are, then, at least two phases of salvation: one of Election  and one of Free Grace. Each phase has its own historic period of operation, and each requires a resurrection to complete it. One is heavenly, the other is earth-bound. As far as humanity is con- cerned, their resurrection begins the process of their recovery from sin and imperfection, to righteousness and eternal life on earth. However, success for each individual is not guaranteed, but will de- pend on acquiescence to the godly government under Christ which will then prevail, a full recognition of Christ as Savior and King, and sincere obedience to the reasonable laws then in effect. This period is also referred to in Acts 3: 21 as “the times of restitution,” mean- ing the restoration of Eden-like conditions. To believe that Christ died implies that we also believe that we, too, will rise from death. For the resurrection is made certain by the certainty of Christ’s death. The two go together. The one is the proof of the other. For [Christ] must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. – 1 Cor. 15: 25, 26 __________________ 2014.
THE COMING WORLD KRISIS By L. Narrows All Scripture references are to the New International Version, unless stated otherwise. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned [judged].” — John 5: 28, 29 — ___________________ THE DOCTRINE of the resurrection is a prominent theme of the Bible, principally in the New Testament. See Job 19: 26 — “. . . in my flesh [person] I will see God”; Isa. 26: 19 — “. . . your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy . . . the earth will give birth to her dead”; John 11: 23-25 — “Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies . . .’ ; Phil. 2: 10 — “. . . at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth . . . .” Dying Is Not Living! It seems obvious to say that when one is dead, one is not alive. Most people are devastated by grief when a beloved family member or friend dies, and feel that they have lost someone forever. At the same time, they draw consolation from the belief that the deceased “lives on” in heaven, based on the idea of an immortal soul ascending to a “better place.” In this view, no one ever really dies. The Bible’s teaching on this point is quite clear: there is no soul to live on after death, either in heaven or in a torture of hell. Life and Immortality Man was created by God a “living soul”; he was not given a soul (Gen. 2: 15). When he ceases to live he ceases to be, and until the resurrection he is out of existence, though held in God’s memory. In 2 Tim. 1: 10 we are told that Christ Jesus brought “life and immortality to light through the gospel,” that is, He made known that which was not known before. The life referred to is abounding, everlasting, perfect life, in contrast to the weak imitation we now have. It is true that Jesus in His earthly ministry raised some people from death, but they eventually died in the normal course of events, because the dying process continued in them. Jesus did not give them the life referred to in 2 Tim. 1: 10, for the promised time of restoration had not yet come. The Savior performed these and other miracles to foreshadow the day of resurrection and the healings to come, when He would return in His Second Advent and establish a kingdom on earth. The Fallacy of Immortality For All Immortality is an eternal existence which is self-sustaining, one independent of outside sources. It is also known as the divine nature, and is awarded to a select few, the Very Elect of the Gospel Age (1 Pet. 1: 3, 4; 2 Pet. 1: 3, 4). Also called in Rev. 2: 10 the “crown of life,” this is the exalted resurrection which Jesus said the Father had promised Him (John 5: 26 [which suggests He did not already have it]). By the power of His own resurrection, Christ Jesus guarantees a resurrection to immortal life for the Very Elect and a resurrection to eternal human life for mankind in general. As the Apostle Paul tells us (1 Cor. 15: 13, 19), “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. . . . If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Preservation Of Identity In The Resurrection: An Analogy In John 5: 28, 29 Jesus refers to those in the grave or tomb — a memorial vault, suggesting a place in which one is remembered not only by family, but remembered also by God. Death destroys the human body, so the promised resurrection on earth must involve an accurate re-creation of the deceased person, with his or her identity or self-awareness intact, the restored body adapted to a familiar, natural habitat. Humanity will remain human, but by degrees the effects of Adam’s curse will be lifted from them, and they will progress towards a perfect physical, mental and moral condition as they learn to conform to the righteous requirements of Christ’s kingdom. Nineteenth-century picture-goers oohed and aahed when the Lumiere Brothers of France first projected moving images on a screen in 1895, and audiences have been captivated ever since. We take such things for granted today; our lives are awash in sound and pictures — at the cinema, on the television, on computer screens and on the ubiquitous hand-held devices. But the early technology was a novelty that provided for Bible Students a useful illustration of how one’s identity is preserved in the resurrection, deriving lessons from the stylus and groove of the wax cylinder and gramophone record, and later on from the magnetic tape recorder. [See endnote] All analogies are imperfect and limp more than a little, and since the Scriptures do not supply detailed information on the mechanics of the resurrection we may not speculate wildly. Nonetheless, in the spirit of such illustrations, we suggest that modern digital technology offers a more useful analogy. Simply put, the computer must convert human language typed on a keyboard into a computer-readable language known as binary, which is a digital code composed of zeros and ones (01). Thus, Jesus Christ  translates into binary code as, 01001010 01100101 01110011 01110101 01110011 00100000 01000011 01101000 01110010 01101001 01110011 01110100. The words Preservation of Identity are expressed in the sequence, 01010000 01110010 01100101 01110011 01100101 01110010 01110110 01100001 01110100 01101001 01101111 01101110 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01001001 01100100 01100101 01101110 01110100 01101001 01110100 01111001. (Note: You can try your own conversions at binarytranslator.com) With a camera and a microphone connected to the computer we can stream high-quality motion pictures of ourselves to another computer across the world in fractions of a second. The signal which contains all this information about us is transmitted from our computer in discrete “packets” of data and re-assembled at the other end, in the receiving computer, enabling someone to see and hear us. The expressions on our face, the tone in our voice — even the patterns on our wallpaper — are all accurately reconstructed in a distant place. We may even choose to store all this data on a digital disc, so that long after we are dead our family and friends can watch us come alive once again in the machine. Continuing with the analogy, we liken our mind or essential personality, with its memories, eccentricities, and so on to the software, the script or program which makes the literal computer do its work. The software corresponds to the DNA coding which dictates our overall makeup. The hardware of the computer — its wires, silicon chips and discs which obey the computer’s instructions — correspond to the nerves, sinews and muscles of our body, all under the control of our mind. So, in some way unknown, the resurrection will restore all our functions, and we will be “re-assembled” with the same personality, character and memory we had before we died. Like the computer transmission of ourselves in picture and sound to another place, the resurrection process will in effect “transfer” the essential “me” from a world of woe and dying — a valley of death — to Christ’s kingdom of eternal life and peace. Of course, this “reconstruction” of oneself on a computer chip cannot compare to the reconstruction of an entire human being, but it shows how science-based technologies can shed light on God’s creative power and details hidden from the view of earlier generations. ___________ All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations will bow down before him . . . Psa. 22: 27 — Krisis At The Bar Of Justice It is essential that one’s memory be reconstructed accurately in the resurrection, or one could not benefit from the experiences of the present life. The whole point of God’s permitting trouble and evil throughout history is to teach humanity about the exceeding sinfulness of sin, preparing the race for the lessons in righteousness which lie ahead. The natural calamities, wars, famines, pestilences, and innumerable tragedies which have afflicted the human family for so long are a result of this permission of evil, and when Christ’s kingdom is in charge there will be no more of these. But it is the redemption of the person which is the principal focus of the Gospel. Without faith in Christ and a thorough reformation of the heart and mind, one cannot have a proper relationship with heaven, and the abolition of death and dying would be only a half-measure. It is at the personal level that the most important changes must take place. Only when it can be said “they will all know [God], from the least of them to the greatest” can humanity receive the full measure of blessings which God has in store (Jer. 31: 34). No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. — 1 Cor. 2: 9 And so one must remember how it was to live in the present world — to recall the choices one made for better or worse, the sins, the mistakes, the yearnings and regrets, and so on. There will be many things to repent of or to make amends for, and this would be impossible without a realistic memory, self-awareness, and a character formed by the trials and tribulations of the present. John 5: 29, quoted at the head of this article, is sometimes translated in such a way as to imply “condemnation” or “damnation,” as if those resurrected are to be summarily castigated and rejected. The operative Greek word krisis can have this meaning, but in John 5: 29 it refers to the learning and corrective process of positive judgment, by which mankind is guided away from unrighteousness and towards life. For the more positive application of krisis, see Matt. 10: 15; 2 Thes. 1: 5. Those who have “done good” refers to those who were faithful believers in the present life and who have demonstrated their sympathy with the cause of Christ, and so have already made considerable progress towards eternal life. Those who have “done evil” refers not to the perversely wicked but to unbelievers in general — almost everyone. The kingdom of Christ is intended especially to help those who are now alienated from God (Isa. 35: 8). God’s attitude towards the human family will not be petty, censorious or vengeful. Christ will officiate as a benign mediator during the long period of resurrection and recovery, with the aim of reconciling God and Man. The process may be likened to a trial in which the court is skewed in favor of the defendant (humanity). It will consist of education in truth and righteousness, followed up with corrections and reprimands as necessary. The ultimate goal is to enlighten all with the knowledge of God’s plan, especially as it centers in Christ Jesus, who will be God’s royal agent over earth in that day. It is God’s intention that all who can be saved, will be saved (1 Tim. 2: 3, 4; 4: 10). The only ones who will not get eternal life will be those who willfully, stubbornly and repeatedly refuse to align themselves with the righteous laws and principles of that Millennial kingdom. After a generous period of time and indulgence, these intractable ones will be destroyed, with no prospect of life on any level. Those who meet such a fate will most likely be a small minority. The outcome of this period of krisis will be righteousness, peace, health and eternal life for all. The human family will have been fully resurrected and reconciled with their heavenly Father, restored to His image and likeness as at the original Creation. Paradise Lost will have been restored and a blissful future secured. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. — Psa. 90: 12 ___________ Note: The best-known treatment of this subject was The Preservation of Identity in the Resurrection, by Dr. John Edgar. A rough scan of this article, along with other Edgar works, in pdf, can be found at the following URL: <http://www.ukbiblestudents.co.uk/John%20Edgar/john%20edgar%20index.htm> _____________ January 2015.
THE COMING WORLD KRISIS By L. Narrows All Scripture references are to the New International Version, unless stated otherwise. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned [judged].” — John 5: 28, 29 — ___________________ THE DOCTRINE of the resurrection is a prominent theme of the Bible, principally in the New Testament. See Job 19: 26 — “. . . in my flesh [person] I will see God”; Isa. 26: 19 — “. . . your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy . . . the earth will give birth to her dead”; John 11: 23-25 — “Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies . . .’ ; Phil. 2: 10 — “. . . at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth . . . .” Dying Is Not Living! It seems obvious to say that when one is dead, one is not alive. Most people are devastated by grief when a beloved family member or friend dies, and feel that they have lost someone forever. At the same time, they draw consolation from the belief that the deceased “lives on” in heaven, based on the idea of an immortal soul ascending to a “better place.” In this view, no one ever really dies. The Bible’s teaching on this point is quite clear: there is no soul to live on after death, either in heaven or in a torture of hell. Life and Immortality Man was created by God a “living soul”; he was not given a soul (Gen. 2: 15). When he ceases to live he ceases to be, and until the resurrection he is out of existence, though held in God’s memory. In 2 Tim. 1: 10 we are told that Christ Jesus brought “life and  immortality to light through the gospel,” that is, He made known that which was not known before. The life referred to is abounding, everlasting, perfect life, in contrast to the weak imitation we now have. It is true that Jesus in His earthly ministry raised some people from death, but they eventually died in the normal course of events, because the dying process continued in them. Jesus did not give them the life referred to in 2 Tim. 1: 10, for the promised time of restoration had not yet come. The Savior performed these and other miracles to foreshadow the day of resurrection and the healings to come, when He would return in His Second Advent and establish a kingdom on earth. The Fallacy of Immortality For All Immortality is an eternal existence which is self-sustaining, one independent of outside sources. It is also known as the divine nature, and is awarded to a select few, the Very Elect of the Gospel Age (1 Pet. 1: 3, 4; 2 Pet. 1: 3, 4). Also called in Rev. 2: 10 the “crown of life,” this is the exalted resurrection which Jesus said the Father had promised Him (John 5: 26 [which suggests He did not already have it]). By the power of His own resurrection, Christ Jesus guarantees a resurrection to immortal life for the Very Elect and a resurrection to eternal human life for mankind in general. As the Apostle Paul tells us (1 Cor. 15: 13, 19), “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. . . . If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Preservation Of Identity In The Resurrection: An Analogy In John 5: 28, 29 Jesus refers to those in the grave or tomb — a memorial vault, suggesting a place in which one is remembered not only by family, but remembered also by God. Death destroys the human body, so the promised resurrection on earth must involve an accurate re-creation of the deceased person, with his or her identity or self-awareness intact, the restored body adapted to a familiar, natural habitat. Humanity will remain human, but by degrees the effects of Adam’s curse will be lifted from them, and they will progress towards a perfect physical, mental and moral condition as they learn to conform to the righteous requirements of Christ’s kingdom. Nineteenth-century picture-goers oohed and aahed when the Lumiere Brothers of France first projected moving images on a screen in 1895, and audiences have been captivated ever since. We take such things for granted today; our lives are awash in sound and pictures — at the cinema, on the television, on computer screens and on the ubiquitous hand-held devices. But the early technology was a novelty that provided for Bible Students a useful illustration of how one’s identity is preserved in the resurrection, deriving lessons from the stylus and groove of the wax cylinder and gramophone record, and later on from the magnetic tape recorder. [See endnote] All analogies are imperfect and limp more than a little, and since the Scriptures do not supply detailed information on the mechanics of the resurrection we may not speculate wildly. Nonetheless, in the spirit of such illustrations, we suggest that modern digital technology offers a more useful analogy. Simply put, the computer must convert human language typed on a keyboard into a computer-readable language known as binary, which is a digital code composed of zeros and ones (01). Thus, Jesus Christ translates into binary code as, 01001010 01100101 01110011 01110101 01110011 00100000 01000011 01101000 01110010 01101001 01110011 01110100. The words Preservation of Identity are expressed in the sequence, 01010000 01110010 01100101 01110011 01100101 01110010 01110110 01100001 01110100 01101001 01101111 01101110 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01001001 01100100 01100101 01101110 01110100 01101001 01110100 01111001. (Note: You can try your own conversions at binarytranslator.com) With a camera and a microphone connected to the computer we can stream high-quality motion pictures of ourselves to another computer across the world in fractions of a second. The signal which contains all this information about us is transmitted from our computer in discrete “packets” of data and re-assembled at the other end, in the receiving computer, enabling someone to see and hear us. The expressions on our face, the tone in our voice — even the patterns on our wallpaper — are all accurately reconstructed in a distant place. We may even choose to store all this data on a digital disc, so that long after we are dead our family and friends can watch us come alive once again in the machine. Continuing with the analogy, we liken our mind or essential personality, with its memories, eccentricities, and so on to the software, the script or program which makes the literal computer do its work. The software corresponds to the DNA coding which dictates our overall makeup. The hardware of the computer — its wires, silicon chips and discs which obey the computer’s instructions — correspond to the nerves, sinews and muscles of our body, all under the control of our mind. So, in some way unknown, the resurrection will restore all our functions, and we will be “re-assembled” with the same personality, character and memory we had before we died. Like the computer transmission of ourselves in picture and sound to another place, the resurrection process will in effect “transfer” the essential “me” from a world of woe and dying — a valley of death — to Christ’s kingdom of eternal life and peace. Of course, this “reconstruction” of oneself on a computer chip cannot compare to the reconstruction of an entire human being, but it shows how science-based technologies can shed light on God’s creative power and details hidden from the view of earlier generations. ___________ All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations will bow down before him . . . Psa. 22: 27 — Krisis At The Bar Of Justice It is essential that one’s memory be reconstructed accurately in the resurrection, or one could not benefit from the experiences of the present life. The whole point of God’s permitting trouble and evil throughout history is to teach humanity about the exceeding sinfulness of sin, preparing the race for the lessons in righteousness which lie ahead. The natural calamities, wars, famines, pestilences, and innumerable tragedies which have afflicted the human family for so long are a result of this permission of evil, and when Christ’s kingdom is in charge there will be no more of these. But it is the redemption of the person which is the principal focus of the Gospel. Without faith in Christ and a thorough reformation of the heart and mind, one cannot have a proper relationship with heaven, and the abolition of death and dying would be only a half- measure. It is at the personal level that the most important changes must take place. Only when it can be said “they will all know [God], from the least of them to the greatest” can humanity receive the full measure of blessings which God has in store (Jer. 31: 34). No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. — 1 Cor. 2: 9 And so one must remember how it was to live in the present world — to recall the choices one made for better or worse, the sins, the mistakes, the yearnings and regrets, and so on. There will be many things to repent of or to make amends for, and this would be impossible without a realistic memory, self-awareness, and a character formed by the trials and tribulations of the present. John 5: 29, quoted at the head of this article, is sometimes translated in such a way as to imply “condemnation” or “damnation,” as if those resurrected are to be summarily castigated and rejected. The operative Greek word krisis can have this meaning, but in John 5: 29 it refers to the learning and corrective process of positive judgment, by which mankind is guided away from unrighteousness and towards life. For the more positive application of krisis, see Matt. 10: 15; 2 Thes. 1: 5. Those who have “done good” refers to those who were faithful believers in the present life and who have demonstrated their sympathy with the cause of Christ, and so have already made considerable progress towards eternal life. Those who have “done evil” refers not to the perversely wicked but to unbelievers in general — almost everyone. The kingdom of Christ is intended especially to help those who are now alienated from God (Isa. 35: 8). God’s attitude towards the human family will not be petty, censorious or vengeful. Christ will officiate as a benign mediator during the long period of resurrection and recovery, with the aim of reconciling God and Man. The process may be likened to a trial in which the court is skewed in favor of the defendant (humanity). It will consist of education in truth and righteousness, followed up with corrections and reprimands as necessary. The ultimate goal is to enlighten all with the knowledge of God’s plan, especially as it centers in Christ Jesus, who will be God’s royal agent over earth in that day. It is God’s intention that all who can be saved, will be saved (1 Tim. 2: 3, 4; 4: 10). The only ones who will not get eternal life will be those who willfully, stubbornly and repeatedly refuse to align themselves with the righteous laws and principles of that Millennial kingdom. After a generous period of time and indulgence, these intractable ones will be destroyed, with no prospect of life on any level. Those who meet such a fate will most likely be a small minority. The outcome of this period of krisis will be righteousness, peace, health and eternal life for all. The human family will have been fully resurrected and reconciled with their heavenly Father, restored to His image and likeness as at the original Creation. Paradise Lost will have been restored and a blissful future secured. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. — Psa. 90: 12 ___________ Note: The best-known treatment of this subject was The Preservation of Identity in the Resurrection, by Dr. John Edgar. A rough scan of this article, along with other Edgar works, in pdf, can be found at the following URL: <http://www.ukbiblestudents.co.uk/John%20Edgar/john%20edgar %20index.htm> _____________ January 2015.
THE GOLDEN WEDGE OF OPHIR By H.W. Roberts Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version unless indicated otherwise. ________________ Isaiah 13: 11-13 11 [I] will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. 12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. 13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. GOLD IS A heavy, yellow, metallic element that occurs in the uncontaminated state in nature. Malleable, ductile, not liable to corrosion, it lends itself to cutting, shaping, and burnishing. It is held precious among all civilized nations, and has been from earliest times. “Gold of Ophir” was apparently a synonym for the finest gold. Gold was stored and traded in wedge-shaped bars or “tongues.” an example of which has been found in the residual mound of the ancient, ruined Canaanite town of Gezer. The theft of such a “wedge” as this, weighing fifty shekels, occasioned Israel’s defeat and the downfall of Achan in Joshua’s first battle against the city of Ai (Josh. 7: 11, 21, 24). The acquisition of gold has always appealed to the worldly-wise, partly for its use in personal adornment and partly as a means of exchange. The Twin Solicitudes of the Fallen Race Like riches, another great desire, common to all mankind, has been for lasting life and health. These two great solicitudes have led even the most intelligent to search for easy answers. They dreamed of a physical substance with magical properties that would enable them both to transmute base metals into gold (the Philosopher’s Stone), and to prolong human life indefinitely (the Elixir of Life). The study of these things, known as “alchemy,” has attracted man from earliest times. Egyptian, Greek, and later Arabic records tell of the practice of alchemy, and it features prominently in the work of some of the deepest thinkers of Mediaeval and early Reformation times. Writings from those periods show that learned men, searching for that elusive Philosopher’s Stone, believed that when reduced to a powder and mixed with molten iron, it had the power to change that base metal into gold. Alternatively, if imbibed with certain other substances this “Elixir of Life” would reward the drinker with eternal life and youth. Countless ingredients and potions were tried and discarded in centuries of such experimentation. Many concoctions were bizarre, and many experiments were foolhardy, but all were fruitless. Rather than promoting life and health, no doubt most of them had the opposite effect! Life, Youth, and Riches — never to want and never to grow old and die — have been desired by all men ever since those perfect gifts, bestowed on humankind by a benevolent Creator in Eden, were lost at the Fall. To those acquainted with God’s plan of the ages it is clear that this search for a panacea for all sickness and want by means of alchemy, is an endeavor to achieve the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom without undergoing its painful but necessary corrective features. “The desire of all nations shall come,” but not by man’s intelligence nor on his terms (Hag. 2: 7). The Great Alchemist Jehovah is the great Alchemist. His skill is shown in His transforming members of the Church, the Body of Christ, from earthly, sinful creatures with corruptible flesh, into heavenly, spiritual beings of the divine nature, immortal and incorruptible (1 Pet. 1: 3, 4, 23). In the divine alchemy, what is God’s symbolic Philosopher’s Stone? How did He concoct His Elixir of Life? Love was the greatest thing. This, together with Faith and Hope, specified in 1 Cor. 13: 13, was stirred up with the Providences of God. As the consecrated drank, it strengthened them in their earthly sacrifice of themselves, enabling them to develop those holy affections and graces of character required by the new spirit nature to which they were begotten by the Word of God (2 Cor. 5: 17). The final act in this transmutation process was the resurrection of each member of the Body of Christ — the Very Elect — to the glory of the divine nature. God’s Alchemy for Mankind But God’s alchemy will go further than this, for in our text we read His promise. “I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.” This indicates another fundamental change, but this time of mankind, without his having to undergo a change from human nature. Since the Fall, when the original divine image and likeness was lost by Adam and Eve, all their descendants have become less like their Creator. And after more than six thousand years of the in-breeding of sin and the intensification of its disastrous consequences, that original resemblance is barely recognizable in even the finest of our race. There is an immense disparity, now, between the estate of fallen man and that of the perfect Adam. Nevertheless God declares that He will make a man (Hebrew, “adam aw-dawm,” the race in general, not a particular man) “more rare than fine gold, and a common man than pure gold of Ophir” (Isa. 13: 12,  Young’s Literal Translation). In other words, He will restore man to that image and likeness of God and His dear Son, a divinely set, universal and eternal standard below which no member of the human race will be permitted to live everlastingly. What is necessary to achieve such a transformation? No less than a complete change of heart. Change must come to that cold, stony and unyielding heart condition, which from the time of Cain’s intransigence has resisted calls to repentance and been largely deaf to the voice of conscience. It must be transformed into a warm, loving, and sympathetic condition that responds immediately to the principles emanating from divine justice, wisdom and love. Such a change far transcends the hopes and aims of the most sanguine of this world’s well-meaning reformers. Most of them have preferred to apply their own earthly, pragmatic means and principles to the problems associated with man’s fallen estate, rather than adopt those high moral and religious principles of absolute justice and perfect love set before us in the Word of God (Isa. 55: 8, 9). What is the symbolic Philosopher’s Stone? Strange to say, in this first stage of God’s alchemy, the primary ingredient of a healing medicine for this sin-stricken world is trouble; not so much the trouble that mankind has known and lived through since the Fall, severe though it has been from time to time, nor yet the trouble among the nations of Christendom during the Gospel Age, for that was but the “beginning” of troubles (Mark 13: 8). There is yet to come a special trouble, such as the world has never known (Dan. 12: 1). Elsewhere the Bible presents it in most awesome and portentous terms, likening it to a great whirlwind (Isa. 66: 15; Jer. 30: 23, 24). This particular, unprecedented Time of Trouble is gathering force. Other ingredients, such as mankind’s instincts, feelings, and reasoning powers are also being thrown into the great melting pot of this Time of Trouble, giving rise to frustration, fear, anger, and desperation. All the evils that have marred the course of mankind from the founding of this present evil world — the social, political, and religious order which has developed since the world-wide disaster of the Noachic flood — are being exposed. In the greater waves of trouble which lie ahead the world order will be wrecked, and nature itself — showing signs of disruption because of man’s carelessness — will be in danger of sustaining irreparable damage. See Isa. 24: 1-6. Present World Conditions The immensity of the power made available by modern energy-sources, linked to the miniaturization of weapons and the globalization of political activism, has brought new dangers of unimaginable proportions. In the scientific world the amazing advances in knowledge have given rise to new situations in society, challenging those beliefs and behaviors that traditionally underpinned ordered society. Developments in medical and agricultural science have seen the principles and stuff of life itself searched out as never before, often by those who are commercially, rather than morally, motivated. Genetic experimentation gives rise to moral and legal dilemmas that cause grave misgivings among thinking people. Governments seek to introduce legislation to control the situation, but the power of commercial and financial interests in huge, international conglomerates, is too strong. Politicians are often either washed along with the tide of money-making and power-brokering, or are sidelined and rendered ineffectual. There is a growing spirit of skepticism, cynicism, and anarchic disobedience to the kind of law and order which has permitted and encouraged the present situation. This militant protest is part of the symbolic whirlwind of prophecy in which the primary interest-groups of this world are disastrously involved. The True and Only Panacea Rather than being “fine gold,” man at present is more like an old, rusted and misshapen lump of low-grade iron ore than the choice and pure gold of Ophir! But God the Alchemist declares emphatically, “I will change him!” Let us then see the processes and agencies by which God will achieve this objective. Implicit in God’s promise are the assurances, “Then the eyes of the [spiritually and morally] blind shall be opened, and the ears of the [spiritually] deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man [limping in conduct] leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb [who praise not God] sing” (Isa. 35: 5, 6 [bracketed comments added]). He says, in effect, “I will cause each individual to see his neighbor with such clarity, understanding and benevolence as never before. I will make of man a creature to be protected and cared for by all of his fellows, to be loved with an intense and appreciative love, to be fought for, prayed for, wept over, rejoiced over, cherished! I will make of him a precious, rare, and exquisite being designed to grace this planet earth, for all eternity. Truly, I will open the eyes of the blind!” A Golden Prospect In view of man’s refractory nature and his historic recalcitrance against all God’s natural and revealed religious promptings, why would God want to do that? Why should He maintain this high purpose for mankind, having endured thousands of years of disobedience, opposition, misrepresentation and vilification of Himself? Why did He, the Mighty God, stoop to plead with fallen men to turn from their wickedness? Why did He permit His beloved Son Jesus to die at the hand of those He was sent to save? Why did He stand by when His suffering Son died on the cross? Why, in spite of all these things, does God still pursue His purpose to uplift and to bless mankind beyond their present mental capacity to conceive? Even as the Psalmist David mused, the divine wisdom passes our understanding! “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psa. 8: 4). Just what is there in man — at present so often arrogant, drunken, vicious, avaricious, cruel, lustful, warlike, faithless, hopeless, despairing and physically ailing and dying — that can be made finer than purest gold? What is it that God sees, but that the world cannot? Close your eyes for a moment to the scenes of misery and woe, degradation and sorrow that yet prevail on account of sin, and picture before your mental vision the glory of the perfect earth. Not a stain of sin mars the harmony and peace of a perfect society; not a bitter thought, not an unkind look or word; love, welling up from every heart, meets a kindred response in every other heart, and benevolence marks every act. . . . The inward purity and mental and moral perfection will stamp and glorify every radiant countenance. . . . (The Divine Plan of the Ages, pp. 191, 192) That is what God sees! Now, let us open our eyes again. Have we been mistaken? No — there is no mistake. We see again the “scenes of misery and woe”; the graveyards, the hospitals and prisons, famine, civil wars and genocide, forced labor, decay and crime-ridden streets in the richest cities of the world, the horror of frightful diseases, and so forth. We see also, in civilized nations, the development of weapons of unimaginable destructive power. These things add massively and needlessly to the ordinary sufferings already associated with living and dying in this present evil world. As we look again among the leaders for help, we see the implacable revolutionary and the blinkered reactionary, both rejecting reasoned argument and co-operative reform. They turn, rather, to the hate- politics of extremist political dogma — the former to violent demonstration and anarchy; the latter to harsh economic control and repressive law. We see the challenge by libertarian behaviorists to all moral restraints, with depraved standards becoming acceptable in public life. We see hedonistic nations and individuals living carelessly on credit, piling up debts that no subsequent generation can repay — “scenes of misery and woe” indeed! We, like Abraham, stagger not at the promises of God (Rom. 4: 16, 20). In studying the signs of the times we peer through the dust and debris of a rising whirlwind. We hear the howling winds of war and the thunderclaps of controversy rolling and echoing around the symbolic heavens (revolutionaries and rulers); we feel the symbolic earth shake; we see the torrential rain and driving hail of Truth, from which mankind is fruitlessly seeking shelter, and in these things we recognize that we are living in the “great and very terrible” day of the Lord (Isa. 28: 17; Joel 2: 11). The True Church A Restraining Influence The Gospel-Age Church, the Very Elect, were the primary “salt” of Matt. 5: 13. One side effect of their work was a measurable uplifting of an otherwise degenerate world. As a consequence, God did not abandon the world to complete depravity, but has reserved it “unto the day of judgment” — the Millennial Age (2 Pet. 2: 9). But the reproofs, corrections, and ethical teachings of the Bible no longer find their way into the consciousness of a sin-stricken world. As it plunges downward, unchecked, the symbolic lightning flashes of truth of all kinds — political, social, and scientific — reveal a world in turmoil, shouts of fear and anger on all sides. This confusion, clamor and trouble causes many to seek something better than present conditions allow. Yet although they challenge traditions once accepted without question, they have no alternatives to offer. In their impotence they become angry, anarchic, and destructive. The Fall Of Christendom Christendom was once the hub of the world. On its historic religious base and over many centuries it erected the defensive walls of intellectualism, industrial power, economic expertise, and financial control. The true nature of these fortifications was disguised, being “daubed . . . with untempered morter” of sin and error (Ezek. 13: 10-15). This whole erroneous, multi-faceted arrangement was foisted upon and accepted by the gullible peoples of Christendom as the earthly Kingdom of God. The great shaking of the ecclesiastical “heavens” and the social and political “earth” by reason of disaffection and rebellion of the people will cause the whole structure to rock and sway dangerously, precursive to its final collapse — a reduction first by revolution, to rubble, then by anarchy, to dust (Hag. 2: 6; Heb. 12: 26, 27). Thus will mankind be prepared for the next stage in God’s alchemy. The sheer hopelessness of the situation will prompt each individual to respond positively to the “still small voice” that will then be heard in the earth (1 Kings 19: 12). Each one will be free to seize the great hope held out to all as they become aware of the terms and promises of the New Covenant. God will, at last, bring them to their “desired haven” (Psa. 107: 30). The route to that haven is neither a short nor an easy passage. It will be by way of the “highway of holiness,” with all its refining processes, leading mankind from a heart and mind conformed to an evil regime, to a heart and mind in tune with the standard of righteousness (Isa. 35: 8). Christ will establish His Millennial Kingdom among those then living. Then will come that astounding feature of John 5: 28, 29 — the opening of the graves and the start of the refining process which will continue methodically, step by step, generation by generation, to a completion. Thus will God, in all the willing and obedient, bring the refining of mankind — symbolic, earthly gold — to its glorious conclusion. His finished work will reveal man as he was before the Fall in Eden, the “golden wedge of Ophir,” the likeness and image of God, prepared for eternity. ____________ Note: This article is a distillation of a discourse given by H.W. Roberts in 1986. The original discourse has the same title as this article, but is substantially different. The original sermon can be downloaded as an .mp3 from <http://www.ukbiblestudents.co.uk/past_voices/archive.htm> February 2015
THE GOLDEN WEDGE OF OPHIR By H.W. Roberts Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version unless indicated otherwise. ________________ Isaiah 13: 11-13 11 [I] will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. 12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. 13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. GOLD IS A heavy, yellow, metallic element that occurs in the uncontaminated state in nature. Malleable, ductile, not liable to corrosion, it lends itself to cutting, shaping, and burnishing. It is held precious among all civilized nations, and has been from earliest times. “Gold of Ophir” was apparently a synonym for the finest gold. Gold was stored and traded in wedge-shaped bars or “tongues.” an example of which has been found in the residual mound of the ancient, ruined Canaanite town of Gezer. The theft of such a “wedge” as this, weighing fifty shekels, occasioned Israel’s defeat and the downfall of Achan in Joshua’s first battle against the city of Ai (Josh. 7: 11, 21, 24). The acquisition of gold has always appealed to the worldly-wise, partly for its use in personal adornment and partly as a means of exchange. The Twin Solicitudes of the Fallen Race Like riches, another great desire, common to all mankind, has been for lasting life and health. These two great solicitudes have led even the most intelligent to search for easy answers. They dreamed of a physical substance with magical properties that would enable them both to transmute base metals into gold (the Philosopher’s Stone), and to prolong human life indefinitely (the Elixir of Life). The study of these things, known as “alchemy,” has attracted man from earliest times. Egyptian, Greek, and later Arabic records tell of the practice of alchemy, and it features prominently in the work of some of the deepest thinkers of Mediaeval and early Reformation times. Writings from those periods show that learned men, searching for that elusive Philosopher’s Stone, believed that when reduced to a powder and mixed with molten iron, it had the power to change that base metal into gold. Alternatively, if imbibed with certain other substances this “Elixir of Life” would reward the drinker with eternal life and youth. Countless ingredients and potions were tried and discarded in centuries of such experimentation. Many concoctions were bizarre, and many experiments were foolhardy, but all were fruitless. Rather than promoting life and health, no doubt most of them had the opposite effect! Life, Youth, and Riches — never to want and never to grow old and die — have been desired by all men ever since those perfect gifts, bestowed on humankind by a benevolent Creator in Eden, were lost at the Fall. To those acquainted with God’s plan of the ages it is clear that this search for a panacea for all sickness and want by means of alchemy, is an endeavor to achieve the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom without undergoing its painful but necessary corrective features. “The desire of all nations shall come,” but not by man’s intelligence nor on his terms (Hag. 2: 7). The Great Alchemist Jehovah is the great Alchemist. His skill is shown in His transforming members of the Church, the Body of Christ, from earthly, sinful creatures with corruptible flesh, into heavenly, spiritual beings of the divine nature, immortal and incorruptible (1 Pet. 1: 3, 4, 23). In the divine alchemy, what is God’s symbolic Philosopher’s Stone? How did He concoct His Elixir of Life? Love was the greatest thing. This, together with Faith and Hope, specified in 1 Cor. 13: 13, was stirred up with the Providences of God. As the consecrated drank, it strengthened them in their earthly sacrifice of themselves, enabling them to develop those holy affections and graces of character required by the new spirit nature to which they were begotten by the Word of God (2 Cor. 5: 17). The final act in this transmutation process was the resurrection of each member of the Body of Christ — the Very Elect — to the glory of the divine nature. God’s Alchemy for Mankind But God’s alchemy will go further than this, for in our text we read His promise. “I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.” This indicates another fundamental change, but this time of mankind, without his having to undergo a change from human nature. Since the Fall, when the original divine image and likeness was lost by Adam and Eve, all their descendants have become less like their Creator. And after more than six thousand years of the in-breeding of sin and the intensification of its disastrous consequences, that original resemblance is barely recognizable in even the finest of our race. There is an immense disparity, now, between the estate of fallen man and that of the perfect Adam. Nevertheless God declares that He will make a man (Hebrew, “adam aw-dawm,” the race in general, not a particular man) “more rare than fine gold, and a common man than pure gold of Ophir” (Isa. 13: 12, Young’s Literal Translation). In other words, He will restore man to that image and likeness of God and His dear Son, a divinely set, universal and eternal standard below which no member of the human race will be permitted to live everlastingly. What is necessary to achieve such a transformation? No less than a complete change of heart. Change must come to that cold, stony and unyielding heart condition, which from the time of Cain’s intransigence has resisted calls to repentance and been largely deaf to the voice of conscience. It must be transformed into a warm, loving, and sympathetic condition that responds immediately to the principles emanating from divine justice, wisdom and love. Such a change far transcends the hopes and aims of the most sanguine of this world’s well-meaning reformers. Most of them have preferred to apply their own earthly, pragmatic means and principles to the problems associated with man’s fallen estate, rather than adopt those high moral and religious principles of absolute justice and perfect love set before us in the Word of God (Isa. 55: 8, 9). What is the symbolic Philosopher’s Stone? Strange to say, in this first stage of God’s alchemy, the primary ingredient of a healing medicine for this sin-stricken world is trouble; not so much the trouble that mankind has known and lived through since the Fall, severe though it has been from time to time, nor yet the trouble among the nations of Christendom during the Gospel Age, for that was but the “beginning” of troubles (Mark 13: 8). There is yet to come a special trouble, such as the world has never known (Dan. 12: 1). Elsewhere the Bible presents it in most awesome and portentous terms, likening it to a great whirlwind (Isa. 66: 15; Jer. 30: 23, 24). This particular, unprecedented Time of Trouble is gathering force. Other ingredients, such as mankind’s instincts, feelings, and reasoning powers are also being thrown into the great melting pot of this Time of Trouble, giving rise to frustration, fear, anger, and desperation. All the evils that have marred the course of mankind from the founding of this present evil world — the social, political, and religious order which has developed since the world-wide disaster of the Noachic flood — are being exposed. In the greater waves of trouble which lie ahead the world order will be wrecked, and nature itself — showing signs of disruption because of man’s carelessness — will be in danger of sustaining irreparable damage. See Isa. 24: 1-6. Present World Conditions The immensity of the power made available by modern energy- sources, linked to the miniaturization of weapons and the globalization of political activism, has brought new dangers of unimaginable proportions. In the scientific world the amazing advances in knowledge have given rise to new situations in society, challenging those beliefs and behaviors that traditionally underpinned ordered society. Developments in medical and agricultural science have seen the principles and stuff of life itself searched out as never before, often by those who are commercially, rather than morally, motivated. Genetic experimentation gives rise to moral and legal dilemmas that cause grave misgivings among thinking people. Governments seek to introduce legislation to control the situation, but the power of commercial and financial interests in huge, international conglomerates, is too strong. Politicians are often either washed along with the tide of money-making and power-brokering, or are sidelined and rendered ineffectual. There is a growing spirit of skepticism, cynicism, and anarchic disobedience to the kind of law and order which has permitted and encouraged the present situation. This militant protest is part of the symbolic whirlwind of prophecy in which the primary interest-groups of this world are disastrously involved. The True and Only Panacea Rather than being “fine gold,” man at present is more like an old, rusted and misshapen lump of low-grade iron ore than the choice and pure gold of Ophir! But God the Alchemist declares emphatically, “I will change him!” Let us then see the processes and agencies by which God will achieve this objective. Implicit in God’s promise are the assurances, “Then the eyes of the [spiritually and morally] blind shall be opened, and the ears of the [spiritually] deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man [limping in conduct] leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb [who praise not God] sing” (Isa. 35: 5, 6 [bracketed comments added]). He says, in effect, “I will cause each individual to see his neighbor with such clarity, understanding and benevolence as never before. I will make of man a creature to be protected and cared for by all of his fellows, to be loved with an intense and appreciative love, to be fought for, prayed for, wept over, rejoiced over, cherished! I will make of him a precious, rare, and exquisite being designed to grace this planet earth, for all eternity. Truly, I will open the eyes of the blind!” A Golden Prospect In view of man’s refractory nature and his historic recalcitrance against all God’s natural and revealed religious promptings, why would God want to do that? Why should He maintain this high purpose for mankind, having endured thousands of years of disobedience, opposition, misrepresentation and vilification of Himself? Why did He, the Mighty God, stoop to plead with fallen men to turn from their wickedness? Why did He permit His beloved Son Jesus to die at the hand of those He was sent to save? Why did He stand by when His suffering Son died on the cross? Why, in spite of all these things, does God still pursue His purpose to uplift and to bless mankind beyond their present mental capacity to conceive? Even as the Psalmist David mused, the divine wisdom passes our understanding! “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psa. 8: 4). Just what is there in man — at present so often arrogant, drunken, vicious, avaricious, cruel, lustful, warlike, faithless, hopeless, despairing and physically ailing and dying — that can be made finer than purest gold? What is it that God sees, but that the world cannot? Close your eyes for a moment to the scenes of misery and woe, degradation and sorrow that yet prevail on account of sin, and picture before your mental vision the glory of the perfect earth. Not a stain of sin mars the harmony and peace of a perfect society; not a bitter thought, not an unkind look or word; love, welling up from every heart, meets a kindred response in every other heart, and benevolence marks every act. . . . The inward purity and mental and moral perfection will stamp and glorify every radiant countenance. . . . (The Divine Plan of the Ages, pp. 191, 192) That is what God sees! Now, let us open our eyes again. Have we been mistaken? No — there is no mistake. We see again the “scenes of misery and woe”; the graveyards, the hospitals and prisons, famine, civil wars and genocide, forced labor, decay and crime-ridden streets in the richest cities of the world, the horror of frightful diseases, and so forth. We see also, in civilized nations, the development of weapons of unimaginable destructive power. These things add massively and needlessly to the ordinary sufferings already associated with living and dying in this present evil world. As we look again among the leaders for help, we see the implacable revolutionary and the blinkered reactionary, both rejecting reasoned argument and co-operative reform. They turn, rather, to the hate-politics of extremist political dogma — the former to violent demonstration and anarchy; the latter to harsh economic control and repressive law. We see the challenge by libertarian behaviorists to all moral restraints, with depraved standards becoming acceptable in public life. We see hedonistic nations and individuals living carelessly on credit, piling up debts that no subsequent generation can repay — “scenes of misery and woe” indeed! We, like Abraham, stagger not at the promises of God (Rom. 4: 16, 20). In studying the signs of the times we peer through the dust and debris of a rising whirlwind. We hear the howling winds of war and the thunderclaps of controversy rolling and echoing around the symbolic heavens (revolutionaries and rulers); we feel the symbolic earth shake; we see the torrential rain and driving hail of Truth, from which mankind is fruitlessly seeking shelter, and in these things we recognize that we are living in the “great and very terrible” day of the Lord (Isa. 28: 17; Joel 2: 11). The True Church A Restraining Influence The Gospel-Age Church, the Very Elect, were the primary “salt” of Matt. 5: 13. One side effect of their work was a measurable uplifting of an otherwise degenerate world. As a consequence, God did not abandon the world to complete depravity, but has reserved it “unto the day of judgment” — the Millennial Age (2 Pet. 2: 9). But the reproofs, corrections, and ethical teachings of the Bible no longer find their way into the consciousness of a sin-stricken world. As it plunges downward, unchecked, the symbolic lightning flashes of truth of all kinds — political, social, and scientific — reveal a world in turmoil, shouts of fear and anger on all sides. This confusion, clamor and trouble causes many to seek something better than present conditions allow. Yet although they challenge traditions once accepted without question, they have no alternatives to offer. In their impotence they become angry, anarchic, and destructive. The Fall Of Christendom Christendom was once the hub of the world. On its historic religious base and over many centuries it erected the defensive walls of intellectualism, industrial power, economic expertise, and financial control. The true nature of these fortifications was disguised, being “daubed . . . with untempered morter” of sin and error (Ezek. 13: 10-15). This whole erroneous, multi-faceted arrangement was foisted upon and accepted by the gullible peoples of Christendom as the earthly Kingdom of God. The great shaking of the ecclesiastical “heavens” and the social and political “earth” by reason of disaffection and rebellion of the people will cause the whole structure to rock and sway dangerously, precursive to its final collapse — a reduction first by revolution, to rubble, then by anarchy, to dust (Hag. 2: 6; Heb. 12: 26, 27). Thus will mankind be prepared for the next stage in God’s alchemy. The sheer hopelessness of the situation will prompt each individual to respond positively to the “still small voice” that will then be heard in the earth (1 Kings 19: 12). Each one will be free to seize the great hope held out to all as they become aware of the terms and promises of the New Covenant. God will, at last, bring them to their “desired haven” (Psa. 107: 30). The route to that haven is neither a short nor an easy passage. It will be by way of the “highway of holiness,” with all its refining processes, leading mankind from a heart and mind conformed to an evil regime, to a heart and mind in tune with the standard of righteousness (Isa. 35: 8). Christ will establish His Millennial Kingdom among those then living. Then will come that astounding feature of John 5: 28, 29 — the opening of the graves and the start of the refining process which will continue methodically, step by step, generation by generation, to a completion. Thus will God, in all the willing and obedient, bring the refining of mankind — symbolic, earthly gold — to its glorious conclusion. His finished work will reveal man as he was before the Fall in Eden, the “golden wedge of Ophir,” the likeness and image of God, prepared for eternity. ____________ Note: This article is a distillation of a discourse given by H.W. Roberts in 1986. The original discourse has the same title as this article, but is substantially different. The original sermon can be downloaded as an .mp3 from <http://www.ukbiblestudents.co.uk/past_voices/archive.htm> February 2015
THE MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A. Prentice For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men — the testimony given in its proper time. — 1 Tim. 2: 5, 6 — ___________________ AT JESUS’ TRIUMPHAL entry into Jerusalem, the disciples perhaps imagined that the kingdom of heaven, preached by the Lord, was at hand. Surely now the Lord had won over the haters and put to flight those who previously had sought to kill him. Besides, there was an element of inevitability about his reception. Hadn’t Jesus indicated as much when the Pharisees had insisted he tell the crowds to shut up, and he told them that if the multitude did not proclaim him, the stones themselves would have to cry out? (Luke 19: 39, 40) Had the disciples reflected deeply on what Jesus said to them during their conversations with him as they tramped along the highways and byways of Palestine, they might have understood why his kingdom could not come at that particular time. Sure enough, the euphoria of the multitude evaporated like morning mist; the same people who cheered him, soon jeered him, pressing a reluctant Pilate to sentence him to death. “Here is the man!” Pilate had exclaimed, when he put the now bruised and battered Jesus on display before the gawking rabble assembled on the Stone Pavement. Perhaps it was a last attempt to stir their compassion or save himself some trouble with Rome. “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 19: 4, 5, 13, 14.) “Here is the man.” So the Greek text reads. Pilate here proclaims that most singular of truths: Jesus is no ordinary person. And as the inanimate stones were obliged in the absence of human voice to hail the entry of Messiah into Jerusalem, so this tough officer of Rome was compelled, though without personal comprehension, to advertise the uniqueness of the One he was about to send to the cross. “Here is your king.” As if to say, “he’s yours,” do what you want with him. From these observations we learn that God sometimes chooses to relay truth through unwitting, unwilling and ungodly agencies. For had not even Caiaphas, high priest in Israel that year, already prophesied against his will that Jesus must die in order that all Israel might be saved? (John 11: 49-53). Out of the mouth of babes or out of the mouths of the perverse, God can always get his point across. When Time Stood Still The death of Jesus the Christ is the most pivotal event of all time — past, present, future. When he died, nothing would or could ever be the same again. Even his resurrection, three days on, magnifies the premier significance of his dying. Like the fire from heaven which proved the acceptability of the burnt-offering on the altar of the tabernacle, Christ’s resurrection was God’s affirmation to him that he had died successfully (Lev. 9: 23, 24; Acts 17: 31). Christ died in demonstration of the truth of the accusation leveled at him by the Jews: “he must die because he claimed to be the Son of God” (John 19: 7). Yes, in this regard, they who had willfully refused to understand him on previous occasions, here vaguely grasped the import of what he had told them. Yes, only the Son of God could die to redeem mankind. Only he, begotten of and dearly loved by the Father, the son of the right hand, could accomplish that most high and holy mission proclaimed in John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Rejected Stone Christ Jesus is the central figure of the prophecies and types from Genesis to Revelation, for all seasons of history, even before the creation of the world. The Old and New Testaments are therefore Christ-centered. As the chief spokesman for God, Christ is the Logos (the Word), embodying the qualities and attributes of the Father, and he is the Truth and the Way, the living essence of the gospel. Only Christ can bring the plans of God to fruition, and so he and his achievements are spoken of as synonymous and in the superlative. The doctrine of the Ransom puts everything into focus. Matt. 21: 42 records that . . . the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone [Gk, head, chief stone]. And St. Paul teaches us that the man Jesus is the counterpart of the man Adam (Rom. 5: 19): [J]ust as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus] the many will be made righteous. and again (1 Cor. 15: 22): For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. This simple assertion, that Adam and Jesus are equivalents, defines the ransom-sacrifice paid by Jesus through his death, a legal transaction based on the principle of a “life for a life.” This doctrine has been poorly analyses and glossed over by most theologists. But this singular doctrine is like the keystone of an arch: it bears the weight of all other biblical teachings, and locks the whole the whole together. Nonetheless, it is usually set aside — “rejected” — as the solution to various doctrinal contradictions, in part because it complicates the teaching of the Trinity, regarded by many believers as the “make or break” doctrine, the one that determines who is, and who is not, a Christian. Without a correct understanding of the ransom-price, it is hard to reconcile or understand the place of all the other doctrines in the arch of faith. It is the basis for understanding how God can remain just, yet justify the sinner; why evil is permitted; the fate of the dead; the true relationship of the Father to the Son; the restoration of fallen humanity to perfection; how election and free grace are compatible — in short, it harmonies the apparent contradictions which stumble many believers and non-believers. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” — 2 Cor. 4: 6 ____________ April 2015.
THE MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A. Prentice For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men — the testimony given in its proper time. — 1 Tim. 2: 5, 6 — ___________________ AT JESUS’ TRIUMPHAL entry into Jerusalem, the disciples perhaps imagined that the kingdom of heaven, preached by the Lord, was at hand. Surely now the Lord had won over the haters and put to flight those who previously had sought to kill him. Besides, there was an element of inevitability about his reception. Hadn’t Jesus indicated as much when the Pharisees had insisted he tell the crowds to shut up, and he told them that if the multitude did not proclaim him, the stones themselves would have to cry out? (Luke 19: 39, 40) Had the disciples reflected deeply on what Jesus said to them during their conversations with him as they tramped along the highways and byways of Palestine, they might have understood why his kingdom could not come at that particular time. Sure enough, the euphoria of the multitude evaporated like morning mist; the same people who cheered him, soon jeered him, pressing a reluctant Pilate to sentence him to death. “Here is the man!” Pilate had exclaimed, when he put the now bruised and battered Jesus on display before the gawking rabble assembled on the Stone Pavement. Perhaps it was a last attempt to stir their compassion or save himself some trouble with Rome. “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 19: 4, 5, 13, 14.) “Here is the man.” So the Greek text reads. Pilate here proclaims that most singular of truths: Jesus is no ordinary person. And as the inanimate stones were obliged in the absence of human voice to hail the entry of Messiah into Jerusalem, so this tough officer of Rome was compelled, though without personal comprehension, to advertise the uniqueness of the One he was about to send to the cross. “Here is your king.” As if to say, “he’s yours,” do what you want with him. From these observations we learn that God sometimes chooses to relay truth through unwitting, unwilling and ungodly agencies. For had not even Caiaphas, high priest in Israel that year, already prophesied against his will that Jesus must die in order that all Israel might be saved? (John 11: 49-53). Out of the mouth of babes or out of the mouths of the perverse, God can always get his point across. When Time Stood Still The death of Jesus the Christ is the most pivotal event of all time — past, present, future. When he died, nothing would or could ever be the same again. Even his resurrection, three days on, magnifies the premier significance of his dying. Like the fire from heaven which proved the acceptability of the burnt-offering on the altar of the tabernacle, Christ’s resurrection was God’s affirmation to him that he had died successfully (Lev. 9: 23, 24; Acts 17: 31). Christ died in demonstration of the truth of the accusation leveled at him by the Jews: “he must die because he claimed to be the Son of God” (John 19: 7). Yes, in this regard, they who had willfully refused to understand him on previous occasions, here vaguely grasped the import of what he had told them. Yes, only the Son of God could die to redeem mankind. Only he, begotten of and dearly loved by the Father, the son of the right hand, could accomplish that most high and holy mission proclaimed in John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The Rejected Stone Christ Jesus is the central figure of the prophecies and types from Genesis to Revelation, for all seasons of history, even before the creation of the world. The Old and New Testaments are therefore Christ-centered. As the chief spokesman for God, Christ is the Logos (the Word), embodying the qualities and attributes of the Father, and he is the Truth and the Way, the living essence of the gospel. Only Christ can bring the plans of God to fruition, and so he and his achievements are spoken of as synonymous and in the superlative. The doctrine of the Ransom puts everything into focus. Matt. 21: 42 records that . . . the stone the builders rejected has become the capstone [Gk, head, chief stone]. And St. Paul teaches us that the man Jesus is the counterpart of the man Adam (Rom. 5: 19): [J]ust as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus] the many will be made righteous. and again (1 Cor. 15: 22): For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. This simple assertion, that Adam and Jesus are equivalents, defines the ransom-sacrifice paid by Jesus through his death, a legal transaction based on the principle of a “life for a life.” This doctrine has been poorly analyses and glossed over by most theologists. But this singular doctrine is like the keystone of an arch: it bears the weight of all other biblical teachings, and locks the whole the whole together. Nonetheless, it is usually set aside — “rejected” — as the solution to various doctrinal contradictions, in part because it complicates the teaching of the Trinity, regarded by many believers as the “make or break” doctrine, the one that determines who is, and who is not, a Christian. Without a correct understanding of the ransom-price, it is hard to reconcile or understand the place of all the other doctrines in the arch of faith. It is the basis for understanding how God can remain just, yet justify the sinner; why evil is permitted; the fate of the dead; the true relationship of the Father to the Son; the restoration of fallen humanity to perfection; how election and free grace are compatible — in short, it harmonies the apparent contradictions which stumble many believers and non-believers. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” — 2 Cor. 4: 6 ____________ April 2015.
UNDER THE HARROW An Exegesis 2 Samuel 12: 29, 31 (King James Version) And David gathered all the people together, and went to Rabbah, and fought against it, and took it. . . . . And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brick-kiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. 1 Chronicles 20: 3 (King James Version) And [David] brought out the people that were in [Rabbah], and cut them with saws, and with harrows of iron, and with axes. Even so dealt David with all the cities of the children of Ammon. ____________________ IT IS UNREMARKABLE these days to hear the Christian God faulted for His indifference to the suffering of the human condition. In addition, upon this accusation most of the criticisms leveled by atheists against Christianity itself are founded, the charge being that Jehovah is capricious at best, vindictive at worst. The conclusion they lead up to, however, is not merely that He does not exist, but that a Creator of such harsh disposition is untenable. In an odd way, this is an admission by the atheist that if there was a God, He would have to be better than He is portrayed in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. To some extent, the disrepute into which God has fallen is a result of misrepresentation by misunderstanding on the part of those who profess to be His friends. The Bible texts quoted above describe the siege of Rabbah, a city of the Ammonites. King David’s general, Joab, had set up against the garrison city and eventually it was taken. According to these verses, David exterminated the residents by chopping them up with axes, saws, and harrows, burning many of them in the brick ovens. One recent book, The Harrowing, by Robert Dinsdale, implicitly fosters this assertion by its title and tale of carnage in the First World War. Various Renderings In the Roman Catholic Douay version of 1609 the relevant portions of the texts under study are given this way: 2 Samuel 12: 29, 31 [listed in the Douay as 2 Kings 12: 29, 31] Then David gathered all the people together, and went out against Rabbath: and after fighting he took it. . . . And bringing forth the people thereof, he sawed them, and drove over them chariots armed with iron: and divided them with knives, and made them pass through brick- kilns. So did he to all the cities of the children of Ammon. 1 Chronicles 20: 3 [listed in the Douay as 1 Paralipomenon 20: 3] And the people that were therein he brought out: and made harrows, and sleds, and chariots of iron to go over them, so that they were cut and bruised to pieces. In this manner David dealt with all the cities of the children of Ammon. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) comments on the account in the King James Version of 2 Samuel 12: 31 thus: [David] seems to have been too harsh with his prisoners of war, v. 31, taking the city by storm, after it had obstinately held out against a long and expensive siege; if he had put all to the sword in the heat of battle, whom he found in arms, it had been severe enough; but to kill them afterward, in cold blood, and by cruel tortures, with saws and harrows, tearing them to pieces, did not become him, who, when he entered upon the government, promised to sing of mercy as well as judgment, Ps. ci. 1. Had he made examples of those only who had abused his ambassadors, advised or assisted in it, that being a violation of the law of nations, it might be looked upon as a piece of necessary justice for terror to other nations; but to be thus severe with all the cities of the children of Ammon, (that is, the garrisons or soldiers of the cities,) was extremely rigorous, and a sign that David’s heart was not yet made soft by repentance, else the bowels of his compassion would not have been thus shut up; a sign that he had not yet found mercy, else he would have been more ready to show mercy. (Henry’s commentary on 1 Chronicles 20: 3 refers back to this place.) The Natural Reaction It is probably safe to say that most Christians today would be appalled at such treatment of prisoners of war. The Geneva Convention has established certain rules which stipulate that prisoners taken in combat must be treated humanely. Slaughter and genocide are dirty words and most people, believers and unbelievers alike, abhor such actions. It is not recorded in the text that David was rebuked by God on this occasion, as he had been over his adultery with Bath-sheba, prior to this siege at Rabbah (2 Samuel 12: 1-25). The King James Version (KJV) is one of the most beautiful and revered works of literature ever created in the English language. As a fundamental component of British education for centuries it has been quoted and commented upon in massive tomes, and chanted in church services up and down the land. Yet it would be safe to say that not all those who love it or cite it always understand what it says. And probably most are unaware of the verses quoted at the beginning of this article; or, if they are, they choose to brush them under the carpet. Fidelity to Text The art of translation transcends merely a literal substitution of words in one language with words in another. Context, culture, choice of words – all must combine to render a translation which faithfully re-creates the original. Success varies. The Bible was centuries in the making. Originally composed, for the most part, in Hebrew and Greek respectively, the Old and New Testaments were assembled from a wide variety and age of manuscripts, all copies of the originals. In the tedious process of translation and transposition numerous errors were introduced, of varying degrees of importance. By diligent study scholars have compared and contrasted the versions, aiming for an “authoritative” whole. But even today there are disputes over what is and what is not correct, leading to the many translations available. Broadly stated, there is sufficient correlation between the various manuscripts to settle authenticity on many fundamental Biblical truths, though some dispute this. Some renderings have been modified as a result of archaeological discoveries, or the discovery of a later or more complete manuscript. [fn1] For comparison with the KJV, see these more recent translations: New International Version (UK edition; 1979) 2 Samuel 12: 29, 31 So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it. . . . [David] brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labour with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brickmaking. He did this to all the Ammonite towns. 1 Chronicles 20: 3 and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labour with saws and with iron picks and axes. David did this to all the Ammonite towns. The Jerusalem Bible (1968) 2 Samuel 12: 29, 31 So David mustered the whole army and marched on Rabbah; he stormed the town and captured it. . . . He brought away its population and set them to work with saws, iron picks and iron axes, and employed them in brickmaking. He treated all the Ammonite towns in the same way. 1 Chronicles 20: 3 He brought away its population and set them to work with saws, iron picks and axes. David treated all the Ammonite towns in the same way. In his Commentary Adam Clarke (1760/1762–1832) writes of 2 Samuel 12: 31: From this representation a great cry has been raised against ‘David’s unparalleled, if not diabolic, cruelty’. I believe this interpretation was chiefly taken from the parallel place, 1 Chron. xx. 3, where it is said, he cut them with saws, and with axes, &c. Instead of vaiyasar, ‘he sawed’, we have here (in Samuel) vaiyasem, ‘he put them’; and these two words differ from each other only in a part of a single letter, resh for mem. And it is worthy of remark, that instead of vaiyasar, ‘he sawed’, in 1 Chron. xx. 3, six or seven MSS. collated by Dr. Kennicott have vaiyasem, ‘he put them’; nor is there found any various reading in all the MSS. yet collated for the text in this chapter, that favours the common reading in Chronicles. The meaning therefore is, He made the people slaves, and employed them in sawing, making iron harrows, or mining, (for the word means both,) and in hewing of wood, and making of brick. Sawing asunder, hacking, chopping, and hewing human beings, have no place in this text, no more than they had in David’s conduct towards the Ammonites.[fn2] It is surprising, and a thing to be deplored, that in this and similar cases our translators had not been more careful to sift the sense of the original words by which they would have avoided a profusion of exceptionable meanings with which they have clothed many passages of the sacred writings. Though I believe our translation to be by far the best in any language, ancient or modern, yet I am satisfied it stands much in need of revision. Most of the advantages which our unbelievers have appeared to have over certain passages of Scripture, have arisen from an inaccurate or false translation of the terms in the original; and an appeal to this has generally silenced the gainsayers. But in the time in which our translation was made, Biblical criticism was in its infancy, if indeed it did exist; and we may rather wonder that we find things so well, than be surprised that they are no better. (Clarke’s commentary on 1 Chronicles 20: 3 refers back to this place.) In the French courant (current) version (1986), 2 Samuel 12: 31 has David conscripting the captives into his work force (“des travaux forces”). The rendering of 1 Chronicles 20: 3 is similar. Old Habits Die Hard One may wonder why the translators of the KJV chose to render these verses in such an uncomplimentary fashion. From the fact they did so, we may infer that, a) they were scrupulously faithful to the original as they understood it – a commendable approach, preferable to tinkering with the text; or, b) they were prompted by an instinct to illustrate a warning to the unbelievers. Mistreatment of prisoners in Britain and Europe in the 14th to the 18th centuries was often vile, unmentionable tortures being applied to the person to force a political or religious confession or recantation of a perceived infraction. It may be no coincidence that a belief on the part of the interrogators that eternal torment awaited the recalcitrant in the next life, justified as a lesser evil any tortures applied in this life, on the basis that anything which “saved a soul” was beneficial. King David was guilty of no such transgression. ____________ Notes [fn1] The Codex Sinaiticus is now available online at: <http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/> [fn2] Joshua impressed the Gibeonites into (permanent) service as “hewers of wood and drawers of water” (Joshua 9: 1-27). __________ November 2009.
UNDER THE HARROW An Exegesis 2 Samuel 12: 29, 31 (King James Version) And David gathered all the people together, and went to Rabbah, and fought against it, and took it. . . . . And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brick-kiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. 1 Chronicles 20: 3 (King James Version) And [David] brought out the people that were in [Rabbah], and cut them with saws, and with harrows of iron, and with axes. Even so dealt David with all the cities of the children of Ammon. ____________________ IT IS UNREMARKABLE these days to hear the Christian God faulted for His indifference to the suffering of the human condition. In addition, upon this accusation most of the criticisms leveled by atheists against Christianity itself are founded, the charge being that Jehovah is capricious at best, vindictive at worst. The conclusion they lead up to, however, is not merely that He does not exist, but that a Creator of such harsh disposition is untenable. In an odd way, this is an admission by the atheist that if there was a God, He would have to be better than He is portrayed in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. To some extent, the disrepute into which God has fallen is a result of misrepresentation by misunderstanding on the part of those who profess to be His friends. The Bible texts quoted above describe the siege of Rabbah, a city of the Ammonites. King David’s general, Joab, had set up against the garrison city and eventually it was taken. According to these verses, David exterminated the residents by chopping them up with axes, saws, and harrows, burning many of them in the brick ovens. One recent book, The Harrowing, by Robert Dinsdale, implicitly fosters this assertion by its title and tale of carnage in the First World War. Various Renderings In the Roman Catholic Douay version of 1609 the relevant portions of the texts under study are given this way: 2 Samuel 12: 29, 31 [listed in the Douay as 2 Kings 12: 29, 31] Then David gathered all the people together, and went out against Rabbath: and after fighting he took it. . . . And bringing forth the people thereof, he sawed them, and drove over them chariots armed with iron: and divided them with knives, and made them pass through brick-kilns. So did he to all the cities of the children of Ammon. 1 Chronicles 20: 3 [listed in the Douay as 1 Paralipomenon 20: 3] And the people that were therein he brought out: and made harrows, and sleds, and chariots of iron to go over them, so that they were cut and bruised to pieces. In this manner David dealt with all the cities of the children of Ammon. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) comments on the account in the King James Version of 2 Samuel 12: 31 thus: [David] seems to have been too harsh with his prisoners of war, v. 31, taking the city by storm, after it had obstinately held out against a long and expensive siege; if he had put all to the sword in the heat of battle, whom he found in arms, it had been severe enough; but to kill them afterward, in cold blood, and by cruel tortures, with saws and harrows, tearing them to pieces, did not become him, who, when he entered upon the government, promised to sing of mercy as well as judgment, Ps. ci. 1. Had he made examples of those only who had abused his ambassadors, advised or assisted in it, that being a violation of the law of nations, it might be looked upon as a piece of necessary justice for terror to other nations; but to be thus severe with all the cities of the children of Ammon, (that is, the garrisons or soldiers of the cities,) was extremely rigorous, and a sign that David’s heart was not yet made soft by repentance, else the bowels of his compassion would not have been thus shut up; a sign that he had not yet found mercy, else he would have been more ready to show mercy. (Henry’s commentary on 1 Chronicles 20: 3 refers back to this place.) The Natural Reaction It is probably safe to say that most Christians today would be appalled at such treatment of prisoners of war. The Geneva Convention has established certain rules which stipulate that prisoners taken in combat must be treated humanely. Slaughter and genocide are dirty words and most people, believers and unbelievers alike, abhor such actions. It is not recorded in the text that David was rebuked by God on this occasion, as he had been over his adultery with Bath-sheba, prior to this siege at Rabbah (2 Samuel 12: 1-25). The King James Version (KJV) is one of the most beautiful and revered works of literature ever created in the English language. As a fundamental component of British education for centuries it has been quoted and commented upon in massive tomes, and chanted in church services up and down the land. Yet it would be safe to say that not all those who love it or cite it always understand what it says. And probably most are unaware of the verses quoted at the beginning of this article; or, if they are, they choose to brush them under the carpet. Fidelity to Text The art of translation transcends merely a literal substitution of words in one language with words in another. Context, culture, choice of words – all must combine to render a translation which faithfully re-creates the original. Success varies. The Bible was centuries in the making. Originally composed, for the most part, in Hebrew and Greek respectively, the Old and New Testaments were assembled from a wide variety and age of manuscripts, all copies of the originals. In the tedious process of translation and transposition numerous errors were introduced, of varying degrees of importance. By diligent study scholars have compared and contrasted the versions, aiming for an “authoritative” whole. But even today there are disputes over what is and what is not correct, leading to the many translations available. Broadly stated, there is sufficient correlation between the various manuscripts to settle authenticity on many fundamental Biblical truths, though some dispute this. Some renderings have been modified as a result of archaeological discoveries, or the discovery of a later or more complete manuscript. [fn1] For comparison with the KJV, see these more recent translations: New International Version (UK edition; 1979) 2 Samuel 12: 29, 31 So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it. . . . [David] brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labour with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brickmaking. He did this to all the Ammonite towns. 1 Chronicles 20: 3 and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labour with saws and with iron picks and axes. David did this to all the Ammonite towns. The Jerusalem Bible (1968) 2 Samuel 12: 29, 31 So David mustered the whole army and marched on Rabbah; he stormed the town and captured it. . . . He brought away its population and set them to work with saws, iron picks and iron axes, and employed them in brickmaking. He treated all the Ammonite towns in the same way. 1 Chronicles 20: 3 He brought away its population and set them to work with saws, iron picks and axes. David treated all the Ammonite towns in the same way. In his Commentary Adam Clarke (1760/1762–1832) writes of 2 Samuel 12: 31: From this representation a great cry has been raised against ‘David’s unparalleled, if not diabolic, cruelty’. I believe this interpretation was chiefly taken from the parallel place, 1 Chron. xx. 3, where it is said, he cut them with saws, and with axes, &c. Instead of vaiyasar,  ‘he sawed’, we have here (in Samuel) vaiyasem, ‘he put them’; and these two words differ from each other only in a part of a single letter, resh for mem. And it is worthy of remark, that instead of vaiyasar, ‘he sawed’, in 1 Chron. xx. 3, six or seven MSS. collated by Dr. Kennicott have vaiyasem, ‘he put them’; nor is there found any various reading in all the MSS. yet collated for the text in this chapter, that favours the common reading in Chronicles. The meaning therefore is, He made the people slaves, and employed them in sawing, making iron harrows, or mining, (for the word means both,) and in hewing of wood,  and making of brick. Sawing asunder, hacking, chopping, and hewing human beings, have no place in this text, no more than they had in David’s conduct towards the Ammonites.[fn2] It is surprising, and a thing to be deplored, that in this and similar cases our translators had not been more careful to sift the sense of the original words by which they would have avoided a profusion of exceptionable meanings with which they have clothed many passages of the sacred writings. Though I believe our translation to be by far the best in any language, ancient or modern, yet I am satisfied it stands much in need of revision. Most of the advantages which our unbelievers have appeared to have over certain passages of Scripture, have arisen from an inaccurate or false translation of the terms in the original; and an appeal to this has generally silenced the gainsayers. But in the time in which our translation was made, Biblical criticism was in its infancy, if indeed it did exist; and we may rather wonder that we find things so well, than be surprised that they are no better. (Clarke’s commentary on 1 Chronicles 20: 3 refers back to this place.) In the French courant (current) version (1986), 2 Samuel 12: 31 has David conscripting the captives into his work force (“des travaux forces”). The rendering of 1 Chronicles 20: 3 is similar. Old Habits Die Hard One may wonder why the translators of the KJV chose to render these verses in such an uncomplimentary fashion. From the fact they did so, we may infer that, a) they were scrupulously faithful to the original as they understood it – a commendable approach, preferable to tinkering with the text; or, b) they were prompted by an instinct to illustrate a warning to the unbelievers. Mistreatment of prisoners in Britain and Europe in the 14th to the 18th centuries was often vile, unmentionable tortures being applied to the person to force a political or religious confession or recantation of a perceived infraction. It may be no coincidence that a belief on the part of the interrogators that eternal torment awaited the recalcitrant in the next life, justified as a lesser evil any tortures applied in this life, on the basis that anything which “saved a soul” was beneficial. King David was guilty of no such transgression. ____________ Notes [fn1] The Codex Sinaiticus is now available online at: <http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/> [fn2] Joshua impressed the Gibeonites into (permanent) service as “hewers of wood and drawers of water” (Joshua 9: 1-27). __________ November 2009.
“AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH” John 1: 14 By A. Prentice All Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version, unless stated otherwise. ____________ THE WORD who was “made flesh” is denoted in the Greek text as logos, the one who spoke and acted for God, as though God Himself. This logos existed “in the beginning with God” (John 1: 2). In v. 14 the Apostle John identifies this logos as Christ Jesus, who “dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” The function, attributes and office of the logos remain a matter of profound mystery and theological contention. Apart from the specific and startling in- formation passed on to us by the Apostle John – the source of which would seem to have been divine revelation – there are hints scattered throughout both Old and New Testaments. None of these details could have been reasonably understood without Jesus’ testimony about His own person, His mission and the nature of His relationship with His Heavenly Father. To the question posed by Jesus to His disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matt. 16: 15), most Christians will answer, “You are God, the second Person of the triune Godhead.” So deeply entrenched in church orthodoxy is the doctrine of the Trinity that those who refuse to acknowledge it are esteemed to be non-Christian, heretics, and are shunned. Orthodoxy Prevails Out of the debates which took place at the Council of Nice in 325 the Nicene Creed emerged. Among other matters, it pronounced on what has become the official doctrine of the Trinity, rejecting the contrary opinion of Arius, who held that God and Christ are separate and not – in the words of the majority opinion of the Council – “consubstantial.” Nonetheless, the teachings of Arius (Arianism) persisted in various forms until about the seventh century. But as one of the central tenets of the Roman Catholic church, the doctrine of the Trinity was enforced by her against those individuals and communities who dissented from it. And despite the wide-ranging defection from Rome during the Reformation of the six- teenth century, the Trinity doctrine survived the reactionary mood and was ferried across the theological divide. Having imported it into their own reformed creeds, the new Protestant denominations in their turn continued to punish those who dissented on this point. One of the most shameful examples was the burning at the stake in 1553 of the anti-Trinitarian Michael Servetus, in which his adversary John Calvin exercised an influential role. The Effect of the Curse On the Search for Truth Our sun’s wide glare, our heaven’s shining blue, We owe to fog and dust they fumble through; And our rich wisdom that we treasure so, Shines from a thousand things that we don’t know. Heroism (Charlotte (Anna) Perkins Gilman; 1860-1935)  With God’s pronouncement of the curse and the death sentence on Adam and his descendants, and mankind’s subsequent separation from God’s fellowship, the acquiring of knowledge – theological and secular – has been an imperfect pursuit, fraught with error. In every era of history, mankind’s understanding on any subject is of the sort described by St. Paul – as seeing through a glass “darkly” (“a poor reflection,” NIV) (1 Cor. 13: 12). But despite our inherited mental imperfections or personal inability to comprehend heavenly truth with total clarity, one may – under the guidance of the Word and the influence of the holy spirit – understand tolerably well for the purposes of salvation. But we should remember that the degree of understanding necessary for the sanctification of the believer has varied over the centuries: from the simplicity and purity of the Apostles’ day, to the centralization of church practice and evisceration of biblical truth during the Apostasy, to the partial restoration of essential truths at the Reformation and onwards. Like filtered daylight, the doctrine of Three-Persons-In-One has served to distort the truth about Christ’s nature and the scope and effects of the salvation process. Nonetheless, the winsome character and virtue of Christ shines through the smog of ignorance and penetrates the mind and heart of all who claim Him as Savior and King, regardless of doctrinal affiliation. All such are Brothers and Sisters in Christ, even though they occasionally evict one another from their preferred temples (John 16: 2, 3). To misquote Bagehot, it is not letting daylight in upon mystery to argue that Christ is not God. There is still enough mystery to go around without complicating matters unnecessarily. Regardless of how much we learn about the character of Jehovah God – the singular, Supreme Being – we will never fully understand Him. He is unfathomable, straddling Eternity past and future, whose methods and procedures transcend human wisdom (Psa. 145: 3; Rom. 11: 33, 34). Nonetheless, to analyse the role and subordinate position of Christ as the Savior – that is, the means by which salvation is accomplished – is by no means an attempt to denigrate the grandeur of the process, the most stupendous thing in the Universe. Behold the Man As the “ransom for all,” Jesus was a replica of the first perfect man, Adam. But unlike the first  Adam, Jesus as the second Adam was obedient to death (1 Cor. 15: 45). Having been thus tested and tried and proved victorious, God promoted Him to a nature He had not previously held as the logos, and from then on He was seated at the right hand of God (Phil. 2: 8-11). It is worth noting that in order to satisfy all the Scripture texts bearing on the humanity of Christ – and thus tipping a hat to the Arians among us – many adherents of the Trinity doctrine are obliged to describe Christ as a dual entity, declaring that He was simultaneously wholly God and wholly Man. Thus they indirectly concede that Jesus in the flesh was confronted with the hazard of fallibility and the possibility of failure, a thing difficult to recon- cile with a role in the Trinity. As the noted Bible scholar, R. C. Sproule has observed: Could Jesus have wanted to sin? Theologians are divided on this point. I would say yes, I think he could have. I think that’s part of being made after the likeness of Adam. When we’re in heaven and are totally glorified, then we will no longer have the power and ability to sin. That’s what we look forward to; that’s what Jesus earned for himself and for us through his perfect obedience. Christ’s perfect obedience was not a charade. He actually was victorious over every conceivable temptation that was thrown his way. Now, That’s a Good Question! (1996) The Ransom-Sacrifice: A Corresponding Price Christ’s death purchases the believing sinner in a unique demonstration of God’s justice: Adam the perfect man sinned and God passed the sentence of death on him. Jesus the perfect man offered Himself in place of Adam, prospectively releasing Adam and his offspring from this curse and all its consequences. This is the “ransom for all” mentioned in 1 Timothy 2: 5 [T]here is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. The Apostle Paul lays emphasis on this principle of equivalence in 1 Corinthians 15: 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. That is to say, all those affected by the curse on Adam – the entire human family, past, present and future – will receive the saving merit of Christ’s death once they believe in Him as their Savior. Some will avail themselves of the privilege now; the vast majority will take their opportunity later, in Christ’s earthly Kingdom, following a general resurrection. The stark conclusion is that the Ransom-sacrifice as a transaction of equivalence is not feasi- ble under the doctrine of the Trinity. Christ Alone, By Faith Alone The Ransom-sacrifice of Christ guarantees an opportunity for all people to become right with God through faith, to have their sins forgiven, and to enter into a contract of grace. There can be no salvation outside this arrangement. Only the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross furnishes the basis for forgiveness and eternal life. God cannot pardon sin except on a righteous basis. And only the Ransom-sacrifice of Christ the Man explains the process through which God expunges sin’s condemnation and yet remains just and fair. To sum up: Christ does not save because He belongs to a Trinity, but because He does not. __________ October 2013
“AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH” John 1: 14 By A. Prentice All Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version, unless stated otherwise. ____________ THE WORD who was “made flesh” is de- noted in the Greek text as logos, the one who spoke and acted for God, as though God Himself. This logos existed “in the be- ginning with God” (John 1: 2). In v. 14 the Apostle John identifies this logos as Christ Jesus, who “dwelt among us, (and we be- held his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” The function, attributes and office of the logos remain a matter of profound mystery and theological contention. Apart from the specific and startling information passed on to us by the Apostle John – the source of which would seem to have been divine revelation – there are hints scat- tered throughout both Old and New Testaments. None of these details could have been reasonably understood with- out Jesus’ testimony about His own person, His mission  and the nature of His relationship with His Heavenly Father. To the question posed by Jesus to His disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matt. 16: 15), most Christians will answer, “You are God, the second Person of the triune Godhead.” So deeply entrenched in church orthodoxy is the doctrine of the Trinity that those who refuse to acknowledge it are esteemed to be non-Christian, heretics, and are shunned. Orthodoxy Prevails Out of the debates which took place at the Council of Nice in 325 the Nicene Creed emerged. Among other matters, it pronounced on what has become the official doctrine of the Trinity, rejecting the contrary opinion of Arius, who held that God and Christ are separate and not – in the words of the majority opinion of the Council – “consubstantial.” Nonetheless, the teachings of Arius (Arianism) persisted in various forms until about the seventh century. But as one of the central tenets of the Roman Catholic church, the doctrine of the Trinity was enforced by her against those individuals and communities who dissented from it. And despite the wide-ranging defection from Rome during the Reformation of the sixteenth century, the Trinity doctrine survived the reactionary mood and was ferried across the theological divide. Having imported it into their own re- formed creeds, the new Protestant denominations in their turn continued to punish those who dissented on this point. One of the most shameful examples was the burning at the stake in 1553 of the anti-Trinitarian Michael Servetus, in which his adversary John Calvin exercised an influential role. The Effect of the Curse On the Search for Truth Our sun’s wide glare, our heaven’s shining blue, We owe to fog and dust they fum- ble through; And our rich wisdom that we trea- sure so, Shines from a thousand things that we don’t know. Heroism (Charlotte (Anna) Perkins Gilman; 1860-1935)  With God’s pronouncement of the curse and the death sen- tence on Adam and his descendants, and mankind’s subse- quent separation from God’s fellowship, the acquiring of knowledge – theological and secular – has been an imper- fect pursuit, fraught with error. In every era of history, mankind’s understanding on any subject is of the sort de- scribed by St. Paul – as seeing through a glass “darkly” (“a poor reflection,” NIV) (1 Cor. 13: 12). But despite our inherited mental imperfections or personal inability to comprehend heavenly truth with total clarity, one may – under the guidance of the Word and the influ- ence of the holy spirit – understand tolerably well for the purposes of salvation. But we should remember that the degree of understanding necessary for the sanctification of the believer has varied over the centuries: from the sim- plicity and purity of the Apostles’ day, to the centralization of church practice and evisceration of biblical truth during the Apostasy, to the partial restoration of essential truths at the Reformation and onwards. Like filtered daylight, the doctrine of Three-Persons-In-One has served to distort the truth about Christ’s nature and the scope and effects of the salvation process. Nonetheless, the winsome character and virtue of Christ shines through the smog of ignorance and penetrates the mind and heart of all who claim Him as Savior and King, regardless of doctrinal affiliation. All such are Brothers and Sisters in Christ, even though they occasionally evict one another from their preferred temples (John 16: 2, 3). To misquote Bagehot, it is not letting daylight in upon mys- tery to argue that Christ is not God. There is still enough mystery to go around without complicating matters unnec- essarily. Regardless of how much we learn about the char- acter of Jehovah God – the singular, Supreme Being – we will never fully understand Him. He is unfathomable, strad- dling Eternity past and future, whose methods and proce- dures transcend human wisdom (Psa. 145: 3; Rom. 11: 33, 34). Nonetheless, to analyse the role and subordinate  position of Christ as the Savior – that is, the means by which salvation is accomplished – is by no means an at- tempt to denigrate the grandeur of the process, the most stupendous thing in the Universe. Behold the Man As the “ransom for all,” Jesus was a replica of the first per- fect man, Adam. But unlike the first Adam, Jesus as the second Adam was obedient to death (1 Cor. 15: 45). Having been thus tested and tried and proved victorious, God promoted Him to a nature He had not previously held  as the logos, and from then on He was seated at the right hand of God (Phil. 2: 8-11). It is worth noting that in order to satisfy all the Scripture texts bearing on the humanity of Christ – and thus tipping a hat to the Arians among us – many adherents of the Trinity doctrine are obliged to describe Christ as a dual en- tity, declaring that He was simultaneously wholly God and  wholly Man. Thus they indirectly concede that Jesus in the flesh was confronted with the hazard of fallibility and the possibility of failure, a thing difficult to reconcile with a role in the Trinity. As the noted Bible scholar, R. C. Sproule has observed: Could Jesus have wanted to sin? Theologians are divided on this point. I would say yes, I think he could have. I think that’s part of being made after the likeness of Adam. When we’re in heaven and are totally glorified, then we will no longer have the power and ability to sin. That’s what we look forward to; that’s what Jesus earned for himself and for us through his perfect obedience. Christ’s perfect obedience was not a charade. He actually was victorious over every conceivable temptation that was thrown his way. Now, That’s a Good Question! (1996) The Ransom-Sacrifice: A Corresponding Price Christ’s death purchases the believing sinner in a unique demonstration of God’s justice: Adam the perfect man sinned and God passed the sentence of death on him. Jesus the perfect man offered Himself in place of Adam, prospectively releasing Adam and his offspring from this curse and all its consequences. This is the “ransom for all” mentioned in 1 Timothy 2: 5 [T]here is one God, and one mediator be- tween God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6  Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testi- fied in due time. The Apostle Paul lays emphasis on this principle of equiva- lence in 1 Corinthians 15: 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. That is to say, all those affected by the curse on Adam – the entire human family, past, present and future – will re- ceive the saving merit of Christ’s death once they believe in Him as their Savior. Some will avail themselves of the privilege now; the vast majority will take their opportunity later, in Christ’s earthly Kingdom, following a general resurrection. The stark conclusion is that the Ransom-sacrifice as a transaction of equivalence is not feasible under the doc- trine of the Trinity. Christ Alone, By Faith Alone The Ransom-sacrifice of Christ guarantees an opportunity for all people to become right with God through faith, to have their sins forgiven, and to enter into a contract of grace. There can be no salvation outside this arrangement. Only the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross furnishes the basis for forgiveness and eternal life. God cannot pardon sin ex- cept on a righteous basis. And only the Ransom-sacrifice of Christ the Man explains the process through which God expunges sin’s condemnation and yet remains just and fair. To sum up: Christ does not save because He belongs to a Trinity, but because He does not. __________ October 2013
“IF YOU HAD BEEN HERE” A Study In John 11: 1-44 By L.N. All Scripture references are to the New International Version. __________________________ 1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2  This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. 7 Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. 10 It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” 11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” From the verses which precede these (John 10: 40-42), we learn that Jesus was in a town called Bethabara, “where John [the Baptist] had been baptising in the early days” (v. 40). It was known also as “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (John 1: 28), and was a few days’ walk from the other Bethany in Judea, in the south, where Lazarus and his sisters dwelt. Now receiving word by messenger that His friend Lazarus was mortally ill, Jesus tells His disciples that “this sickness will not end in death” — that the affliction was permitted by God to demonstrate the power (glory) of the Heavenly Father working through His Son, though He did not tell them how. Jesus deliberately tarried in Bethabara two additional days, after which, knowing in some way that Lazarus had now died, He tells the disciples that he “sleeps,” a meaning which foreshadows the miracle He would soon perform, the import of which they did not grasp nor foresee. Having told them that “this sickness will not end in death,” perhaps they now wondered if Jesus had been mistaken. But, no, He would demonstrate to them that death need not be permanent, so He likens it to a sleep. In John 5: 28, 29 He had already revealed the doctrine of the general resurrection, in which “all who are in their graves will hear [my] voice and come out.” The disciples naively conclude that Lazarus was slumbering, a sign that he would recover, and thus there would be no need to go to him. Besides, they reason, it is too dangerous to return to Judea, where some wait to kill Jesus (and perhaps them also?). Nonetheless, He announces that He will go, for His path is clear, His mission certain (“by day . . . will not stumble”). Thomas — later the “doubter” — spoke for all the disciples when he bravely proclaimed they should all go, too, and risk the consequences. * * * 17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” By the time Jesus and the disciples reached the outskirts of Bethany, Lazarus had been entombed for four days. (The Jews traditionally buried their deceased the same day.) The exact location of Bethabara — from whence Jesus and the disciples had set out — is not known. But assuming that Lazarus had died on the second day of Jesus’ tarrying there, and depending on what hour of the day the party had decamped for Bethany, and their mode of travel (probably on foot), we may guess at a two- or three-day journey. In any event, it was here that Martha, the older sister, came out to greet the Master. Possibly she was perplexed as she ran to meet Him: Why hadn’t He come sooner? Even as she hailed Him she could not resist venting her bewildered emotions: “Lord,” she says respectfully, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Hanging unspoken in the air is “if you had only been here” and “my brother would not have died in the first place.” If you had been here. This lament has sounded across countless centuries of countless sufferings. Couched in various forms, a similar bafflement underlies each cry, from If God loved me, such and such could not have happened, to There is no God, or there would be no suffering, to Why doesn’t He answer my prayers? Most people will eventually settle into indifference on theological matters and abandon regular prayer. Some will become agnostics or atheists. It takes courage to believe in God when He is so often silent. Even Jesus Himself, personified in Psa. 22: 2, roars the lament from the cross, “O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer.” He, too, might have added, “If you had been here . . . with me . . . I should not have to suffer this agony.” But Jesus’ temporary alienation from the face of the Father was a necessary factor in His dying a sinner’s death, though He was perfect, and without sin. In suffering this way, He “became a merciful and faithful high priest . . . that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2: 17). But for those who believe in Christ, God assures them that “before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isa. 65: 24). And so back to Martha: “But,” she adds, as if in cloaked apology, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Did she believe what she says here? That “even now” — even though my brother has been dead for four days — “you can still do something about it.” What, exactly, did she expect the Lord to do? * * * 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” What a profound contradiction: “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies”! Full of truth and clear of meaning to those who truly believe. As for Martha, it appears that she did not anticipate the miracle which was to come. In her response, she spoke merely of the general understanding of the Jews that the dead would rise at “the last day,” always a far-off dream. And so Jesus gently assures her that none of those who put their trust in Him ever truly die. Yes, they will, like all of humanity, go into the death state, but they are never out of God’s memory, and they will be raised out of the death condition to eternal life. “Do you believe this?” To which Martha answers that she believes in Him. This is enough. For Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life.” * * * 28 After [Martha] had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Martha ran to fetch her sister, Jesus stayed where He was. It is interesting to note how particular the Gospel writer is to point this out, a detail which might seem redundant to an understanding of the main event, and had it been omitted it would not have ruined the narrative flow. This detail, among many others, assures us of the veracity of the account. So we read that as soon as Mary learned that Jesus had arrived, she “got up quickly” and raced out to meet Him. She was followed in short order by a train of mourners, who had remained to visit with the bereaved family, and who assumed she was going to the tomb. Mary’s words are identical to those of Martha’s — they had no doubt commiserated together over the previous few days, probably expressing the disappointment they felt that Jesus had delayed to come to them: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” We see in this frank expression — one might almost see it as a reproof — that the Lord’s people should not be faulted for confessing to disappointment or doubt. Indeed, strong faith is not possible unless it first admits doubt. The overcoming power of faith consists in its having conquered rising incredulity. We learn to trust only after having first struggled with uncertainty. Be wary of those who tell you that doubt denotes a weak Christian. Our attitude in this regard must always be, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9: 24) * * * 33 When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus groaned inwardly and wept. In His tears we witness His heart-wrenching compassion for the bereaved sisters, the wider family, the friends of Lazarus, and His extraordinary empathy for the human family, past, present, and future. And in the weeping of the Son we hear the weeping of the Father. Some of the mourners exchanged oblique and whispered reproofs: If He is such a wonder-worker, why did He not keep Lazarus from dying in the first place? It is an ancient conundrum. How often in our private moments we wonder why Providence allows us or those close to us to suffer and die. When Jesus asks “where have you laid him?” it is not because He seeks information. He who discerned from a distance that Lazarus had already died, would surely know where he was buried. Rather, He chooses to direct the attention of the sisters and their fellow-mourners to the event at hand — the thing for which He has come, that which is to glorify the Father through the Son. In asking them to guide Him to the place, He engages with their sorrow, identifies Himself as a companion in grief. * * * 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Addressing His Father in heaven in that special way which only Jesus as the uniquely-begotten and dearly-loved Son could do, Jesus commands the dead to walk and come out! No need to command the heavy stone to roll away — the friends of Lazarus could do that. But only Christ, working as the instrument of God’s power, could make the dead live. And greater works than this He will yet do. And so the stupendous miracle was accomplished, and hearts and attitudes altered, in more ways than one. For while we read in v. 45 of those Jews who “had seen what Jesus did” and “put their faith in him,” we read, too, of those who scurried away and “went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done” (v. 46), the “but” at the beginning of the verse revealing their wicked motive. This cackling group resembles the grumpy and resentful brother of the prodigal, who balked at celebrating his sibling’s return to the family fold. Smug tale-bearers, their minds and hearts were bound tighter than the bandages that imprisoned Lazarus, resistant to the power of the holy spirit working through Jesus. No wonder that He lambasted such people (Matt. 12: 30-32, “blaspheming the holy spirit”; 23: 15, Pharisees the “children of hell [gehenna, the Second Death]”). As for Martha and Mary, and all of the friends of Lazarus, what joy! The brother, the friend, returned to home and hearth, alive and well. Such was the celebrity of Lazarus and such was the fame of the miracle that not long after, on the strength of it, crowds of people cheered Jesus as King on His triumphant ride into Jerusalem (John 12: 9, 17, 18). True to form, the Pharisees did not join in the cheering. Instead, they decided that they must not only kill Jesus, but must get rid of Lazarus too! (John 12: 10) (There’s no evidence that they succeeded in the latter plan.) What did become of Lazarus after his resuscitation? The Scriptures do not say, but we surmise that he lived on and then died in the normal way, for he had received “merely” an extension of his ordinary existence, not a resurrection to eternal life. This permanent resurrection is still future, and we await Christ’s worldwide kingdom on earth to make it a physical reality. Nonetheless, it remains true that all who believe in Christ as Savior and King are now justified by faith, and in that sense have passed from being dead in trespasses and sins, to forgiveness and life in the Beloved, in whom there is no condemnation. ____________________________ Note: The raising of Lazarus is not the only instance in Scripture of the dead being revived. There are several in the Old Testament and the in New Testament book of Acts. We will comment here only on those whom Jesus Himself resuscitated and which are found in the Gospels. There are two: the daughter of Jairus and the son of the widow whom Jesus encountered in the town of Nain. These accounts are found in the following: Jairus’ daughter — Matt. 9: 18, 19, 23-26; Mark 5: 35-43; Luke 8: 41, 42, 49-56; and the widow in Nain — Luke 7: 11-17. The impact and the circumstances surrounding the raising of Lazarus were quite different than all the others: it was the most public, the most spectacular and, from the point of view of a skeptic, the most convincing, Lazarus having been certifiably dead and buried for four days, his unembalmed body already decomposing. ________ February 2015.
“IF YOU HAD BEEN HERE” A Study In John 11: 1-44 By L.N. All Scripture references are to the New International Version. __________________________ 1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 4  When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. 7 Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. 10 It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” 11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” From the verses which precede these (John 10: 40-42), we learn that Jesus was in a town called Bethabara, “where John [the Baptist] had been baptising in the early days” (v. 40). It was known also as “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (John 1: 28), and was a few days’ walk from the other Bethany in Judea, in the south, where Lazarus and his sisters dwelt. Now receiving word by messenger that His friend Lazarus was mortally ill, Jesus tells His disciples that “this sickness will not end in death” — that the affliction was permitted by God to demonstrate the power (glory) of the Heavenly Father working through His Son, though He did not tell them how. Jesus deliberately tarried in Bethabara two additional days, after which, knowing in some way that Lazarus had now died, He tells the disciples that he “sleeps,” a meaning which foreshadows the miracle He would soon perform, the import of which they did not grasp nor foresee. Having told them that “this sickness will not end in death,” perhaps they now wondered if Jesus had been mistaken. But, no, He would demonstrate to them that death need not be permanent, so He likens it to a sleep. In John 5: 28, 29 He had already revealed the doctrine of the general resurrection, in which “all who are in their graves will hear [my] voice and come out.” The disciples naively conclude that Lazarus was slumbering, a sign that he would recover, and thus there would be no need to go to him. Besides, they reason, it is too dangerous to return to Judea, where some wait to kill Jesus (and perhaps them also?). Nonetheless, He announces that He will go, for His path is clear, His mission certain (“by day . . . will not stumble”). Thomas — later the “doubter” — spoke for all the disciples when he bravely proclaimed they should all go, too, and risk the consequences. * * * 17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” By the time Jesus and the disciples reached the outskirts of Bethany, Lazarus had been entombed for four days. (The Jews traditionally buried their deceased the same day.) The exact location of Bethabara — from whence Jesus and the disciples had set out — is not known. But assuming that Lazarus had died on the second day of Jesus’ tarrying there, and depending on what hour of the day the party had decamped for Bethany, and their mode of travel (probably on foot), we may guess at a two- or three-day journey. In any event, it was here that Martha, the older sister, came out to greet the Master. Possibly she was perplexed as she ran to meet Him: Why hadn’t He come sooner? Even as she hailed Him she could not resist venting her bewildered emotions: “Lord,” she says respectfully, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Hanging unspoken in the air is “if you had only been here” and “my brother would not have died in the first place.” If you had been here. This lament has sounded across countless centuries of countless sufferings. Couched in various forms, a similar bafflement underlies each cry, from If God loved me, such and such could not have happened, to There is no God, or there would be no suffering, to Why doesn’t He answer my prayers? Most people will eventually settle into indifference on theological matters and abandon regular prayer. Some will become agnostics or atheists. It takes courage to believe in God when He is so often silent. Even Jesus Himself, personified in Psa. 22: 2, roars the lament from the cross, “O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer.” He, too, might have added, “If you had been here . . . with me . . . I should not have to suffer this agony.” But Jesus’ temporary alienation from the face of the Father was a necessary factor in His dying a sinner’s death, though He was perfect, and without sin. In suffering this way, He “became a merciful and faithful high priest . . . that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2: 17). But for those who believe in Christ, God assures them that “before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isa. 65: 24). And so back to Martha: “But,” she adds, as if in cloaked apology, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Did she believe what she says here? That “even now” — even though my brother has been dead for four days — “you can still do something about it.” What, exactly, did she expect the Lord to do? * * * 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26  and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” What a profound contradiction: “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies”! Full of truth and clear of meaning to those who truly believe. As for Martha, it appears that she did not anticipate the miracle which was to come. In her response, she spoke merely of the general understanding of the Jews that the dead would rise at “the last day,” always a far-off dream. And so Jesus gently assures her that none of those who put their trust in Him ever truly die. Yes, they will, like all of humanity, go into the death state, but they are never out of God’s memory, and they will be raised out of the death condition to eternal life. “Do you believe this?” To which Martha answers that she believes in Him. This is enough. For Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life.” * * * 28 After [Martha] had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Martha ran to fetch her sister, Jesus stayed where He was. It is interesting to note how particular the Gospel writer is to point this out, a detail which might seem redundant to an understanding of the main event, and had it been omitted it would not have ruined the narrative flow. This detail, among many others, assures us of the veracity of the account. So we read that as soon as Mary learned that Jesus had arrived, she “got up quickly” and raced out to meet Him. She was followed in short order by a train of mourners, who had remained to visit with the bereaved family, and who assumed she was going to the tomb. Mary’s words are identical to those of Martha’s — they had no doubt commiserated together over the previous few days, probably expressing the disappointment they felt that Jesus had delayed to come to them: “If  you had been here, my brother would not have died.” We see in this frank expression — one might almost see it as a reproof — that the Lord’s people should not be faulted for confessing to disappointment or doubt. Indeed, strong faith is not possible unless it first admits doubt. The overcoming power of faith consists in its having conquered rising incredulity. We learn to trust only after having first struggled with uncertainty. Be wary of those who tell you that doubt denotes a weak Christian. Our attitude in this regard must always be, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9: 24) * * * 33 When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus groaned inwardly and wept. In His tears we witness His heart- wrenching compassion for the bereaved sisters, the wider family, the friends of Lazarus, and His extraordinary empathy for the human family, past, present, and future. And in the weeping of the Son we hear the weeping of the Father. Some of the mourners exchanged oblique and whispered reproofs: If He is such a wonder-worker, why did He not keep Lazarus from dying in the first place? It is an ancient conundrum. How often in our private moments we wonder why Providence allows us or those close to us to suffer and die. When Jesus asks “where have you laid him?” it is not because He seeks information. He who discerned from a distance that Lazarus had already died, would surely know where he was buried. Rather, He chooses to direct the attention of the sisters and their fellow-mourners to the event at hand — the thing for which He has come, that which is to glorify the Father through the Son. In asking them to guide Him to the place, He engages with their sorrow, identifies Himself as a companion in grief. * * * 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Addressing His Father in heaven in that special way which only Jesus as the uniquely-begotten and dearly-loved Son could do, Jesus commands the dead to walk and come out! No need to command the heavy stone to roll away — the friends of Lazarus could do that. But only Christ, working as the instrument of God’s power, could make the dead live. And greater works than this He will yet do. And so the stupendous miracle was accomplished, and hearts and attitudes altered, in more ways than one. For while we read in v. 45 of those Jews who “had seen what Jesus did” and “put their faith in him,” we read, too, of those who scurried away and “went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done” (v. 46), the “but” at the beginning of the verse revealing their wicked motive. This cackling group resembles the grumpy and resentful brother of the prodigal, who balked at celebrating his sibling’s return to the family fold. Smug tale-bearers, their minds and hearts were bound tighter than the bandages that imprisoned Lazarus, resistant to the power of the holy spirit working through Jesus. No wonder that He lambasted such people (Matt. 12: 30-32, “blaspheming the holy spirit”; 23: 15, Pharisees the “children of hell [gehenna, the Second Death]”). As for Martha and Mary, and all of the friends of Lazarus, what joy! The brother, the friend, returned to home and hearth, alive and well. Such was the celebrity of Lazarus and such was the fame of the miracle that not long after, on the strength of it, crowds of people cheered Jesus as King on His triumphant ride into Jerusalem (John 12: 9, 17, 18). True to form, the Pharisees did not join in the cheering. Instead, they decided that they must not only kill Jesus, but must get rid of Lazarus too! (John 12: 10) (There’s no evidence that they succeeded in the latter plan.) What did become of Lazarus after his resuscitation? The Scriptures do not say, but we surmise that he lived on and then died in the normal way, for he had received “merely” an extension of his ordinary existence, not a resurrection to eternal life. This permanent resurrection is still future, and we await Christ’s worldwide kingdom on earth to make it a physical reality. Nonetheless, it remains true that all who believe in Christ as Savior and King are now justified by faith, and in that sense have passed from being dead in trespasses and sins, to forgiveness and life in the Beloved, in whom there is no condemnation. ____________________________ Note: The raising of Lazarus is not the only instance in Scripture of the dead being revived. There are several in the Old Testament and the in New Testament book of Acts. We will comment here only on those whom Jesus Himself resuscitated and which are found in the Gospels. There are two: the daughter of Jairus and the son of the widow whom Jesus encountered in the town of Nain. These accounts are found in the following: Jairus’ daughter — Matt. 9: 18, 19, 23-26; Mark 5: 35-43; Luke 8: 41, 42, 49-56; and the widow in Nain — Luke 7: 11-17. The impact and the circumstances surrounding the raising of Lazarus were quite different than all the others: it was the most public, the most spectacular and, from the point of view of a skeptic, the most convincing, Lazarus having been certifiably dead and buried for four days, his unembalmed body already decomposing. ________ February 2015.
SOVEREIGNTY By L.N. Part One Scripture references are to the New International Version unless stated otherwise. ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.’ — Judges 21: 25 — _______________ THE PERIOD IN which we join this study is that of the Judges, a chronologically shadowy era, which lay some- where between the death of Joshua — the General who had led Israel to victory over, and final settlement in, the Promised Land (Josh. 23: 1); and Saul — the first man to be anointed king of Israel 1 Sam. 9: 15, 16). The words of our headline text, Judges 21: 25 — ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit’ — was obviously written long after the events described; that is, during a period when kings in Israel were the norm, and some explanation of an earlier arrangement was in order. The explanation is repeated in similar words throughout the book of Judges. See 17: 6; 18: 1; 19: 1. The repetition suggests that the book of Judges was compiled at a later date from separate historical records, possibly by Samuel. The Period Of The Judges The ‘judge’ (shaphat) in this context could be described as a combined legislator, governor, protector of the people, and the warrior type. The same Hebrew word is used to describe Jehovah as the supreme Judge, who promotes and de- motes as He sees fit (Psa. 75: 7). The Judges in biblical Israel were raised up by God (Judges 2: 18), but they were nei- ther righteous nor blameless, their careers being variously marked by temporizing, treachery, idolatry, and self-serving behavior. Nonetheless, their adjudications were what was needed at an uncertain time in the history of Israel. The listings in the book of Judges and 1 Sam. 2 and 3, inform us that there were fifteen principal Judges. They were (in order): Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah (with Barak), Gideon, Abimelech, Tola, Jair, Jepthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, Samson, Eli and Samuel. If we count Barak in his own right, the tally comes to sixteen. As for Samuel, he has the dis- tinction of being not only the last of the Judges, but also the first of the Prophets. See Acts 3: 24; compare Heb. 11: 32. Many of the Israelites chafed under the oversight of these Judges, and were at length glad to be rid of them. See Judges 2: 16-19 [‘. . . when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers . . . re- fused to give up their evil practices . . .’]. The tenure of Samuel, the last Judge, came to an abrupt end when the people demanded a different form of governance, one like the rulers of the surrounding (heathen) nations (1 Sam. 8: 4-7): 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’ 6 But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.’ The problem here was less with the form of rulership they requested, than with their rejection of the theocratic republic they already had. Just such a request had been anticipated in Deut. 17: 14-19. This ‘any one but God’ declaration is a refrain common to our own day and country, as people have grown increasingly tired of conservative traditions of ear- lier decades, preferring the uninhibited ‘globalized’ secular culture, now on view throughout the Western world. The Hebrew word for ‘king’ (melek) used here occurs hundreds of times in the Old Testament, before and after this account in Samuel. It is also applied to God Himself (‘The LORD is King for ever and ever’; Psa. 10: 16). The equivalent Greek word is basileus, and is used of earthly sovereigns (‘the king, as the supreme authority’ [which would have included the Roman Emperor] — 1 Peter 2: 13, 14); of Jesus (‘King of Israel’ — John 12: 12, 13) and of Jesus and His Church together (‘King of kings’; Rev. 17: 14). Be Careful What You Wish For . . . You Just Might Get It In response, the Lord told Samuel to warn the people that a king would conscript them and their sons into military service, nationalize their economy, and tax them heavily in order to raise income for the treasury. See 1 Sam. 8: 10-17. Israel demonstrated it had grown weary of and rebellious towards the sta- tus quo. God may have been equally displeased had they demanded a President, or an Emperor, or a Sheikh. Subsequent events proved Samuel’s warning correct. Whether Saul or David or Solomon, or the numerous kings, good and bad, which followed, the people were by turns oppressed and troubled by the man on the throne. Unsurprisingly, the pattern has repeated itself throughout world history, though it should be stressed that autocracy and overreaching are not traits peculiar to royalty. Apart from the theocratic arrangement in force before Israel became a kingdom, the Scriptures do not appear to favor one form of earthly government over another. All forms, royal or otherwise, are imperfect and (more or less) prone to degradation, and are lumped together as ‘kings [rulers] of the earth’ (Rev. 6: 15). And, in fairness to Israel’s request, we should note that the reason given by the elders for rejecting rule by God, as represented in Samuel, is that Samuel’s sons were themselves corrupt (1 Sam. 8: 4, 5). It appears then, that regardless of the form of government the nation chose, God would have been displeased. [Note: The modern state of Israel, recognized officially in 1948, is a democratic republic. It has a unicameral parliamentary system, the Knesset (Heb., gathering). The head of state is the President, who in turn endorses as Prime Minister the most eligible candi- date determined by popular election (proportional representation). The Knesset is situated in Jerusalem, the capital of the nation.] The King Transfers Authority To The King Regardless of what types of government may or may not have been on offer, the monarchical model is the one into which the prophecies of the Bible were subsequently dovetailed, and the pattern with which Christians have become familiar. ‘Christ as Savior and King’ has an appeal which ‘Christ as Savior and [Governor, Kaiser, President]’ does not. The Scriptures inform us that the future, righteous government of earth will be a ‘kingdom’ with Christ as potentate, as illustrated in the parable of the sheep and the goats, which combines a pastoral picture with a regal one (Matt. 25: 31- 33 [‘throne . . . heavenly glory’]). In a wonderful mystery, we see that God divests Himself of some of His own authority and power and bestows it on Christ: the Almighty thus confers Kingship on the son and heir, referring to His beloved in terms of near omnipotence (Heb. 1, King James (Authorised) Version): 2 [God] hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. . . . 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Christ alone is He who conveys the essence and righteousness of Jehovah, the Supreme Judge. The eventual result of Christ’s death on the cross will be the gathering of all people to Him in His future Kingdom on earth (John 12: 32 [‘will draw all men unto myself’]). God’s sovereign reign on earth through Christ, the great antitypical Judge during the Millennium, is to be installed in a time of worldwide trouble. Christ’s administration is itself characterized as a smashing up of the nations with an ‘iron sceptre’ (Psa. 2: 9). His will be an imperial dictatorship, but paternal at its core, designed with rich blessings in view for all humanity, intended to make all people free, not to enslave them. Christ the King-Judge shall reign over the earth until all the enemies of righteousness are subdued, including Death it- self (1 Cor. 15: 25, 26). When Christ’s sovereignty during the Millennial Age has achieved its purpose of uplifting mankind, it is likely that the race, at last restored to the perfect condition in which Adam was created, will resume its former sovereignty, lost at the Fall. See Gen. 1: 26 [‘rule . . . over all the earth’]; Psa. 8: 5-8 [‘You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet’]; Rom. 8: 20, 21 [‘. . . glorious freedom of the children of God’]. (Part 2) _______________ February 2015.
SOVEREIGNTY By L.N. Part One Scripture references are to the New International Version unless stated otherwise. ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.’ — Judges 21: 25 — _______________ THE PERIOD IN which we join this study is that of the Judges, a chronologically shadowy era, which lay somewhere between the death of Joshua — the General who had led Israel to victory over, and final settle- ment in, the Promised Land (Josh. 23: 1); and Saul — the first man to be anointed king of Israel 1 Sam. 9: 15, 16). The words of our headline text, Judges 21: 25 — ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit’ — was obviously written long after the events described; that is, during a period when kings in Israel were the norm, and some explanation of an earlier arrangement was in order. The explanation is repeated in similar words throughout the book of Judges. See 17: 6; 18: 1; 19: 1. The repetition suggests that the book of Judges was compiled at a later date from separate historical records, possibly by Samuel. The Period Of The Judges The ‘judge’ (shaphat) in this context could be described as a combined legislator, governor, protector of the people, and the warrior type. The same Hebrew word is used to describe Jehovah as the supreme Judge, who promotes and demotes as He sees fit (Psa. 75: 7). The Judges in biblical Israel were raised up by God (Judges 2: 18), but they were neither right- eous nor blameless, their careers being variously marked by temporizing, treachery, idolatry, and self-serving behavior. Nonetheless, their adjudica- tions were what was needed at an uncertain time in the history of Israel. The listings in the book of Judges and 1 Sam. 2 and 3, inform us that there were fifteen principal Judges. They were (in order): Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah (with Barak), Gideon, Abimelech, Tola, Jair, Jepthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, Samson, Eli and Samuel. If we count Barak in his own right, the tally comes to sixteen. As for Samuel, he has the distinction of being not only the last of the Judges, but also the first of the Prophets. See Acts 3: 24; compare Heb. 11: 32. Many of the Israelites chafed under the oversight of these Judges, and were at length glad to be rid of them. See Judges 2: 16-19 [‘. . . when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers . . . refused to give up their evil practices . . .’]. The tenure of Samuel, the last Judge, came to an abrupt end when the people demanded a different form of governance, one like the rulers of the surrounding (hea- then) nations (1 Sam. 8: 4-7): 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’ 6 But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.’ The problem here was less with the form of rulership they requested, than with their rejection of the theocratic republic they already had. Just such a request had been anticipated in Deut. 17: 14-19. This ‘any one but God’ declaration is a refrain common to our own day and country, as people have grown increasingly tired of conservative traditions of earlier decades, preferring the uninhibited ‘globalized’ secular culture, now on view throughout the Western world. The Hebrew word for ‘king’ (melek) used here occurs hundreds of times in the Old Testament, before and after this account in Samuel. It is also applied to God Himself (‘The LORD is King for ever and ever’; Psa. 10: 16). The equivalent Greek word is basileus, and is used of earthly sovereigns (‘the king, as the supreme authority’ [which would have included the Roman Emperor] — 1 Peter 2: 13, 14); of Jesus (‘King of Israel’ — John 12: 12, 13) and of Jesus and His Church together (‘King of kings’; Rev. 17: 14). Be Careful What You Wish For . . . You Just Might Get It In response, the Lord told Samuel to warn the people that a king would conscript them and their sons into military service, nationalize their economy, and tax them heavily in order to raise income for the treasury. See 1 Sam. 8: 10-17. Israel demonstrated it had grown weary of and rebellious towards the status quo. God may have been equally displeased had they demanded a President, or an Emperor, or a Sheikh. Subsequent events proved Samuel’s warning correct. Whether Saul or David or Solomon, or the numerous kings, good and bad, which followed, the people were by turns oppressed and troubled by the man on the throne. Unsurprisingly, the pattern has repeated itself throughout world history, though it should be stressed that autocracy and overreaching are not traits peculiar to royalty. Apart from the theocratic arrangement in force before Israel became a kingdom, the Scriptures do not appear to favor one form of earthly government over another. All forms, royal or otherwise, are imperfect and (more or less) prone to degradation, and are lumped to- gether as ‘kings [rulers] of the earth’ (Rev. 6: 15). And, in fairness to Israel’s request, we should note that the reason given by the elders for rejecting rule by God, as represented in Samuel, is that Samuel’s sons were themselves corrupt (1 Sam. 8: 4, 5). It appears then, that regardless of the form of government the nation chose, God would have been displeased. [Note: The modern state of Israel, rec- ognized officially in 1948, is a democratic republic. It has a unicameral parliamentary system, the Knesset (Heb., gathering). The head of state is the President, who in turn endorses as Prime Minister the most eligible candidate determined by popular election (proportional representation). The Knesset is situated in Jerusalem, the capital of the nation.] The King Transfers Authority To The King Regardless of what types of government may or may not have been on offer, the monarchical model is the one into which the prophecies of the Bible were subsequently dovetailed, and the pattern with which Christians have become familiar. ‘Christ as Savior and King’ has an appeal which ‘Christ as Savior and [Governor, Kaiser, President]’ does not. The Scriptures inform us that the future, righteous government of earth will be a ‘kingdom’ with Christ as potentate, as illustrated in the parable of the sheep and the goats, which combines a pastoral picture with a regal one (Matt. 25: 31-33 [‘throne . . . heavenly glory’]). In a wonderful mystery, we see that God divests Himself of some of His own authority and power and bestows it on Christ: the Almighty thus con- fers Kingship on the son and heir, referring to His beloved in terms of near omnipotence (Heb. 1, King James (Authorised) Version): 2 [God] hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by him- self purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 Being made so much better than the an- gels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. . . . 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteous- ness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Christ alone is He who conveys the essence and righteousness of Jehovah, the Supreme Judge. The eventual result of Christ’s death on the cross will be the gathering of all people to Him in His future Kingdom on earth (John 12: 32 [‘will draw all men unto myself’]). God’s sovereign reign on earth through Christ, the great antitypical Judge during the Millennium, is to be installed in a time of worldwide trouble. Christ’s administration is it- self characterized as a smashing up of the nations with an ‘iron sceptre’ (Psa. 2: 9). His will be an imperial dictatorship, but paternal at its core, de- signed with rich blessings in view for all humanity, intended to make all people free, not to enslave them. Christ the King-Judge shall reign over the earth until all the enemies of righteousness are subdued, including Death itself (1 Cor. 15: 25, 26). When Christ’s sovereignty during the Millennial Age has achieved its pur- pose of uplifting mankind, it is likely that the race, at last restored to the perfect condition in which Adam was created, will resume its former sovereignty, lost at the Fall. See Gen. 1: 26 [‘rule . . . over all the earth’]; Psa. 8: 5-8 [‘You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet’]; Rom. 8: 20, 21 [‘. . . glorious freedom of the children of God’]. (Part 2) _______________ February 2015.
SOVEREIGNTY By L.N. Part Two of Two Scripture references are to the New International Version, UK Edition of 1984, unless stated otherwise. ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.’ — Judges 21: 25 — __________________ Recap of Part One: The era of the Judges who led ancient Israel, following the death of Joshua, was superseded (at the people’s request) by a monarchy. It is from this reign of kings that many of the biblical analogies and figures of speech are derived, Christ Himself being hailed as a king. In this closing article we sketch how the meaning of sovereignty has evolved and how the principle of ‘self-determination’ manifests itself today. _________________ The Sovereignty Of Nations ‘Sovereign’ derives from the Old French, soverain, which in turn is based on the Latin, super, meaning ‘above’ — thus, the ‘supreme authority’. Its traditional application was to the Almighty and, secondarily, to the earthly monarch, esteemed as the one ruling in God’s stead. In modern times it is frequently used with reference to nation-states as au- tonomous entities (‘sovereign territory’, ‘sovereign wealth fund’) and to citizen power inherent in a functioning democracy (‘the will of the people is sovereign’). ‘Sovereignty’, ‘autonomy’, ‘self-determination’ are terms rich in meaning and history. Great movements towards the independence of nations large and small began to emerge in the late nineteenth century and accelerated in the twenti- eth, helped along by the First and Second World Wars. The results were varied, being stimulated on the one hand by a passion to throw off foreign control or, conversely, to enlarge national boundaries and dominate other peoples. From the ambitions of Germany (aggrieved at its treatment at the Armistice of 1919) and Imperial Japan (feeling slighted by Britain and America and chafing under those nations’ domination of the Pacific region), to the rise and fall of the Soviet Empire (and its humiliating collapse in 1989), to the disassembling of the British Empire after 1945 —the last half of the twentieth century and onwards has seen massive political upheavals and realignments. From the biblical standpoint, the most important blossoming of nationhood was that of the State of Israel in 1948, a prophetic marker by which we may locate present history on the stream of time. North America And there have been counter-developments, in which autonomous nations have more or less collaborated in alliances or mutually-beneficial federations — trade agreements, economic or currency unions, and defense compacts — some out of comparative weakness, others to gain home advantages from treaty agreements. All alliances require some give and take, in which the weaker partner surrenders powers and prestige to the stronger, in exchange for security or favorable trading status. Some arise out of shared interests, a connected geography, economic structure, or similar ideology as, for example, those which exist between Canada and the United States. In its cheek- by-jowl association with the U.S., Canada, as a junior partner, has over the decades yielded hefty chunks of its auton- omy to the U.S., to which it often defers in matters of foreign policy, trade and defense. Large swathes of its industrial and retail economy are now owned or dominated by American corporations, the Canadian economy having been prac- tically transformed into a ‘branch plant’ of the U.S. market. (It could be said that in its present political and economic sway over Canada the U.S. has achieved what it failed to accomplish in its two armed invasions of that country in 1775 and 1812.) Europe The European Union (EU) is an unique illustration of continental and extra-continental nations pooling their resources to form the world’s largest economic, political and free-market federation, undergirded by a single currency, the Euro. As a centralizing force, the European Union through its Commission executes rules and regulations covering such mat- ters as ocean fishing rights, national borders, immigration, environmental standards, and so on. To make the arrange- ment work, each component nation in the Union has had to surrender aspects of its sovereignty and, thus, some freedom of independent action. Great Britain Once proud of its freedom from foreign alliances — the ‘splendid isolation’ of its heyday — Britain, a constitutional monarchy, is now deeply enmeshed in the European project. Such participation, by its very nature, requires the abroga- tion of essential elements of national sovereignty and is indicative of Britain’s decline as a world power. Conceding to public pressure, Prime Minister Cameron has pledged to hold an ‘in-out’ referendum on the country’s membership in the EU, conditional on the Conservative Party being returned to power in May’s General Election. But whether in the EU or out of it, Britain may yet shrink to the status of a third-tier power. In an effort to balance the checkbook the government is paring back the armed forces and may lose its capability to engage in overseas combat missions, a capability which it has long touted as a measure of its status in the world (the hackneyed, ‘punching above its weight’). Having over the decades lost much of its manufacturing base and having sold off large chunks of it — such as the car industry — to foreign entities, diverting profits abroad, the U.K. is hard-pressed to compete with Germany, Europe’s principal manufacturing nation and economic engine of the EU. Britain still has its strengths, and is a potent force in culture and various media forms (art, sport, music, theatre, film, publishing), and in pharmaceuti- cals, scientific research, and financial services, London being one of two financial capitals of the world (New York the other). As noted elsewhere in these columns, the rise of Britain as the chief industrial, economic and naval power in the nine- teenth-century world was the proximate and providential cause of the return of the Jews to Palestine and the establish- ment of the State of Israel (1948). In this these two nations — the falling of the one and the rising of the other — are effectively linked. It is therefore sad to see that a significant proportion of the British people have cultivated a sneer- ing, caustic attitude towards the State of Israel. So far this has not mushroomed into widespread anti-Semitism on the domestic front, but time will tell. Although the State of Israel may often be difficult to love, and may be justly criti- cized for some of its behavior towards the Palestinian territories, the fault does not lie wholly with Israel. God pro- claims that He will bless those who favor her and disfavor those who curse her (Gen. 12: 2, 3). And like it or not, the future well-being of the world is irrevocably coupled with the fate of Israel (Isa. 2: 1-4 [‘Jerusalem . . . chief among the mountains (nations) . . . all nations stream into it’]). Sovereignty And The Individual God’s Word informs us that His purposes and dealings with mankind are compassionate, foresighted, and progressive. His executive will has directed the march of the ages, each dispensation a crucial component of the grand Plan, which continues, and which will yet make sense to all when its purposes are complete. At the beginning of human history, the mind of Man received its first spark of intelligence from the Divine Creator and he was endowed with free will. A ‘king’ on earth, made in the image and likeness of the heavenly King, Adam’s choice to disobey his Maker demonstrated the hazards attached to personal autonomy. In consequence, he precipitated the fall into sin and death, the dire effects which we all now experience in the troubles and sorrows of the present life. Nonetheless, the introduction of free will was a master stroke on the part of the Creator. It made possible a being (hu- manity) who was a decision-maker, responsible for his own actions, although the darker side of the faculty has always the possibility of chaos. But this is no experiment gone wrong, like Frankensteinʼs monster run amok. God allows the chaos but is never outdistanced by it. Omniscience permits what Omnipotence need not control. This is celestial Genius on display to those who care to study it. And the random, multi-stranded, complex littering of human experi- ences across the amphitheatre of history will in due time reveal the beneficial results for the entire human family. Human Will Bumps Up Against Divine Autonomy There has always been tension between man’s autonomy and Divine sovereignty. The exercise of our own free will bumps up against certain limits, for we are by nature subject to the Creator and may not do whatever we want to do. But just as nations prize their sovereignty and freedom of action, so individuals long to be free, unfettered, in charge of their own destiny. Historic movements towards national independence often triggered corresponding domestic agitation for social and political liberties — freedom from religious persecution, unlawful restraint and imprisonment, electoral suffrage, and so on. In the modern world, the gains were earliest and most far-reaching in western (Christian) nations, and we are now in an era of personal autonomy which is throwing off the traditional restraints of self-control. Like those referred to in our headline text — ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit’ — and like the ancient Israelites, demanding to be cut adrift from Divine oversight, the modern secular world is in revolt against God, preferring to worship the Self. The Christian lamp has not been completely extinguished, but the temple of Faith has been ransacked, defiled and many indulge in shameful practices in defiance of virtue and call such things good (Rom. 1: 18- 27). Sovereignty And The Christian Once we as an individual believer accept the sovereignty of Christ we cannot retain our own sovereign will. For we cannot serve two masters simultaneously: the flesh and the spirit. Each one of us likes to have our own way. The sense of identity — the Me — is very strong, and it’s hard to break the habit. There is a lot of Me around today, as British and western society in general drifts away from basic traditional Christian values towards a celebration of a Christ-free world, into an atheistic culture. As a committed Christian, all that one thinks, says, and does must henceforth be subject to the standards and require- ments which Christ represents. ‘Take my yoke upon you’ He says (Matt. 11: 29). Such is the attitude of consecration, which unashamedly declares, ‘Not my will, but Yours’. And so we break down the boundaries of Selfishness and Worldliness in order to let Him in. Our aims and ambitions are no longer our own. And though we may often chafe at the restrictions of Christian living, where else can we go? Who else can forgive, cleanse, save, but Christ, the anointed King? The Calvinistic notion of ʻtotal depravityʼ is correct insofar as it asserts there is no aspect of the human condition left undamaged by the Adamic curse. We retain the ability to make choices, but we cannot recommend ourselves to God or win salvation by the inventiveness of our imagination, our works, or on our own merit. Even our cherished free will is impinged on by the perverse tendencies of our fallen nature, scuttling our best intentions. As St. Paul puts it — ʻI have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it outʼ (Rom. 7: 18). Nonetheless, varying degrees of nobility, in- tegrity, compassion, common sense, logic, etc., remain — elements of character which He can cultivate for godly goals. Being justified by faith, we can sing, Not my own, but saved by Jesus, Who redeemed me by His blood, Gladly I accept the message, I belong to Christ the Lord. — Whittle-Nathan, McGranahan (1878) God’s Sovereignty Demonstrated At Last Lacking faith, most people will never understand the power and goodness of God until they come to witness it first- hand in the future Kingdom of Christ, who will then be their Judge and King. Christ will function as the all-powerful representative of God in the earth. Intended to restore and not to destroy, this Kingdom will raise all mankind from the ‘sleep’ of death and bring the race under a benign regime of discipline, education, and reformation, to the end that all will learn to appreciate the Plan of God and to love and honor Christ the Savior who died for them, submitting will- ingly to His influence (Phil. 2: 9-11). 1 Cor. 15: 24-28 describes what will happen when Christ’s work is finished (emphasis added): Then the end will come, when [Christ] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For [Christ] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When [Christ] has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. End ________ March 2015.
SOVEREIGNTY By L.N. Part Two of Two Scripture references are to the New International Version, UK Edition of 1984, unless stated otherwise. ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.’ — Judges 21: 25 — __________________ Recap of Part One: The era of the Judges who led ancient Israel, follow- ing the death of Joshua, was superseded (at the people’s request) by a monarchy. It is from this reign of kings that many of the biblical analogies and figures of speech are derived, Christ Himself being hailed as a king. In this closing article we sketch how the meaning of sovereignty has evolved and how the principle of ‘self-determination’ manifests itself today. _________________ The Sovereignty Of Nations ‘Sovereign’ derives from the Old French, soverain, which in turn is based on the Latin, super, meaning ‘above’ — thus, the ‘supreme authority’. Its traditional application was to the Almighty and, secondarily, to the earthly monarch, esteemed as the one ruling in God’s stead. In modern times it is frequently used with reference to nation-states as autonomous entities (‘sovereign territory’, ‘sovereign wealth fund’) and to citizen power inher- ent in a functioning democracy (‘the will of the people is sovereign’). ‘Sovereignty’, ‘autonomy’, ‘self-determination’ are terms rich in meaning and history. Great movements towards the independence of nations large and small began to emerge in the late nineteenth century and accelerated in the twentieth, helped along by the First and Second World Wars. The re- sults were varied, being stimulated on the one hand by a passion to throw off foreign control or, conversely, to enlarge national boundaries and domi- nate other peoples. From the ambitions of Germany (aggrieved at its treat- ment at the Armistice of 1919) and Imperial Japan (feeling slighted by Britain and America and chafing under those nations’ domination of the Pacific region), to the rise and fall of the Soviet Empire (and its humiliat- ing collapse in 1989), to the disassembling of the British Empire after 1945 —the last half of the twentieth century and onwards has seen mas- sive political upheavals and realignments. From the biblical standpoint, the most important blossoming of nationhood was that of the State of Israel in 1948, a prophetic marker by which we may locate present history on the stream of time. North America And there have been counter-developments, in which autonomous nations have more or less collaborated in alliances or mutually-beneficial federa- tions — trade agreements, economic or currency unions, and defense com- pacts — some out of comparative weakness, others to gain home advantages from treaty agreements. All alliances require some give and take, in which the weaker partner sur- renders powers and prestige to the stronger, in exchange for security or fa- vorable trading status. Some arise out of shared interests, a connected geography, economic structure, or similar ideology as, for example, those which exist between Canada and the United States. In its cheek-by-jowl association with the U.S., Canada, as a junior partner, has over the decades yielded hefty chunks of its autonomy to the U.S., to which it often defers in matters of foreign policy, trade and defense. Large swathes of its indus- trial and retail economy are now owned or dominated by American corpo- rations, the Canadian economy having been practically transformed into a ‘branch plant’ of the U.S. market. (It could be said that in its present politi- cal and economic sway over Canada the U.S. has achieved what it failed to accomplish in its two armed invasions of that country in 1775 and 1812.) Europe The European Union (EU) is an unique illustration of continental and extra-continental nations pooling their resources to form the world’s largest economic, political and free-market federation, undergirded by a single currency, the Euro. As a centralizing force, the European Union through its Commission executes rules and regulations covering such mat- ters as ocean fishing rights, national borders, immigration, environmental standards, and so on. To make the arrangement work, each component na- tion in the Union has had to surrender aspects of its sovereignty and, thus, some freedom of independent action. Great Britain Once proud of its freedom from foreign alliances — the ‘splendid isola- tion’ of its heyday — Britain, a constitutional monarchy, is now deeply en- meshed in the European project. Such participation, by its very nature, requires the abrogation of essential elements of national sovereignty and is indicative of Britain’s decline as a world power. Conceding to public pres- sure, Prime Minister Cameron has pledged to hold an ‘in-out’ referendum on the country’s membership in the EU, conditional on the Conservative Party being returned to power in May’s General Election. But whether in the EU or out of it, Britain may yet shrink to the status of a third-tier power. In an effort to balance the checkbook the government is paring back the armed forces and may lose its capability to engage in over- seas combat missions, a capability which it has long touted as a measure of its status in the world (the hackneyed, ‘punching above its weight’). Having over the decades lost much of its manufacturing base and having sold off large chunks of it — such as the car industry — to foreign entities, diverting profits abroad, the U.K. is hard-pressed to compete with Germany, Europe’s principal manufacturing nation and economic engine of the EU. Britain still has its strengths, and is a potent force in culture and various media forms (art, sport, music, theatre, film, publishing), and in pharmaceuticals, scientific research, and financial services, London being one of two financial capitals of the world (New York the other). As noted elsewhere in these columns, the rise of Britain as the chief indus- trial, economic and naval power in the nineteenth-century world was the proximate and providential cause of the return of the Jews to Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel (1948). In this these two nations — the falling of the one and the rising of the other — are effectively linked. It is therefore sad to see that a significant proportion of the British people have cultivated a sneering, caustic attitude towards the State of Israel. So far this has not mushroomed into widespread anti-Semitism on the domes- tic front, but time will tell. Although the State of Israel may often be diffi- cult to love, and may be justly criticized for some of its behavior towards the Palestinian territories, the fault does not lie wholly with Israel. God proclaims that He will bless those who favor her and disfavor those who curse her (Gen. 12: 2, 3). And like it or not, the future well-being of the world is irrevocably coupled with the fate of Israel (Isa. 2: 1-4 [‘Jerusalem . . . chief among the mountains (nations) . . . all nations stream into it’]). Sovereignty And The Individual God’s Word informs us that His purposes and dealings with mankind are compassionate, foresighted, and progressive. His executive will has di- rected the march of the ages, each dispensation a crucial component of the grand Plan, which continues, and which will yet make sense to all when its purposes are complete. At the beginning of human history, the mind of Man received its first spark of intelligence from the Divine Creator and he was endowed with free will. A ‘king’ on earth, made in the image and likeness of the heavenly King, Adam’s choice to disobey his Maker demonstrated the hazards attached to personal autonomy. In consequence, he precipitated the fall into sin and death, the dire effects which we all now experience in the troubles and sor- rows of the present life. Nonetheless, the introduction of free will was a master stroke on the part of the Creator. It made possible a being (human- ity) who was a decision-maker, responsible for his own actions, although the darker side of the faculty has always the possibility of chaos. But this is no experiment gone wrong, like Frankensteinʼs monster run amok. God allows the chaos but is never outdistanced by it. Omniscience permits what Omnipotence need not control. This is celestial Genius on display to those who care to study it. And the random, multi-stranded, complex littering of human experiences across the amphitheatre of history will in due time re- veal the beneficial results for the entire human family. Human Will Bumps Up Against Divine Autonomy There has always been tension between man’s autonomy and Divine sovereignty. The exercise of our own free will bumps up against certain limits, for we are by nature subject to the Creator and may not do whatever  we want to do. But just as nations prize their sovereignty and freedom of action, so individuals long to be free, unfettered, in charge of their own destiny. Historic movements towards national independence often triggered corre- sponding domestic agitation for social and political liberties — freedom from religious persecution, unlawful restraint and imprisonment, electoral suffrage, and so on. In the modern world, the gains were earliest and most far-reaching in western (Christian) nations, and we are now in an era of personal autonomy which is throwing off the traditional restraints of self- control. Like those referred to in our headline text — ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit’ — and like the ancient Israelites, demanding to be cut adrift from Divine oversight, the modern secular world is in revolt against God, preferring to worship the Self. The Christian lamp has not been completely extinguished, but the temple of Faith has been ransacked, defiled and many indulge in shameful practices in defiance of virtue and call such things good (Rom. 1: 18-27). Sovereignty And The Christian Once we as an individual believer accept the sovereignty of Christ we can- not retain our own sovereign will. For we cannot serve two masters simul- taneously: the flesh and the spirit. Each one of us likes to have our own way. The sense of identity — the Me — is very strong, and it’s hard to break the habit. There is a lot of Me around today, as British and western society in general drifts away from basic traditional Christian values to- wards a celebration of a Christ-free world, into an atheistic culture. As a committed Christian, all that one thinks, says, and does must hence- forth be subject to the standards and requirements which Christ represents. ‘Take my yoke upon you’ He says (Matt. 11: 29). Such is the attitude of consecration, which unashamedly declares, ‘Not my will, but Yours’. And so we break down the boundaries of Selfishness and Worldliness in order to let Him in. Our aims and ambitions are no longer our own. And though we may often chafe at the restrictions of Christian living, where else can we go? Who else can forgive, cleanse, save, but Christ, the anointed King? The Calvinistic notion of ʻtotal depravityʼ is correct insofar as it asserts there is no aspect of the human condition left undamaged by the Adamic curse. We retain the ability to make choices, but we cannot recommend ourselves to God or win salvation by the inventiveness of our imagination, our works, or on our own merit. Even our cherished free will is impinged on by the perverse tendencies of our fallen nature, scuttling our best inten- tions. As St. Paul puts it — ʻI have the desire to do what is good, but I can- not carry it outʼ (Rom. 7: 18). Nonetheless, varying degrees of nobility, integrity, compassion, common sense, logic, etc., remain — elements of character which He can cultivate for godly goals. Being justified by faith, we can sing, Not my own, but saved by Jesus, Who redeemed me by His blood, Gladly I accept the message, I belong to Christ the Lord. — Whittle-Nathan, McGranahan (1878) God’s Sovereignty Demonstrated At Last Lacking faith, most people will never understand the power and goodness of God until they come to witness it first-hand in the future Kingdom of Christ, who will then be their Judge and King. Christ will function as the all-powerful representative of God in the earth. Intended to restore and not to destroy, this Kingdom will raise all mankind from the ‘sleep’ of death and bring the race under a benign regime of discipline, education, and ref- ormation, to the end that all will learn to appreciate the Plan of God and to love and honor Christ the Savior who died for them, submitting willingly to His influence (Phil. 2: 9-11). 1 Cor. 15: 24-28 describes what will happen when Christ’s work is fin- ished (emphasis added): Then the end will come, when [Christ] hands over the king- dom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For [Christ] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be de- stroyed is death. Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God him- self, who put everything under Christ. When [Christ] has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. End ________ March 2015.
PSALM TWENTY-ONE By W.R. This chapter is quoted from the New International Version. _______________________ THIS PSALM IS attributed to King David, and though written from his point of view, its meaning and import goes beyond his own opinions. On the established principle that David is a type of the Messiah-King, it is therefore in its highest application expressive of the sentiments of Christ. Indeed, it forms an introduction into the subsequent Psalm (22), in which Christ’s agony on the cross is presented in all its pathos and hopes for final victory. The complete Psalm appears below, each verse followed by comments on it. Whenever LORD is in block letters it denotes the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter transliteration of YHWH or JHVH, the sacred name of the Almighty, articulated respectively as Yahweh or Jehovah. Note that the speech is indirect: that is, Christ refers to the LORD as “you” and to himself as “he,” showing both separation of identity and also hierarchy  (higher vs. lower). The psalm is a paean by the anointed king to the omnipotent king. The same separateness of Jehovah and Christ is illustrated by Psa. 110: 1 (written from David’s point of view as an observer): “The LORD says to my Lord . . .,” wherein Jehovah promises to enlarge Christ’s authority and bring him victory over his enemies. ______________ 1. O LORD, the king rejoices in your strength. How great is his joy in the victories you give! Addressing Jehovah, Christ simultaneously identifies himself as “the king” and subordinates himself to the LORD Almighty, of whom there is and can ever be only one. It is in the strength of Jehovah that Christ finds his own needed strength, especially during his crucifixion experiences, the time of his greatest test. 2. You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips. Jehovah denied nothing to his only-begotten Son. He anoints him with the holy spirit “without limit” and “placed everything in his hands” (John 3: 34, 35). The relationship between the Father and the Son lies at the heart of the divine plan of the ages, in which God sets forth Christ as the Savior, faith in whom brings the prospect of salvation. 3. You welcomed him with rich blessings and placed a crown of pure gold on his head. The Father raises the Son from death and bestows on him the crown of life, the ultimate mode of existence, which is the divine nature: death-proof and self-sustaining, without need of external support, and with an unimaginable array of powers and privileges, second only to the Almighty. In this act, God is the Giver and Christ is the Receiver. (“You [God] . . . placed . . . on his head.”) 4. He asked you for life, and you gave it to him — length of days, for ever and ever. This verse reinforces the statement of the preceding. It is a pre-echo of the assertion that Jesus makes in John 5: 26: “As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.” Thus does Christ the King receive life without end. 5. Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendour and majesty. Christ’s victories in his first advent were not those expected of him by the disciples or the many hangers-on who yearned for a triumph over the Romans. “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1: 6). Those who prayed for a restoration to nationhood were doomed to be disappointed; no doubt many of them were angry that the one in whom they put their trust in this respect had turned out to be a fraud, for selfishness always lashes out when it is frustrated. Perhaps these putative warriors were among those who bellowed “crucify him’, when he was presented to them by Pilate, bloodied and bruised. What use was he to them now? Like most people throughout history, they could not see the real “splendour and majesty” of a king who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. As Isa. 53: 2 puts it, “he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Christ’s greatest triumph, accorded him by the LORD, was his victory over death — the paying of the ransom-price by which he would yet save his people and all humanity from sin and death. 6. Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence. The eternality of Christ is confirmed by the LORD, the one who had been willing to put him jeopardy, in order that Christ might be exalted: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son . . .” (John 3: 16). This was not without risk for Christ himself, for in the flesh he was mortal (die-able) and the successful accomplishment of his mission depended on his steadfastness. We catch only a glimpse of this profound mystery of the vast love of the Son, in that he was willing to risk all in order to please the Father, in “reverent submission,” as Isaac submitted to Abraham on the altar (Heb. 5: 7). Although we are told in the Scriptures that Christ did indeed suffer, we will never fully comprehend his inner anguish. At his resurrection he was exalted to the right hand of the Father, by the Father, into the eternal ecstasy of his presence, “the highest place” (Phil. 2: 9). 7. For the king trusts in the LORD; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken. Christ’s faith in the Heavenly Father was strong and victorious. Only at his being deserted by God at the cross did he express alarm: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (or “left me behind?”) (Matt. 27: 46). He had not anticipated this trauma, but quickly recovered, apparently realizing that he must die under the sinner’s (Adam’s) guilt and condemnation as a sinner — though not himself a sinner. Shortly after, he declared “it is finished” (John 19: 30). His ransom-sacrifice was paid, its saving merit deposited into the Father’s keeping. 8. Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies; your right hand will seize your foes. Now a shift in the scene, as Christ looks to the time when the LORD will bring judgments to bear against all who willfully and scornfully reject him and his anointed King, who will then reign over the earth in righteousness, an event still future. 9. At the time of your appearing you will make them like a fiery furnace. In his wrath the LORD will swallow them up, and his fire will consume them. In Hebrew parallelism similar thoughts are repeated in similar words: “like a fiery furnace” equals “his fire will consume them.” “Them” refers to the incorrigibly wicked. The burning fire refers to the future trouble which will come upon the world in advancing degrees of intensity, which will separate those who can be salvaged from those who cannot. 10. You will destroy their descendants from the earth, their posterity from mankind. Those who willfully and persistently refuse to submit to Jehovah’s righteous rule as exercised through Christ in his earthly kingdom will cease to exist (no descendants); they will be cut off in the Second Death, unconscious oblivion (no posterity), for ever. There is no burning hell reserved for anyone. 11. Though they plot evil against you and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed. When Christ walked the earth, the wicked plotted against the LORD by plotting against Jesus. “He who hates me hates my Father as well” (John 15: 23). When Christ died, they then persecuted his followers of the early Church and then on into the Gospel Age, when they continued their persecutions. The LORD himself is inaccessible and therefore unconquerable, but he allows sufficient ambiguity and inscrutability in his methods (such as permitting suffering, evil, and death) as to mislead the reprobate into blaspheming his righteous character, or denying even his existence, as if to goad him into showing himself to answer his accusers (Job 9: 32, 33). 12. For you will make them turn their backs when you aim at them with drawn bow. The enemies of the LORD will flinch at his every move against them, when he condemns them for their unrighteousness and smites them in their conscience. “[Y]ou thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face” Psa. 50: 21). 13. Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength; we will sing and praise your might. This closing verse rounds out the glorification of the Father by the Son and his people (“we”). The strength and might of the LORD will not be measured in terms of spiteful vengeance, nor in how many people he can destroy, like some imaginary cosmic warfare, but in how many he will save in the name of Christ the King. “[God] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim: 2: 4). __________ May 2015.
PSALM TWENTY-ONE By W.R. This chapter is quoted from the New International Version. _______________________ THIS PSALM IS attributed to King David, and though written from his point of view, its meaning and import goes beyond his own opinions. On the established principle that David is a type of the Messiah-King, it is therefore in its highest application expressive of the sentiments of Christ. Indeed, it forms an introduction into the subsequent Psalm (22), in which Christ’s agony on the cross is presented in all its pathos and hopes for final victory. The complete Psalm appears below, each verse followed by comments on it. Whenever LORD is in block letters it denotes the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter transliteration of YHWH or JHVH, the sacred name of the Almighty, articulated respectively as Yahweh or Jehovah. Note that the speech is indirect: that is, Christ refers to the LORD as “you” and to himself as “he,” showing both separation of identity and also hierarchy  (higher vs. lower). The psalm is a paean by the anointed king to the omnipotent king. The same separateness of Jehovah and Christ is illustrated by Psa. 110: 1 (written from David’s point of view as an observer): “The LORD says to my Lord . . .,” wherein Jehovah promises to enlarge Christ’s authority and bring him victory over his enemies. ______________ 1. O LORD, the king rejoices in your strength. How great is his joy in the victories you give! Addressing Jehovah, Christ simultaneously identifies himself as “the king” and subordinates himself to the LORD Almighty, of whom there is and can ever be only one. It is in the strength of Jehovah that Christ finds his own needed strength, especially during his crucifixion experiences, the time of his greatest test. 2. You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips. Jehovah denied nothing to his only-begotten Son. He anoints him with the holy spirit “without limit” and “placed everything in his hands” (John 3: 34, 35). The relationship between the Father and the Son lies at the heart of the divine plan of the ages, in which God sets forth Christ as the Savior, faith in whom brings the prospect of salvation. 3. You welcomed him with rich blessings and placed a crown of pure gold on his head. The Father raises the Son from death and bestows on him the crown of life, the ultimate mode of existence, which is the divine nature: death-proof and self-sustaining, without need of external support, and with an unimaginable array of powers and privileges, second only to the Almighty. In this act, God is the Giver and Christ is the Receiver. (“You [God] . . . placed . . . on his head.”) 4. He asked you for life, and you gave it to him — length of days, for ever and ever. This verse reinforces the statement of the preceding. It is a pre-echo of the assertion that Jesus makes in John 5: 26: “As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.” Thus does Christ the King receive life without end. 5. Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendour and majesty. Christ’s victories in his first advent were not those expected of him by the disciples or the many hangers-on who yearned for a triumph over the Romans. “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1: 6). Those who prayed for a restoration to nationhood were doomed to be disappointed; no doubt many of them were angry that the one in whom they put their trust in this respect had turned out to be a fraud, for selfishness always lashes out when it is frustrated. Perhaps these putative warriors were among those who bellowed “crucify him’, when he was presented to them by Pilate, bloodied and bruised. What use was he to them now? Like most people throughout history, they could not see the real “splendour and majesty” of a king who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. As Isa. 53: 2 puts it, “he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Christ’s greatest triumph, accorded him by the LORD, was his victory over death — the paying of the ransom-price by which he would yet save his people and all humanity from sin and death. 6. Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence. The eternality of Christ is confirmed by the LORD, the one who had been willing to put him jeopardy, in order that Christ might be exalted: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son . . .” (John 3: 16). This was not without risk for Christ himself, for in the flesh he was mortal (die-able) and the successful accomplishment of his mission depended on his steadfastness. We catch only a glimpse of this profound mystery of the vast love of the Son, in that he was willing to risk all in order to please the Father, in “reverent submission,” as Isaac submitted to Abraham on the altar (Heb. 5: 7). Although we are told in the Scriptures that Christ did indeed suffer, we will never fully comprehend his inner anguish. At his resurrection he was exalted to the right hand of the Father, by the Father, into the eternal ecstasy of his presence, “the highest place” (Phil. 2: 9). 7. For the king trusts in the LORD; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken. Christ’s faith in the Heavenly Father was strong and victorious. Only at his being deserted by God at the cross did he express alarm: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (or “left me behind?”) (Matt. 27: 46). He had not anticipated this trauma, but quickly recovered, apparently realizing that he must die under the sinner’s (Adam’s) guilt and condemnation as a sinner — though not himself a sinner. Shortly after, he declared “it is finished” (John 19: 30). His ransom-sacrifice was paid, its saving merit deposited into the Father’s keeping. 8. Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies; your right hand will seize your foes. Now a shift in the scene, as Christ looks to the time when the LORD will bring judgments to bear against all who willfully and scornfully reject him and his anointed King, who will then reign over the earth in righteousness, an event still future. 9. At the time of your appearing you will make them like a fiery furnace. In his wrath the LORD will swallow them up, and his fire will consume them. In Hebrew parallelism similar thoughts are repeated in similar words: “like a fiery furnace” equals “his fire will consume them.” “Them” refers to the incorrigibly wicked. The burning fire refers to the future trouble which will come upon the world in advancing degrees of intensity, which will separate those who can be salvaged from those who cannot. 10. You will destroy their descendants from the earth, their posterity from mankind. Those who willfully and persistently refuse to submit to Jehovah’s righteous rule as exercised through Christ in his earthly kingdom will cease to exist (no descendants); they will be cut off in the Second Death, unconscious oblivion (no posterity), for ever. There is no burning hell reserved for anyone. 11. Though they plot evil against you and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed. When Christ walked the earth, the wicked plotted against the LORD by plotting against Jesus. “He who hates me hates my Father as well” (John 15: 23). When Christ died, they then persecuted his followers of the early Church and then on into the Gospel Age, when they continued their persecutions. The LORD himself is inaccessible and therefore unconquerable, but he allows sufficient ambiguity and inscrutability in his methods (such as permitting suffering, evil, and death) as to mislead the reprobate into blaspheming his righteous character, or denying even his existence, as if to goad him into showing himself to answer his accusers (Job 9: 32, 33). 12. For you will make them turn their backs when you aim at them with drawn bow. The enemies of the LORD will flinch at his every move against them, when he condemns them for their unrighteousness and smites them in their conscience. “[Y]ou thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face” Psa. 50: 21). 13. Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength; we will sing and praise your might. This closing verse rounds out the glorification of the Father by the Son and his people (“we”). The strength and might of the LORD will not be measured in terms of spiteful vengeance, nor in how many people he can destroy, like some imaginary cosmic warfare, but in how many he will save in the name of Christ the King. “[God] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim: 2: 4). __________ May 2015.
THE EYES OF THE SERVANT Psalm 123 By W.R. All Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version except where noted. ___________ PSALM 123 is one in a series of fifteen (120 to 134) known as the songs of ‘degrees’ or ‘ascents’. According to one explanation, the degrees refers to the fifteen steps which separated the men’s court in Solomon’s temple from the women’s. Here the Levites would stand to chant this and other psalms. Some authorities believe this was one of the psalms to be sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the great feasts. That is, to go to Jerusalem was to ascend.  (A similar expression was once common in England, when one would go up to London (the more important place), even from northern counties (less important places.) <><><> 1. Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. In thoughtful contemplation and expectation of blessings, the Lord’s people look to Jehovah, the High and Holy One who inhabits the place of supreme royal authority. His creative power is manifest by the universe and all that is in it. He is the First and Only Cause, existing uncreated from eternity to eternity, and as such is not earth-bound. Nor can he be understood by earthly minds, for he is unfathomable. 2. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us. As a male servant unobtrusively watches for a gesture from his master and stands ready to act on command, or a maid demurely attends her lady for whatever she requires, so the Lord’s people carefully observe and wait for the expression of God’s will in respects to opportunities for service, studying the Word of God and the providences which come into their lives, to see how they ought to respond. For the faithful Christian, the most important thing is the doing of God’s will, and he or she takes delight in doing it. As David writes (Psa. 84: 10), ‘I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.’ (Rotherham renders be a doorkeeper as ‘stand at the threshold’.) [An aside: From the Gospel-Age standpoint, the figurative ‘servant’ may be the Little Flock, frequently represented in the Bible as male. These are the willing faithful, or Very Elect. The ‘maid’ might, perhaps, refer to the Great Multitude, a less-willing and sometimes wayward group who (like most Christians) must frequently be chastened and pass through complex troubles in order to be reformed and ultimately saved (Rev. 7: 9-17; compare, Joel 2: 28; ‘sons’, ‘daughters’ and 1 Cor. 3: 13-15).] 3. Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Were God not merciful to us, we would have no hope for a rescue from sin or the attaining of everlasting life. God’s mercy is principally shown in his sending Christ Jesus as the ransom-sacrifice, the demonstration of both his justice — that sin cannot go unpunished; and love — in that he was willing to offer his son for the salvation of the whole world, and count all who believe in Christ as cleansed. As recipients of such mercies, Christians have nothing to boast about, for we are all supplicants, former beggars in filthy rags of unrighteousness, our blessings undeserved. Being often reviled by unbelievers, the Lord’s people have, so to speak, had their fill of evil-speaking. It goes without saying that those who feel keenly the contempt from others should not themselves heap contempt on others in return. We are not to respond in a tit-for-tat fashion (1 Thess. 5: 15). 4. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud. As part of a faith community, believers often experience mockery. Those who ‘are at ease’ are those untroubled by ‘sin’, because they do not acknowledge sin as religious, moral or ethical deficiency, but rather as an invented preoccupation of overly-pious and simple people. Untroubled by conscience and possessed of swaggering, self-sufficient confidence, they show little hesitation in mocking believers and sacred things. ______________ June 2015.
THE EYES OF THE SERVANT Psalm 123 By W.R. All Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version except where noted. ___________ PSALM 123 is one in a series of fifteen (120 to 134) known as the songs of ‘degrees’ or ‘ascents’. According to one explanation, the degrees refers to the fifteen steps which separated the men’s court in Solomon’s temple from the women’s. Here the Levites would stand to chant this and other psalms. Some authorities believe this was one of the psalms to be sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the great feasts. That is, to go to Jerusalem was to ascend. (A similar expression was once common in England, when one would go up to London (the more important place), even from northern counties (less important places.) <><><> 1. Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. In thoughtful contemplation and expectation of blessings, the Lord’s people look to Jehovah, the High and Holy One who inhabits the place of supreme royal authority. His creative power is manifest by the universe and all that is in it. He is the First and Only Cause, existing uncreated from eternity to eternity, and as such is not earth-bound. Nor can he be understood by earthly minds, for he is unfathomable. 2. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us. As a male servant unobtrusively watches for a gesture from his master and stands ready to act on command, or a maid demurely attends her lady for whatever she requires, so the Lord’s people carefully observe and wait for the expression of God’s will in respects to opportunities for service, studying the Word of God and the providences which come into their lives, to see how they ought to respond. For the faithful Christian, the most important thing is the doing of God’s will, and he or she takes delight in doing it. As David writes (Psa. 84: 10), ‘I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.’ (Rotherham renders be a doorkeeper as ‘stand at the threshold’.) [An aside: From the Gospel-Age standpoint, the figurative ‘servant’ may be the Little Flock, frequently represented in the Bible as male. These are the willing faithful, or Very Elect. The ‘maid’ might, perhaps, refer to the Great Multitude, a less-willing and sometimes wayward group who (like most Christians) must frequently be chastened and pass through complex troubles in order to be reformed and ultimately saved (Rev. 7: 9-17; compare, Joel 2: 28; ‘sons’, ‘daughters’ and 1 Cor. 3: 13-15).] 3. Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Were God not merciful to us, we would have no hope for a rescue from sin or the attaining of everlasting life. God’s mercy is principally shown in his sending Christ Jesus as the ransom-sacrifice, the demonstration of both his justice — that sin cannot go unpunished; and love — in that he was willing to offer his son for the salvation of the whole world, and count all who believe in Christ as cleansed. As recipients of such mercies, Christians have nothing to boast about, for we are all supplicants, former beggars in filthy rags of unrighteousness, our blessings undeserved. Being often reviled by unbelievers, the Lord’s people have, so to speak, had their fill of evil-speaking. It goes without saying that those who feel keenly the contempt from others should not themselves heap contempt on others in return. We are not to respond in a tit-for-tat fashion (1 Thess. 5: 15). 4. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud. As part of a faith community, believers often experience mockery. Those who ‘are at ease’ are those untroubled by ‘sin’, because they do not acknowledge sin as religious, moral or ethical deficiency, but rather as an invented preoccupation of overly-pious and simple people. Untroubled by conscience and possessed of swaggering, self-sufficient confidence, they show little hesitation in mocking believers and sacred things. ______________ June 2015.
Q. Proverbs 22: 6: ‘Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.’ (NIV) Does this text teach that the children of Christian parents will never go astray? A. It has always been difficult to be a good and effective parent. How much control to exert over our children, when to loosen the strings a bit, when to clamp down, and whose values to teach? The Christian parent is not insulated from such anxieties. There is no perfect strategy to employ in raising one’s children, and our role as Christian parents comes with no guarantee that we will be entirely successful in the endeavor. Each of us brings our own failings and imperfections to the enterprise, and the uncomfortable knowledge that our own lives may have been less than exemplary. Each of us, mother or father, has made decisions that we are ashamed of and would not want our children to repeat. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous Baptist minister of the late nineteenth century, expressed it succinctly when he observed that you should try to raise your children in ‘the way you wish you had gone yourself’. For the Christian, parenthood may be no less difficult than for the unbeliever. However, Christian parents have the desire to impress on their children the advantages and necessity of godly living. By influencing the way our children live in this world and fostering in them the virtues of a sound character, we prepare them to be responsible citizens and men and women of integrity. In short, the ultimate goal is to instill in our children the love of good principles. With this rooted in their minds, our children will be well-shielded against many of the temptations that await them. Proverbs 22: 6 declares a general truth, and informs us that the direction in which we steer our children will have a lifelong positive effect on his or her future. A good parent is a parent long after death, the early wisdom and advice augmenting the developing conscience, which our children will recall in their later years. In his commentary on this text, the Bible expositor Adam Clarke puts it this way (‘he’ referring to either female or male): “Initiate the child at the opening (the mouth) of his path.” When he comes to the opening of the way of life, being able to walk alone, and to choose; stop at this entrance, and begin a series of instructions, how he is to conduct himself in every step he takes. Show him the duties, the dangers, and the blessings  of the path; give him directions how to perform the duties, how to escape the dangers, and how to secure the blessings, which all lie before him. Fix these on his mind by daily inculcation, till their impression is become indelible; then lead him to practice by slow and almost imperceptible degrees, till each indelible impression becomes a strongly radicated [rooted] habit. Beg incessantly the blessing of God on all this teaching and discipline; and then you have obeyed the injunction of the wisest of men. Nor is there any likelihood that such impressions shall ever be effaced, or that such habits shall ever be destroyed. Individual free will, of course, plays its part, and beyond a certain age, each one of us makes choices, good and bad, and we reap the fruits accordingly. The adult mind is powerfully shaped by early upbringing, and the lingering effects are difficult to ignore in later years. And so our children will follow the examples we set at home, and regardless of the instructions we give or the edicts we lay down, our overall behavior will be the unspoken rule they notice. So if we do not intend to bequeath our bad habits to our children we must watch ourselves. If we are quick to acknowledge where we fall short, we model humility, too. External pressures will exert an influence on the minds and hearts of our children, as they grow up and away from us. The competing claims on their attention come in forms that can undermine the lessons we as parents strive to teach. Our children are the targets of self-serving or corrupting propaganda of one sort or another. As Christian parents it is our responsibility to ensure that message of Christ and godly living comes across the loudest._________ Dec. 2016.
Q. Proverbs 22: 6: ‘Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.’ (NIV) Does this text teach that the children of Christian parents will never go astray? A. It has always been difficult to be a good and effective parent. How much control to exert over our children, when to loosen the strings a bit, when to clamp down, and whose values to teach? The Christian parent is not insulated from such anxieties. There is no perfect strategy to employ in raising one’s children, and our role as Christian parents comes with no guarantee that we will be entirely successful in the endeavor. Each of us brings our own failings and imperfections to the enterprise, and the uncomfortable knowledge that our own lives may have been less than exemplary. Each of us, mother or father, has made decisions that we are ashamed of and would not want our children to repeat. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous Baptist minister of the late nineteenth century, expressed it succinctly when he observed that you should try to raise your children in ‘the way you wish you had gone yourself’. For the Christian, parenthood may be no less difficult than for the unbeliever. However, Christian parents have the desire to impress on their children the advantages and necessity of godly living. By influencing the way our children live in this world and fostering in them the virtues of a sound character, we prepare them to be responsible citizens and men and women of integrity. In short, the ultimate goal is to instill in our children the love of good principles. With this rooted in their minds, our children will be well-shielded against many of the temptations that await them. Proverbs 22: 6 declares a general truth, and informs us that the direction in which we steer our children will have a lifelong positive effect on his or her future. A good parent is a parent long after death, the early wisdom and advice augmenting the developing conscience, which our children will recall in their later years. In his commentary on this text, the Bible expositor Adam Clarke puts it this way (‘he’ referring to either female or male): “Initiate the child at the opening (the mouth) of his path.” When he comes to the opening of the way of life, being able to walk alone, and to choose; stop at this entrance, and begin a series of instructions, how he is to conduct himself in every step he takes. Show him the duties, the dangers,  and the blessings of the path; give him directions how to perform the duties, how to escape the dangers, and how to secure the blessings, which all lie before him. Fix these on his mind by daily inculcation, till their impression is become indelible; then lead him to practice by slow and almost imperceptible degrees, till each indelible impression  becomes a strongly radicated [rooted] habit. Beg incessantly the blessing of God on all this teaching and discipline; and then you have obeyed the injunction of the wisest of men. Nor is there any likelihood that such impressions shall ever be effaced, or that such habits shall ever be destroyed. Individual free will, of course, plays its part, and beyond a certain age, each one of us makes choices, good and bad, and we reap the fruits accordingly. The adult mind is powerfully shaped by early upbringing, and the lingering effects are difficult to ignore in later years. And so our children will follow the examples we set at home, and regardless of the instructions we give or the edicts we lay down, our overall behavior will be the unspoken rule they notice. So if we do not intend to bequeath our bad habits to our children we must watch ourselves. If we are quick to acknowledge where we fall short, we model humility, too. External pressures will exert an influence on the minds and hearts of our children, as they grow up and away from us. The competing claims on their attention come in forms that can undermine the lessons we as parents strive to teach. Our children are the targets of self-serving or corrupting propaganda of one sort or another. As Christian parents it is our responsibility to ensure that message of Christ and godly living comes across the loudest._________ Dec. 2016.
CHRIST THE MEDIATOR Scripture references are to the New International Version Q: Explain 1 Tim. 2:5, 6: [5] For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, [6] who gave himself as a ransom for all men— the testimony given in its proper time. A: To put it simply, there are three parties in the mediation process: God, Jesus, Mankind. Of these three, God and Mankind are “hostile” to each other. Jesus is the intervening factor, and brings the other two into harmony. When the perfect Adam sinned, he was sentenced to death by God. All his descendants – the entire human family – inherited his sentence. Jesus the perfect man died for Adam – a one-for-one substitution. Just as all of humanity was condemned under the one man (Adam), so all of Mankind is purchased from under the death sentence by one man (Jesus). The Apostle Paul says as much in 1 Cor. 15: [21] For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. [22]  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. Thus, there need be only one Mediator to effect reconciliation (harmony), between God and Mankind. There are two “proper times” during which this “testimony” (witness) of reconciliation is tendered: First, during the Gospel Age, by the preaching of “Christ crucified.” Those who believe become justified by faith, and thus reconciled to God. Second, during Christ’s Kingdom on earth, yet to come. The remainder of mankind, raised from the dead, will be offered the opportunity to earn everlasting life, and thus reconciled to God. ________ 2010
CHRIST THE MEDIATOR Scripture references are to the New International Version Q: Explain 1 Tim. 2:5, 6: [5] For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, [6] who gave himself as a ransom for all men— the testimony given in its proper time. A: To put it simply, there are three parties in the mediation process: God, Jesus, Mankind. Of these three, God and Mankind are “hostile” to each other. Jesus is the intervening factor, and brings the other two into harmony. When the perfect Adam sinned, he was sentenced to death by God. All his descendants – the entire human family – inherited his sentence. Jesus the perfect man died for Adam – a one-for-one substitution. Just as all of humanity was condemned under the one man (Adam), so all of Mankind is purchased from under the death sentence by one man (Jesus). The Apostle Paul says as much in 1 Cor. 15: [21] For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. [22] For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. Thus, there need be only one Mediator to effect reconciliation (harmony), between God and Mankind. There are two “proper times” during which this “testimony” (witness) of reconciliation is tendered: First, during the Gospel Age, by the preaching of “Christ crucified.” Those who believe become justified by faith, and thus reconciled to God. Second, during Christ’s Kingdom on earth, yet to come. The remainder of mankind, raised from the dead, will be offered the opportunity to earn everlasting life, and thus reconciled to God. ________ 2010
CREATION OR EVOLUTION? Scripture citations are to the New International Version Q From a biblical point of view, could Man have been brought about by Evolution? A Many, if not most, Christians hold that some form of evolution was the process used by God to create Man. But this position undermines several doctrines in the Old and New Testaments, and renders the Genesis account meaningless. As far as the plants and animals are concerned, it may be that they developed from their basic species and adapted to the environment, through evolution. See Genesis 1: 11, 12, 20, 21, 24, 25, and the use of terms like “produced,” “increase,” “according to their kinds.” But when it comes to the making of Man, there is no room for such an interpretation. Otherwise, the narrative in Genesis becomes a fable and Adam merely an allegory. It is specifically said of the first man that he was created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1: 27). This expression rules out a cumulative development of the human species. The strongest argument against the evolution of Man is the Bible’s doctrine of the Ransom (1 Timothy 2: 6). Simply put, Jesus was the human equivalent of Adam, illustrated in Hebrews 2: 7-9, which we highlight by italics: 7 ‘You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor 8 and put everything under his feet.’ . . . 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. This human connection between Adam and Jesus is shown also by the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15: 45, 47: 45 So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 47  The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As Adam was unique and perfect, the only one of his kind, and not a descendant of a pre-existing human species, so Jesus was unique and perfect, the only Son of God, and not a descendant of the fallen human race. The basis of the Ransom-price is a legal one: Jesus exchanged His life and being for that of Adam and thus bought for him and his offspring (the human race) a future resurrection in the coming Kingdom of God on earth _______ 2012
CREATION OR EVOLUTION? Scripture citations are to the New International Version Q From a biblical point of view, could Man have been brought about by Evolution? A Many, if not most, Christians hold that some form of evolution was the process used by God to create Man. But this position undermines several doctrines in the Old and New Testaments, and renders the Genesis account meaningless. As far as the plants and animals are concerned, it may be that they developed from their basic species and adapted to the environment, through evolution. See Genesis 1: 11, 12, 20, 21, 24, 25, and the use of terms like “produced,” “increase,” “according to their kinds.” But when it comes to the making of Man, there is no room for such an interpretation. Otherwise, the narrative in Genesis becomes a fable and Adam merely an allegory. It is specifically said of the first man that he was created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1: 27). This expression rules out a cumulative development of the human species. The strongest argument against the evolution of Man is the Bible’s doctrine of the Ransom (1 Timothy 2: 6). Simply put, Jesus was the human equivalent of Adam, illustrated in Hebrews 2: 7-9, which we highlight by italics: 7 ‘You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor 8 and put everything under his feet.’ . . . 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. This human connection between Adam and Jesus is shown also by the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15: 45, 47: 45 So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 47 The first man  was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As Adam was unique and perfect, the only one of his kind, and not a descendant of a pre-existing human species, so Jesus was unique and perfect, the only Son of God, and not a descendant of the fallen human race. The basis of the Ransom-price is a legal one: Jesus exchanged His life and being for that of Adam and thus bought for him and his offspring (the human race) a future resurrection in the coming Kingdom of God on earth _______ 2012
THE CREATION OF EVIL Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version unless stated otherwise. Q. Isaiah 45:7 reads: I form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. Does this verse teach that God made evil? A. The “evil” referred to in this verse is not the equivalent of “sin,” though the same word does sometimes imply sinful behavior or moral badness on the part of people. The Hebrew word here translated “evil” is (rah) and is rendered in other texts variously as “ill-favored” or “ugly” (Gen. 41:27), or “mischief” or “malice” (Psa. 28:3). The New International Version puts it this way: “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create dis- aster; I, the Lord, do all these things.” Other translations convey a similar theme of contrast or opposites – light vs.  darkness; peace vs. disruption; prosperity vs. misfortune. In the case of “darkness,” it is evidently the absence of light, a fact which affords a clue to the meaning of the other components of v. 7. That is, the existence of one implies the existence of the other, as in sweet vs. sour, hope vs. de- spair, etc. Viewed as positive and negative, we might say that light is positive and darkness is negative. The same ap- plies to peace and evil. The presence or absence of the one creates (brings about) the other. Obviously there are occasions when calamity “comes about” as the direct consequence of an individual’s sinful behavior. The contrast between the positive good of “peace” and its negation, “evil,” appears to be an assertion that the world of human existence and experience in it is the result of God’s will and power – “I, the Lord, do all these things.” That is, everything which exists flows from the outworking of the Divine plan, as implied in v. 6: “. . . from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Authorised Version). God’s Plan of the Ages is intended to teach humanity all the lessons it will need in order to gain the promised salvation from sin and death. Does God create sin? No. The Apostle James tells us that God does not and cannot tempt one to sin (Jas. 1:13). Sin arises from the circumstances into which the human race is born and which are due to the fall of the race from its origi- nal perfect created state. Recognizing this deficit, God in His justice makes allowance for our own unrighteous behav- ior, having provided the offset of our sins through His Son, by whom we are justified by faith. Looked at it in the broad view, the implication of Isa. 45:6, 7 is that Jehovah alone is the Omnipotent One. All things operate under His direction and influence and no other or arbitrary force can interfere with His control. He alone is ‘good’ in the supreme meaning of the term (Luke 18:19). 2016
THE CREATION OF EVIL Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version unless stated otherwise. Q. Isaiah 45:7 reads: I form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. Does this verse teach that God made evil? A. The “evil” referred to in this verse is not the equivalent of “sin,” though the same word does sometimes imply sinful behavior or moral badness on the part of people. The Hebrew word here translated “evil” is (rah) and is rendered in other texts variously as “ill-favored” or “ugly” (Gen. 41:27), or “mischief” or “malice” (Psa. 28:3). The New International Version puts it this way: “I form the light and cre- ate darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.” Other translations convey a similar theme of contrast or opposites light vs. darkness; peace vs. disruption; prosperity vs. misfortune. In the case of “darkness,” it is evidently the absence of light, a fact which affords a clue to the meaning of the other components of v. 7. That is, the existence of one implies the existence of the other, as in sweet vs. sour, hope vs. despair, etc. Viewed as positive and negative, we might say that light is positive and darkness is negative. The same applies to peace and evil. The presence or absence of the one creates (brings about) the other. Obviously there are occasions when calamity “comes about” as the direct consequence of an individual’s sinful behavior. The contrast between the positive good of “peace” and its negation, “evil,” appears to be an assertion that the world of human existence and experi- ence in it is the result of God’s will and power – “I, the Lord, do all these things.” That is, everything which exists flows from the outworking of the Divine plan, as implied in v. 6: “. . . from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Authorised Version). God’s Plan of the Ages is intended to teach humanity all the lessons it will need in order to gain the promised salvation from sin and death. Does God create sin? No. The Apostle James tells us that God does not and cannot tempt one to sin (Jas. 1:13). Sin arises from the circumstances  into which the human race is born and which are due to the fall of the race from its original perfect created state. Recognizing this deficit, God in His justice makes allowance for our own unrighteous behavior, having pro- vided the offset of our sins through His Son, by whom we are justified by faith. Looked at it in the broad view, the implication of Isa. 45:6, 7 is that Jehovah alone is the Omnipotent One. All things operate under His direc- tion and influence and no other or arbitrary force can interfere with His control. He alone is ‘good’ in the supreme meaning of the term (Luke 18:19). 2016
Covenants Scripture references are to the New International Version. Q. What is a covenant? A. A covenant is a promise, often implemented through a contractual arrangement, and may be of a more or less for- mal nature. The principle of the covenant is found in secular law and in the Scriptures, and consists of two main categories. One is the conditional, or bi-lateral covenant – a contract made between two parties, each of whom agrees to keep cer- tain stipulations of the agreement. Such contracts invariably include sanctions – penalties for failing to keep to the terms. A commonplace example of this type of contract is a lease or rental of a flat or house, in which continuance of residence is dependent upon one party making regular payments to the other party. In the biblical sphere, the Jewish Law Covenant is probably the best illustration of a conditional covenant. God would do such and such for Israel, if  Israel would adhere to certain stipulated terms. Should they fail to do so, condign punishment would follow. Israel did consent to the arrangement, thus binding itself (Ex. 24:1-8). The other is unconditional, or uni-lateral. By its nature, the unconditional contract is a pledge made by one party to an- other. The first party carries all the liabilities of fulfillment; the second party is the recipient of the benefits offered, and may not be required to do much or anything at all to receive the benefits. One instance of this type is a simple be- quest. An example of the unconditional contract in the biblical context is that in which God vows to bless Abraham and his offspring (Gen. 12:1-3): 1 The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ Later, in Gen. 22:16-18, God reiterates this promise, but prefixes an affirmation to it: 16 . . . I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that . . . 17 I will surely bless you and make your descen- dants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me. [emphasis added] Because there is no authority higher than God, the Almighty and Self-Existent One, God swears on his own nature, thus rendering the promise immutable – incapable of alteration. In so doing, he rests his reputation on the fulfillment of this promise, and in the process demonstrates his compliance with his own law of fidelity, which we may view as an act of divine humility. This promise, often referred to as the Oath-Bound Covenant, is the basis on which the Gospel rests, as explained in Heb. 6 (emphases added): 13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no-one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, ʻI will surely bless you and give you many descendants 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. 16 Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is im- possible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. The Apostle Paul elaborates on this argument in Gal. 3: 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ʻAll na- tions will be blessed through you.ʼ 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 2016
Covenants Scripture references are to the New International Version. Q. What is a covenant? A. A covenant is a promise, often implemented through a contractual ar- rangement, and may be of a more or less formal nature. The principle of the covenant is found in secular law and in the Scriptures, and consists of two main categories. One is the conditional, or bi-lateral covenant – a contract made between two parties, each of whom agrees to keep certain stipulations of the agree- ment. Such contracts invariably include sanctions – penalties for failing to keep to the terms. A commonplace example of this type of contract is a lease or rental of a flat or house, in which continuance of residence is de- pendent upon one party making regular payments to the other party. In the biblical sphere, the Jewish Law Covenant is probably the best illustration of a conditional covenant. God would do such and such for Israel, if Israel would adhere to certain stipulated terms. Should they fail to do so, condign punishment would follow. Israel did consent to the arrangement, thus binding itself (Ex. 24:1-8). The other is unconditional, or uni-lateral. By its nature, the unconditional contract is a pledge made by one party to another. The first party carries all the liabilities of fulfillment; the second party is the recipient of the ben- efits offered, and may not be required to do much or anything at all to re- ceive the benefits. One instance of this type is a simple bequest. An example of the unconditional contract in the biblical context is that in which God vows to bless Abraham and his offspring (Gen. 12:1-3): 1 The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ Later, in Gen. 22:16-18, God reiterates this promise, but prefixes an affir- mation to it: 16 . . . I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that . . . 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numer- ous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me. [emphasis added] Because there is no authority higher than God, the Almighty and Self- Existent One, God swears on his own nature, thus rendering the promise immutable – incapable of alteration. In so doing, he rests his reputation on the fulfillment of this promise, and in the process demonstrates his com- pliance with his own law of fidelity, which we may view as an act of di- vine humility. This promise, often referred to as the Oath-Bound Covenant, is the basis on which the Gospel rests, as explained in Heb. 6 (emphases added): 13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no-one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, ʻI will surely bless you and give you many descendants 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. 16 Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his pur- pose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope of- fered to us may be greatly encouraged. The Apostle Paul elaborates on this argument in Gal. 3: 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ʻAll nations will be blessed through you.ʼ 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 2016
ISRAEL – THE NECESSARY COUNTRY Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Bible Q. Why is Israel important to the world? A. The Jews were chosen by God and constituted as a nation in ancient times. To them alone He gave the oracles of His Word, expressed in the Law of Moses, with its ancillary instructions and ceremonies (with typical significance). Over their long history, Biblical Israel was varyingly warm and indifferent in their covenant relationship with Jehovah. At length, following their national rejection of Christ as their Messiah and the final collapse of their nationhood, the Jewish people were dispersed around the world. This was at once a curse and a blessing. For though reviled and perse- cuted their being scattered prevented them from being completely annihilated. Nor did God abandon them in their lonely, bitter exile. They were still the covenant people of God. Not that they were intrinsically holy. But laying rightful claim to the Abrahamic promise and loved by God for the sake of their ancient fa- thers, they represented the faithfulness and assurance of God. In their devotion to the study and analysis of the Tanakh  (Moses, Prophets, Writings) and their maintaining their “Jewishness” (variously modified according to the culture in which they resided), they rested in the sanctuary of God – an asylum which, for all its troubles, offered comfort and as- surance to those who hung on to their faith. This condition of exile lasted for most of the Gospel Age, a period which in the timescale of God’s work and the eventual outcome of the salvation process, is but a little while. At the time appointed the promise of return was fulfilled and the Jews were brought back, by complicated means, to their ancient land. This aliyah was not accomplished in a clean and tidy fashion. Modern Israel emerged through a mist of unspeakable suffering and abominable mistreatment. Such is the travail of this world through which God works His sovereign will. If God may be regarded as having humility it is in this: that He is prepared to be defamed in order that His will to bless all may be eventually fulfilled. Such a “hard saying” has turned away many from belief in God, includ- ing many Jews, for whom faith evaporated in the smoke of Hitler’s gas ovens. Pauline theology has the ultimate redemption of Israel at its core. It is not, he says, merely that the Jews were cast off and the elect (the Christians) were picked instead. The reversal of fortune is temporary, for a comparatively little while. For in due time Israel would be restored and exalted, and their national conversion and promotion as the chief nation of the world both precede and initiate the resurrection from death of all mankind, thus being the conduit of blessing for all (Rom. 11:7-12, 15; comments and emphasis added): 7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election [a relative few Jews, but more Gentiles] hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. 8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. 9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: 10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. 11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salva- tion is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. 12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?  . . . 15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving [back] of them be, but life from the dead?  2016
ISRAEL – THE NECESSARY COUNTRY Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Bible Q. Why is Israel important to the world? A. The Jews were chosen by God and constituted as a nation in ancient times. To them alone He gave the oracles of His Word, expressed in the Law of Moses, with its ancillary instructions and ceremonies (with typical significance). Over their long history, Biblical Israel was varyingly warm and indifferent in their covenant relationship with Jehovah. At length, fol- lowing their national rejection of Christ as their Messiah and the final col- lapse of their nationhood, the Jewish people were dispersed around the world. This was at once a curse and a blessing. For though reviled and persecuted their being scattered prevented them from being completely annihilated. Nor did God abandon them in their lonely, bitter exile. They were still the covenant people of God. Not that they were intrinsically holy. But laying rightful claim to the Abrahamic promise and loved by God for the sake of their ancient fathers, they represented the faithfulness and assurance of God. In their devotion to the study and analysis of the Tanakh (Moses, Prophets, Writings) and their maintaining their “Jewishness” (variously modified according to the culture in which they resided), they rested in the sanctuary of God – an asylum which, for all its troubles, offered comfort and assurance to those who hung on to their faith. This condition of exile lasted for most of the Gospel Age, a period which in the timescale of God’s work and the eventual outcome of the salvation process, is but a lit- tle while. At the time appointed the promise of return was fulfilled and the Jews were brought back, by complicated means, to their ancient land. This aliyah was not accomplished in a clean and tidy fashion. Modern Israel emerged through a mist of unspeakable suffering and abominable mis- treatment. Such is the travail of this world through which God works His sovereign will. If God may be regarded as having humility it is in this: that He is prepared to be defamed in order that His will to bless all may be eventually fulfilled. Such a “hard saying” has turned away many from be- lief in God, including many Jews, for whom faith evaporated in the smoke of Hitler’s gas ovens. Pauline theology has the ultimate redemption of Israel at its core. It is not, he says, merely that the Jews were cast off and the elect (the Christians) were picked instead. The reversal of fortune is temporary, for a compara- tively little while. For in due time Israel would be restored and exalted, and their national conversion and promotion as the chief nation of the world both precede and initiate the resurrection from death of all mankind, thus being the conduit of blessing for all (Rom. 11:7-12, 15; comments and emphasis added): 7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election [a relative few Jews, but more Gentiles] hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. 8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. 9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: 10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. 11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. 12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?  . . . 15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving [back] of them be, but life from the dead?  2016
St. Paul One of the Twelve Apostles Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version Question: Was Paul one of the twelve apostles? Answer: Yes. There are at least three evidences from Scripture to show that Paul was not only an Apostle, but that after the death of Judas he became the twelfth. We start from the biblical assumption that Jesus Himself chose twelve Apostles – not more and not less, thus setting the “official” membership of that grouping. 1. In Rev. 21: 14 the heavenly Jerusalem is said to be built on “twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Compare with Eph. 2: 20.) 2. The glorified Jesus appeared to Saul/Paul, fulfilling the requirement that Paul be a witness to His resurrection. Paul was by this singular act anointed as an Apostle (Acts 1: 20 – “witness with us of his resurrection”; 9: 15 – “a chosen vessel”). 3. After Judas lost his “bishopric,” the remaining eleven Apostles believed (correctly) that it was necessary to make up the number to twelve. The narrative in Acts 1: 20-26 describes their good-faith effort to nominate a replacement Apostle through chance – a sort of sanctified lottery. In this they showed their correct understanding that there must be twelve, but sought to accomplish this in their own way and in the wrong way, for only God could elect an Apostle. The eleven Apostles had not yet received the outpouring of the holy spirit at Pentecost, and thus did not have sufficient dis- cernment to understand their error; they ran ahead of God, not “waiting for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1: 4). Their gamble on Matthias was misguided, proven by the fact that he virtually disappeared from New Testament his- tory. Not so with St. Paul, who through Godʼs deliberate selection became the chief contributor to the writings of the New Testament, ample evidence of his Apostleship. 2014
St. Paul One of the Twelve Apostles Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version Question: Was Paul one of the twelve apostles? Answer: Yes. There are at least three evidences from Scripture to show that Paul was not only an Apostle, but that after the death of Judas he be- came the twelfth. We start from the biblical assumption that Jesus Himself chose twelve Apostles – not more and not less, thus setting the “official” membership of that grouping. 1. In Rev. 21: 14 the heavenly Jerusalem is said to be built on “twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Compare with Eph. 2: 20.) 2. The glorified Jesus appeared to Saul/Paul, fulfilling the requirement that Paul be a witness to His resurrection. Paul was by this singular act anointed as an Apostle (Acts 1: 20 – “witness with us of his resurrection”; 9: 15 – “a chosen vessel”). 3. After Judas lost his “bishopric,” the remaining eleven Apostles believed (correctly) that it was necessary to make up the number to twelve. The nar- rative in Acts 1: 20-26 describes their good-faith effort to nominate a re- placement Apostle through chance – a sort of sanctified lottery. In this they showed their correct understanding that there must be twelve, but sought to accomplish this in their own way and in the wrong way, for only God could elect an Apostle. The eleven Apostles had not yet received the outpouring of the holy spirit at Pentecost, and thus did not have sufficient discernment to understand their error; they ran ahead of God, not “waiting for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1: 4). Their gamble on Matthias was misguided, proven by the fact that he virtually disappeared from New Testament history. Not so with St. Paul, who through Godʼs deliberate se- lection became the chief contributor to the writings of the New Testament, ample evidence of his Apostleship. 2014
ISRAEL GETS A KING Scripture references are to the New International Version, unless marked otherwise. Q Does 1 Samuel 8: 4-7 show that monarchy as a form of governance is disapproved by God? 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’ 6 But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have re- jected, but they have rejected me as their king.’ A The fact that Jehovah was displeased at the request may have had less to do with the sort of rulership Israel asked for than the fact that the nation had decided to throw off the theocratic rule (by God) represented by Samuel, hitherto their Prophet and Judge. In His response, the Lord instructed Samuel to warn the people that a king would conscript them and their sons into military service, nationalize their economy, and tax them heavily in order to raise income for his treasury. See 1 Samuel 8: 1-22. The Hebrew word for “king” (melek) used here occurs hundreds of times in the Old Testament, before and after this account in Samuel. It is also applied to God Himself (“The LORD is King for ever”; Psalm 10: 16). The equivalent Greek word is basileus, and is used of earthly sovereigns (“the king, as the supreme authority”; 1 Peter 2: 13), of Jesus (“King of Israel”; John 12: 13) and of Jesus and His Church together (“King of kings”; Revelation 17: 14). Apart from the theocratic arrangement in force before Israel became a kingdom, the Scriptures do not appear to favor one form of earthly government over another. All forms, royal or otherwise, are imperfect and (more or less) prone to degradation, and are lumped together as “kings of the earth” (Revelation 6: 15). Indeed, it should be noted that the rea- son given by the elders of Israel for rejecting rule by God, as represented in Samuel, is that Samuel’s sons – judges – were themselves corrupt (vs. 4, 5). It appears then, that regardless of the form of government the nation had urged as a replacement, God would have been displeased. See Judges 8: 23, where Gideon, offered kingship, responds, “I will not rule over you . . . the LORD will rule over you.” Nonetheless, the monarchical model appears to be the one into which the prophecies of the Bible are fitted. The Scriptures inform us that the future, righteous government of earth will be a “kingdom” with Christ as its monarch, as revealed in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25: 34). God’s rule on earth is defined as regal (“thy king- dom [basileia] come”; Matthew 6: 10). This sovereign arrangement, under Christ as King, when it has done its work of uplifting mankind in the Millennial Age may, perhaps, be superseded by a different mode of governance, but the Scriptures are silent on this matter. (But see 1 Corinthians 15: 24 (“kingdom”).) 2011
ISRAEL GETS A KING Scripture references are to the New International Version, unless marked otherwise. Q Does 1 Samuel 8: 4-7 show that monarchy as a form of governance is disapproved by God? 4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’ 6 But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this dis- pleased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they