BEHOLD YOUR KING
by J. Flanigan
ASSEMBLY TESTIMONY BIBLE CLASS
by J. Riddle
THE KINGS OF JUDAH AND ISRAEL
by G. H. Hutchinson
PROPHETIC PICTURES OF THE LORD
by J. E. Todd
ABRAHAM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
by D. McAllister
CHRISTIAN CONDUCT IN A MODERN WORLD
by W. A. Boyd
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by C. Logan
(Meditations in Matthew)
by Jim Flanigan (Belfast)
29. The Olivet Discourse (Ch.24)
As the preceding chapter was very practical, so the chapter now before us is prophetical, and this great discourse on the Mount of Olives extends throughout ch.24 and into ch.25. The little company is sitting on the mount, looking over the Kidron Valley to the golden city shining in the sun. The sight is beautiful and it is not surprising that the disciples had remarked upon the buildings of the temple. The Lord predicts destruction. The great stones which they see shall one day be thrown down, with not one left upon another. This prompts a three-fold question to Him. They want to know when these things shall be, what shall be the sign of His coming, and of the end of the age. They speak, of course, of the end, or the consummation, of the Jewish age. To import the present age and the Church into this chapter is to invite confusion. These disciples are a Jewish remnant. They enquire with Jewish minds and our Lord answers accordingly in a discourse which will be of inestimable interest and value to a believing Jewish remnant of a later day, after the Rapture of the Church.
The first question, which concerns the destruction of Jerusalem, is not pursued here but is dealt with in the parallel passage in Lk.21. The Saviour now projects their thoughts to that future day when a remnant, just like them, will bear testimony in the midst of great difficulties and persecution. There will be false Christs in that day, appealing to sensitive souls longing for a Messiah for their deliverance. How easy it will be for some to be deceived. There will be wars and rumours of wars, with nations and kingdoms rising against each other. War will inevitably bring famine. When men are fighting they are not sowing and reaping. Famine will result in pestilences and death, and accompanying earthquakes will add to the terrible trouble. All these are but the beginning of sorrows, the birth-pangs of the nation. Note the correspondence of this part of the discourse with Rev.6.
In those fearful days of tribulation the godly will suffer much. For their faith they will be betrayed, afflicted, hated and martyred. False prophets will arise to confuse and deceive the people, so making the testimony of the remnant the more difficult. Iniquity will abound in the moral decadence of a corrupt and lawless society. Sadly, the love of many will wax cold. Many, however, will endure to the end and will be saved out of it all. This is not the salvation of the soul. It is the physical, bodily salvation of those who have lived through all the trials until the end of the tribulation period. Before that period ends the gospel of the kingdom will have been preached in all the world by that faithful remnant which will be divinely preserved for that purpose, Rev.7.3-8. It is important to remember that there is but one gospel for every age. It is the good news of salvation through faith in Christ alone. There are though, different emphases on the message, in accordance with the particular context. The "gospel of the grace of God" is a fitting emphasis for the message of this present age, when by that grace the good news of salvation is being heralded to poor Gentiles everywhere. The "gospel of the kingdom" will, in that coming day, emphasise the fact that the King as coming, glad tidings indeed for those in suffering, and an incentive to believe the message in preparation for His appearing. In other circumstances Paul will speak of 'my gospel" and of the "gospel of God," and the "gospel of the glory," and in the Book of the Revelation we read of "the everlasting gospel," but the gospel is always Christ, with whatever emphasis and in whatever age.
In the midst of that seventieth week of Daniel's vision, as recorded in Dan.9, during which these things will take place, the "abomination of desolation" will stand in Israel's Holy Place. This would appear to be the idolatrous image of the beast of Rev.13. It is a usurping of the very place of God, by one who sets himself up as God, demanding worship as though he is God, 2Thes.2.4. Believers are now exhorted to flee from Jerusalem and Judea, the epicentre of all this trouble. Flight will be urgent. They must not linger, not even to collect or recover treasured earthly possessions. How hard it will be for those women carrying infants, whether in the arms or in the womb. Winter conditions or ceremonial regulations may increase the hardship and they should therefore pray for guidance and safe travel. They must close their ears to all and every rumour that Messiah has come. When He comes there will be no mistaking His coming. As lightning shining from one end of earth to the other, so will be the brightness of His coming and in that day unbelieving Israel will be as the carcase over which the eagles hover. The eagles are those enemy nations which will be the agencies of God's judgment. They will encompass the land, enemies of each other and of Israel, in preparation for the final battle of Armageddon. Sun, moon, and stars, and the powers of the heavens will then be shaken. Whether these are literal convulsions of the heavenly bodies, or, as some think, the death throes of governmental authorities, supreme and subordinate, they are evidences that the Son of Man is about to be manifested in great glory. His angels will come at His bidding, and they will gather His elect to safety from every part of earth.
The nation of Israel is variously presented in Scripture under the symbolism of three trees, the Olive, the Vine, and the Fig tree. Israel as the Vine is Israel as God desired her to be in the past, but she failed, and did not give Him the joy that He desired. Israel as the Olive tree is Israel as God intends her yet to be, producing, at the head of the nations in millennial days, oil for warmth and light, refreshment and health. Israel as the Fig tree is Israel under judgment, set aside judicially in this present age. But the Saviour points out that the Fig tree will blossom again. Men should watch for the putting forth of the tender foliage and fruit, and while it is in principle that no prophecy refers directly to this present age, nevertheless it may be possible to see the foreshadowing of this national revival even now. It is the budding of new life for that nation, and this is so very evident in these momentous days.
"This generation shall not pass," our Lord says, "until all these things be fulfilled." The statement is difficult and there are varying interpretations. Some think that the word "generation" should be understood as meaning that race, that nation, that family, that seed which sprang from Abraham. They will abide and remain until all is fulfilled. Others think rather that the Lord is indicating that that generation which sees the beginnings of these awful happenings will also see the culmination, that it will not be a long protracted period but will all take place in the lifetime of one generation. The other thought is that no reader, or listener, need wonder at the prophecy of these fearful events, for in AD70, at the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, all were partially fulfilled. This was not at all the complete fulfilment, but nevertheless, all that is predicted here was experienced by the people of AD70, the generation which was then alive when our Lord was ministering.
Now neither men nor angels know the date when the Son of Man will come. As men in the days of Noah were taken unawares in their complacency, so will it be when the King comes. Two men in the field, two women at the mill, will suddenly be separated, one taken in judgment, the other left for millennial blessing. This is not the Rapture. It is unwise even to use the verses so in application, as many do in gospel preaching, for such misuse of these texts has sown the seeds of misinterpretation in the minds of many. Men must watch diligently in that day. The coming of the Son of Man will be unexpected and many will be caught unprepared. Faithful and wise servants will therefore watch as they serve. Some, apostate Jews, evil and false shepherds of Judaism, will abandon hopes of His coming, and turn to things material, carnal, and sensual, to their everlasting ruin. The lord of the faithful servant will reward him. In the context that reward will be a place of responsibility and rule in the kingdom. The unfaithful servants will have their portion with those that are lost, amid eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This discourse, another "Sermon on the Mount" continues into ch.25, a chapter of parables of particular relevance to that remnant of a day yet future, after the Rapture of the Church. Neither the Church nor the Church era is envisaged in this discourse.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by J. Riddle (Cheshunt)
(14) THE JEWS HAVE "A GOOD DAY"
Read Chapter 8
The contents of this chapter are summed up in Esther's plea before Ahasuerus "to put away the mischief of Haitian the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews ... let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king's provinces," v3 and v5. Haman was dead, but his plans remained in place, and the Jews were still in dire peril. They still "sat in the region and shadow of death," Matt.4.16, and lived in "fear of death," Heb.2.15.
We have already noticed that Haman is an apt picture of the devil. Esther's description is applicable to both: "The adversary and enemy is the wicked Haman," 8.6. We have also noticed that the very gallows erected for Mordecai, became the instrument of Haman's own death. Those gallows proclaimed the triumph of Mordecai rather than his humiliation. All of which reminds us that the Lord Jesus came "that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." But the passage continues: "and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage," Heb.2.14-15.
Satan, like Haman, is a defeated enemy. The Lord Jesus triumphed over him at Calvary. It is now a question of delivering those over whom he had "the power of death." John tells us that "for this cause the Son of God was manifested that He might destroy (loosen: undo) the works of the devil," Un.3.3. The Lord Jesus has not only defeated the enemy: He is able to completely reverse the effects of the enemy's power. That is certainly good news: even better than the news which brought to the Jews "joy and gladness, a feast and a good day," 8.17.
This chapter illustrates the fact that whilst men and women are delivered from Satan's power by divine decree, God's people are actively involved in intercession before His throne, and in proclamation of the good news. Let's now work through the chapter, looking — as always — for its relevance to ourselves. After all, "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope," Rom.15.4.
1) ASCENDANCY OVER THE ENEMY, v1-2
"On that day did the king Ahasuerus give the house of Haman the Jews' enemy unto Esther the queen. And Mordecai came before the king: for Esther had told what he was unto her. And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman?"
In our studies, we have taken Esther as a picture of God's people, and Mordecai as a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is important to stress that this is an
application If we pressed Mordecai as a 'type' of Christ, we could find ourselves in some difficulty What would we then make of the words, "And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman9" Bearing this in mind, notice
A) Esther received authority over the house of Hainan
She is given "the house of Haman " The enemy is in the position of defeat The New Testament does not minimise for one moment the strength of our spiritual opposition "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world," Eph 6 12 On the other hand we are told, "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them (the spirits which are "not of God") because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world," Un4 4 Whilst we are acutely conscious of Satan's "devices", 2Cor 2 11, and sometimes fail in the battle, the fact remains that we do have immense superiority Esther had all the power and authority of the throne of Persia we have infinitely greater resources than even that
B) Esther revealed her relationship with Mordecai
"And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was unto her " These are quite delightful words Do we tell the King what Christ is to us? When we enter the presence of the King, we speak about Christ more than about ourselves.
C) Esther resigned her authority in favour of Mordecai
"And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman " She did not act herself she deferred to her cousin After all, he was the man with the king's ring The Lord Jesus said, "All power (authority) is given unto Me " Esther gave first place to Mordecai, and we must give first place to Christ
2) APPEAL FOR HELP. v3-6
Whilst Esther had been given a position of superiority over the house of Haman, this did not mean that the results of his rise to power had been automatically cancelled The Jews were still under sentence of death on "the thirteenth day of the twelfth month " How could that awful disaster be averted9 Well, one thing is certain it could not be averted without intercession Notice
A) The depth of Esther's concern
"And Esther spake yet again before the King, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman " In past studies, we have referred to the tears of Nehemiah and Paul How much are we really concerned about the spiritual welfare of men and women? Whilst Esther delayed her previous request (see ch 5), on this occasion she comes straight to the point Again, it was on Mordecai's insistence that she made the first approach So far as we can judge, she now uses her own initiative.
The depth and reality of Esther's feelings become even clearer in v6 Its not now, "his device that he had devised against the Jews," but "how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? Or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred"?" She identifies herself with the very people under threat, and displays her love for them.
B) The assurance of Esther's acceptance
"Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther" We have seen the "golden sceptre" before It signified:"favour in his sight," 5:2 Our acceptance is in Christ Himself. The strength of Esther's acceptance lay in the strength of the sceptre. It was the emblem of absolute power. Our acceptance is vested in the "King of Kings."
C) The ground of Esther's appeal
"If it please the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and if I be pleasing in his eyes." These four conditions fall into two categories. First of all, the proposal must be acceptable to him: secondly, the proposer must be acceptable to him. Read 1Jn.5.14 in connection with the first, and 1Jn.3.22 in connection with the second. (We encountered both verses in our last study).
3) AUTHORITY FOR THE WORK, v7-10
It's "in the king's name," and "with the king's ring," and by "the king's scribes." Mordecai acted as the king's executive: "He wrote in the king Ahasuerus' name, and sealed it with the king's ring, and sent letters by post on horseback, and riders upon mules, camels, and young dromedaries," v10. The messengers carried good news on the highest possible authority. Let's recall Matt.28 again: "And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power (authority) is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore." The Saviour prayed, "As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." Jn.17.18. the Lord Jesus has absolute authority to Him, and the good news of deliverance bears that very authority.
4) ATTACKING THE OPPOSITION, v11-13
The letters were quite specific. It wasn't a case of an all-out attack on everybody, but "to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them," v11. See also v13, "And that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies." So the battle was to be taken to the enemy. It wasn't a case of defence, but of attack. The Lord Jesus did exactly that: "Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil," Act.10.38. He stormed the strongholds of the enemy. Every street traded, every home visited, every conversation with unsaved people about the gospel, is an excursion into enemy territory. The enemies of the Jews had been given a date on which to strike: now the Jews themselves were to strike on the very same date. The enemy waits to strike us: we are to take the strike initiative ourselves. Needless to say, "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds," 2Cor.10.4
You will have noticed that v11 was not quoted in full above. So what about the balance of the quotation — "and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey?" First of all, we need to remember that we are not talking about Christian conduct. Esther does not belong to our own era which is governed by the teaching of the Lord Jesus, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you," Matt.5.44. The Lord Jesus exemplified this perfectly. Secondly, it has been pointed out that the difficult words are really a quotation of Hainan's original decree. 3,13, and therefore mean that the Jews were to destroy those who would assault them and their families, and who would rob them of their possessions. This certainly seems to be confirmed by 9.10 and 9.16.
But which ever way we take vll, the spiritual application is clear. We must be quite ruthless in spiritual warfare. Since it is the powers of darkness that keep men in "the region and shadow of death," we must use our spiritual weapons to the full.
5) ACCELERATING THE GOOD NEWS. v14
No hanging about here! "So the posts that rode upon mules and camels went out, being hastened and pressed on by the king's commandment." (It was just the same previously. See 3.15. But then it was bad news). Rather like 1Sam.21.8, "The king's business required haste." There was an urgency about the matter. Paul puts it like this: But this I say, brethren the (notice this) time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they posessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing (over using) it," 1Cor.7.29-31. Paul is dealing here with earthly ties in view of the imminence of Christ's return; hence "the time is short" — not just 'time is short.' We are to pursue His interests.
J. C. Whitcomb puts it nicely: 'It has often been observed that this provides a remarkably cogent illustration of missionary work today. God's death sentence hangs over a sinful humanity, but He has also commanded us to hasten the message of salvation to every land (cf. Prov.28.11). Only by a knowledge of, and a response to, the second decree of saving grace through the Lord Jesus Christ can the terrible effects of the first decree of universal condemnation for sin be averted.'
Why were the Persian postmen to ride at such speed? After all, the king's scribes were called "in the third month, that is, the month Sivan (June)," v9, but the actual date on which the Jews were to avenge themselves was not until "the twelfth month, which is the month Adar (March)," v12. The answer is two-fold. First of all, we need to remember that the Persian Empire was immense, and secondly, that the Jews needed plenty of time in which to plan their attack.
6) ANTICIPATION OF VICTORY. V15-17
Let's just notice two things in the final paragraph of this chapter: (A) The exaltation of Mordecai, and (B) The expectation of victory.
A) Mordecai was exalted
"And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple." The city of Shushan had been "perplexed" when Haman was in the ascendancy: now the city "rejoiced and was glad." The reason for the joy of the Jews is obvious: their man had been exalted!
B) Victory was expected
"And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day."
But what do you make of the closing words: "And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them?" Conviction or convenience? Mere profession or reality? The same questions could be asked today, couldn't they?
—to be continued (D. V.)
by Graeme Hutchinson (Belfast)
Hezekiah No.3 (Paper 15)
As we move towards the end of Hezekiah's reign over the nation of Judah, it is unfortunate that the discussion must include a combination of positive and negative points For instance, 2Chron 32 24-33 and the parallel passages in 2Kgs 20 and Isa 38 and 39 records
(e) His Sickness
Isa 38 6 and 2Kgs 20 6 would suggest that the fatal illness of Hezekiah occurred when he was besieged by the Assyrian army This was either when Sennacherib led the opposing force1, or when one of his successors, Esarhaddon, 2Kgs 19 37, was in control Nevertheless, despite the problem in precisely identifying the enemy, the fact was that Hezekiah faced an enormous task defeating the Assyrians in the face of certain death Although we shall shortly observe the response of the king, we are still left with the following question to address. Why is the king struck with a fatal illness at such a crucial time?
The short, and perhaps obvious answer to the above question is that God's will was such that Hezekiah should be taken in death The same reasoning could be applied to the circumstances of Mary and Martha, Jn 11, and Jairus, Lk 8 From such experiences, what can we learn about God's will?
- 1 If we take Isa 38 6 and 2 Kings 20 6 to refer to the threat posed by Sennacherib there is an obvious chronological problem to overcome 2 Kings 19 records his defeat and death and yet in 2 Kings 20 his threat was still imminent Perhaps the opening words of 2 Kings 20 gives us a clue In those days In other words perhaps the events recorded in this chapter are concurrent with those reported in the previous one
• Always Perfect
In the case of Hezekiah, the will of God was such that he should die, 2Kgs 20 1 Although he was later given an extension of fifteen years, v6, the fact was that these additional years were to mar his testimony as king 2Chron 32 25 records his pride during these fifteen years and 2 Kgs 20 13 records his folly at listening to the enemy Obviously had Hezekiah died, such events would never have occurred How true are the words of Ps 18 30 'As for God, His way is perfect ' The words of Joseph to his brethren in Gen 50 26 are always appropriate in such occasions ' ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good ' May we learn from such an experience, and always accept what the Lord desires for us
• Occasionally Painful
Just like many other characters in Scripture, the life of Hezekiah illustrates that God's will is not always easy to accept To the king, it seemed illogical that he should be cut down in the prime of life, 'I am deprived of the residue of my years'2, Isa 38 10 Many things happen in our lives which are hard to accept and understand and yet in some senses this is to be expected: '... Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord," Isa.55.8. Phil.4.7 gives soothing ministry in this respect: 'And the peace of God which is better than3 understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.' In other words, to rest in the knowledge that God's purposes for us are always for our good, is actually 'better than' understanding the path itself.
- 2 If Hezekiah died when he was 54, 2Chron 29:1 he must have been only 39 when he was struck with this illness
- 3 Authorised version of Phil.4.7 states that the peace of God "passeth" all understanding. The word for "passeth' - huperecho - is rendered as 'better than' in Phil.2.3.
(f) His Supplication
The response of Hezekiah to the startling revelation of his imminent death was the same as when he faced Sennacherib in warfare, he prayed, 2Kgs.20.2. Although he does not explicitly ask for the sentence to be lifted, there is little doubt from his remarks that this is what he desired.
2Kgs.20.4-6 record the way in which the Lord reacted to the request of Hezekiah, in that fifteen years were added to the life of the king. However, of importance, the Lord makes mention of two things that moved Him: Hezekiah's prayer and tears, v5: 'I have heard thy prayer; I have seen thy tears."
Whilst we may respond to problems and difficulties in our life with prayer, how many of us combine this with genuine tears? The Psalmist certainly did, Ps.39.12; so too did Job, Jobl6.20; Jeremiah, Lam.2.11, and the Lord Himself, Heb.5.7. Unquestionably, when we pray with tears we are expressing the innermost desires of our heart. Maybe we are not earnest enough in our prayer life? Perhaps, when we follow the example of the aforementioned and pray with tears, the Lord will be moved to answer our requests. Remember that the Lord has promised to remember our very tears: '...Put thou my tears into thy bottle: Are they not in thy book?' Ps.56.8.
(g) His Sign
Once Hezekiah had recovered from the illness, 2Kgs.20.7, he asked for confirmation that the words spoken by the prophet Isaiah were a reality, v8. Such an approach appeared to be common amongst the Israelites, Jud.6.17, 36-40; 1Cor.1.22. These 'signs' were actual miracles that were used to confirm the promises of God, and so strengthen those for whom the sign was given. Therefore, when Hezekiah asked for the sun's shadow to be reversed, he was seeking confirmation of the additional fifteen years.
In our day, the believer has a different resource to turn to when it comes to looking for confirmation (and guidance), not in signs/miracles, rather in the Scriptures. It would be very strange if the book, which is our lamp, Ps.119.105, could not 'shed light' into every area of our service. The Bible assures us that: 'For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen,' 2Cor.1.20. In taking a Scriptural and faithful approach to our Christian life, we can be assured of divine guidance and, when necessary, confirmation.
(h) His Stature
The fame of Hezekiah began to spread across neighbouring nations. In this there was to emerge a point of sadness. 2Kgs.20.12-18 record how the king of Babylon was able, surreptitiously, to evaluate all that belonged to the nation. Moreover, Hezekiah stated that the 'precious things'; 'the precious ointment'; 'the armour' and 'the treasures' were HIS! Obviously he had failed to remember that they were all given to him by God, 2Chron.32.29. However, not wishing to overly criticise the king, at least he repented of his pride, 2Chron.32.26, and expressed gratitude that the nation would have peace in his days, 2 Kgs.20.19.
Such was the standing that Hezekiah had in the nation, he was finally buried in the 'chiefest of the sepulchres' and all Jerusalem gave him honour, 2Chron.32.33. His contribution to the welfare of Judah established a high standard for others to follow. In order to highlight the extent of his contribution, consider the following:
- 'The revival under Hezekiah was a great one and also the first real one in the history of the monarchy. It had far-reaching effects on the northern Kingdom as well as in Judah. It had also brought about a measure of restored unity and showed God's hand with them in the matter of the attempted Assyrian invasion' (Revival: A Study in Biblical Patterns, D B Long, 1993, p.78). In recalling the reign of Hezekiah we remember one who, amongst other things, cared for the temple, 2Chron.29.3; communed with God, 2Chron.32.20; 2Kgs.20.2; considered others, 2Chron.30.22; 32.6, and cleared-away the idolatrous gods, 2Chron.33.3.
- 2Kgs.20.20 and 2Chron.32.30 suggests that one of the more memorable achievements of Hezekiah was the building of the tunnel from the Gihon spring to the Pool of Siloam. Not only was this tunnel 1,777 feet in length; not only was it brought underneath the walls of Jerusalem, but it was dug (through solid rock) by workmen digging from each end and meeting in the middle. A modern day channel tunnel!
See paper 1 for details of Bibliography/Figures —to be continued (D. V.)
by J. E. Todd (England)
5. THE DOOR
The door, in the symbolism of Scripture, has a threefold meaning. First, quite obviously, as a means of entrance. Second, as the means of entry into the salvation graciously provided by God. Third, the door is singular, there is only one God-given way to obtain the God-given salvation.
All this is first shown in the ark of Noah's day. The door was the means of entry into the ark, "The door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof, Gen.6.16. The ark was the means of salvation from the judgment of that day, "With thee I will establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark," vl8. Inside the door alone was salvation to be found, 'And the LORD shut him in,' 7.16.
At the time of the Passover in Egypt no salvation from the judgment of the last plague could be found outside the door with its posts and lintel marked with the blood of the lamb. "And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out the door of his house until morning," Ex.12.22.
All this is restated in the building of the tabernacle, but expanded. "The curtain for the door of the court," Num.3.26. The only entrance into the courtyard of the tabernacle was a curtain, all of which can only speak of the coming of the Messiah, the Saviour.
First, it was multi-coloured. "And for the gate of the court shall be an hanging of twenty cubits, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework," Ex.27.16.
- The blue speaks of Christ's deity, the Lord from heaven.
- The fine white linen speaks of Christ's purity, His sinless life.
- The scarlet speaks of Christ's blood, His atoning sacrifice.
- The purple speaks of a royal robe, Christ's royalty, the King of kings.
This hanging door was the only entrance to the-tabernacle of the presence of God. Jesus said, "No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me," Jn.14.6. But it was a very wide door. It was twenty cubits wide, making up two-fifths of the length of that side of the tabernacle courtyard. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters" Isa.55.1. "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink", Jn.7.37. The door to the presence of God is wide enough to receive everyone and anyone. For those who wanted to enter, the door presented no impossible barrier, it was a curtain. "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out", Jn.6.37.
But what did this door to the courtyard of the tabernacle provide entrance to? To the altar whereon the sin offering was made and the laver wherein the priests washed themselves. Thus those who enter by the Lord Jesus Christ receive the forgiveness of their sins by His atoning sacrifice and the cleansing of regeneration by the living Christ Who comes to dwell within by the Holy Spirit. 'The kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost,' Tit.3.4-5.
A curtain of the same colours was provided as the door of the tabernacle of the congregation itself, 'The hanging for the door of the tabernacle of the congregation,' Num.3.25. This provided entrance into the holy place, wherein God was worshipped daily by the priests. Further on, a curtain of the same colours led into the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary, into which the High Priest ventured once a year into the very presence of God on the Day of Atonement. 'Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised),' Heb.10.19-23.
A door often has a doorkeeper. "He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth," Jn.10.2-3. That porter (door-keeper) was John the Baptist. "Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth," Jn.5.33. John the Baptist introduced the Lord Jesus Christ to Israel. "Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," Jn.1.29.
Thus introduced, the Lord Jesus Christ could announce, "I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved," Jn.10.9.
—to be continued (D.V.)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
(3) ABRAHAM AND THE GREATEST PRINCIPLE, Rom.4.1-5.1
"Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Rom.4.3 Job (a man who very possibly lived in the days of Abraham) asked the question: "How should man be just with God?" Job 9.2. In the chapter under consideration in this paper, Paul uses Abraham in order to answer that question. Eleven times in this chapter, he uses the word variously translated "counted", or "reckoned", or "imputed" — a word meaning "put to one's account." How can a person be just before God? In Rom.3, Paul has shown that no-one is just. What then is the means of justification? On what principle can a person have righteousness "put to his account?"
In 4.1, Paul introduces Abraham as an example: "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?" He then goes on to examine four possibilities; four possible bases on which someone might argue that a person can be reckoned righteous before God:-
- v2-8: Works
- v9-12: Ritual
- v13-16: Law
- v17-25: Faith
In each of the four cases, Paul uses Abraham to prove the point.
1. Was Abraham Justified by Works? No!, v2-8
In this opening section of the chapter, Paul looks at both Abraham, v2-5, and David, v6-8. He has already stated, 3.21 that "the law" (Genesis to Deuteronomy) and "the prophets" (the rest of the Old Testament) bear testimony to the principle of the righteousness of God. In Abraham, we have a witness from the law, and in David, we have a witness from the prophets.
In v3, Paul quotes from Gen.15.4-6. God promises an heir to Abraham. What was Abraham's response? Two possibilities are considered:
(a) to do works.
Paul considered such a case in v4: someone who does work receives a reward — his wages. The person is paid because he has worked for them. He is owed payment; it is his right. The employer who is paying him is not showing any grace to him — he is simply paying a debt that he owes to the worker. Thus, if anyone could be justified by works, God would owe him salvation, as a debt. Grace would not be involved at all.
(b) to believe God.
The person considered in v5 does not try to work. He sees himself as he truly is: "ungodly", and therefore incapable of justifying himself, and he believes on the One who is capable of justifying him. For such a one, his faith is reckoned for righteousness.
Now, into which of the above two categories did Abraham fit? There is no doubt. He was not justified by works: as v2 shows, if he had been justified by works, then he would have grounds for glorying before God. But he did not have grounds for glorying. V3 re-states the Scripture that "Abraham believed God," and thus righteousness was counted unto him.
The example of David, v6-8, is consistent with the experience of Abraham. The fact that David stated the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord did not impute sin, v8 showed that this was precisely what he deserved — his wages. But by stating that God was not imputing sin to him, David was also implying that God was imputing righteousness to him — a gift.
2. Was Abraham Justified by Ritual? No!, v9-12
Many people tried to argue that for a Gentile to be justified, he had to be circumcised. Indeed, this was the controversy that led to the gathering at Jerusalem in Act.15. In v 9 of Rom.4, Paul asks if the blessedness of being reckoned righteous is only for those who have been circumcised, or if it is also for those who have not been circumcised.
The answer is clear, v10: Abraham was justified when he was still uncircumcised. Again, the record in Genesis makes this plain. The record that Abraham was counted righteous is in Gen.15.4-6, and the record of him being circumcised is in ch.17.24-26. A comparison of Gen.16.16 and 17.1 shows that at least 13 years passed between Abraham being justified and being circumcised. The fact that Abraham was justified long before he was circumcised proves that one does not have to be circumcised — or go through any other ritual — to be righteous before God.
Moreover, in v 11, Paul explains what circumcision was. It was a "sign" and a "seal" of the righteousness that Abraham had already had before he was circumcised. A sign and a seal of a transaction give evidence of the transaction. They attest to it and ratify it. But they do not bring it about, or add anything to it. Rather, they are tokens testifying to the reality of it. So it was when Abraham was circumcised. His circumcision testified to the reality of his right standing before God, but it did not bring about his justification or add anything to it.
The latter part of vl 1, and vl2, show that it is so for all believers. Abraham is the father of all believers, in the sense that all believers (whether they have been circumcised or not) are made righteous on the same principle as he was — faith.
3. Was Abraham Justified by Law? No!, v13-15
In v13 Paul states that the promise to Abraham that he should be the "heir of the world" (the universal nature of the promise doubtless must mean that Paul is here referring to the promise in Gen.12.3, that in Abraham all peoples of the earth would be blessed) was not on the basis of Law, but on the basis of the righteousness of faith. He gives us two reasons why this is so:
- v14. The promise was given on the basis of faith. If inheritance depended on keeping the Law, this would mean a change of the basis on which the person is made righteous. Thus it would nullify the promise: it would be of "no effect," and faith would be empty: "void". Justification by Law-keeping would nullify the promise based on faith.
- v15. The Law brings about wrath, not justification. The Law shows up sin for what it is: transgression is, by definition, the breaking of a known law. The Law therefore makes people transgressors, and bring God's wrath upon them. The Law leaves a person worse off, not better.
Paul amplifies the argument against justification on the basis of Law-keeping in Gal.3, again using Abraham as the example. In particular, he gives several reasons why the Law cannot make a person righteous before God:
- the Law brings a curse, v10:
- the Scripture explicitly states that righteousness is by faith, v11:
- the Law came later than the promise, and could not disannul it, v17:
- the Law was temporary, v19:
- the Law revealed sin, v19:
- the Law cannot give life, v21:
- the Law was preparatory to the coming of Christ, v24,25.
Thus, coming back to Rom. 4, Paul concludes, in vl6, that anyone can be justified by faith, through grace, whether or not he was under the Law. 4. Was Abraham Justified by Faith? Yes!, vl7-25
In each of the previous sections, Paul has already indicated that Abraham was justified by faith, v3,5,11,13,16. Now he explains in detail, and gives us some aspects of Abraham's faith:
(a) the Circumstances:
Humanly speaking, the circumstances were not conducive to the fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham — Abraham was about 100 years old, vl9. As far as having children was concerned, he might as well have been dead. As Heb.11.12 puts it, he was "as good as dead." Also, his wife Sarah's womb was "dead", vl9. She was well past the age for bearing children, and she was barren.
But two characteristics of God, given in vl7, totally changed the picture:
- "who quickeneth the dead. " The fact that Abraham and his wife were as good as dead, as far as having children was concerned, was no problem to God. A God who can make the dead live again could give children to Abraham and Sarah.
- "and calleth those things which be not as though they were." At that point Abraham did not have even one child, but God told him that his offspring would be numerous. The fact that God said that he would have many descendants made it absolutely certain that he would; it was as good as if it had already happened.
(b) the Confidence:
How did Abraham respond to God's promise? On the one hand, there were circumstances which, naturally, made fulfilment impossible, but, on-the other hand, there was a God who could raise the dead, and when He promised something it was sure to take place. We read of Abraham, in vl8, that he "against hope believed in hope," that is, he believed God's word, contrary to all human expectations. VI7 states simply: "he believed." His confidence in God is described:
- negatively: "being not weak in faith," vl9, and "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief," v20. The word "staggered" here is the same as that translated "waver" in Jms.1.6. His confidence in God did not waver; rather it was strengthened.
- positively: "was strong in faith, giving glory to God," v20.
(c) the Conviction:
Abraham was "fully persuaded," v21, that God was able to perform what He had promised. There was no doubt in his mind. He was sure in his conviction.
(d) the Consequence:
In v22, the word "therefore" indicates the consequence of his faith and confidence in God: "It was imputed to him for righteousness." Because of his faith, righteousness was reckoned to his account. This verse repeats the quote from v3 — Abraham was reckoned righteousness, on the basis of faith.
(e) the Commentary:
Now, v23-25, Paul brings the message home to us. In v23,24, he states that all this was not only written for Abraham's sake, but for our benefit too. Abraham pictures us in several ways. His was a hopeless situation — he was as good as dead, with no human hope of any change for the better. Likewise for us. Our "offences", v25, left us without any hope of ever being just before God. No human effort — works, or rituals, or law-keeping — could do anything for us.
What was the only hope for Abraham? A God who could raise the dead. And that is our only hope too. He is referred to in v24 as "Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead." Abraham was to believe in a God who could raise the dead. So must sinners today, in order to be saved. But there is a difference. Abraham had to believe in a God who could raise the dead, but he had not yet seen it happen. We have to believe in a God who has already raised the dead - our Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham believed that God would give life to the dead, in the future. We believe that "He already has, in the past. Thus here we see the fundamental importance of the resurrection of Christ in the Gospel message. If someone does not believe in Christ's resurrection, he cannot be saved. Without the resurrection there is no Gospel message. As v25 puts it, he was "delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification."
Abraham heard God's promise, believed it, and was reckoned righteous. It is so today too. God has promised blessing, and those who believe will be reckoned righteous.
(f) the Conclusion:
What a glorious conclusion to all this is given in 5.1: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." How relevant to this very day is the Word of God! So many people think that justification is of works (such as giving to charity or showing neighbourliness), or of rituals (such as baptism or "confirmation"), or of law-keeping (such as being a good citizen and "not harming anyone") But the message of Scripture is still true — we are made righteous with God on the principle of justification by faith
But someone may say "What about works? Does not James speak of justification by works? And does he not use the very same person, Abraham, to prove his point?" In the next paper, God willing, we will consider how James uses Abraham to explain the relationship between faith and works.
—to be continued (D V)
by Walter A Boyd (South Africa)
No.3 — THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN (Continued)
(b) The Christian - A Fellow-Citizen (Romans 13.8-10)
In our consideration of the first seven verses of ch 13, we noted our responsibilities to the State as earthly citizens Another sphere in our responsibilities as a citizen is toward our fellow-citizens From v8 we are moving into a new sphere from that of duties to the State to that of duties to other citizens in that State In v8-10, our responsibilities take the form of
- Our Liabilities to be met, v8a.
- Our Love to be displayed, v8b.
- The Law to be fulfilled, v9-10.
In ch 13:1-7, I am called upon as an earthly citizen to submit to the State and now in v8-10, as a fellow-citizen I am called upon to love others It is clear from these verses that when love is displayed in a Christian's life, the result will be that his liabilities will be met fully and that his love for his neighbour will be of the same quality as love for himself That being the case, the Christian will not harm his neighbour in any way, but will be a fulfilment ot the Law, to the glory ot His God
Our liabilities are to be met - "Owe no man anything," v8a
The apostle keeps in mind the earlier theme of rendering what is due, v7, and widens it out from State taxes to encompass every possible form of debt It includes financial debts but extends to moral obligations of whatever sort The only outstanding debt against a Christian's name should be that of love for his fellow-citizens, it can never be fully paid up We are under a permanent obligation, as strongly as under a debt, to love others Some have suggested that this prevents a Christian entering a loan agreement or mortgage with a bank That is not the thought here, it is rather the idea of not
leaving a commitment of whatever sort, unpaid. There should be no delay in paying legally incurred and properly regulated debts according to the terms of the loan agreement. Few believers will fall into arrears with their financial commitments, but it is searching to ask if we are up to date with payments to our fellow-citizens irvthe currency of love.
Our love is to be displayed - ..."but to love one another," v8b.
While it is expected of believers that they pay their debts promptly, here is a debt that will always be outstanding — love for one another. In the expression "one another," Paul is not restricting love to among the saints only; it is in the context of "no man" and must therefore be given the widest possible meaning — all men. The practical implications are weighty; do I demonstrate a sincere love for all men whoever they are — not just for those I like? This demand for an all-embracing love shows the apostle Paul as the keen student of human nature that he was. He is aware of the possibility that we might not feel our responsibility to love those outside our normal sphere of relationships. Is it not true that we do not feel the same demand for our love towards the unsaved as for the saved? A great need in the present day is to build bridges with the unsaved. Modern life with its pressures and comforts has led to people becoming insular and lives becoming more private than ever. We leave home in the morning to drive to work in the car without any contact with our neighbours. We conduct our business for the day and return home in the evening, park the car in the garage and a full day has passed without any contact with our neighbours. A whole week could pass with nothing more than a friendly wave as we pass them in the street. In earlier days before the widespread ownership of motor vehicles, Christians had more social contact with their neighbours and community as they went about the chores of normal daily life.
One of the sad results of insular living in our modern world is a decreasing love for the lost. Our lack of daily contact with unsaved people has resulted in a lessening interest in their plight and a waning love for their soul. This is a sad reality that cannot be hidden and is manifested clearly in symptoms too commonly seen amongst us.
- Believers who seldom, if ever, bring an unsaved friend to the gospel meeting.
- Brothers and sisters who seldom attend the assembly prayer meeting prior to the gospel meeting.
- Residents in the street who do not know that their neighbours are believers.
- Workers who do not know that a colleague is a Christian.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it may help to direct our thinking and create a desire to establish meaningful contact with the community around us. Is it not time to awaken from the slumber of comfort and ease? The devil has made great progress in his pernicious activity and evil, and sadly, for the most part he finds little or no competition in our gospel activity. The gospel of Christ is still the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes — but it must be propagated. The Word of God is still the Good Seed — but it needs to be sown. We cannot hope to produce a harvest by placing an advert for a gospel meeting in the local paper or by dropping an invitation card through a letter box, and doing nothing more. It is not enough to open the doors of the gospel hall and then wait for the people to come in of their own accord. We will be long in waiting and slow in harvesting. Genuine love for lost souls will produce a desire and initiate an effort to get the gospel to them.
The Law will be fulfilled - "Love is the fulfilling of the Law," v10.
The Content of the Law as stated in v9 is not an exhaustive list of its requirements. The apostle is establishing our responsbility to our fellow-citizens by quoting the last five of the Ten Commandments. He specifically enumerates those commandments that regulate my dealings with others. The first five commandments of the Ten, have already been covered in the apostle's ministry in ch.12 — our dealings with God.
The Obligations of the Law are embraced in the other five commandments not specifically stated here, but included under the general over-riding requirement. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." As thyself — what a measure! This eliminates any selfishness, either hidden or manifest. To love in such a manner and measure will prevent any hypocrisy or half heartedness. How do we measure up to the standard?
The Fulfilment of the Law is very practical, it "worketh no ill to his neighbour." There is a double-sided thrust; as far as my fellow-citizens are concerned I will not harm them in any way — "worketh no ill." As far as the Law is concerned, by so treating my neighbour I have given the Law the full measure of its demand and by this my responsibility towards God and man are both met. I can never fully or completely pay the debt I owe others but by the presence of love and the absence of harm, I can meet the full demands of the Law in this matter.
—to be continued (D. V.)
by Clark Logan (Botswana)
SAVED AND CALLED WHEN YOUNG
The memory of the night I was saved as a little boy remains fresh and vivid even now, some forty years later. For some time before I had been greatly concerned about my soul, knowing I was not ready for Heaven and knowing that, if the Lord returned, my parents would be taken and I would be left behind. I feared being lost forever. Such thoughts were very-real and troubled me, making me long for salvation and peace.
Our family had not long moved to Dundonald, a developing suburb of Belfast, and one Friday evening my father took me along to Dundonald Gospel Hall where Mr. Sammy Thompson and Mr. Reggie Jordan were conducting special meetings. That night I decided I must have the matter settled and on the way out of the meeting, I told Mr. Thompson that I wanted to be saved. I recall us going back into the small wooden hall where he prayed with me, mentioning the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. When he had finished praying he asked-me did I know
that Christ had died on the cross for sinners? I replied that I had learnt this in Sunday School. Then he asked me did I understand that He had died for me? I had never before thought of it in such a personal way but that night, in simplicity, I grasped the wonderful truth : "I am a guilty sinner, but Jesus died for me." So began for me a new life in Christ on the 11th March, 1960.
On returning home, I ran ahead to tell my mother when she came to the door. There was great rejoicing in our home and my own heart was full to overflowing. On the Monday morning, first thing, I marched up to my schoolteacher and she was the next to be told but I recall only a look of incredulity on her part. I suppose she must have been totally perplexed and yet it was so real to me and worth telling others about.
From the time I was saved I wanted to serve the Lord as a missionary doctor. I still cannot tell how I came to have such aspirations. There was no one medical in our family; I do not recall being strongly influenced by reading about Livingstone or anyone like him; I do not remember my parents ever suggesting such a course to me. Still, this boyish ambition stayed with me and in the following years the desire deepened and matured and became a settled conviction. I eagerly read missionary biographies and attended missionary report meetings. Easter conference time in Belfast was always special and I was often stirred when others told of the triumph of the Gospel in Africa and elsewhere.
This conviction as to the way ahead was so firmly in my mind that, when at school I had to choose between Arts and Sciences at the age of thirteen, I remember praying earnestly about it before selecting the Sciences. This was the necessary preparation for medical studies but my problem was that by inclination and ability I; was much more suited to the Arts subjects. And yet God made His will clear . I mention this just to make the point that I believe God is just as interested in the decisions that may perplex a schoolboy, as He is in the choices facing those who are older. He is the God of the young Samuels as much as the God of the adult Pauls. He still calls the young today and often it is early in life that the most telling and important decisions are made.
Our family association with the believers at Dundonald deepened and I was baptised and received into fellowship at the age of fourteen. A few months later a dear brother invited me to accompany him to a Gospel meeting and give my testimony. It was the first of many subsequent occasions and, looking back, I marvel at his patience. There were others too who took an interest in me and my missionary training was beginning in earnest. I think that there is no better place for missionary training than the local assembly. There was tract distribution, open-air preaching, children's meetings and Sunday School classes in which young men could help. There were often missionary report meetings too so that we were encouraged to think of God in a wider context. The assembly at Dundonald became my Bible school and I began to appreciate in increasing measure the simplicity, liberty and beauty of God's pattern for the local church.
My years at university were very happy ones and I enjoyed the hard work. There were about twenty Christians in my medical year and we would often sit until late at night, discussing differences of opinion. We rarely argued but there were the inevitable topics which would surface; christening of infants, church government, the ministry of women, the sign gifts. The things I had learnt were challenged and tested but they were not found wanting. For most of those six years I lived at home or near Belfast and this meant I could continue to attend the assembly meetings in Dundonald as before and I had a stable spiritual home. Some of the students in our year found Christ and went on to prove the reality of conversion. A number of us spent the summer of 1974 overseas and I had my first taste of Africa. I wanted to return but had no particular country in mind.
By this time I was able to share my missionary interest with a young nurse, Hazel Me Knight. It was at a missionary class that we met and soon after we started to keep company, I learned that Hazel had been saved as a young girl of twelve in Bloomfield Gospel Hall. It was also Mr. Sammy Thompson who was instrumental in pointing her to Christ. A year later, she had a definite sense of God's call when, at the Windsor Missionary Conference, Mr. Tom Bentley spoke on Romansl2;l.
A little prayer leaflet was used of God to focus my attention on assembly missionary work in Botswana. I was interested to learn that the work was new, having begun in 1969, and there was only one Scottish couple there. I began to write to Jim and Irene Legge in Botswana and this link developed into frequent correspondence over four years. In 1979 we met them when they visited Ireland on furlough and our interest deepened and became more specific. As husband and wife Hazel and I visited Botswana in 1980 and saw for ourselves the great spiritual need all around. We both knew that God was calling us to that barren desert land and so we began to prepare.
We made our exercise known to the elders in Dundonald and we were greatly encouraged by the way they answered us. They told us that they were not surprised at the development of our exercise for they had long anticipated it and they were wholeheartedly behind us. I completed postgraduate training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Tropical Medicine and resigned from the National Health Service in 1981. On the 4th February, 1982, we left Belfast for Botswana with the commendation of the Dundonald Assembly. Our parents and the believers of Bloomfield Assembly too were most supportive as we took this step and Jim and Irene had assured us of a warm welcome to the field.
Why have we come to Botswana? God saved and called us both young in life and He sent us here. What have we come to do? We have come to make known the glorious Gospel of Christ and teach the Word of God. Our only desire is that souls will be saved and gathered to the Lord's name in loving and faithful testimony. To this work we devote our time and energy and we pray that in it our Lord will be truly glorified.
- We heard Him call,
- 'Come, follow'- that was all,
- Our gold grew dim,
- Our hearts went after Him;
- We rose and followed - that was all,
- Who would not follow
- If they heard Him call?
by Roy Marshall (Falkirk)
- I heard His call
- It pierced the dark as in the clay I lay;
- It penetrated deep with promises of day;
- It entered my poor, sinful heart, and opened up the way
- That led to Him.
- I heard his call
- Not from the throne of heav'nly gloiy bright;
- Nor yet from scenes of Hermon's snowy height;
- But from the Cross, upraised in Calvary's night.
- It led to Him.
- I heard His call.
- It seemed to draw me out to be with Him;
- Not linked with pomp, or earthly pow'r or fame,
- But - Best of all - to gather round His Name
- And be with Him.
- I'll hear His call.
- The noise of earth will not its accent drown;
- Its heav'nly note shall chase away death's frown,
- And suffnng saints shall rise to don the crown
- And be with Him.
- Lord, Thou hast been before
- To Bethany; and more
- And more my heart's been won
- As at Thy feet I've sat; yet none
- Has ever giv'n Thy heart its pleasure
- Never yielded up its treasure.
- Blessings great we have received.
- Comfort to the home bereaved:
- Teaching such as ne'er was known,
- Love and care to us thou'st shown,
- Yet - and yet - it all must end
- as on to Salem Thou must wend
- Thy way, to meet and conquer death,
- And show Thy grace 'til Thy last breath
- But now has come at last the day
- When I must all thy care repay.
- I cannot wait one moment more
- To give what from my heart must pour
- In overflowing love to Thee,
- In answer to Thy love to me.
- Broken the fragile box,
- E'en though the traitor mocks;
- Laden with nard her locks,
- Wiping His feet.
- Earning the Saviour's praise
- (Him now - the poor always!)
- Broadcast in future days:
- Example sweet.
How stark those words appear, like a great barrier beyond which you cannot go — you have read the final chapter of the story, you have seen the last act of the play, you have heard the last notes of the symphony and there is nothing to follow. Some even speak of the end of the world as if some great cataclysmic day will suddenly arrive and a holocaust on an unprecedented scale will mean a total annihilation of the human race and the world will explode in fragments. The Scriptures teach nothing of this, but they emphatically alert us to the fact that everything in this world is transient and passing and life itself is but "a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away," Jms.4.14. While I am living, I am dying and life will undoubtedly end.
Dear reader, have you made preparations for that solemn day that will surely arrive, when life on earth will end9 For the vast majority that moment comes suddenly, unwelcome, unplanned and unexpected. For others it comes slowly and though they labour to cling on to life, eventually the struggle is over, the brittle thread of life is snapped and life ends. Friends, be not deceived, life will end in spite of advances in medicine, in spite of miracle cures and in spite of break-throughs in the treatment of certain diseases.
"Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble," Job.14.1
"In Adam all die," 1Cor.15.22.
"When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence 1 shall not return," Job 16 22
"Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned," Rom.5 12.
But why be so pensive, you may ask, if death is the sad legacy bequeathed to all humanity without exception9 For this very reason that there is a hereafter - "It is appointed unto men, once to die, but after this the judgment," Heb.9.27. Death will not mean the end of me, for my soul cannot die and conscious existence continues in eternity. Then I will pass into a realm where the end will never come - ceaseless, changeless ages and if not saved, for me it will be the death that never dies, the fire that never shall be quenched, the torment that never will be abated, the pain that never will be alleviated, the thirst that never will be slaked.
In consideration of these inevitable realities, let me tell you of One who said, "The things concerning Me have an end," Lk.22.37. He was not susceptible to disease, death and decay for He was sinless but of His own volition He was prepared to lay down His life that sinners might live eternally. On the mount of transfiguration, Moses and Elias met with Him and together they "spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem," Lk.9 31. He would be in complete control and would do all that His Father demanded for our salvation. Upon that Cross He bore the full penalty of sin and paid the awesome debt our sins had augmented, that we, through personal faith in Him, might have hope for eternity and know assuredly that when we leave the body, we will be "at home with the Lord," lCor.5.8.
Thank God, the agonies of Christ came to an end, the work that is fully sufficient to save a world from Hell, was accomplished and nothing remains for you, but to trust Him, believe His Word and accept that what He did on your behalf, is enough for eternity
Dear reader, I beg of you to ponder these matters seriously and wisely and while you may, trust Him who said upon the Cross, "It is finished," Jn.19 30
- Give ear unto my counsel And harken children all, To each of you doth Wisdom In loving accents call, Seek earnestly the Saviour Of sinners in thy youth, For all who early seek Him Shall find Him of a truth
- The late James H. Wilkinson (Tyrone)