The Many Cold – The Few Faithful

“Because iniquity shall be multiplied the love of the many shall wax cold.” Matthew 24:12.

IT IS evident that our Lord is not here speaking of the world, for the world does not have this love. It is the Church of whom Jesus is speaking; it is only the Church with whom God is now dealing. As New Creatures, God’s children have seen a great Light, Christ Jesus. Through this Light we have ourselves become illuminated, and we seek to let our light shine before men. We are not lighted candles to shed light upon others until we have become the Lord’s, until we have received of His light. The Bible declares that all men are by nature sinners, unworthy of God’s notice. But He has made a provision of everlasting life for the perfect. How, then, will any member of our sinner race ever get everlasting life? Surely none of the children of Adam are worthy of everlasting life! The Lord, however, has provided for this emergency through the death of Christ. During the Gospel Age God has been delivering from death a certain class. During the incoming Millennial Age, He will lift up and make perfect the world of mankind. But only at the close of that Age, after they have been finally tested, will God grant them, if worthy, everlasting life. If they fail to attain perfection, He will not give them everlasting life at all, but will destroy them.

UNIQUE ARRANGEMENT FOR THE PRESENT AGE

The Church is an especially called-out class. “Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world,” said the Master. “I have chosen you out of the world.” Mankind in general are in a different heart attitude from those who come into the Church. It is only the minority who now hunger and thirst after righteousness. God in mercy keeps back the Truth from those to whom it would not in the present time be a blessing. This class that the Lord is now calling out from the world are “called to be saints.” The word saint stands for one who is holy. The word holy has the significance of the word whole–that which is entire, lacking nothing. God, who is holy, calls His children to be holy, saying, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16.) But we were by nature unholy; hence His arrangement for our justification, our being made right, whole. The world in general will be made right during the Millennium. None is made right now in the actual sense. In what way, then, does God make the Church right now? Ah, there is the beauty of God’s Plan! They are made right reckonedly, by the counting to each of them of the perfect merit of Christ. This is a unique arrangement, peculiar to the present Age alone. God says, “My Call at this time is an invitation to a new nature. I am not inviting any now to Restitution; if so it would not be necessary to issue this special Call. I want a certain class for a specific purpose, to be used later in blessing the whole world. I know of some who will be glad to respond. So I am sending My Message, that those able to hear may hear.”

WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY ILLUSTRATES GREAT TRUTH

We all know something of the wireless system of telegraphy. This is one of the blessings of this “day of the Lord’s preparation” for the incoming New Age. It may serve as an illustration of how God has been sending out His Truth during the Gospel Age. If we would hear the Lord’s Call, we must have co-hearers. If we do not have co-hearers, we cannot hear His Message at all. We need to have responsive hearts, ready to receive with gladness the Message of God’s love and mercy. If your heart is not rightly in tune, you cannot understand; but as you get it in tune with the Lord, the Message enters, and you can hear the wave tones. God speaks to us in tones of a certain character. We recognize those tones and respond, if our heart is in the proper attitude. We had a wrong tone given us by the Adversary– that God had damned the world, had made a place to eternally torture the majority of mankind. With that wrong tone given us, we were not in a position to get the true Message. God’s true Message is a glorious tune, a marvelous melody. Finally we got the right tune from the Word of God. “I can hear better now,” we said. “Yes, yes; God is Love!” “God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son”; “Like as a Father pitieth His children, so the Lord pitieth!” Yes, I now understand something of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God! It is too wonderful a symphony to fully comprehend, I cannot take it all in, but it is there. I am hearing it more and more clearly! Only those who get their hearts in tune with God can hear it all, and the more fully in tune you get your heart the better you can hear. If your instrument is out of tune, if something happens to get you out of touch with the Heavenly electric wave, then you cannot hear the wonderful melody. If you do not keep in close touch with the Lord, you will fail to catch the harmony. You are out of tune with the Infinite One.

JUSTICE THE BASIC QUALITY OF CHARACTER

What is the character of God that we are learning more about as we study His Word? We find that the very basis of God’s character is Justice, absolute Justice. If God were an unjust God, we could never depend upon Him. He might make some term or condition today and then alter it tomorrow. But He is absolutely just; “Justice and judgment are the foundation of His Throne.” (Psalm 89:14.) He changes not; “I am Jehovah, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6.) He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” He will never fail us, He will never deceive. Whoever desires to be in proper tune with God must practice upon that string of JUSTICE. Justice must come into our heart and into our life. The nearer we come in line with justice, the better we shall understand and enter into the spirit of God’s great Plan. We trust that is what we are striving to do. But there are many ways of being unjust. We may say unjust things about our neighbors; we may make trifling faults appear to be great faults; we may color things unjustly. We may use words with a certain intonation or emphasis, with a shrug of the shoulders, giving a wrong impression which might be detrimental to the reputation of another.

Although we might not really mean to wrong another, yet this course would be wrong, and might do incalculable harm. When you say, “I would not wish to be seen in that man’s company,” you might not mean to do wrong, and yet be guilty of slander. Your co-hearer is out of tune with God. Then in the mind one might be unjust. Many people seem to become prejudiced against certain things or persons without just reason. To that extent they are out of harmony with justice. What we need to do is to think righteously, soberly, kindly, along the lines of the Golden Rule, to let our words and deeds be in harmony with the principles of righteousness. Thus we shall be greatly assisted in the development of the sterling Christian character which is absolutely essential if we would have our Father’s approval. Justice, then, is the basis, the first thing necessary, in building character. From this basis we are to go on to the attainment of sympathy, benevolence, forgiveness, love. God has been very loving and sympathetic with us. He has provided us a Redeemer. He has covered our many blemishes from His sight. Then, as we seek to copy God, we shall wish to be kind and forbearing and helpful toward all. But we must be just first. If we have an unjust twist in our mind, it will interfere with our communion with God, and we shall be in danger of failing to make our calling and election sure. We are continually surrounded by the spirit of the world–hatred, envy, malice, strife. So we must keep very close to the Lord to counteract this spirit. The world and the things of the fallen nature are so close to us that we can with difficulty avoid being contaminated by them. One can hardly pass through a vile neighborhood without carrying away vile odors. But the Lord has furnished us with a most effective disinfectant in His Word. All the cleansing we need is derived from the Message which God has given us, with its explicit instructions. This wireless Message from Him tells of His love for us, speaks peace through Jesus Christ our Lord, makes known to us our privilege of becoming heirs of God and joint-heirs with our Lord Jesus. Having been called with this Heavenly Calling, we can readily understand that God would not have us in this class unless we have the right spirit. The selection is not according to a whim of Divine preference. On the contrary, God chooses according to character, according to natural qualifications of honesty and the desire to be just, to be right, whatever may be the fleshly weaknesses. Justice is the very basis of God’s Throne, the foundation of His Government.

WORLDLINESS AMONG PROFESSED CHRISTIANS

In our text the Lord Jesus declares that at a certain time in the Gospel Age, and apparently pointing down to our day, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” The Revised Version given here is stronger than our Common Version rendering. It is not only many who will grow cold, but the many, the majority, of professed followers of Christ. How truly the Master’s words have been fulfilled! Iniquity is inequity, injustice, unrighteousness. Our text might properly read, “Because unrighteousness shall abound, the love of the many shall grow cold.” We are in the time against which the Lord sought to especially guard us. How few comparatively have heeded the warning! The STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES point out that in God’s arrangement the Prophet Elijah was a type of The Christ in the flesh–Jesus being the Head of the antitypical Elijah and the Church being His Body. The three and a half years, 1260 days, of Elijah’s experiences while hiding in the wilderness from Queen Jezebel were symbolic, and corresponded to the 1260 years of the true Church in the wilderness condition, where she had fled from the antitypical Jezebel. (Revelation 12:6,14; Daniel 7:24,25.) Elijah’s coming out of the wilderness prefigured the coming out of the true Church of God from her wilderness hiding after the year 1799 A. D., when Jezebel’s power was broken, and the copious rains following represented the wide circulation of the Bible since that date. The Church of Christ, the watching ones, are now in a particular time of waiting. The Elijah class is soon to be taken beyond the veil. The Elisha class will be left until later, to wash their soiled robes in the blood of the Lamb in the “Great Tribulation” just before the world. It seems that the Lord is now especially testing His people. Among many of the people of God love has waxed cold, because unrighteousness is abounding everywhere. Many today profess to believe things that they do not believe. Empty forms of godliness prevail. Love of pleasure is rampant. As a result many professed Christians are lukewarm or cold. They say, “Look at what the church systems are doing. What is right for our church leaders is right for me.” Thus many are taking a very wavering course. There is much injustice practiced everywhere. We find great neglect of the Golden Rule. Christian parents, too, are leaving the religious training of their children too frequently to the Sunday School, where the teachers are often wholly incompetent to instruct them in the Word of God. Christian parents should be the priests of their own family. They have a great responsibility. Because iniquity prevails, the temptation is strong with many to follow the multitude. But the Lord’s children should not follow a multitude to do evil. We must learn quickly now all God’s will concerning us. The end of the Church’s probation is drawing near. We have not much time left in the School of Christ. The saints are soon to be judges of the world. Shall we be among those judges?

PROPER ATTITUDE OF CHRISTIANS

Let each child of God bestir himself. Let him encourage the brethren to faithfulness. Let us give close attention to God’s Word, that we may become more and more like our Father in Heaven. Let us love the things which are true, right, noble, Godlike. Let us renounce all else for the Heavenly things. We cannot stand for our own rights in the world. We gave up our human rights when we gave ourselves to the Lord. There are times perhaps when we might offer a protest, as Jesus did when He was smitten. But He did not retaliate nor try to render evil for evil. And we are to walk as He walked. Let us not allow the inequity of others to cause our hearts to grow cold. The One whom we are to please, the One with whom we have to do, the One whom we love above every human tie, is our Lord. We desire to do His will. As for the brethren, let us do the best we know how for them. Let Heavenly wisdom be our guide. Let us faithfully follow Jesus in the Narrow way, whatever others about us may do; and soon we shall hear His sweet “Well done!” <R5856>

Should Christians Vote?

Does the Bible allow Christians to VOTE? On the other hand, should they just sit on the sidelines and not become involved? Does God allow believers to become active participants in the political affairs of where they live in order to make a better world? Do their responsibilities as those who are called and chosen include arranging protests, campaigning for others, organizing for or against a particular law, and so on?

 A realistic way Christians can always judge whether they should do something, such as deciding to vote or not, is to ask what Jesus would do. The apostle John once wrote, “Anyone who claims to dwell in Him (Jesus Christ) is obligating himself also to walk even as He Himself walked” (1John 2:6, HBFV throughout). The “what would Jesus do” admonishment is solidly based on Scripture. 

So, would Jesus vote? Moreover, if He did, whom would He choose? Would he choose a CHRISTIAN? Would He be willing to choose the “lesser evil” of whoever is running for office, since no political candidate or party is perfect? Can we imagine Him taking sides on the myriad of contentious issues that drive the politics of most nations? On the other hand, would He stand apart from the world and proclaim a different way? 

On trial for His life, Jesus told Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate the following when asked whether he was the King of the Jews. 

“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, so that I might not be delivered up to the Jews. However, My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36, HBFV) 

Since Jesus proclaimed that His followers would not fight to save Him from an unjust execution because His kingdom (God’s government) was not derived from this world, then why should Christians be so eager to get involved in politics such as trying to vote? This world is clearly deceived by Satan and lies under his power at least for the time being (Revelation 12:9, 1John 5:19, see also Matthew 4:8 where he offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world).  

 

 

The Peace of God

“The peace of God which passeth all understanding,  hall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil.4:7)

 The word ‘peace’ in the New Testament is from Strong’s 1515 and means ‘quietness, rest, to set at one’ again’. In the Old Testament it is from Strong’s 7965 and has the meaning of ‘safe, well, happy, to be at peace’ and from 7999 ‘to be safe in mind, body and state, to make complete, make restitution, restore’.

 Peace is here then defined as a state of quiet and tranquility, freedom from disturbance or agitation, calmness, repose. Such a state of mind in the text quoted is affirmed of God, it is a mind tranquil, calm, undisturbed, never agitated nor even wearied or perplexed by any of the cares of His vast dominions. As the Creator of all things and the Originator of all law, our Heavenly Father comprehends all causes and concerns with precision and all effects, and consequently knows the end from the beginning.

 As it says in Deut.32:3-4: ‘ I will proclaim the name of the Lord, and praise the greatness of our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect; and all his ways are just; a faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.’ God’s peace is based upon man obeying His commandments. We go back to when He created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. The tranquility and beauty in perfect surroundings would have filled their hearts with awe towards their Creator. Our Heavenly Father had provided for Adam and Eve everything they would ever need. God as a father shows that he has a father’s love for all his intelligent creatures, the whole family in heaven and in earth, and that for His pleasure they were and are created. He created them in His own likeness, with the same mental and moral aptitudes, that they might have communion and fellowship with Him as children and they with Him as a father. Thus, in mutual fellowship and communion the Creator and the creature might find pleasure, happiness and delight. 

God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that the first parents also needed to be tested if they would be worthy of this paradise and peace that He had provided for them. In Gen.2:16,17 we read: ‘And the Lord God commanded the man, You are free to eat from any tree in the garden but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When you eat of this you will surely die.’ Then came the temptation of Satan through the serpent and Eve ate of the fruit, and then Adam did. They had disobeyed God’s commandment, and therefore the penalty was given for their disobedience.  

In Gen.3:9 we read: ‘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.’ Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden and were estranged from God. If we could for a moment put ourselves in their place and imagine the heart-wrench they must have felt and the longing to be back in the garden to be once again in harmony with God, enjoying His peace. From this standpoint we can realize that man has desired peace but because of sin has not been able to obtain it. We see Satan as the foe against mankind. Our Heavenly Father gives us in Gen.3:15 the key to his destruction. We read: ‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.’ 

Since Adam, God has overruled lives of righteous men. Because of Abraham’s faithfulness and obedience to God, he was given this promise in Gen.22:17: ‘I will surely bless you and make your descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore; your seed will possess the gate of his enemy, and through your seed all the nations of the world will be blessed because you have obeyed me.’

From Abraham came the nation of Israel and they were also to be given blessings if they would observe and do all of God’s commandments when coming into the promised possession of the land of Israel. In Deut.28:12 we read ‘The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and bless all the works of your hand’ and in Psalms 29:11: ‘The Lord will give strength to his people; God will bless his people with peace’. But because of their sin, the desired peace was not given to the nation of Israel. We remember our Lord’s words in Luke 19:42 when He wept over Jerusalem, saying: ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it is hidden from your eyes.’

 “Peace with God”

So we can see that there can be no peace to man except in the re-establishment of the relationship between himself and God. Since this relationship of sons can only be re-established through Christ, there is no peace to anyone out of Christ. ‘There is no peace, says the Lord, to the wicked’ (Isa.48:25) and ‘the whole world is under the control of the evil one’ (1 John 5:19). To have the peace of God then, we need to be at peace with God through justification. Rom.5:8-11 reads: ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us. ‘Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him; for if when we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to him through the death of his son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life. Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received reconciliation.’ And in Rom.5:1: ‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 

To these justified children of God, sons and heirs of this Age, God has not only granted His recognition but also His special favor in offering to them exceeding great and precious promises. Our Heavenly Father has drawn us with a heavenly calling and invited us to be part of the body of Christ, His Bride, and to be joint heirs with Jesus in His Kingdom, and all the gracious work of that Kingdom. It is to these new creatures begotten and led by the Spirit of God that are promised peace and mercy. Mercy because our best efforts to walk after the leading of the Holy Spirit will be imperfect but God, who judges our hearts, desires and efforts, is merciful and will not expect from us more than we are able to perform. He gives His blessed peace to these begotten ones who are led by His spirit.  

Rom.8:6 declares: ‘For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.’  Our Lord, on the last night of His earthly life, bestowed on His beloved disciples His parting blessing, His legacy of peace. ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.’ (John 14:27) The promise was for that rest and peace of mind which Jesus himself possessed, the peace of God. It was the same peace which the Father has always had. Jehovah’s peace comes from within Himself because He has all power and wisdom, and knows the end from the beginning. The peace of Christ came through His faith in God, faith in His  wisdom and power and grace. So, also, if we would have the peace of God, the peace of Christ, it must be centered in God by faith. 

Peace that endures

The peace promised is not the short-lived peace of the world, which is sometimes enjoyed for a little while, but it is the peace of God which Christ by faith enjoyed. Although He was rich, for our sakes He became poor. He lost friend after friend, and in His last hour was forsaken by all the friends who remained. His was the peace that endured through loss, persecution, scorn and contempt, and even amidst the agonies of the Cross. If we would know the foundation and security of this abiding peace which is able to survive the heaviest storms of life, we can see it in the teaching and example of the life of our Lord and the Apostles.  

We have many instances recorded in the Book of Acts of the sufferings of the Apostles and followers of Christ. Because of the jealousy of the priests and Sadducees they were put in jail and beaten but when released they rejoiced because they had been accounted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name of Jesus.  

And we have the account of Stephen, who although falsely accused, gave a courageous witness to his faith, and when being stoned fell on his knees and prayed, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’. Herod had the Apostle James put to death by the sword, and the Apostle Peter arrested and put in prison, but the people of the church prayed earnestly for him and the Lord sent an angel to rescue him. The Apostle Paul, in defending his ministry, in 2 Cor.11 speaks of his experience saying: ‘Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move; I have been in danger from rivers, dangers from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and often gone without sleep. I have known hunger and thirst, and often gone without food. I have been cold and naked.  

Besides everything else, I face daily the pressures of my concern for the churches.’ What was it that held them so firmly and gave them such rest of mind while they suffered? It was their faith, their faith in the love, power and wisdom of God. They believed that what God had promised he was able also to do, that His righteous and benevolent plan would know no failure. Isa.46:9-11 says: ‘Remember the former things of old, for I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do all  my pleasure: …. Yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.’  

In Jehovah their faith was anchored and on His assurances they rested. So the Apostle Paul was able to say in Rom.8:’If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble, or hardship, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or dangers? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, for I am convinced that neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers from the height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ It is only through steady, unwavering faith that the peace of God, the peace of Christ, will abide with His people.  

1 John 5:4 says: ‘This is the victory which overcomes the world, even our faith’. The blessed peace that comes from the knowledge of the fact that God accepts us as joint-heirs with Jesus Christ if we continue to faithfully follow in His footsteps is the basis of our peace. No matter how heavily the storms of life may assail us, we must never let go our anchor. Always remember that the foundation of God stands sure. His truth is our shield and buckler, that what He has promised he is able to perform, and covering our human imperfections we have the imputed righteousness of Christ. Jesus’ peace is in true reconciliation with God, purchased with His death. It is the supreme remedy for all fears and the legacy left for his heirs. Even as we see the sad state of affairs in the world today, we can have peace knowing that He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

We look forward to and pray for the establishment of the Kingdom when the beautiful Old Testament promises of Psalms 37:11 have their fulfillment: ‘The meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.’ and in Isa.32: ‘Behold, a King shall reign in righteousness and princes shall rule in judgment…. and the fruit of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in thee in peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.’ So, in conclusion, ‘When He gives quietness who then can make trouble?’ and ‘You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.’ Who but He, the God of all comfort, can give quietness in the midst of trouble when we can come to our loving Heavenly Father in prayer, not asking for all disturbances to be removed, because it is not always the divine will to bring peace in that way, but asking for a loving, trustful submission to the will of God.

“Exceeding Great and Precious Promises”

“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” – 2 Peter 1:2-4

The promises of God are not only great but precious, the Apostle declares. Gifts may be regarded as precious for various reasons, some of which might be:- The giver: Many of us treasure some small, probably not very valuable things, that is, not valuable in the eyes of others, but because they came to us from a parent, a loved one,
a Christian friend, they are priceless to us. Our great and precious promises are the gift of God, our loving Father, who so loved us each one that He gave His beloved and only-begotten Son for our salvation.

The price: There is a wonderful story out of the life of David recorded in 2 Samuel 23:15-17, which reads: “And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out
unto the Lord. And he said, Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of men that went in jeopardy of their lives? Therefore he would not drink it.”

The gift David received on that occasion was merely a portion of water, but was purchased at so great a price – the hazarding of three lives – that he could do nothing other than pour it out in offering to God, so precious was it in David’s sight. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:18-19: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, ….but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot or blemish.” Like David, how can we do other than offer such dearly bought gifts back to Him in grateful service and obedience?
The value: It is sometimes said that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and so in the case of a gift its value may depend on the appreciation or otherwise of the recipient. We read in Hebrews 11:26 that Moses chose ‘rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of the Anointed greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” This surely is also the viewpoint of the faithful followers of Jesus today: Of all such, it can be truly said “unto you therefore which believe, he (Jesus) is precious” (1 Peter 2:7).

The certainty: Even the best-sounding promises are of no value unless there is absolute confidence in the sincerity and ability to perform of the giver. So as well as greatness and preciousness, the promises need to be certain of fulfillment, and here the Word of God thoroughly assures us: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith for He is faithful who promised.” (Heb 10:23) “For all the promises of God in him (Jesus) are yea and in him amen, to the glory of God by
us” (2 Cor.1:20) The nature of God himself, with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning, and the finished work of Christ are the Christian’s ironclad guarantee of the fulfillment of
all the divine promises. Each one of God’s dear children has
furthermore been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, the
earnest or pledge of the rich inheritance which God has
promised.

The scope: In earlier times ‘promise boxes’ were fairly common among Christian people and these held perhaps 200 or so little scrolls with a Scripture promise which could be selected for daily reading and encouragement. The Word of God itself is the great storehouse of all His promises and these relate not only to the eternal life and joy and peace and glory which are laid up for all who are faithful unto death, but also the assurance of our Savior’s constant presence and of His grace and strength in every time of need and of His peace within our hearts.

The prospect: 1 John 3:2 reads – “Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” What a prospect! Can we really comprehend it, to see Him as He is? And also in Rev.3:21: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I overcame and am set down with
my Father in His throne.” What a privilege, what a prize, what a Saviour!

Further, we have present promises in Matt.28:20: “Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the age”, in Hebrews 13:5: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” and in 2 Cor.12:9: “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

The purpose: Turning again to the Apostle’s words in 2 Peter 1:3 and 4, we see that all of God’s provisions including the gift of exceeding great and precious promises are all designed to guide Christians in the paths of new life and righteousness in Christ, to foster development of character and Christian graces so that ultimately they can be made partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

The full realization of this share in the divine nature awaits the completion of the earthly course, but even now we can rejoice in what God has already revealed to us and in us of His love and mercy and goodness through His dear Son, our Savior.

Our loving Heavenly Father is the great author of all the exceeding great and precious promises of His Word. In response let us continue in our personal resolve to –
· Daily take more and more to our hearts and savor the full riches of God’s grace toward us
· Daily lay hold on all His precious promises, not only of future glory but of present help and strength along the narrow way.

“Faithful is He who calleth you, who also will do it.” 1 Thess 5:24 (Amen)

The Opening Year

Christians cannot remain oblivious to the very real and dangerous
problems that exist in the world today both locally and worldwide, our news media inform us daily of the crises and hardships which so many suffer and we cannot but feel for those involved, even though there may be little we each can do. Only God’s Kingdom holds the final and complete solution. In the meantime, we have the assurance of God’s word given long ago that all those “will be kept in perfect peace whose hearts are stayed upon Jehovah”, those whose lives have been firmly established thereon for support. (Isa 26:3)
The promise of peace within a world of turmoil was reiterated by our Savior, through whom we have come to know God as our Heavenly Father – “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto thee; let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid”. “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good courage, I have overcome the world. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace”. (John 14:27, 16:33) Peace is His will for His followers!
Such peace is the treasure and privilege of all the Lord’s people and we do well to draw deeply upon this source of inner peace and rest in the Lord. Such peace will strengthen us and enable us to go forward in trust and assurance into the new year, whatever 2017 may hold for us as individuals, as assemblies of God’s people, as part of that one Church “which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all”. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His”. (2 Tim 2:19) He who knows and loves each one of His children will surely be their peace, as they trust Him.
As we look back over 2016, can we say with Samuel “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us!” (1 Sam 7:12) Surely He has indeed done so for us each as we think carefully back over the experiences of the way. God’s promises do not fail as we are reminded in Lam 3:22,23 – “His compassions fail not, they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness”, also in 1 Thess 5:24 – “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it”. So in times of special stress when it seems that “help delays to come”, we need to trust Him even more, knowing “He will send the answer, though in wisdom oft delayed”. In such times, we can help one another, by prayer, by the word of encouragement, by practical support.
Yes, even in a troubled world, Christians may still know real joy, in the abiding presence of our dear Master, in present enjoyment of the great and precious promises of God, in the rich and satisfying truths of His Word as they have been opened up for us in these last days, in the glorious prospects for all mankind, when the dark night of sin gives way to the light of a new and glorious day. Such inner peace and hope and joy will help to sustain us each one whatever our experiences may be in the coming year.
At this turning point, then, when one year closes and another opens before us, let us take stock. What progress has been made “in the school of Christ” in faith and understanding, in character and daily living, in love for the brethren, in appreciation of the so great love of our Heavenly Father, in zeal for His service even in what may seem the smallest way, in the joy of our Lord? All these things are His will for us, let us resolve then to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race which is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”. (Heb 12:1)
May we each prove ”more than conqueror” through Him
who loved us. Amen.

“The Sin That Hath No Forgiveness”

Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.” – Matthew 12:31,32

We might say, first of all, this expression “Holy Ghost” is rather a crude expression. It is an expression which has not done justice to the language. We are probably all aware that the Lord and his Apostles never spoke English, nor was it used in the days of the Bible; the old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, and the Bible has been translated from those tongues. The Lord and the apostles never said “Holy Ghost.” The two Greek words that are rendered by this expression are of very frequent occurrence; usually they are translated Holy Spirit, and we think they ought to have been so translated here. The word “ghost” is rather an irreverent word and does not properly convey the thought of “God’s gracious spirit.” The Revised Version translates it “Holy Spirit.” “Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men.”  

We find two great ideas of sin, man’s idea and God’s idea. If I were to ask you what your conception of sin was, a great many would reply, Sin is anything contrary to the laws of our land, murder, robbery, anything dishonest, anything in the nature of law-breaking. But when we come to the word of God we find a much stronger definition of sin. The Apostle in 1 John 5:17 says, “All unrighteousness is sin.”  

Everything not right is sin and everything wrong is sin. From the Lord’s standpoint, a great many things are considered sin that the laws of our land do not consider sin. Our Savior said in Matthew, 5th chapter: “Thou shalt not kill,” and then he went on further to say, “He that is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” Here are two men, they both hate a fellowman to such an extent that they would almost be glad to see him deprived of his life. The one man commits murder, takes the life of his neighbor. The other man would like to kill his fellow-man, but he is fearful of the consequences, realizing that the law would take hold of him and the penalty would be death. What was the difference between those two men? In the eyes of the law, the first man was a murderer, the second was not; but in the sight of God they both were because they both had the spirit of hatred in their hearts. From God’s standpoint it is not the committing of a sin, but the spirit that may lead to the commission of an act. We thus see, dear friends, that from God’s standpoint any man or woman who entertain in their heart motives and principles that are not right commit sin. Just think how many murderers there must be in our world from God’s standpoint, though they would not be counted so from the standpoint of the laws of our land.  

In Proverbs 21:4 we read that “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked is sin.” Is plowing sin? It was not the act of plowing which was sin, but the man who plowed his field with the wrong spirit, thinking wrong thoughts, with an angry disposition, selfishness, wanting to earn money, etc., committed sin. He might really have done better plowing than his neighbor who plowed with a spirit which was more that of holiness. It was not the act but the spirit that prompted him as he went about that plowing, which made it sin. The Lord wanted to inform us that an act may be religious, may be pious, etc., and yet if the wrong motive is behind it, then it is sin.  

In Isaiah 66:3 we hear the prophet speaking as the mouthpiece of the Lord, “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man.” Is that really the case? How can we make that out? We recall that God commanded men to offer oxen and now the man that obeys that command in the offering of oxen, would that man commit a sinful act, as bad as if he had murdered a man? I answer that in the days when Isaiah spoke those words, the children of Israel had wandered off and they carried out God’s commandments in pride of heart and offered an ox to display their religion to their neighbors. The Lord wanted them to know that if they offered oxen from any other motive than in the spirit of God’s commandments, it would be sin. In the killing of a man that would be sin. So the killing of an ox in pride would be sin, because pride is sin. No matter how good an act is, if the wrong motive is behind it, it is sin.  

If a man offering prayer thinks how it impresses the audience, etc., that man’s prayer was sin. It may be that every word of his prayer was truthful and thoroughly in harmony with the word of God, it may have been that that prayer was more in harmony with God’s plan than many others, but in God’s sight it was sin, because it was the spirit of vanity and pride that prompted the offering of it. We may perform a charitable deed, but no matter how much it may help our fellow-men, if it was to attract attention to us and have our name in the paper, etc., it was not charity in God’s sight. We find this thought emphasized further still when the Word of God informs us that the failure to perform some good deed was sin. Note James 4:17: “He that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” You remember Samuel, when he spoke to Israel’s God, saying, “Forbid that I should sin against God by refusing to pray for you.” Therefore, if you know of some brother in Christ who is being tested and you do not pray for him, you have committed sin. It was not merely your failure to pray for such an one, but that you did not have the spirit of sympathy for him. Well, if that is the way, some one may say, then we are all sinners, without exception. I answer, Yes, that is so. I do not know that in any way I could be considered a sinner according to the state laws of New York, but while I am not a sinner from the standpoint of the laws of this state, I am from the standard of perfect love if God requires me to come up to that perfect standard.  

In Galatians 3:22 the Scriptures have concluded all under sin. There may be a difference in respect to the character of the sin and the greatness of the sin that you and I commit, but at the same time there is no difference in respect to all being sinners, and so we all need a savior, one mighty to save. 

Now, dear friends, we want to know something about why it is that sin today is so universal; why the great and small, the good and bad, the learned and ignorant, are all more or less involved in sin. We want to know the outcome of it as well. How does God look at it? What is our hope and prospect as respects the future? We may say that the Bible is the book which might be called the history of sin, showing the beginning of sin to the great consummation, and when we go to the word of God we find that sin is divided into three great periods. 

First, beginning way back in the ages of eternity the first act of sin had not taken place. God’s Universe was pure and holy and just as he originally made it. We call that the “theoretical stage of sin.” It was merely an inactive principle, merely a possibility, which had not taken place. But at last the day arrived when the first sin took place, the first rebellion against God, and there the theoretical stage ceased.  

It was now a fact, a reality, an experience; and therefore, we term the time since that the “experimental stage,” in which sin has been an experience; but we find from the Word of God that sin is not always to be an active principle, a living reality, but the day is coming when the last sin will be committed and there the experimental stage of sin will be finished and the Universe will again be holy and there shall be no more curse. There could not fail to be a curse if sin were there. If the curse is absent it is because no sin is present. That is the time the Apostle speaks of in 1 Cor. 15:50: “O death, where is thy sting; O grave, where is thy victory?” He tells us what he means when he speaks about the sting of death–it is sin. The time will come when they will say, O death, where is your sting! as it will be of the past. Sin will no longer be a theory or fact, but an awful memory, a terrible memory, a horrible memory. The Bible shows us very clearly the origin of sin, how and when, and where, and why the first sin took place. It shows us how sin originated with a being we call today the devil. Why did God ever make a devil? We answer, God never did make a devil. All God’s work is good, as we read in Deut. 32:4: “He is a rock; his work is perfect.” When created, the devil was not a devil, but a holy being, one of the highest of the angelic host. We find, dear friends, that in Ezekiel 28:15 the statement is brought to our attention. In that chapter the world is compared to Tyre, and there we are shown the great similarity between the world of mankind and Tyre. We are also shown that there is a great similarity between the king of Tyre and Satan, “Seeing thou hast been in Eden.” The king of Tyre never was in Eden, but Satan was. “Thou wert a covering cherub.” They were a class of angels among the highest of those who were created angels.  

The devil was not merely an angel, but one of the highest of the angels. Speaking further we read, “Thou wast perfect in all thy ways, from the day thou wast created till iniquity was found in thee.” We are here informed that, when created, he was not a devil, but was perfect, holy and good, and through his disobedience he was transformed into the devil that he is today. Time will not permit us tonight to speak of his original sin, what it was, and how he came to be the Satanic being he has been ever since. But the Lord shows us that he had a special reason for permitting the devil to fall into sin, and lead into sin the whole human race. A great many, as they look around us in the world and see the sorrow and sin and trouble, and behold the fact that sin is responsible directly or indirectly for every tear that has been shed, for every death that has occurred, for all the sorrow and distress; and is at the bottom of every catastrophe and every calamity, wonder why it is that God permitted the devil to introduce sin, and to work such havoc amongst the inhabitants of this globe. It is not because God could not have prevented it, because in his infinite wisdom he could have stopped it. Why did he not? I answer, Because he has a glorious purpose; he saw what could be accomplished by allowing the devil to have his way for a time, and to permit the human race to have their way in the matter also. Our heavenly Father not only wanted to have a Universe pure and holy, but a Universe in which there would be no sin, in which there never would be any danger of sin.  

How could that be brought about? Well, he might have accomplished it in several ways. First, by making every member of the human race and all the hosts of angels mere machines. He could have made mechanical beings who could not do wrong if they wanted to. God would not have been pleased to have such beings as that, and you and I would not have been pleased to be such creatures in the Universe.  

You remember how it was when God created Father Adam in the garden of Eden; he said, “Let us make man in our own image.” We are not to suppose that man was made with the same shaped form and body that God was. His must be a wonderful body and glorious, but not like ours because we have a dependent body, while God has an independent body. We have teeth and a stomach, but God does not have to eat to live, and God would not require them; he is not dependent upon food. In our body we have lungs, but God does not have to breathe to live; so his body must be entirely different from ours. What it is like we do not know. This expression, “In his own image,” has reference to a number of things, and prominent amongst them is that God is morally free and God made man morally free; and he made angels also, and the being that we call the devil, morally free; and they all had the liberty to do whatever they chose. We know God could have arranged the matter differently, as is sometimes illustrated with this: A good many of you have children of your own and you may send your boy to the store to get some sugar, and on the way he will stop and play with other boys, and it will take him a long time to get back. But suppose you had a boy, and instead of having lungs and a stomach and all the other organs in him he was full of wheels and springs, etc., and when you wanted him to go for sugar you just wound him up in a certain way and started him off; he would go direct to the store, get your sugar and come back without playing with any of the other boys. No one would want such a boy. God did not want such children either. God could have made the angels and the members of the human race like that, but they would not have satisfied him. God could not have enjoyed the human race if they did not sin just because they could not sin. God knew that, sooner or later, thoughts of rebellion would come to his creatures. God determined to warn them and to show them the inadvisability of sin, and then determined to leave it to their moral freedom; and in his wisdom he foresaw what the result would be. He foresaw the fall of Satan, he foresaw the rebellion of the human race, but God did not cause or predestinate it; he allowed it because of their having moral freedom to choose their course, and the result was sin, and so it has resulted in trouble and death for six thousand years. The result will be to give God’s creatures in all the Universe such a great lesson that it will never be forgotten. Paul says in Corinthians, “We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels and to men.” The word “spectacle” translated means theater. The world is a great theater; the angels in heaven, looking down upon this awful tragedy of sin and death, have seen something that gives them such a conception of the awfulness of sin, that those angels who are pure and holy will remain so forever–not simply because they have been told that they should not sin, but they have seen something that gives them a conception of the horribleness of sin, which could not be learned in any other way. This statement is also true of the human race, and as they look back upon this condition they likewise will realize the awfulness of sin. When God’s Universe is made pure, it will remain that way throughout all eternity. There never will be the least danger or prospect that the spark will ever break out again. Now we see why God did not interfere, but did allow sin to occur. We have found something else. Sin likewise has been inherited largely and man has been in a position to transfer sin to his children and children’s children, generation after generation, until the present time, so that there is none righteous, because we are all descendants of a sinner, father Adam. That is why the Scriptures say that we are by nature the children of wrath. The little child, the new-born babe, is a sinner when it is born. All are children of wrath. Can that be possible? Why, that little new-born babe cannot commit sin. But, you must remember, that little child has inherited sinful traits from its parents; its father may have been very quick-tempered, etc.; and suppose the father dies when the child was only a few months old and the child would not remember its father, but when the child grew up, you would say, You can see the father in that child’s temper. Where did it get it? Not from the example of the father, but it was latent in the child when it was born, and by and by you would see it spring forth and see the child manifest something of the sinful quality, and develop that which it had received from its father. Thus we see the universality of sin. 

Now something of the remedy for sin and God’s method of dealing with it. Eighteen hundred years ago the Lord Jesus came to the earth. The object of his coming was to die for sin, “taste death for every man.” We find, dear friends, the Bible reminds us that he came to die for our sins and also how we are to get the benefit, by believing that he died for our sins, and saying that all are freely justified who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. What does this do when we believe and accept him as our redeemer? Does that take all our sin actually away? No. I have accepted Jesus Christ, and yet I sin. You accept him and yet you sin. The fact is, dear friends, that until we are raised to a state of absolute perfection, a life of perfection will be an impossibility. To illustrate: A perfect being surely is not untruthful. You might ask me, When were you at Pittsburgh? I might have said, I was there the 3rd of July, but it was really the 4th of July. That was merely a mistake, you might say.  

It was a mistake, but it was a lie. Why, no, you did not mean to be untruthful. But the fact was I was not there. Why did I say that? Because I was not perfect, I made a mistake. Again, I might say, I see such a person, but my eyesight deceives me, or I might say I heard this or that, but it was a mistake, for my hearing deceived me. It is because we are imperfect and we will not get the perfect bodies until the resurrection. So the acceptance of Christ does not take away all my sins actually, but it has enabled me to have a standing in the sight of God, as though I was a perfect man and has enabled the heavenly Father to cover my sins, and look no longer on me in my own righteousness, but through the robe of Christ’s righteousness. So in Isaiah 1:15 we read, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow.” To illustrate: In a field is a considerable pile of rubbish and old lumber. That night there is a snowstorm, and the next morning the field is beautiful and you cannot see the rubbish. Has the rubbish and old lumber been taken away? No, it is there, but the snow conceals it. That is what the blood of Christ is to do. It makes white, and, just like the snow, conceals the sins from view. So we still make mistakes, and sin, but God does not see them, for the merit of the Redeemer covers them like the snow, and we look clean. Well, says one, does he mean by this that, having accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we can do whatever we want to, that we can commit murder, robbery or anything else and the Lord will say, Oh, he has no sin, I have covered him with the blood of my Son? No, because the text shows us that there are some sins that the blood of Christ does not reach. Notice how it puts it there, “But he that sinneth against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, neither in this world nor in the world to come.” Then the blood of Christ does not cover all sin; if it did we surely would have been perfect. But what are they? It must be some terrible crime that would constitute this unpardonable sin?  Every sin is a sin against “holiness,” but is not against the “spirit of holiness.” To illustrate it: Imagine a man who had a dry-goods store and had some cloth for sale, and a man came in to buy some of the goods and looked at it, and asked, Is this all wool? Imagine it was not, but half cotton, but the merchant was ignorant of it and thought it was all wool, and so, when he was asked the question, Is this all wool, he replied, Yes, all wool, no cotton in it at all. He did not tell the truth and committed a sin, but it was not a sin against the spirit of holiness. He did not realize that he was not telling the truth. Well now, dear friends, suppose here is a man that has a store and cloth to sell and he has some that is half cotton and the merchant knows it, and suppose here is a customer comes in and looks over the goods and says, Is this all wool? And the merchant, knowing that it is not, but for fear that he will lose the sale, answers, Yes, it is all wool. That is a sin against the spirit of holiness. He deliberately told a lie, and that is an unpardonable sin against God’s Holy Spirit. Well now, you say, do you then contend that that man was lost because he said that cloth was wool when it was not? No. But the Scripture says he hath never forgiveness. He will never be forgiven for that untruthful statement.  

Well, if never forgiven, how is it he will not be lost? Dear friends, here is where the confusion comes in. People confuse the unforgivable sin with the sin unto death. There is a vast difference. Take, for an illustration, the laws of our land. Here is a man who stole ten dollars. He will never be forgiven for that. Does that mean that he will be hung? Certainly not. He will have to bear the result and pay the penalty; it may be six months or a year in jail, and when that time has been spent in jail he will have paid the penalty. If he had been forgiven, he might have been let out three or six months sooner. At the same time he was not hung. His offense did not deserve that. Every time you and I commit a sin that we know is wrong we have committed an unforgivable sin, and it means that we are going to be punished for that sin, but we will not be lost because of it. However, that may lead us to the place where we will be lost. God will see that there will be stripes for it. Another word, put it this way: Every time anybody does wrong, knowing that it is wrong, he is not lost because of it, but it means that he has committed a sin that has no forgiveness and is in greater danger of being lost than if he had not sinned. 

To illustrate: Suppose that on this platform is a long line drawn with a point in the middle; one side of that leads toward the right, and the other side leads in the wrong direction. We will imagine that the world of mankind is on this line either on one side or the other of this central figure. Whichever course we pursue indicates the character we are forming. If we go toward the right, we are forming good character; but if in the other direction, we are forming bad character. When we get to the end of this line on the right our character is perfect, but we are not perfect as human beings. But we have hatred for sin and love for righteousness, and we will have reached the place where we will have been thoroughly tried and tested, and through all eternity we would not do anything that would mar God’s perfect Universe, which indicates that we would be fit for eternal life. You are not perfect, but you have a character which means you will be perfect when you get your perfect body. On the contrary, every time you do any thing wrong that you know is wrong you are forming a character, which, if continued in, there will be no  possibility or likelihood that you would change or alter in the direction of holiness, but on the contrary you would go toward the left of this central mark, going further down the line. Now illustrate it like this: Suppose here is a man commits this unforgivable sin. He realized that cloth was only half wool and said it was all wool; he told an untruth and he committed the unpardonable sin and went in the wrong direction, and was a step nearer to the end than he was before.  

He was responsible and did wrong. Now, then, the Lord will permit that man to have stripes, chastisements. He may allow the death of some loved one, may permit affliction, etc. So far as other people may be concerned, they may never think they were stripes, but he knew it. By and by that may bring him to his senses, and he will say, I am sorry and will do better, and will retrace his steps, and by and by get to the goal of a perfect heart. But it may be the reverse, and it would harden his heart, and he goes from that to something else. The Lord tried to turn him with stripes, etc., but he will not turn, so finally, he gets clear to the end and his case is a hopeless one, and there is no use to pray for such an one. Every one of these sins helped to get him there; it was not only the first sin, but that first sin brought him into danger; as we read in Mark 3:29, “But he that shall sin against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, and is in danger of eternal condemnation.” He is in danger, but not lost. It puts him in greater danger, until by and by he is lost. Now then, dear friends, we can see that from this standpoint every little thing is having some influence, helping us in either one or the other direction. Well, you might say, I will never get down to such a bad place. Dear friends, do not lose sight of the fact that nobody gets there in one step, but step by step they get there. So, in the right direction, we cannot get there in one step, but by faithfulness in this matter and in that matter we will finally get there. The part of our sin not willful the blood of Christ covers, but the part that is willful we receive stripes for. In the mixed sin, if there is more willfulness and only partial weakness, we get stripes, and if we do not try to do better when we get these stripes we may get to the place where it is entirely willful, so that there remains no more forgiveness for our sin. Every human being at his death must be either at one place or the other; must have formed either a good character or a bad character. There are two ways. One class, when it starts in a Christian course, may commit certain sins and take the lessons to heart, and thus try to be more faithful. Now they persevere and follow the right course and press toward the mark for the prize. Another class starts, but they hold back, and the Lord whips them, and they make such slow progress and hold back and do this more and more, and at last it gets them to the place where the Lord says, I see I must permit great tribulations in their case, afflictions of a very severe character. We believe in many cases it will be the great tribulation through which this class must pass, and at the same time the world is passing through its great tribulation. We understand that they will be the great multitude that stand before the throne; they come up out of great tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. Thus we see that the distinction between those who compose the little flock and the great multitude is, that the first class will have committed so few sins against the Holy Spirit and those more particularly at the beginning of their Christian course, but the Great Company class will require great tribulation to get them there. You and I cannot get to the place in this life where we will not sin, but we can get to where we will not sin against the Holy Spirit, where we will not commit any sin knowingly, with a measure of willfulness. That is what the Lord expects of us, if we are going to be in that class. I have had my doubts as to whether there have been any but Jesus who have not committed some sin against the Holy Spirit in the beginning of their Christian course, because he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. We must get to the place where we will be faithful and obedient to God without his rod.

Another question: But do you think that anybody will commit the unforgivable sin except the consecrated Christian? Yes, anybody except the baby and the idiot. They could not because they have not mind or reason enough to do wrong knowingly. While any intelligent man or woman can commit the sin against the Holy Spirit, they cannot commit the sin unto death. Those of the world can commit the sin against the Holy Spirit, but they could not go all the way and commit the sin unto death, because they have not light and knowledge enough to get all the way down. Those not consecrated to Christ can develop character to a certain extent, but have not light and knowledge sufficient to enable them to get all the way up. They can get part of the way. Here is a man who has half an opportunity and responsibility that a consecrated Christian has, and he uses it to the best of his ability, doing the very best he can. When he dies he is half way there. He has a character half formed and he is half fit for eternal life. On the other hand, if instead of doing right he did wrong, that half an opportunity would give him the ability to go half way down, and go just as far down as his lack of knowledge would permit him to go. If on the other hand he had 99 hundredths of an opportunity and had followed the wrong course, he got 99 hundredths of the way down. According to the Bible testimony, the hosts of the earth are to be brought back just as they went into the grave. Those who are half way down the scale in character  development will come forth half way down, and those who were half way up, will be half way up to perfection and will start from there when they come forth from the grave. It will be a very quick matter for a man to finish his course if he is half way up, but a different matter for the man half way down. The man who dies a drunkard and had an appetite for strong drink, that was part of him and he will have it when he comes back. What will he find? The state of things in the world then will be different. The first thing he will want will be a drink. The law, however, at that time will be strictly enforced and there will be no place where he can escape the law. Justice will be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet. Think what he will suffer because of the inability to gratify that habit. He will there suffer for that bad habit; then he will get his stripes. The man further down will be worse off still and it will be harder for him to get up to perfection. The further along the line of that character he has formed, the harder it will be for him. But the man half way up and with a character partly formed along the right lines will quickly reach full perfection of character and be fit for eternal life. Amen.

Soldiers of Christ

“Thou therefore endure hardness; as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”- 2 Timothy 2:3

 Our earth is a great battle ground. Some political party, some sin, some vice, insects, disease. Some make it a business to fight—the soldier. We have to fight for our daily bread. When we become a Christian we do not stop fighting, but fight harder than ever, along different lines. We fight the good fight of faith. Many enlist; the Scriptures give comfort and encouragement for such.

 Two thousand years ago the first enlistment office was opened in Palestine; since thousands and thousands have enlisted. There are many points of similarity between being a soldier in the natural army and being a soldier in the spiritual army. One may enlist

in the natural army for five years or ten years only, but one enlists in the spiritual army for eternity. Everyone and anyone cannot enlist in the natural army; they must be so tall, must have a certain degree of health, etc. Even though one might be able to fight better, if they

cannot stand the tests they won’t have them. To enlist in the Lord’s army certain qualifications are necessary. They must first have accepted the Lord as their Savior and Redeemer. No matter how many good works you may have done, how intellectual you are, you will not be accepted unless you have fulfilled this first requirement.

 What does enlistment mean? What is required in any army? You have to go to the recruiting office, sign certain papers, surrender your right to yourself, have no will of your own. Your will must be your Captain’s will, you must go where he orders.

 When you join the Lord’s army consecration is enlistment. You must give up the fight for self and fight for the Lord–whether it is honor or dishonor. When you have taken this step you are in the Lord’s army (Rom. 12:1). Some fight once in a while, suffer a little, but how many are so wholly given up that they make it their chief aim?

 What prompts us to enlist in the Lord’s army? Five things:

1. Love and gratitude for what He has done for us. How strange if we were not willing to suffer a little! If we had the proper love and gratitude no one could keep us from enlisting.

 2. Because it is in harmony with nobility of character. There is nothing grander nor better than to fight for our Heavenly Father and His Son.

 3. Because we realize the reward at the end is grander and greater than in any other fight. See what the world gives! See what we get (2 Cor. 4:17,18).

 4. Because we realize that present wages are higher and more to be desired than wages in other armies. We get a hundred-fold. Nor could any say it is all trials. We have much joy and many blessings.

 5. Because those who become good soldiers will have opportunity for blessing the world and helping those around them more than any other way of living.

Don’t think everything is to be easy, it would be the wrong way to compare it to a soldier if we didn’t have hardness to endure. Hardness offset by joys outweigh the longest battle. The words fighting and striving show it will cost something. “Fight” (agonize) indicate there

is agony in the Christian life, nevertheless we have no reason to fear the trials because of the help of Christ. Who are our enemies? If we are soldiers we must be fighting. Where is the enemy to fight? The principal one is Satan himself (Eph. 6:12). We are small and weak in comparison with this great enemy. But “Fear not, they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”–2 Kings 6:16.

 “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you,” 1 John 3:13. Shows the world is against us. “Know ye not that he that is a friend of the world is an enemy of God.”–James 4:14.

 The worst enemy is in ourselves. We want to keep the spirit of bitterness, malice, envy, from getting a hold on our hearts. Anything which has a tendency to draw us away from our Lord is our enemy, no matter in what line.

 We need instructions how to fight (Psa. 144:1). Our Heavenly Father is our teacher; He shows us what to do, how to act toward our enemy that we may gain the victory. Various things we have to learn to be good soldiers. One essential is temperance (1 Cor. 9:25). If

athletes will go through so much to get their desire, how much a Christian should be willing to sacrifice. Soldiers endure much to get away from the enemy, sometimes throw away guns and blankets even though needed for their comfort; what should we be willing to sacrifice that we might escape the clutches of Satan? 

If our religion is worth anything, it is worth everything–business, society, affections, etc. How temperate we should be, we should use self-control in respect to appetites, desire for good things to eat, wealth, ambition. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the

things of this life.” They are generally careful to select soldiers who are single, not entangled; if their mind is not on their business they will not make a good soldier. It isn’t wrong for a Christian to marry, the Apostle and our Lord show it is right; we have no right to judge anyone, it may be right in their case; but if it is possible to remain single, how much more we can do for His service. “He that marrieth doeth well, but he that marrieth not doeth better.” It is necessary for us to keep our eyes open lest the enemy entangle us and keep us from being good soldiers. Are we ordering our affairs so as to give the Lord more of our time? Are we giving more of our affection? Is our mind reverting to how we can do more for the Lord? (1 Thess. 5:5-8.) Be sober, soldiers who carouse and drink at night are not fit for the battle in the morning.If we take our fill of pleasure and the good things of this life, we will be unable to battle and will fail to get the victory.  Therefore are other things needed, courage, earnestness and faithfulness. 

Song of Solomon 6:4, “Terrible as an army with banners.” This seems puzzling, army with banners, why terrible? I asked a soldier, When men are at the point of giving up, the enemy strong, everything about to be lost, if a couple men run to the front and wave their banners, it renews the army’s earnestness and zeal; they rally and fight like demons; there is nothing so terrible as an army with banners. What are our banners? Song of Solomon 2:4. 

Love for Him, for the cause; there is no fear in love. Obedience is required, not only obedience but prompt obedience. Many are obedient but do not see the value of promptness to obey, don’t hesitate–promptness in practice, prompt in battle. If we cultivate the spirit which instantly obeys it will be easy to gain the battle. If the Lord commands us to do some little thing, if we lack the promptness we will fail when a decision is required. Study 1 Cor. 9:26. We are not to fight in any kind of a way. When two men are fighting one might gain the victory though the weaker, because his blows were studied, not in the air. Look and see what blows the Lord wants us to strike. Don’t think any kind of activity counts.–2 Tim. 2:5. 

What are our weapons? (2 Cor. 10:4,5.) Our weapons are not carnal, we are not to fight with bitterness, malice, etc., we are not to hurt others. “Casting down imaginations” (Eph. 6:11). “No weapon formed against thee shall prosper” (Psa. 149:6; Psa 144:2). A fortress,

who needs a fortress? Only a soldier and all others things our Heavenly Father will supply. A commissary department is run only for the soldier, all others will be turned away. Many want to know why it is they go to the Bible and can’t see these wonderful things that

others see. The Bible is food for the soldier and no other can enjoy it until he becomes a soldier (1 Cor. 9:7). Do they go at their own charges? Doesn’t the government provide? 

And will the Lord not provide for us? “My God shall supply all your need.” 

It would be a great blessing if we could realize what a fortress we have in our Heavenly Father. Many have trust, but do we have great trust? We should have. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Why no one can. Is not Satan against us with all his forces? He means to be against us, but in reality is for us; he is trying to injury God’s people, but he helps to develop us; his opposition stirs us up and when resisted we are strengthened and helped; he is really polishing us (Psa. 2:1-4). They might as well try to blow the sun out of existence; they can’t hurt the sun, neither can they hurt the plan. He laughs when He thinks of puny man trying to overthrow His plan. 

Soldiers are happy, light-hearted, with beautiful uniforms, but when hard work comes they don’t look so happy. We are light-hearted, but when more severe experiences come we may not feel so happy, but we may be just as determined to do the Lord’s will as ever. We don’t

have severe fighting at first, but must first practice before being sent out. It doesn’t matter if he hit the mark then; but he is supposed to do his very best. The zeal with which he practiced will tell in the great battle. The way we gain the victory in little things shows if we are going to gain in the big battle; great victory is made up of little victories. What makes us gain the victory? Faith, faith in the promises, God has put in His Word. 

The first victory gained is the victory gained at consecration. The Adversary and all our enemies will strive to prevent our making a consecration, and it is a question of how we are going to gain the victory. If we have faith in the Scriptures we see it is a reasonable service, we are not willing to do unreasonable service. If the Lord says it is reasonable we will do it. What gained the victory? Faith. It sometimes seems as if we can’t do it, are we going to gain the victory over that discouragement? It depends on faith. How? If we have faith in it, it will gain the victory. If my Heavenly Father has made provision for covering my imperfections, He knows I need it. There are battles in other lines–Pride–“Pride goes before destruction.” If we believe it we will try and put pride away. God gives us the victory. How? He gives us the promises. We want to understand what victory means. It does not mean to get the best of an argument. If I could get him to acknowledge he was wrong and I was right, would

that be victory? No. We may have had to say some very unkind things. The convincing of that man has lost the victory if we have been a little sarcastic, etc.; it wouldn’t be Christ-like, and even at that expense he may not be convinced. Our greatest defeats are often our

greatest victories. Does knowledge of the Bible gain the victory? No. If we come off victor we may not have known as much of the Bible as we might otherwise have known. Should we spend the time in studying if we have opportunity to go in the work? When have we

any time to study; if I stayed at home that would have cost me the victory. I might have known more about the letter of the Word, where the verse was, etc. 

Victory means in every case to put the Lord’s will first; it is a secondary matter what the result is. The Adversary is very wise and crafty, he tries to attract us from some important attack to some minor attack. Pay tithe of mint, or anise, and cummin, and omit the weightier matters of the Law. They didn’t know the first principles of what the Lord required of His followers. We should fear lest the Adversary defraud us out of the fruits of the fight. At the beginning of a war they were very strict in regard to desertion, in the latter part they gave men chances to desert. Why? All the men who deserted, though they fought all the four years lost an honorable discharge and a pension. If they fought only the last three months they got an honorable discharge and pension. The parallel is–At first the Lord hedges us in, though he doesn’t interfere with our free will; He has special care over the babies, but in time the Lord withdraws barriers and gives us a chance to desert; but it means the loss of all. Remember, there are two things every soldier has to learn:

First–To attain the mark. 

Second–To retain our position. Lay hold on eternal life. Keep on faithful unto the end.

The Harp of God

One gets natural melody out of a natural harp, and spiritual melody out of a spiritual harp. Nominal Christendom can tell us something about the historical features of the Bible, but they cannot tell us about its music. They have not ears that can hear. A harp consists of so many strings, so that it may have perfect harmony, so in God’s harp, there are ten great strings. “I will praise thee upon an instrument of ten strings” (Psa. 144:9), ten great themes. It requires all the strings to make good music.

There was a time when a great many harped on Sanctification, Sanctification, Sanctification! We realize that this is one of the divine strings, but our friends misunderstood the meaning of sanctification, because they neglected the other strings. Our Seventh Day Adventist friends make some music: they are harping on the law! the law! The law! The law is one of the strings in God’s great harp. We are glad that the law string is there. There is the creation string, which is followed by the condemnation string, and the whole race falls into sin. Then comes the law and the ransom, followed by the resurrection, justification, consecration and sanctification, joint-heirship, and restitution; the tenth string is the second death. There is a true octave on these strings, just as there is on a natural instrument.

The passage of scripture from which we are  going to get music this time is found in the fourth and fifth chapters of Zachariah, which refer to the Gospel age and to the Millennial age, the church and the world, the peculiar position which the church holds and the blessings she enjoys.

The first thing is to be “awakened.” Over and over again the prophets tell us that they were in a deep sleep, and had to be awakened first. The great majority of the race are asleep. If they are going to know anything about God’s truth, they will have to be awakened. They do not want to be awakened. (Song of Solomon 5.) “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on?” “I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” The Lord is looking for those who prefer to be awake: “Set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst of Babylon.” (Ezek. 9:4.) If we have been awakened by the Lord’s grace and riches, and have passed not only from death unto life, but from sleep unto consciousness, let our action fit His will.

After Zachariah was awakened by the angel (Zach. 4:1), the latter said unto him: “What seest thou?” and he answered, “Behold a candlestick all of gold, etc.” We remember that was a golden candlestick with seven lamps in the Tabernacle and a similar one in Solomon’s Temple. In Revelations the church is represented by seven candlesticks, the seven different periods through which the church has passed, seven stages of development. The branches consist of those who are buffeted and persecuted. If you are among those who are letting their light shine, then you are part of the Golden Candlestick. If I am one of those, then it includes me. This candlestick is represented as being all of gold, which represents the divine nature. The church is thus represented not because we are actually divine yet, not at all; but that if we remain faithful we will have a place in this golden candlestick.

“An olive tree.” We read in Rom. 11 of the great olive tree into which some are being grafted. The fact that we are letting our light shine today is no proof that we shall be members of the “Little Flock.” God does not however, deal with us suspiciously. He deals with us as though we were going to remain faithful. If He had dealt suspiciously with Adam, the latter could have said: “It was through your discouragement.” There is a difference between predestination and fore-knowledge. While our heavenly Father  knows who will and who will not be faithful, yet He does not tell us anything about it. Those faithful will be in the candlestick ultimately when it is raised to the divine nature itself.

“A bowl upon the top of it.” Who is over the church? Christ is the head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:22). “And seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps.” Here was a candlestick with seven lamps, and the seven lamps all connected with that bowl–connected by golden pipes, all the oil in the lamps flowed from the bowl; all the measures of God’s spirit are received from Christ, the bowl. The oil from the bowl had to come through the pipes. “The anointing which we have received of Him abideth in us”—received through His Son, we do not receive the spirit direct (1 John 2:27).

“And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.” In Revelations the olive trees represent the Old and New Testaments (Rev. 11:3,4). The fact that there are two of these olive trees shows the two sides of God’s Word, one the right hand side, and the other the left hand side. One part of God’s Word was on one side of our Savior and the other on the other side (the Old on the left, the New on the right). He stands between the two, He is the dividing line between the Old and New Testaments.

“So I spake to the angel: ‘What are these my Lord?’ This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel.” The Lord waited, and this would indicate that the Lord wanted to keep his people waiting for it. The angel did

not answer immediately. A great many do not take this waiting in the spirit of the prophet; they get impatient; they do not say: “I will try to get some meaning out of this.” The prophet was willing to wait, and the answer came: “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel.”

Zerubbabel led many of the children of Israel back from the captivity in Babylon to aid in rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 2:2; 3:8-13). Our Lord Jesus, who delivers his people, is going to build the great spiritual temple, and Zerubbabel is here a type of Christ. “Not by might nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Many in nominal christendom make the mistake of expecting that God was going to do things by might (margin: army-numbers), and they say: “The Lord wants things done in this way.” Not at all! “Not by numbers, nor by power.” Such is not the Lord’s arrangement, it is not numbers, nor power, nor force, but the Lord’s spirit which is going to and does count in His purpose for this age. God’s spirit accomplishes what man’s might and numbers could not accomplish.

“Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” (A mountain symbolizes a kingdom; and the one here represented as an obstruction before Zerubbabel typifies Satan’s kingdom–the dominion of evil under the prince of this world. Zerubbabel typifies Christ. His name signifies “a shoot (or sprout) out of Babylon.” Literally he was a son or shoot out of David and Jesse (as our Lord also is called), and secondly as a sprout out of Babylon(confusion) he was a further type of Christ, who was out of and yet separate from sin and all admixture of evil. Undoubtedly the people of that day understood Zerubbabel to be the “branch,” or “shoot” mentioned in the vision of chapter 3-8, not realizing that Zerubbabel and Joshua were but types of Christ (sign-men), in whom the two offices of King and Priest would be combined.

Verses 9 and 10 blend the type and the antitype. Zerubbabel had begun the rebuilding of the literal temple, and the people understood that it would be completed by him. They might not then despise the humble beginning of the work, but rejoice to see it progress under his directing; realizing that the seven eyes (i.e. the perfect wisdom of God–seven represents perfection, and an eye represents knowledge — which holds survey of all the earth) were superintending all the work.

The real application of these verses is to Christ, who began the construction of the true Temple of God–“which temple ye are.” His earthly ministry and the work of his followers have all along seemed small and weak, and far from what might be expected by any respecting so great a temple for so grand a purpose. But those who realize the situation from God’s standpoint can rejoice in the outcome, realizing the Lord’s promise that “the day of small things,” the day of suffering, the day of trials, will soon give place to the Millennial Day of joy, perfection and blessing. The despised “little flock” which the world knows not, even as it knew not its master, will soon be glorified with him and share his Kingdom.–Z.W.T. Jan. 1, 1893.)

The kingdom of Satan will utterly pass away before Christ’s power, and the next age, the day of great things will be ushered in. Now we are like the great ocean; its usefulness depends upon the consistency of the molecules of water. If these were too sticky, too light, or too heavy, its usefulness would be much lessened, boats could not navigate it. So our usefulness by and by will depend upon the care we take of the small things now. We must not despise the small beginnings of spiritual graces in our hearts, but cultivate them carefully, the small seeds of humility and love, etc., else we never will be ready for the great things by and by.

The headstone of this great Temple is our Lord, brought forth 1900 years ago. The “plummet,” or plumb-line the perfect standard of righteousness let down from heaven, in Jesus’ hands (see Isa. 28:17). “The plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven lamps (verse 2). They are the eyes of the Lord,” his consecrated church, because they view things from God’s standpoint, spiritually discerned. If we continue faithful here we will hold up the standard of righteousness with Christ Jesus. “Run to and fro through the whole earth.” The truly consecrated run to do His bidding, are willing to go anywhere in the Lord’s service. The tribulation class may seek to do His will, but they do not run to do it.

Chapter 5: While the fourth chapter relates to the blessing, the fifth refers to the curse: “The Flying Roll;” the curse that has gone over the face of the whole earth. This curse is the immortality of the soul. “Flying” shows the rapidity with which this false doctrine has spread. It has been elevated by man’s hand to a spiritual place. No subject outside the Bible, no false doctrine has had so much written upon it to uphold it. It is called the ‘seed of Satan,’ because he is the father of lies. To this teaching, other lies have been added, built upon it, and still others till the system is like a great tree, with many branches.

The doctrine has had such a great influence on man’s mind, that one might expect it would be foretold in the Bible as to its effects in the church (deceiving spiritual thieves and false swearers). It has warped the mind of man. “I will bring it forth:” God’s people are no longer deceived by it.

The Personality of the Devil

the_devilThe literal existence of an evil spiritual being named Satan, arch-enemy of God and man, is increasingly called in question these days, it being considered more rational and up-to-date to view the relevant Biblical references as alluding to the abstract principle of evil. To be tempted by the Devil, it is suggested, is simply the natural human propensity to sin; to overcome the Devil the suc­cessful suppression of that propensity and adop­tion of the right and proper course of conduct in respect to the particular matter concerned. Whilst all this undeniably suits the temper of a society which tends more and more to reject the super-natural in religion and explain all things from the viewpoint of human material reasoning. It does ignore the fact that the greater part of Biblical mention of Satan cannot possibly be read as other than deliberate reference to an intelligent and super-human creature, moreover one whose nature is completely subordinated to evil and who is in a state of continuing rebellion against God. Against the rejection of this understanding by the intellec­tualism of today has to be placed the fact; a somewhat strange fact in the light of modern irreligion; that the International Social Survey conducted in 1991 showed that less that nineteen percent of the world’s population still believe in a personal Devil. Since less than one in twenty go to church today, it would seem that many can hold the belief without feeling they need do much about it! It might well be that, church going or no church going, a greater number of people than might have been suspected can only account for the evil and misery that is in the world by concluding that some mighty super-human power is behind it all; and in this they are absolutely right.

The Bible writers are quite positive. From the Apostle John, writer of the last Gospel, and last of those who knew Jesus in the flesh, back to the unknown scribe on the banks of Euphrates who first set down the story of Genesis, two and a half millenniums before Christ, there is a fixed and manifest conviction that the introduction of evil and sin amongst mankind is due to such a being. Jesus spoke of Satan as a personal and powerful adversary, and the Apostles counseled their con­verts to be on their guard against his devices in a fashion which can be true only of such a one. In so doing they were all on sure ground, for quite apart from Scriptural passages referring to Satan’s activities in the world throughout human history, and the menace to the would-be doers of right which he represents. There are definite factors in the operation of the divine plan which only “make sense”, so to speak, if there is indeed this powerful adversary at work.

The first of these factors arises from the posi­tion with man at the beginning. Evil was not in­herent in man’s nature; it was not even indwelling. The old medieval dogma that the flesh is basically corrupt and unclean is not true. When God intro­duced the first intelligent creatures upon this earth, He looked upon what He had made and found it “very good.” Man at his creation was perfect and sinless, and capable of everlasting life while he so remained. The story of Eden makes plain that sin was introduced from outside, that an exterior agent in which sin already resided was the means of seducing the first humans from loyalty to God. That agent claimed to have knowledge of God and of the things of God not as yet possessed by the human creation. In consequence of this suc­cessful seduction God judged and condemned that agent.

Moral responsibility cannot be attributed to an abstract principle of evil, only to an intelligent creature capable of both moral and immoral conduct, “Because thou hast done this,” God said to the Tempter in the story “thou art cursed … and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed” (Gen. 3.14-15) This is not the language that would be employed were the object merely to reprove the woman for her fault and exhort her to resist the temptation in future; this speaks of a lasting warfare which was to commence and subsist between the serpent with his progeny and the woman with hers; later Scripture shows that the “seed of the woman” is Christ and that in Him and by Him the overthrow of the Devil will be accomplished. The fact that in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, a time is shown to come when the Devil is “bound with a great chain”, restrained, “that he should deceive the nations no more” (Rev. 20.1-3) while for a considerable time thereafter mankind are still in process of cleansing from sin and not yet recon­ciled to God is evidence again that it is not merely evil as such, but the personal and literal living instigator of evil, who has thus been active since the days of Eden and now at last will have been restrained from further interference with humanity by the power of God.

The Old Testament has little to say about Satan and refers to him by that name only twice. The first occasion is in the book of Job where he appears as one of the characters in the prologue to the book, the preliminary sketch explaining how Job’s troubles came about. The other is in the book of Zechariah, where Satan appears, again in a prophetic vision, to obstruct the work of God in the rehabilitation of the nation of Israel after its restoration from Babylon, and, spiritually, the church in its earthly career. In both cases the word Satan is prefixed by the definite article, indicating, as is verified by Gesenius, that it should be taken as a proper name. In many other instances where the word is found in the Hebrew text, but without the article, it bears its basic meaning of an adver­sary or opponent.

The connection in which Satan appears most vividly and in the course, not of prophetic vision or poetic drama, but of strict historical narrative, is in the story of Eden. The Book of Genesis as we have it stems from a Sumerian original and the serpent of Eden is derived from the legendary creature known as the “saraph”, a mystic heavenly visitant dazzlingly glorious in appear­ance but in this case bearing occult and unlawful knowledge to men. This one, says Genesis, was craftier than any terrestrial living creature; every aspect of the story of Eden therefore demands that Eve did hold converse with an intelligent male­volent celestial being who set out to seduce her into disobedience and disloyalty to God.

Jesus knew the reality of His opponent. He called him “a murderer from the beginning” and the father of lies (John 8:44), acknowledged him to be the “prince of this world” (John 14:30) and asserted that in time past He himself had wit­nessed his expulsion from heaven, which must have been at the time of his defection from righte­ousness (Luke 10:18). He warned Peter that he was particularly a target for Satan’s devices (Luke 22:31). The Apostles were equally certain. Peter, much later, warned his flock in turn that the Devil as a raging lion walked about seeking whom he might devour (1 Pet. 5:8). Paul said that in certain circumstances “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) and again, that “Satan hindered us” (1 Thess. 1:18); again, in a very trenchant sentence he declares that “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:4). On the reverse side of the picture he assures us that “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20), an evident allusion to the condemnation of the serpent in Gen. 3:15, and this is confirmed and amplified by the writer of the book of Hebrews in the declara­tion that Christ, through His death, will “destroy hm that hath the power of death, that is, the Devil” (Heb. 3:14). With all this, and more, in the pages of the New Testament it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the founders of the Church possessed a vivid consciousness of a mighty spiritual and unseen but nevertheless very real enemy against whom they must struggle with all their powers.

Another factor meriting consideration lies in the region of the occult. For a long time scoffed at in modern materialistic thought it is now becom­ing increasingly accepted by investigators and observers that there is a reality in certain occult phenomena, some kinds of witchcraft and necrom­ancy and so on, which so far has defied what is glibly called rational explanation. Such pheno­mena have been in evidence all down the ages, and back in the first century the Apostle Paul at least was quite certain about their reality and their source. “Our fight is not against human foes” he says “but against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark world, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavens” (Eph. 6:12. NEB). That there has been, in some remote past time, a rebellion against Divine authority on the part of certain ones in the angelic world, and that these “rebellious angels” have been and are in a continuing state of evil doing, which threatens not only Christ’s followers but all of mankind, is plainly shown in Scripture. It follows as a matter of logic that Satan is the leader and inciter of this “host of wickedness”. If indeed it could be shown on other grounds that there is no evidence for the existence of a personal Devil it would necessarily follow that, given the existence of the rebellious angels, whoever is leader among them would himself automatically fill the role. That this is the position is indicated by Jesus in the parable of the Sheep and Goats when he refers to “the Devil and his angels”. (Matt. 25:41). All this does help to establish the solid fact that, behind the veil which shrouds things in the spiritual world from our senses, there is a force of beings animated by evil whose leader is the one we know as Satan.

This, then, is the champion of evil. Created by God, for all life comes from God, he must of necessity have come from his Creator’s hand per­fect, innocent, sinless. Thoughts of rebellion and sin must have shaped themselves in his mind as in the exercise of that free will which is the gift of God to all his intelligent creatures he began to sense the possibilities which disloyalty could offer. The Bible says as much. There are two meta­phorical passages in the Old Testament in both of which, under the guise of great earthly potentates, the Prince of Darkness is obviously pictured. In the one he is depicted as saying to himself “I will ascend to heaven above the stars of God; I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly, I will make myself like the Most High”. (Isa. 14:13-14 RSV), Here is overwelming ambition, the created, aspiring to be equal to the Creator. So came the word of God to him “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till iniquity was found in you … so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God” (Ezek. 25:5-16). This is the fall of Satan, perhaps at a time far anterior to the creation of man upon earth, perhaps, as some have surmised, at the very time of that creation. Perceiving the potentialities inherent in this new expression of the creative power of God, Satan, think some, might have determined to win this new incipient empire for himself. Whatever may have been the motive and whenever the time, the end was inevit­able. In the fine language of the Authorized Version “therefore will I bring, forth a fire from the midst of thee; it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee” (Ezek 28:18). Here is the doom of Satan; the fire of his own sin, pro­ceeding from within himself, destroys the life which once held such great promise but because of it having been given over completely and wholly to sin has become incapable of reformation. Be it noted that this passage does not picture a kind of judicial execution sanctioned by the Most High: the extinction of being which is described in these tremendous words is the logical and the inevitable result of sin, accepted into the heart and allowed to reign unchecked until every impulse and feeling of right and truth has been eliminated and the whole personality is given over irrevoc­ably to the pursuit and practice of evil.

It goes without saying that the medieval con­ception of Satan as a hideous monster having horns and tail, armed with a trident and breath­ing fire, is nothing more than artist’s license of the times. As a member of God’s celestial creation Satan must have been what man in his own world was when God looked upon that which He had made and found it “very good.” In his own sphere and among his own companions Satan would have been transcendently glorious. He must have appeared to Eve in Eden as a radiant and assur­ing presence. Isaiah gives his primal appellation as the Morning Star, the planet Venus. (“Lucifer” in Isa. 14 is derived from an ancient term for Venus meaning “the splendid star” and has only become a proper name by custom). These allusions substantiate the intention to portray a particular and intelligent celestial being who was originally made, like man, “In the image and likeness of God”, and by transgression fell from that high estate. According to Ezekiel he was “a cherub with outspread wings, set upon the holy mountain of God”. Of his rank and position and activities in those first days before thoughts of sin entered his heart we know nothing; of the terrible results of his apostasy and commitment to total evil, so far as this earth is concerned, we have full and sad experience. Of the future, with no indication of remorse, of sorrow, of repentance. We have only the inexorable words of God, as recorded by Ezekiel “you have come to a dreadful end, and shall be no more for ever.”

The Kingdom of Heaven

golden-city-of-heavenIn reading the Gospel account of Matthew, there is no doubt as to its running theme and message. The phrase “The Kingdom of Heaven” is mentioned 32 times in the Authorized Version. No where else in the scriptures, is this particular term used. No other apostle or Bible writer uses the term; the other Gospel writers use “The Kingdom of God”.

Most Bible expositors believe the terms Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God are used interchangeably, and we have no reason to disagree. In fact, in parallel accounts of the Gospels, the terms are use interchangeably by the writers themselves. (See Matt. 4:17 and Mark 1:15; Matt. 8:11 and Luke 13:28, 29). In fact, Matthew himself uses the term Kingdom of God five times, (cf. 6:33; 12:28; 19:24; 21:31; 21:43). 

The Kingdom of Heaven IS at Hand!

John the Baptist, began his preaching work admonishing those around him; “Repent ye; for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (3:2) interestingly, our Lord himself began his ministry with those same words (4:17); and he taught his apostles to do the same, when he sent them out to preach (10:7). Not only was this kingdom the main thrust of our Lord’s ministry, it was his only thrust!

This is evident in our Lord’s mountaintop sermon, addressing the multitudes; “… he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” … “For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5:2, 3, 20)

We can see that this “kingdom of heaven” permeates the record of the Lord’s earthly ministry, as well as in the ministry of the 12 apostles, who were both instructed and commissioned by our Lord.

What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

Some scholars believe that the message of the Kingdom of Heaven is a reference to heaven itself, and that the message preached about by the Lord and his apostles was the issue of heaven and how to get there.

Others would teach that the Kingdom of Heaven is but a reference to a spiritual condition, in the hearts of men, resulting in the transforming of lives and eventually the society we live in. What the Lord and his 12 apostles were therefore preaching about, was the need for repentance and letting God  reign in the hearts of men. Doing so, God’s will would be done on earth. (6:10)

These are but a few of the commonly accepted ideas as to the meaning behind the “kingdom of heaven.” However, these thoughts are at odds with what the Scriptures themselves declare. A careful search of the Scriptures reveal that the “kingdom of heaven” is not a reference to heaven itself, or to some spiritual reigning of God in the hearts of men, but rather to the Messianic kingdom of peace foretold by the prophets and promised by God himself to the nation of Israel. (Daniel 2:44;45; Isaiah 2:2-5; Micah 4:1-5)

A Promised Kingdom

We read of a covenant relationship in Genesis, between Jehovah God and Abraham.  Accordingly, the nation of Israel was to be a “great nation” and “kingdom” in which “all the families of the earth shall be blessed“. (Ex. 12:1, 3) The arrangement was to give land to Abraham, where he and his descendants after him, would forever dwell as this “great nation” and provide for the blessing of the world and administer God’s dominion over it. (Ex. 19:5, 6)

In prophesying about this event, Isaiah proclaimed:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people:” (Isaiah 2:2-4)

We see here how this nation under God, would provide the way for the world of mankind to walk in the path of God. The will of heaven will reign and rule on the earth by way of the kingdom of Israel.

A Rebellious Nation and Her Failures

God raised up prominent ones to lead his people. History shows that despite God’s plans, Israel rebelled.  In view of her rebellious ways and failures, God raised up King David and made a covenant with him and his descendants.  “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.” (2 Sam. 7:12, 13; 1 Chr. 17:11-14)

Isaiah rejoiced in this future day and proclaimed to Israel…

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this“. (Isaiah 9:6 7)

Daniel in a vision saw the end of Gentile dominion over Israel and the fulfillment of God’s promises to the nation;

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Daniel 2:44)

We see that Israel’s covenanted kingdom was to be established through her Messiah, the promise seed of David in accordance with the Davidic covenant.  He would redeem His people and set up his kingdom dominion in Zion. This is what God’s covenant with Israel called for. This is what the expression “the kingdom of heaven” refers to.

The Kingdom of Heaven AT Hand

When our Lord Jesus was born, he was born for a purpose, a God given mission.  To fulfill the Davidic promise as was announced to Mary;

And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:31 33)

Jesus, the only-begotten son of God, left his heavenly home, to be born of women, and become the promised seed of David, to sit on the throne of David and establish His kingdom on earth. The “kingdom of heaven“, therefore, was “at hand“.

Not only was the promised Messiah here, but he was right on schedule as the prophets had long foretold (see Dan. 9:24-27). The establishing of the kingdom of heaven was near completion. Which prompted our Lord to tell the masses as he preached; “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17)

This was the Divine Plan of ages ago. The long awaited Messiah, the promise seed of David, the King of Israel had arrived. To announce that the covenanted “kingdom of heaven” was “at hand“. And as such, the work began to prepare the way.  Jesus taught the masses the beatitudes in view of it (5:1-12). He taught how to gain entrance into it (5:20; 7:21; 18:3; 19:23; 24).  He expounded on those who would be the “least” and the “greatest” in it (5:19; 11:11; 13:32). He even informed his closes disciples of their special positions in it (19:28) and finally, he warned about the destructive judgments He would execute upon the nations prior to fully establishing the kingdom (chapters 24, 25).

As God’s plan unveils, the Apostles eagerly looked for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. (Acts 1:6) They, therefore, proclaimed to Israel the arrival of her “last days“, (Acts 2:1 36), as spoken of in the prophets, and exhorted the people to respond positively to the offer of the kingdom. (Acts 3:12 26)

Where is this promise Kingdom?

It is obvious that “the kingdom of heaven” has not yet been established on the earth. None of the prophetic pronouncements concerning its establishment have been fulfilled, however, when our Lord was on earth “the time” was “fulfilled” for it, and so it was preached to be “at hand“. So we ask ourselves, what has happened? Why hasn’t “the God of heaven” set up that kingdom of promise?

Though many have endeavored to explain, we find that God’s own explanation concerning what he has done and what he will yet do is the one that needs to be understood and appreciated.

A New Dispensation

The Apostle Paul tells us the reason behind the delay in the establishing of Israel’s kingdom. We’re told that God has temporarily set aside his plans for Israel, and has ushered in a new dispensation. We read in Romans 11, that when Israel “stumbled” at the testimony of Christ, God did something unexpected. He “blinded” the nation and turned to the Gentiles.

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” (vs. 25 – cf John 12:37-40; 2 Cor. 3:14)

Yes, God has “blinded” Israel and has put his plans and His special dealings with her on hold. In doing so, God has turned his attention to the Gentiles and has administered a dispensation of grace. The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians;

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery;…which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” (3:1-6)

This dispensation of grace is what God is now working out, and has been working out. We must remember God has “not cast away His people“. He is not through with them. Rather, her “fullness” is yet to come. Since her “blindness” is “in part“, “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in“, Paul goes on to say;

“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” (Romans 11:1, 26, 27)

Israel’s “fullness” is yet to come, and when it does, as Zechariah 14:9 says, “…the LORD shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.

Also, as Isaiah declares to the redeemed and the delivered of Israel in that day;

“…ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God:…For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” (vs 6,11)

One Kingdom Two Phasgolden-city-of-heavenes

The literal Kingdom of God is not to be seen by hands, Jesus will not sit on a literal throne on earth, but this kingdom will be in the literal heavens, thus the Kingdom of Heaven is a spiritual Kingdom, unseen to the human eye, but its influence will be worldwide.  When asked about his Kingdom, Jesus replied:  “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation, neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” [or “in your midst” – Rotherham] (Luke 17:20-21)

Israel will be the earthly representatives of that heavenly kingdom, with the ancient patriarchs of old being its rulers.  Jesus and His Church will be the heavenly representatives of that kingdom.

Israel’s promised kingdom is yet to be established, God’s word is sure, for He cannot change or alter his promises (Psalm 89:34). However, God’s plan for Israel is set aside and in abeyance. God is working out “the mystery of Christ” in this “dispensation of His grace” and is preparing the “new creation“, the church, the body of Christ, made up of both Jew and Gentile, for a purpose He has in the heavenly places. When that number is complete, “all Israel shall be saved” and their promised Kingdom realized. They shall be the blesser nation, and through them “all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" – 1 Peter 3:15