The Only Just Jihad

We are hearing again of beheadings. Here’s another:

A group of Muslims asked [a certain priest] to share his views on Christ and Muhammad.  [The priest], fully aware that ‘showing disrespect for the Prophet’ was a capital offense, declined. But when the Muslims persisted, promising to protect him, he told them that Muhammad was one of the false prophets foretold by Jesus, and a man whose marital activity had rendered him a moral reprobate.  His questioners, deeply offended, reported him after all, and [the priest], holding to his statements, was beheaded.

You are wondering where this happened, thinking that you must have missed this one in the midst of the recent reports of beheadings in France by followers of Muhammad. But no, this happened in Andalusia (present-day Spain and Portugal) during the Islamic reign of Abd al-Rahman II (832-852). The priest’s name was Perfectus. Conflicting accounts of Muhammad’s “immoral marital activities” may be found readily enough online. But speaking against that along with calling Muhammad a false prophet cost Perfectus his head. Found guilty of blasphemy against the Prophet, he was executed in 850, beginning a time called the al-Andalus “epoch of the martyrs” during which many others, both men and women, were executed for standing true to their Christian convictions.

When news of Islamic persecutions and beheadings began making news two or three decades ago I thought this was a new thing being carried out by Islamic “radicals” with a political and moral agenda. They hated (justifiably I felt) the corruptions coming into their society from the western world, and they were seeking to deal with it.

My view—that this was a new thing—was a very ignorant one, but typical, I would say, of myopic western thinking. For one thing, and maybe I am speaking more for myself than others, what we in the West know of history is enough to have us sent to the back corner of the schoolroom with the dunce hat on our head. Further to that, though, we Christians in the West are inclined to view world events from the very short-sighted perspective of our own day. Our eschatology—our understanding of the end-times—is seen through the lens of present-day events that we are sure will bring upon us the fulfillment of prophecy—great shakings, upheaval, devastation. However, not too many years ago I made an eye-opening discovery upon reading Ted Byfield’s twelve-volume history The Christians, lent to me by a friend. Let me tell you, there’s a lot of devastation and upheaval behind us. And a lot of blood. In some of the things you read of back in the Dark Ages, “blood to the horse bridles” is not necessarily a metaphor. Yet we tend to view the four horsemen of the Apocalypse as something to be fulfilled in the future. With emphasis on the word fulfilled that is no doubt is true, but these horsemen have been riding throughout the earth for a long, long time. In past centuries there have been invading conquerors and war and famine and pestilence so severe, so overwhelming, so devastating, that with blood flowing like water, and corpses piled high on every hand, those left living were sure it was the end of the world.

Along with this history lesson, I learned also from Byfield’s The Christians (the source of my quote about Perfectus) that the Islamic jihad we hear about so often now goes back a long way too.

Islamic jihad

Jihad is an Arabic word simply meaning “struggle,” but which in the Qur’an is used with reference to the Islamic holy war with its objective of bringing all the world into submission. That is the meaning of Islam—“submission to the will of  God.” Its fundamental tenet is “There is only one God, and Muhammad is his prophet.” All the world is to submit to that. Muhammad the founder of Islam was born in Mecca about 570 and died in 632. In 610 he claimed that the angel Gabriel appeared to him in a cave near Mecca and began reciting to him messages purportedly from Allah. Many such appearances throughout the course of his life resulted in the Qur’an. During the 150 years following his death the sword of Islam brought into submission a vast area of the known world, most of which by that time was “Christian,” at least in name. More than half of what was known as Christendom was conquered—all of Arabia and Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), Palestine, north Africa and then Spain. The Muslims moved swiftly across Mediterranean north Africa conquering all before them from east to west till they reached the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, where their leader charged his horse into the foaming surf brandishing his sword and crying Allahu-Akbar—God is great. He shouted into the wind that only the ocean stopped him from going further.

Further, of course, would be North America, where on September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists resumed this man’s quest, and the twin towers of the World Trade Centre came down. Hearing the news, many Muslims throughout the world shouted Allahu-Akbar, rejoicing in their victory toward the goal of Islam. It is with this continuing goal in mind that we in the West began hearing the threat, “We are coming—soon—to a neighbourhood near you.”

Islam appeared unstoppable back in the Dark Ages. They had such easy successes that they felt invincible; surely Allah was with them. From North Africa they crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in 711 into what is present-day Spain, and within a few years were largely in control of the Iberian Peninsula. From there they looked north beyond the Pyrenees into Europe. There they were stopped in their tracks. Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer) stopped the Muslim invasion of Europe at the battle of Tours in southern France in 732, a victory that determined the course of western civilization.

My personal conviction is that God allowed the Muslims to conquer most of Christendom back then because it had fallen into great apostasy. I am not alone in my conviction; here is a quote from The Pilgrim Church by E.H. Broadbent: “Mohammedanism was a judgement on idolatry, whether pagan or Christian.” Indeed, true Christianity was then for the most part unrecognizable in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. The “Christians” were continually fighting with one another—not just with words, with weapons. Rome and Constantinople (now Istanbul) were chronically at war; all their resources were exhausted in their conflicts with one another. As a result they were easy prey for their new enemy. And Rome and  Constantinople were just the two major players; there was infighting among countless other factions. I noticed over and over in Byfield’s history that the writers attributed Islamic victories to the fact that the armies of “Christian” states and kingdoms were perpetually at one another’s throats.

…Hello? Is it any wonder that Islam, according to several online sources, is the fastest growing religion in our day? Is not Christianity in a state of apostasy in our day as well? Are not we Christians hopelessly divided one from another? Apparently there are something like 30,000 registered denominations in the western world alone. What a grief that is. And we wonder why we are so weak in the face of the foe. It appears that “divide and conquer” is a tactic our Adversary the Devil continues to use very successfully. Not that we in our day resort to the sword like our primitive forebears, of course. We are more civilized now.

“Christian” jihad

Finally the 11th–century Christians did unite to deal with Islam. Warring factions forgot their differences under a new banner—the Crusades. The first of the Crusaders left Europe for Palestine in 1096 to “liberate” Jerusalem from the Muslims who held it, knowing of course that there was much spoil to be gained in the bargain. After a three-year journey and a five-week siege they sacked Jerusalem in 1099 and literally annihilated its population of Muslims and Jews, holding Jerusalem till 1187 when Saladin retook Jerusalem. It is all a sad and sickening story drenched in blood. I felt deeply ashamed to read that “Christians” had done such a thing. In fact I couldn’t continue reading that volume. I had to set it aside. But as Byfield himself states in his preface, the Crusades were not unprovoked—a teaching much in vogue these days; we’re taught now  that malevolent Christian forces entered Palestine bent on regaining Jerusalem even if it meant destroying innocent peace-loving Muslims. Not so. The Crusades were provoked by the earlier Islamic invasions.

That does not by any stretch justify the Crusades—a “Christian” kind of jihad. The Crusader’s sword bathed Palestine in Muslim blood, and Jewish blood as well, all in the name of Jesus Christ, supposedly. No wonder His Name is blasphemed among those peoples to this day. Jews and Muslims have never forgotten this. In fact I saw in one news report an ISIS leader labelling the western powers they are fighting against “Crusaders.”

They are certain they are just in doing so; they are echoing Saladin when they do so. In regaining Jerusalem from the Crusaders, Saladin was embracing the updated definition of jihad—just war, coined that by a contemporary, Islamic legal scholar al-Sulami in his work The Book of Holy War.

The “Christian” Crusaders—from the Latin crux, cross—they too had proclaimed themselves just in going forth under the banner of the cross to liberate Palestine from the Muslims.

What a grief of heart it all is.

The only just jihad

What kind of beast it is that rages about devouring men and women and beheading innocent children I know not, but I know its origin. This also I know. This beast cannot be stopped by all the military might of the world. It cannot be defeated by carnal weapons of any kind. The only One capable of permanently stopping such a beast is…  a Lamb.

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and they who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful (Rev. 17:14).

Ultimately only one Warrior is able to defeat Islam—the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Lamb of God, leading His armies clothed in white who go forth under His banner with His secret weapon—the Cross. As someone has said, when the Devil finally brought onto the field the greatest weapon in his arsenal—death—the Lord met him with His—dying. Do we know this, dear brothers and sisters? Then let us take up our own cross and join Him in that dying. Let us be numbered among those who are with Him, so that our world may come to know fully the outcome of that Great Battle, and share in its spoils. Who are those who are with Him? The called, and chosen, and faithful. The first two we leave to Him. The third is our part.

Let us be faithful, then, even though—it is with a great cry of sorrow on my heart that am writing this, as there was on the heart of the man of God who, having been part of a great move of the Spirit himself, wrote toward the end of his life—“It seems that no revival or move of the Spirit ever has or ever will accomplish the Herculean task of breaking the denominational hold” (G.W. North, 1913-2003). This breaks my heart. Especially the words ever will. Because prophetic Scripture reveals an army of faithful soldiers who are one with one another and with their leader the Lamb of God; they are going forth together with Him to certain victory. Let us be in that army brothers and sisters. Now. Let us not be intimidated by past failure. Let it not discourage us. Let us who love the Lamb of God and His cause hear Him sounding the Trumpet of war and, with broken yet valiant heart forsaking all—including the denominationalism that divides us one from another—put on the armour of light and take up our cross and go forth under His banner certain of victory and singing His song. His war is the only just jihad, the only just war. His objective is world conquest. Victory is certain.

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.
His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.
He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Rev. 19:11-16 NKJV)

There it is, brothers and sisters, fellow soldiers in Christ. In righteousness He judges and makes war. This has absolutely nothing whatever to do with spilling by sword or bullet or bomb the blood of human beings for whom Christ died. He rides forth with His armies to deal finally and forever with all evil, not with carnal weaponry, not with earthly weaponry, but “with the sword of His mouth.” And so, surely we know that those who fight with carnal weaponry have no part in His war. That is not how He accomplished the triumph of Calvary. He triumphed over all evil… at Calvary. Now He rides forth in a robe dipped in blood—His own. What a dread thought. He goes forth with the armies of Heaven to wreak upon an unbelieving world the victory and judgment of Calvary. He is making wondrous incursions among His former enemies these days; we hear more and more, and it is wonderful to hear, that many from Islamic countries are turning from darkness to light and are joining the Lamb in His just jihad even though it cost them all to do so—family and friends, living and live itself. Does this not provoke you and I to jealousy and inspire us to do the same? Let’s go forth to the battle singing the victory song. We will yet be able to sing this song right through to the end, yes, even the third verse of it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2kbZQtYUzw

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!

Refrain
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.

 

 

 

The True Shophar

 

There are no words to describe the overwhelming need for the sound of the shophar in this hour. Heaven must hear it. The earth must hear it. Must hear the voice of the true shophar of God.

What do we mean by the true shophar? Let’s start with some background. The apostle Paul called Israel under the law (the Sinai covenant) children. “Even so we when we were children…” (Gal. 4:3). It may well be said, then, that the old covenant was a picture book for children. Do we grasp this? The old covenant is filled with pictures—types and shadows, representations of reality. God gave these to His children anticipating the day when He would reveal to them the reality that inspired the pictures. This is one of the themes of the new covenant book of Hebrews.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. (Heb. 10:1)

The law, then, contained shadows of good things to come, and not the very image of those things. In The True Worshippers I enlarged on this, showing that the Scriptures speak of these shadows as “figures of the true” (Heb. 9:24). That is, figures of the reality that cast the shadows. It is vitally important to understand this usage of the word true in Scripture; it is contrasted not only with false but also with type and shadow. We read that Christ the new covenant high priest is a “minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (Heb. 8:2). In other words the tabernacle of Moses, central to the worship of the old covenant people of God, was not the true tabernacle; it was but a figure of the true. This is not saying that it was false; God Himself had ordained it, but He ordained it only as a type, a shadow—and only for a time—till in His appointed time the True Tabernacle should come on the scene.

We also read of the true bread and the true vine. These also have their corresponding contrast not only with that which is false, but also with that which is type and shadow. Christ Himself is the image, the body, that cast those shadows (Col. 2:16,17).

It’s in this sense that we must understand the significance of the old covenant shophar. That instrument was but a shadow of a spiritual reality.

Let’s see first what the Picture Book has to show us about shophars.

The Old Testament Hebrew has two words translated trumpet in the King James Version. The first is chatsotserah, which appears 29 times. Here is its first instance:

Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps. (Num. 10:2)

If the priests blew with but one trumpet the leaders were to gather to the tent of meeting; if with two, all the camp was to gather (Num. 10:3,4). And when the cloud over the camp lifted and moved on, the trumpets signaled the order in which the tribes encamped around the tabernacle were to follow (Num. 10:5,6).

The silver trumpets were also used to alert the Lord of His people’s need for His help against their enemies.

And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies. (Num. 10:9)

That’s interesting, isn’t it. The trumpets were also for God to hear.

They were also sounded, once again for God’s ears, “in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God” (Num.10:10). Let us take special note of this. The trumpets in the mouths of the anointed priests were to provide as it were a consciousness of God, an awareness of His remembering that His people were offering these offerings before Him, that is, in His presence, before His face.

The other Hebrew word for trumpet is shophar, which appears 72 times, the first of which is at Sinai when along with thunders and lightnings the “voice of the trumpet [shophar] sounded “exceeding loud, so that all the people that was in the camp trembled” (Ex. 19:16).

No doubt it was an angel who sounded the shophar that caused the people to tremble; we read later that it was blown by the priests at Jericho, where it brought the walls down around their trembling enemies:

And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets [shophars] of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. (Josh. 6:4)

It’s here we discover the shophar was made of a ram’s horn.

The shophar was vital to victory. It was shophars that Gideon’s three hundred were armed with (Jud. 7:16). And Nehemiah had by his side one who was ready to “sound the trumpet [shophar]” if they were suddenly attacked when the wall was being rebuilt (Neh. 4:18).

The shophar had other uses as well. It was sounded on the day of atonement to proclaim the Jubilee (Ex. 25:9). It was blown when Solomon was anointed king (1 Ki. 1:39). It was blown in God’s appointed times—the new moon or solemn feast days (Ps. 81:3). It was used along with the silver trumpets, as when David and all Israel brought back the ark:

Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, and with sound of the cornet [shophar], and with trumpets [chatsotserah], and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps. (1 Chr. 15:28)

All these instances were types, shadows, that were prophetic of a spiritual reality to come.

Moving from type to true

I say prophetic of a spiritual reality yet to come, and it’s Christ and the new covenant I have in mind, but even in the Old Testament of our Bible we discover that the transition to that reality had begun to take place. It was the voices of the prophets that became the shophars of God.

Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet [shophar], and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. (Isa. 58:1)

What then is a real shophar, a true shophar? “Lift up thy voice like a shophar…”

And this from Jeremiah:

Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet [shophar]. But they said, We will not hearken. (Jer. 6:17)

God is saying that the voice of the watchmen He set over His people was “the sound of the shophar.”

God had also made Ezekiel a watchman with the voice of a shophar. God told him he was to “blow the shophar” to warn the people when because of their iniquities He was sending the sword of their enemies against them. The one who hearkened would “deliver his soul,” the one who did not, the sword would “take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.” Furthermore, if the watchman did not blow the shophar of warning, the blood of those who were slain, said God, “will I require at the watchman’s hand.” (See Ezekiel 33:1-7.)

Again, just what specifically did God mean by the watchman blowing the shophar?

So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. (Ezek. 33:1-7).

How clear that is. The watchman’s warning—the voice of the shophar—is a word he speaks from the mouth of God Himself, a word that brings nigh the very Presence and consciousness of God Himself. No wonder all the trembling, then, at the voice of the shophar. God is nigh; it’s this that He intends the voice of the shophar to convey.

So I must say something that needs to be said. We can blow the ram’s horn till we’re blue in the face and out of breath. With what result? Being blue of face and out of breath. That’s all. For God does not hear that kind of shophar, nor is He brought nigh in it. I realize that we’re living in a time when it’s very difficult for many to accept this, and some will no doubt be offended by it. That is lamentable.

So now my two-fold plea.

Oh for teachers that will teach God’s people that the new covenant involves us, not in types and shadows, but in a realm of spiritual reality called truth.

And oh, new covenant family of God, whether Jew or Gentile, let us be no longer children. Joel prophesied, “Blow ye the trumpet [shophar] in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand…” If there was ever a shophar blown, it is that—Joel’s prophecy. And Isaiah’s. He cried, “Hear O heavens, and give ear O earth…” That too is the voice of the shophar. The true shophar. The shophar of God. Do we want the heavens to hear our cry in this desperate hour, and the earth around us? Then let us cry to God to make shophars of us, that we may lift up our voice to Him like a shophar—that anointed voice propelled by the Breath of the Spirit of God from deep within, whether in prayer to God or prophecy to men. Be sure that God will hear this kind of shophar. And so will those around us, and tremble at His Presence.

 

Realized Eschatology

I know how you feel, the first time I read those formidable words I needed aspirin too. But be of good cheer, I soon discovered that I didn’t need to be a theologian to understand this. In fact if we walk by faith and not by sight we ourselves are involved in realized eschatology. I’ll explain what it means in a moment, but first, let’s read a helpful insight by Bible scholar F.F. Bruce (1910-1990). He is commenting on the heroes of faith in Hebrews Chapter 11:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 ASV). Our author might well have proceeded from Ch.10:39 to the exhortation, “Therefore… let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Ch. 12:1) but first he encourages his readers further by reminding them of examples of faith in earlier days. In Old Testament times, he points out, there were many men and women who had  nothing but the promises of God to rest upon, without any visible evidence that these promises would ever be fulfilled, yet so much did these promises mean to them that they regulated the whole course of their lives in their light. The promises related to a state of affairs belonging to the future; but these people acted as if that state of affairs were already present, so convinced were they that God could and would fulfill what He had promised. In other words, they were men and women of faith. Their faith consisted simply in taking God at His word and directing their lives accordingly; things yet future so far as their experience went were thus present to faith, and things outwardly unseen were visible to the inward eye. It is in these terms that our author now describes the faith of which he has been speaking. It is, he says, the hypostasis of things that are hoped for…. That is to say, things which in themselves have no existence as yet become real and substantial by the exercise of faith. (F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids, 1964, pgs 277,278)

Now for our definition of realized eschatology, and it’s actually quite simple. Eschatology is built from two Greek words in the same way zoology, psychology, and archaeology are built. The suffix logos, meaning originally word, has in English come to imply study. The prefix eschatos means last or final, as in “last days” (2 Tim. 3:1). So eschatology involves the study of end times, and because “we know in part,” it has produced endless debate over things like the rapture and the tribulation and the second coming and what has been called the millennial kingdom. (We’re not getting into any of that here.)

In general usage realize means to understand something. “I realize that, I understand.” But in realized eschatology it means made real. And obviously there comes a time when eschatological things are no longer in the future, God is faithful, God is true, and so they have finally arrived, they are at last fulfilled, made real. But does this mean that these things are held in abeyance till their time arrives? Not for those who by faith realize them now. In the above quote F.F. Bruce wrote, “The promises related to a state of affairs belonging to the future, but these people acted as if that state of affairs were already present, so convinced were they that God could and would fulfill what He had promised. In other words, they were men and women of faith.”

That is the essence of realized eschatology, and it answers a question that was to me for years a great perplexity—why the inspired writers of the New Testament often speak of a present possession as something yet to come. If I have eternal life now, why is it yet to come? If the kingdom is here now, why is it yet to come? It’s a matter of realized eschatology—by faith living now in the good of the great salvation yet to come. It means walking now in what God has promised down the road. Yes, their wonderful fulfillment is yet future, but they may be realized even now by those whose love for God and faith in Him lays hold of His promises; we are so sure of Him who promised that we walk in the good of the promises before their fulfillment has arrived.

I am borrowing from F.F. Bruce when I use those words. Commenting on Abraham’s faith he wrote, “To Abraham the promise of God was as substantial as its realization. He lived thereafter in the good of that promise.” (F.F. Bruce, Hebrews, pg 296)

Now let’s look at another comment on realized eschatology by  F.F. Bruce. (I think you may be realizing that I quite like him.) I’ll quote the Scripture he is referring to first.

Giving thanks to the Father who did make us meet for the participation of the inheritance of the saints in the light, who did rescue us out of the authority of the darkness, and did translate us into the reign of the Son of His love” (Col 1:12,13 YLT).

…When he affirms that believers have already been brought into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, Paul gives us an example of truly realized eschatology. That which in its fullness lies ahead of them has already become true in them. “Whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). The fact that God has begun a good work in them is the guarantee that it will be brought to fruition in the day of Jesus Christ (cf. Phil 1:6). By an anticipation which is a real experience and not a legal fiction they have received here and now the glory that is yet to be revealed. “The inheritance of the saints in the light” has not yet been manifested in its infinite wealth, but the divine act by which believers have been rendered meet for it has already taken place. The divine kingdom has this two-fold aspect through the New Testament. It has already broken into this world by the work of Christ (cf. Matt. 12:28, Luke 11:20); it will break in one day in the plenitude of glory which invests Christ’s parousia. Those who look forward to an abundant entrance in resurrection into that heavenly realm which “flesh and blood” (the present mortal body) cannot inherit (1 Cor. 15:50) are assured at the same time that this realm is already theirs. (F.F. Bruce, Ephesians and Colossians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Grand Rapids, 1957, pg 189)

I love the way Bruce expresses that our being transferred “into the kingdom of the Son of His love” is “not a legal fiction.” It is not merely a standing. It is a state, a reality, a fact, not a fiction, that we are now in that kingdom which is yet to come in its plenitude.

And so… realized eschatology. Doesn’t this give us an insight into the heart of God and His divine “impatience” (if I dare use that word)—He just can’t wait—to see that those who love Him and desire by faith to please Him enjoy even now in this present evil world the riches of His glory that has not yet arrived?

Facets of realized eschatology

This truth—that things to come, end things, eschatological things, may be realized even now by faith—shines throughout Scripture in many beautiful facets of the Jewel Christ Jesus. Here are a few of those facets, which I will just touch on and leave for you to explore further.

  • Our salvation

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:27,28).

Our Salvation, then, is yet to appear. But He has also appeared:

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…” (2 Tim. 1:8-10 NKJV).

Notice that: “…who has saved us…” A present possession. And so we are saved, yet await the coming of our Salvation.

It is a very great salvation, and we are its heirs, as we read in Hebrews 1:14. “Are they [the angels] not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation?”

Again from Bruce: “The salvation here spoken of [in Heb. 1:14] lies in the future; it is yet to be inherited, even if its blessings can already be enjoyed in anticipation. That is to say, it is that eschatological salvation which, in Paul’s words, is now ‘nearer to us than when we (first) believed’ (Rom. 13:11) or, in Peter’s words, is ‘ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Pt. 1:5).” (F.F. Bruce, Hebrews, pg 25)

  • The life to come

“For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). By “the life to come” he means the eternal life for which we wait with great expectation.

But even now those who believe have eternal life. John 3:16 you will know by heart. Here’s another. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 Jn. 5:13).

  • The resurrection

The “life to come” is resurrection life. But in order to participate in this last-day resurrection we must first be realizing eternal life in our mortal bodies. For Jesus said, “He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last [eschatos] day” (Jn. 6:54). (It is a spiritual reality—the bread and drink of life—that Jesus has in mind when He talks of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. See John 6:62,63).

Yet God has provision for us to walk in resurrection life before that great day. Martha told Jesus that she knew her brother Lazarus would “rise again in the resurrection at the last [eschatos] day” (Jn. 11:24). That was good theology. Yet Jesus’ response was, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?”

This of course is the mainstay of the Christian life and walk that we read of so often in the epistles of Paul, that “in Christ” we realize resurrection life before the day of resurrection. Baptized into Christ we are made alive together with Christ, and are raised together with Him, and seated together with Him in the heavenlies… (See Eph. 2:4-10, Col. 2:11,12, Rom 6:1-4).

  • The kingdom of God

“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18). So that kingdom is yet ahead.

But the kingdom of God that is yet to come is at the same time now present. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20). Here Paul speaks of that kingdom as a present reality. Jesus speaks of it as present and growing to fullness in the earth (Mk 4:26-29.

Yet its fullness is utterly beyond the capacity of a body of flesh and blood. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:50). Along with those in the grave, our present bodies must be changed, and will be changed “at the last trump” so that in glorified bodies we are enabled to inherit and enjoy the fullness of the kingdom of God.

  • The adoption

Similarly, the fullness of the adoption, the “son-placing” awaits the redemption of the body from its bondage to corruption. “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22,23).

Even so, we who have received the Spirit of God’s son realize the adoption now. God is even now our own Father. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15).

  • The regeneration

Jesus speaks in Matthew 19:28 of “the regeneration.” This has in view the new creation; a regeneration has taken place, and the whole creation (the universe) has been released from its bondage to corruption. It is a promise long standing. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come to mind” (Isa. 65:17).

But—how amazing is this—“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17 NKJV). And so we who are born from above realize regeneration even now, although it has not reached our mortal bodies. That is yet to come. (See Titus 3:5 and John 3:3-8.)

  • The City of God

It is a city which is yet to come. “For here have we no continuing [abiding, lasting] city, but we seek one to come” (Heb. 13:14).

Yes, but we have come to the City which is yet to come. “But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…” (Heb. 12:22). Even now, then, we may walk the golden street of this City, and drink of the pure stream of the water of Life and eat of the fruit of the tree of Life.

  • The marriage of the Lamb

This City is a Bride whose marriage is yet to come. And “blessed are they who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:6-9). That day is coming!

O day of wondrous promise!
The Bridegroom and the Bride
Are seen in glory ever;
And love is satisfied.

Yet that union is realized even now in those who are “married to Another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4).

Oh what wonders. It is all just too much. Wonders yet to come. The same wonders now realized in those who walk by faith.

And this I say—that only those who seek to realize now by faith what is yet to come will enjoy these wonders when the hour comes that they are fulfilled.

That hour surely comes, the hour of fulfillment comes. And love is satisfied, and the Christ of glory who is the origin in whom and from whom all the facets of truth shine forth, He who is the source and sum of all the promises, He whom our soul loveth… we see Him face to face. And are joined with Him in everlasting union to become together the revelation of the glory of God.

Yet—let us never get used to this grace of graces—He whom we see not yet has by His Spirit come to us so that even now we may realize that joining, that companionship, that friendship, that fellowship with Him in which we delight and He delights as much as we do. He loves being with us. Here and now. Daily, day upon day. Till the end of the age. Really, what more could one wish?

Well, yes, I know. But let it be with us as William Gurnall wrote of a dying saint, “He was going to change his place but not his company.”

 

From When To If

If my title has given you hope that this might be a welcome diversion from the many troubles of the day, I am pleased to tell you that this is much more than that. This is about a transition that ultimately is God’s answer to all the troubles of the day, which spiritual detective work uncovers to be the doing of that one little three-letter culprit sin.

Multitudes in our world about us have dismissed the very concept of sin. Christians on the other hand acknowledge sin and are thankful that God in Christ has forgiven them their sins. Yet sin is so much with us that they are sure we can never really be rid of it till we die. I don’t think I could count the number of times I’ve heard Bible believing Christians confidently assuring me (and themselves at the same time, I suspect) that as long as we are in mortal flesh we will always sin. In the minds of so many it’s incredulous, presumptuous, even blasphemous, to maintain otherwise.

But what does our Bible actually say, fellow Bible believer? To insist on this completely misses the fundamental difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant, which God did away with because there was something it could not do.

Let’s look first at a verse from the Old Testament, which, with additions over the centuries, was the Bible of the Old Covenant people of God. This verse is part of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple he built when the Old Covenant was still in effect.

When they sin… 

When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near… (2 Chr. 6:36 NKJV)

That’s all we need to read for what we are considering. Here is that same fragment from Young’s Literal Translation:

When they sin against Thee–for there is not a man who sinneth not—and Thou hast been angry with them, and hast given them before an enemy, and taken them captive have their captors, unto a land far off or near… (2 Chr. 6:36 YLT)

Do you see what this is saying? “When they sin against You…” Some of our English versions (including the old King James Version) have if here, but a check into the Hebrew original reveals that when is the correct translation. The context itself requires when, because Solomon immediately adds, “for there is no one who does not sin.” In other words, it’s inevitable that the people under that covenant would at some point sin against God. It’s because the Old Covenant had no provision to do away with indwelling sin.

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. (Heb. 10:3)

That stands to reason, doesn’t it. To actually take away sins would require a better sacrifice than the blood of an animal.

Now this from the New Testament, and you will see immediately the significance of the title.

If anyone sins…

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.  (1 Jn. 2:1,2 NKJV)

Again, the same passage from Young’s Literal Translation.

My little children, these things I write to you, that ye may not sin: and if any one may sin, an advocate we have with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one, and he–he is a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world…  (1 Jn. 2:1,2 YLT)

If anyone sins…” So we are not in the days of when anymore. Solomon if he were with us today could not say “there is no one who does not sin” for there is provision in the New Covenant that was not there in the Old. Now it is not when. If. And here the context itself requires if. John has just said that what he has written is “so that you may not sin.” What a marvel, how can this be? What is it that John has written? He has written of God’s provision for the walk free of sin—walking in fellowship with Him in the light in which is the continual cleansing of the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:5). What marvellous light. That’s what Peter calls it. “Marvellous light” (1 Pt. 2:9). It is new-covenant light. Under the New Covenant it is not a matter of when one will sin; those who are in covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ are able to walk free of sin all their days, though yet in mortal flesh.

In addition to the Scriptures in 1 John, many other New Testament passages bear witness to this provision—that because of what Christ accomplished on the cross in putting away sin “by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26), and making that accomplishment ours by baptizing us into Himself, sinning is no longer inevitable.

 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:1-4 NKJV)

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:10,11 NKJV)

And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom. 6:18 NKJV)

I’ve just quoted excerpts here; please read that whole chapter carefully and prayerfully—and believingly—as well as the following one and the chapter between them (Romans 7).

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1-4 NKJV)

Walking according to the Spirit—this is just what John is thinking of with his words about walking in the light. This is God’s new-covenant provision to walk the sin-free walk.

There are many other passages as well. Yet, as I said, I don’t know how many times I have heard Christians who love their Bibles say that as long as we are in mortal flesh we will surely sin, we’ll only be free of sin when we die and go to Heaven. If that is so, the death of Adam is more powerful than the death of Christ. And if that is so, the New Covenant is no better than the Old, and Christ died in vain.

He did not die in vain. The New Covenant is better than the Old.

But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… (Heb. 8:6-8 KJV)

Please read that whole chapter as well. Oh, read, read your Bible, and the Holy Spirit helping you, believe what you are reading. God has done away with the Old Covenant, and brought in a New Covenant with provision—the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus—enabling one to live without sinning. What a wonder. It is not necessary to sin. It is not inevitable.

But it is possible to sin, for we continue to be moral beings with the ability to choose, and we live in a world that is arrayed against the righteous. This means temptation, and therefore the possibility of sinning. But if one does happen to sin, God also has provision for this. We have an Advocate before Him who is Himself the propitiation—very, very briefly, the penalty payer—for our sins; therefore God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Note this, not only faithful, but faithful and just because of that propitiation—He would actually be (perish the thought) unrighteous not to do so—to forgive and to cleanse so that we may be restored to fellowship with Him and continue our course in His new-covenant light.

Wonderful provision… if it is necessary. How tragic, then, how worthy of great lamentation, that the greatest transition that has ever taken place in the history of man continues to be questioned, even denied, by so many believers. Let it no longer be so with us, beloved. Let us be stirred, awakened, to a fuller faith that is grounded upon the word of God. Let us become more fully believers in Jesus, believers who know that the weakness of mortal flesh is not too strong a hindrance for those in new-covenant relationship with God, those who, abiding in Christ, walk in the Spirit, walk in the light, walk free of sin, “walk even as He walked” (1 Jn. 1:6).

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A note anticipating a question about 1 Jn. 3:9, which in the King James Version is,  “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” This cannot be saying that it is morally impossible for a born again person to sin, for this would put the born again beyond the Son of God Himself, who certainly could have sinned. For we are told that He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). If Jesus was not beyond temptation, He was certainly not beyond being able to sin. Yet He did not sin. Thank you, Jesus. Further to that, the Greek tenses in 1 Jn. 3:9 make clear that this is not stating that it is impossible for a born again person to commit a sin. The sense of the verbs is that sinning is not a continual practice, is not “hard wired” in them, as it was before they were born again. Here is 1 Jn. 3:9 in the English Standard Version: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” And so the born again are by the grace of God put on the same footing as the Son of God. They are free of sin. Yet they may be tempted. And since they may be tempted, they may sin. But if they sin…

Waiting With Christ

This is quite lengthy; as I was writing it I had wondered if it should be two separate entries. Eventually I decided to keep it all together. But there is much to meditate on and pray about, so some of my readers may wish to divide their reading into two parts about halfway through, perhaps at the heading “So now we come to this.”

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Before we start please pray with me. Dear Father, may our minds be renewed with truth as we open our hearts to hear and receive what You are revealing to us in what follows here. Amen.

…Let us open now with this verse:

The LORD said unto my Lord, sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool [literally, the footstool of Thy feet]. (Ps. 110:1)

This prophetic psalm of David is quoted or referred to in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament passage. It is full to overflowing with truth, of which we will consider only a little here. Jesus confirmed a thousand years after this was written that “my Lord” is prophetic of the Messiah, the Christ (Mt. 22:42). A reminder—upper case LORD in the Old Testament always refers to Jehovah (Yahweh), lower case Lord to Adonai (meaning lord, master).

Now this from the writer of Hebrews, who has Psalm 110:1 in mind:

But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. (Heb.10:12,13).

Expecting is “waiting expectantly.” The New King James Version, the American Standard Version, the Revised Version, and Young’s Literal Translation have expecting. The highly respected Newberry’s Interlinear has awaiting. J.N. Darby’s New Translation, the English Standard Version, the International Standard Version, the English Majority Text Version, the Modern Literal Version and others have waiting. “From henceforth waiting till…” Put together, then, we have “waiting expectantly.” The same word is used in Hebrews 11:10. “For he looked for a city…” That is, Abraham the sojourner anticipated the city; he waited expectantly for it; he had no doubt he would one day walk within its gates and at last be home. Also in James 5:7. “Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth…” That is, waiteth expectantly. He is certain he will have his harvest.

What, then, is the Christ doing at the right hand of God? He is waiting. He is waiting expectantly for something. He is seated at the right hand of God waiting expectantly till all His enemies be made the footstool of His feet. He has no doubt whatever that He will see this. He is the King of kings seated on the throne of David in the heavenlies—there is no higher throne in the universe—being at the same time our great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4). He is seated because, unlike the Levitical priest who “standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices which can never take away sins,” He has accomplished the taking away. He has offered “one sacrifice for sins forever.” Having done so, He “sat down on the right hand of God,” the place of all authority in Heaven and earth. He is seated there to this day and shall be forever. He will not abdicate and cannot be deposed. He is seated, waiting, expecting the day when all His enemies, each and every one of them, are under His feet. He is not waiting to reign after they are under His feet. He reigns now.

Wonderful truth. Even while all His enemies are not yet under His feet, He reigns, He rules in the midst of His enemies.” Let this lay hold of us.

The LORD shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies. (Ps. 110:2)

Who are His enemies?

We can’t go into this at length just now, but they are all who have ever set themselves against the throne and kingdom of God, primarily Satan and his principalities and powers in the rebellion in the heavenlies, for whom God has provided no redemption, and whose fate is sealed—and also all those of the race of Adam, whom Satan succeeded in drawing into his rebellion. Yet these, even while we were enemies, the God of immeasurable love and grace determined to reconcile to Himself. “For if, when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). It is thus that throughout history many of those among men who were His enemies, and received His reconciliation, became His friends.

It is by the sending of the rod (the sceptre) of His strength out of Zion—I believe this is speaking of the word of the Gospel of the kingdom in the power of the Spirit—that His rule in the midst of His enemies is manifested. We have seen this often throughout history. Time and again in the midst of raging enemies the Gospel has gone forth in power. Christ’s enemies have never been able, nor yet are they now able, to put Him under their feet. For He reigns in the midst of His enemies, sending forth the Sceptre of His strength from His throne in Zion, all the while anticipating the day when His enemies are completely subdued under His feet. “Then cometh the end when He shall have put down all rule [principality] and all authority and power.” There it is, the cause of all the trouble in the universe, the one thing that constitutes either angels or men His enemies—their determined conspiracy to have to themselves some other rule, some other throne, than the throne of God. He has determined otherwise for them—their subjugation under His feet. “For He [Christ] must reign,” Paul continues, “till…” (not after, but till) “all enemies are subdued under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25,26). Wonderful and certain hope—all things, all enemies, and finally death too is under His feet. “For He hath put all things under His feet,” cites Paul, quoting a prophecy from Psalm 8:6 now.

And who are His feet?

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus… (Eph. 2:4-6)

Quickened us together, raised us up together, seated us together… these are one word in the Greek. Thomas Newberry (The Newberry Bible) strings them together like this: He “quickened-us-together-with Christ… and raised-us-up-together, and made-us-sit-together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus…”

Astonishing truth in all of these; it’s the last one we are dwelling on here. “He seated-us-together-with Him” in His throne. That is just too much to take in, isn’t it. Too much. Except for faith. It is not too much for faith.

Paul is writing to “the saints who are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus…” He is not writing to two groups, but one: “the saints, even the faithful in Christ Jesus.” He says they are seated together with Christ in His throne in the heavenlies. Amazing. How did they get there? By being in Christ Jesus. For that is where He is—on the throne of God. And how did they get into Christ Jesus? There is only one way, the same way you and I came to be in Christ Jesus. We were baptized into Christ Jesus. No, not by water baptism, it is baptism in Holy Spirit by which we are baptized into Christ. Do you recall Paul’s words to the Romans, that those baptized into Christ were baptized into His death, and into His life? “Therefore we were buried together with Him by the baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4). It is the Spirit baptism Paul has in mind here—water baptism, important as it is, cannot do this. It is baptism in Holy Spirit that baptizes into Christ, and constitutes one a saint.

And so Paul, writing to the saints, includes himself, and says, “But God, who is rich in mercy for His great love wherewith He loved us, quickened-us-together-with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and raised-us-up-together, and seated-us-together in the heavenlies in Christ…” Paul had earlier written to the Romans reminding them that baptism into Christ had made them one with His death and resurrection. Here to the saints in Ephesus he unfolds this further revelation—that when they were baptized into Christ, not only were they quickened together with Him, and raised up together with Him, but, since they were in Christ Jesus, they were also seated together with Him in His throne in the heavenlies.

What a wonder. What a wonder. What then are we doing there, saints of God? We are doing just what He is doing. And what is He doing? Again, He is seated on the throne of God, reigning, waiting patiently, expectantly, till His enemies are made the footstool of His feet. Since He is reigning, we too are reigning. Since He is waiting, we to are waiting, waiting with Him. This is our expectation. We wait accordingly. And since He is ruling in the midst of His enemies while He waits, we rule with Him in the midst of His enemies and ours as we wait with Him.

So now we come to this:

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient-waiting for Christ. (2 Thes. 3:5)

That’s the King James Version. Most of our English versions have “the patience of Christ.” Young’s Literal Translation has “the endurance of Christ.” So, what did Paul have in mind? Patient waiting for Christ, or the patience of Christ? Love for God, or God’s love? Apparently in the Greek these are grammatically correct both ways. (Please see end note.) It is also true both ways. Why not embrace both, then, instead of either/or? “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love for God (and the love of God) and into the patient-waiting for Christ (and the patience of Christ).”

I wish we had a better English word to give us the fuller meaning of the Greek word translated patience. We would have one if we blended patience and endurance together into one. In the passage we are considering, Strong’s Concordance says that patience is the Greek hupomone (pronounced hoop-om-on-ay’), adding that it means “cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy—enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting).” Greek scholar W.E. Vine says it means “literally, an abiding under (hupo, under, meno, to abide), it is almost invariably rendered patience” [in the KJV].

Certainly the Lord must direct our hearts, and our steps, into His love, the love of God, and for God. For, as Charles Wesley gave us to sing, “God only knows the love of God…” So we are utterly dependent upon Him to direct us into this love, the “more excellent way” of love. But since to walk in this more excellent way of love brings us, as we know, into trial and difficulty in which we are often completely out of our depth, it requires of us patient endurance far beyond our own capacity. So our Lord must also direct our hearts into the accompanying patience of Christ, and into patient waiting for Christ. In 1 Thessalonians Paul had earlier related how they “had turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven…” (1 Thes. 1:9,10). So there is that vitally important truth about waiting for Christ. But beloved, as I have said, if we are called to wait for Him, we can be sure it’s because Christ Himself has been waiting, and is still waiting, and we must wait patiently with Him.

Reigning patience  

And when all is said and done, it is only Christ’s own patience that will enable us, provision us, as the trials grow greater, to wait with Him and be faithful to the end. Do we not know this by now? How often have you and I been in a situation in which we were seeking to draw on a fund of patience within us, only to discover we were very short of funds? In fact all too often we consider patience the unpleasant task of a hard taskmaster, and the sooner we are done with it the better. Oh, the patience of Christ is far, far above and beyond that. There is an element of immoveable sovereignty in His patience; He reigns in patience, reigns over all, reigns in the midst of all circumstances, reigns in the midst of His enemies, waiting expectantly till they are all the footstool of His feet. Accordingly, those in Him are partakers of His own reigning patience in whatever they are “in the midst of.” And—open our eyes, dear Lord—do we recognize You Yourself with us in that kind of patience? Patience is the expression of the reigning Christ in our own lives and difficult circumstances, is the expression of the waiting Christ, and our participation in His waiting. Patience is not something we reluctantly have to have under the circumstances; in His patience we are not under but above  the circumstances, reigning in our waiting even as He reigns.

How then may we avail ourselves of His patience in the trial of this life? Only by being in Him where He is, He being also in us. Do we recognize we are in Him, having been baptized into Him, and He in us? What a revelation this is to the heart! “Hereby know we that we dwell [abide] in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit” (1 Jn. 4:13). Let us ever reckon it so; faith reckons it so. By being in Him, being seated together with Him in His throne, abiding in Him, and He in us, His reigning patience is our patience. As Andrew Murray has said, the fruit that grows in the branches of the Vine is the fruit of the Vine and the branches in the Vine. And so Paul writes, “the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.

Patient in tribulation…

In closing let us consider two passages from The Revelation. First this one:

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in the tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:9).

Notice how John phrases that. Notice how he links those two together. “The kingdom and patience…” Do you and I have that kind of patience—kingdom patience, reigning patience? And where is it to be found? “In the tribulation…” What a wonderful place to find this! “In the tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” Are we in any trouble? Are we in His trouble? Then we have in the midst of it our Lord’s own kingdom patience. And we discover some precious companions right there too.

And finally this one—Jesus’ words to the church of Philadelphia (among the seven churches, one of the two for which He had no reproof):

Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from [out from] the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3:10).

By “the word of My patience” Jesus means, in my view, the word of the truth of the Gospel, which, in order to be kept, He enjoins patience upon them, patience apart from which the word He had committed to them would be lost to them. He is referring back to what He has just commended them for—that even though they had but little strength, “thou hast… kept My word, and hast not denied My name” (vs 8). The word He had given them they had patiently, steadfastly kept—guarded faithfully with diligent watchcare; now they would discover Him keeping them “from the hour of the temptation” (as the Greek has it) a trial singularly beyond others in its severity. Vincent’s Word Studies says, “The preposition [ek, from] implies, not a keeping from temptation, but a keeping in temptation, as the result of which they shall be delivered out of its power.” So He is not saying that, because He is now going to keep them, they will no longer need enduring patience. He is saying that as always, but especially now, they are going to know His faithful commitment to them—that in their patience He Himself would be involved, keeping them in the power of His own enduring patience.

Later in The Revelation we are given what I suspect is the account of this temptation (trial), when “all that dwell upon the earth shall worship”—they know not what (Rev. 13:8). Over the centuries there has been no scarcity of interpretations as to what this is all about by those who were sure they knew. There are many today who are sure they know. I am not so sure. This I do know, that all those “whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” fail the trial. This also I know, that for those who do have their names written therein, this is no cakewalk; they need to the uttermost a certain keeping power enabling them to continue faithful. John in reference to this great trial writes, “Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Rev. 13:10). Not faith alone, but faith girded, armoured, with patience. He brings up this same trial further on, again urging, “Here is the patience of the saints,” immediately adding, “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). The context of both verses (13:10 and 14:12), is that “the hour of His judgment is come” (14:7). It’s the anticipation of this that the Spirit intends to inspire the saints to enduring patience. Only a little longer, saints! For those whose very worship is sacrilege, for those who are persecuting the saints, taking them into captivity or killing them (13:10), their hour is come—they have the same to look forward to themselves; if they refuse to worship “Him that made heaven and earth and the sea and the fountains of waters,” instead worshipping “the beast and his image” (whatever this cryptic imagery means) what is left for them but “the wine of the wrath of God,” and “torment with fire and brimstone,” and “no rest day nor night” (14:10,11).

And so these two strong exhortations are an assurance to the saints that the hour of judgment is nigh, their patience and faithful waiting will surely be rewarded, as will the folly of all the earth. Be not partakers with them, dear saints, John is urging by the Spirit, continue faithful, though it take the utmost commitment and patient endurance to continue to obey God and keep faith in Jesus Christ without caving to what all the world has sold out to…

…Just as the three Hebrew children prevailed in their day, remaining faithful to their God, though it meant the fire for them, when all the world was worshipping Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. The three endured in the trial, in the fire, because—wonderful visitation—One was with them, reigning with them “in the midst” of it. Even so, prophesies John, it’s this enduring patience, the keeping power of His patience, that you’ll need now, saints, as never before, and in this you’ll prevail in the trial that is about to come upon all the world. This is the provision that will keep you through the trial—not by the skin of your teeth but triumphantly—the patience of Christ. Or rather, the Christ of enduring patience. Seated with Him in the heavenlies even while here upon the earth in the midst of great conflict, reigning with Him in His enduring patience, waiting expectantly for Him and with Him—this has has been your continual practice day upon day, day in and day out, and so you are ready for this great trial, confident now as always that in due time all His enemies will be subdued under His feet.

Yes, under His feet. That day surely comes, just as it came for Israel of old whom Joshua called to “come near, and put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of a good courage; for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight” (Josh. 10:24,25).

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Endnote from Robertson’s Word Pictures in the Greek New Testament

Into the love of God (eis tēn agapēn tou theou). Either subjective or objective genitive makes sense and Lightfoot pleads for both, “not only as an objective attribute of deity, but as a ruling principle in our hearts,” holding that it is “seldom possible to separate the one from the other.” Most scholars take it here as subjective, the characteristic of God.

Into the patience of Christ (eis tēn hupomonēn tou Christou). There is the same ambiguity here, though the subjective idea, the patience shown by Christ, is the one usually accepted rather than “the patient waiting for Christ” (objective genitive).

 

 

Yielding Fruit A Hundredfold

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Trusting that you, dear brother, dear sister, are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the sower (Mt. 13:3-23), let me ask a question. Are you good ground? You’ll remember that the ground by the wayside brought forth no fruit of the seed that was sown. Neither did the stony ground. Neither did the ground full of choking thorns. Only the good ground brought forth “fruit unto perfection”—fully developed fruit.

But some even of the good ground did not bring forth its full potential. The good ground brought forth “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold ” (Mt. 13:8).

Why this? Why didn’t all the good ground bring forth an hundredfold? Even though it was good deep soil weed free, some brought forth only sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Why? We are not told why in so many words, but if you’ll read the parable in Matthew Chapter 13 you’ll see how consistently Jesus refers to the hearing of those who receive the seed of the Word. And in Luke’s gospel account, which mentions only the hundredfold, he records that “when He [Jesus] had said these things, He cried, he that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk. 8:8). Do you see Jesus in that moment, deeply impassioned and crying out? The bringing forth of a hundredfold harvest apparently depends on the state of our hearing. How good is our faculty of hearing? Are we actually hearing what the living Word is sowing into our hearts?

Let us hear His words as sown by His apostle Paul. There is a key for us here; if we are hearing, we are sure of bringing forth to our joy and the joy of the Sower the hundredfold harvest. So let’s listen in on a prayer of the apostle on behalf of the saints in Philippi.

 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment [discernment]; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9-11)

Notice this. Paul writes of their love. “This I pray, that your love…” They walked in love, their lives were characterized by love. That surely constitutes them good ground. Why then not leave it at that, Paul? But no, he prays that their love may “abound yet more and more…” In what way? “In knowledge and all discernment.” Abounding love, then, would awaken their hearts and minds to “knowledge and all discernment,” or perception; this would enable them to “approve things that are excellent.” A course of action might be good, no question. But love, abounding love, would give them the perception to see, to hear, to know what to the God of love is excellent. This would result in lives filled with fruit unto the praise and glory of God.

Abounding love, says Paul, is as it were the ear, the eye, of knowledge, greater, deeper knowledge, full knowledge, as the Greek word epignosis implies. The greater the love, the more perceptive the knowledge as to what pleases God. This reminds me of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, who were “puffed up” with their knowledge. And they had a lot of knowledge; Paul at the outset of his epistle to them testified that they had been by God’s grace “enriched by Him in all utterance and all knowledge…” (1 Cor. 1:5). But as Paul continues his epistle we are sorry to find that with all their knowledge they had a kind of blindness, numbness, deafness, about them. Something was missing in their knowledge; they were really not hearing from God as they ought to be hearing. (I am in 1 Corinthians Chapter 8.) What was missing? Love. Sure, they knew that meat offered to idols was just meat like any other; that’s pretty good discernment. But what about something more excellent? Where was the sensitivity of love that would have made them feeling toward their weak brother who was really troubled by anyone eating meat offered to idols? And so Paul told them:

If anyone thinks he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone love God, the same is known of him. (1 Cor. 8:3)

Some of our English translations capitalize the last pronoun in order to interpret this as, God knows the one who loves Him. That is certainly true. But according to Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, this can be interpreted the other way as well—the one who loves God knows God. There is a kind of knowledge that is actually love; love is a kind of knowledge, the knowledge of God, “the love of Christ that passeth (surpasseth) knowledge.” To know as we ought to know… is love; it is the one who loves God who knows God. Personally I like that interpretation, and it accords with other Scriptures in the epistles of Paul (1 Cor. 13:2,8-13; Eph. 3:18,19) as well as 1 John 4:7 (“…and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God”) along with 2 Peter 1:5-8, where Peter says that “if these things [that culminate in love] be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren [idle] nor unfruitful in the knowledge [epignosis, full knowledge] of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Back to the Philippians to enlarge a bit further on the faculty of discernment that accompanies this knowledge. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment…” The word judgment is better translated discernment or perception. The margin of my old King James Version has “sense.” In the Greek it is aisthesis, and is from the same root as “having their senses (aistheterion) exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). Abounding love, then, as it opens the heart and mind to a deeper knowledge of the God who is love, hones the spiritual senses of discernment—hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching—resulting in a fine-tuned sensitivity that enables the decision and approval of what in God’s sight is excellent, that the saints might be “sincere and without offence till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.” That sounds like a hundredfold crop to me.

Now to the Thessalonians. Paul commended the Thessalonians for their “work of faith and labour of love and patience of hope…” (1 Thes. 1:3). He writes that “when ye received the word of God which ye heard from us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thes. 2:13).

That too sounds like very good ground. The word of God they had received was bringing forth fruit—faith, love, hope. There can be nothing critical said about that, not a word. But sure enough, knowing Paul, there is something further that can be said.

 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love… (1 Thes. 3:12)

This, I begin to gather—the passion for abounding love—is Paul’s consuming desire for the saints here or elsewhere. Again he writes:

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. (1 Thes. 4:1).

But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more… (1 Thes.4:9,10)

It’s very encouraging to discover that the Thessalonians took to heart Paul’s exhortation. He writes to them later on a second time:

We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth… (2 Thes. 1:3).

How precious that they had hearkened! Selah!

Abounding love, then. It is Paul’s constraining passion, an insatiable all-consuming fire in him. “Abound yet more and more… increase more and more…” Are we hearing his cry? I believe it is the key to why some ground brings forth a hundredfold, others only sixty or thirty. Are we content to bring forth only thirtyfold or sixtyfold, brother, sister? Surely that is good, and warrants not a word of criticism. But… how good, how keen, is our hearing? How great is our love? Is it increasing, growing, abounding? Intent on pleasing our dearly beloved Lord Jesus, and impassioned like Paul to know with a knowledge that only love can show us, are we hearing from Him what delights the heart of God, what is excellent in His sight, enabling us to yield to Him a hundredfold the fruit He longs for?

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Take My Yoke Upon You

I’m writing this as to an unbeliever, asking that one a question, aware also that sometimes we believers can be very unbelieving. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness when the going got rough. “They believed not in God…” (Ps. 78:22).

Here’s my question. Are you willing to take the risk of completely unburdening yourself of your cares? Isn’t your response that this would be wonderful? Away with them all… but what’s the catch? Why do you call it a risk?

For two reasons. First, I know how important your troubles are to you, as mine are to me—for they are ours, aren’t they, and who wants to risk not looking after them ourselves, who else would give them the care and attention they need? So we continue to carry them ourselves, and they pile up, and we are like the beast of burden yoked under heavy burden.

Perhaps you are saying that this is not true of you; you would do anything to be liberated from your yoke of cares, but you’ve been taught by long experience you can’t expect that. If this is your case there is good news for you; there is yet one thing you haven’t done; there is a way—but this too involves a risk.

Which leads to my second reason, and this will mean rephrasing my question. Are you ready to take the risk of discovering another yoke—one in which you may be sure your burdens are truly cared for while you yourself live care free?

Ah, you say, that’s the catch—to be free of all my burdens I must take upon me another yoke. And yokes, well, yokes themselves are something I would as soon be completely rid of.

Oh? All of them? What about this one? Hearken to Jesus’ words:

Come unto me all ye that labour and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt. 11:28-30)

Let’s go through this slowly with a listening ear, a hearing heart.

“Come unto Me…”

We are invited to come to a Person, not a formula for how to live the carefree life. “Come unto Me.” This is where it begins for those who hear these words for the first time. But—this will help some of us for whom these words are no longer new—in the Greek, come is in the present imperative tense. The implication of that tense is, continue to come, come again and again, come as often as necessary, and—“take heed how ye hear”—discover His words to be continually new.

“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden…”

Young’s Literal Translation has, “Come unto me, all ye labouring and burdened ones…” Vincent’s Word Studies comments, “the first [labouring] an active, the second [burdened] a passive participle, exhibiting the active and passive sides of human misery.” So there is an unhappy synergy at work here—our own inner labourings of heart and mind trying to cope with the problems of life (in fact the word labour is the Greek kopiaO, from which our word cope came down to us); and synergizing (working together) with our inner labourings, the burdens from without, the multitude of cares that come upon you and me, which it seems we have no say in the matter; it comes with the territory of life in this world, and nobody is exempt, all we can do is try somehow to cope with it.

Again, let us listen. Here is Jesus, moved with our miseries, calling out to us:

“Come unto Me…. and I will give you rest.”

And what is rest? We will state it in negative terms for now—what it is not—and there are negative terms aplenty. No anxiety. No worry. No fear. No torment. No frazzled nerves. No stressed-out meltdowns. No turmoil of mind… The list is long. No unrest of heart. That’s a word we hear a lot in the news these days whenever there is social upheaval somewhere in the world. Unrest. Jesus says He has, and gives, rest in the midst of unrest. That one word give. No necessity to labour for or pay for it. It’s free. “I will give you rest.”

More on rest in a moment from the positive point of view. First we must join this statement with the one following it:

“I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you…”

There, as I said, is the catch. We must understand that the rest comes only in another yoke—that is, in our being yoked with Christ. “My yoke.” But Lord Jesus, yokes are made for toil, for work, aren’t they? Are You actually saying that You have for us a yoke that is so different that it actually produces rest instead of weariness, a yoke that in fact is in itself rest? Yes, this is what He is saying, and He simply says, “Take My yoke upon you…” He presents it to us, to you and to me, and will surely put it upon us; our part, the grace of God helping us, is to bow our neck and take it upon us. “Take My yoke upon you…”

I wonder how you see that yoke. Some picture it as a single yoke with Jesus outside it guiding. Others, of whom I am one, see it as a dual yoke with Jesus the “lead ox”  beside me.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me…”

That is, from Me, not just about Me. Learn from Me, and the word learn is from the same root as disciple. So the Teacher is inviting the burdened to become discipled to Himself. Come unto Me, He says, take My yoke upon you, become My committed disciple, and learn from Me…

“For I am meek and lowly of heart…”

The lowly Son of God walked ever in rest, doing only what He saw His Father doing, speaking only what He heard Him saying. He would not take upon Himself any other burden than this, leaving all else to His Father to look after. Not for Him—the proud disposition of the seekers of self-sovereignty, who instead of being submissive to God are dismissive of Him, asserting their un-dependence, arrogating to themselves what is God’s alone… inevitably discovering to their great unrest that the liberty they sought was actually a grievous yoke under which they are burdened with what God never meant man to bear. The God of love has not left them without a way of release. How good to know with great thankfulness that One who is meek and lowly of heart, who willingly took upon Him His Father’s yoke of rest, delighting to do His will, nothing more, nothing less, calls the labouring and burdened to join Him in that same yoke.

Let’s join phrases together again:

“Learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart…”

“I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

Satisfaction, contentment, peace, fulfillment… Rest. The rest is in His yoke, in being discipled to Him; learning from Him His own meekness and lowliness, we find rest unto our souls.

But—You are so kind and patient, Lord—is someone still worrying, still finding it hard to let go, still asking, What about all these burdens that mean so much to me, Lord? Am I just to abandon them?

But what if, He responds, your burdens become my burdens, and My burden becomes yours, the one and only burden you are to carry? In My yoke you cannot carry any other burden. Only My own. That one burden alone, My burden, is all you are responsible to carry—yet not alone, but carry with Me. As to your burdens, I will look after them, each of them, all of them, I will carry them as though they were My own. In fact they are My own, once you have become My disciple. The burdens of My disciple become My very own. I will not let a single one of them fall to the ground. And yoked together, My disciple and I will pray together concerning each one of them—in My Father’s will—and do together what He bids us do. Be sure that in this yoke we shall accomplish together far more than you ever dreamed of.

“And ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is                    light.”

Again the rest is linked to the yoke. He promises rest—in a yoke—in complete submission to Him, the abandoned obedience of a yielded disciple willingly and fully surrendered to Him in His yoke—His yoke alone, while refusing any other. “My yoke,” He says, “My burden…” He is speaking of the yoke His Father had put upon Him, a yoke that is “easy,” in which he bears a burden that is “light.” I wonder at that: Jesus carried immense responsibility, and His burden—the glory of God—was surely heavier than any other. But no, He says, yoked with My Father the burden is light. Light because I am doing only what My Father lays upon Me to do—and actually it is My Father Himself that doeth the works. Now Jesus calls you and me to take upon us that same yoke in which the work is His, it is He Himself who is working—and we are simply doing His work with Him; yoked beside Him we are partners in His work.

We enjoy His rest. This does not mean inactivity or idleness any more than it meant for Him, but inward rest, rest unto the soul, refreshing rest, even though each one of us is very much involved in whatever the Lord Himself is doing. Now we too do simply and only what He is doing, and discover rest unto our souls in the doing of it. This, then, is a very different synergy, isn’t it—a synergy of rest.

“For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“Rest unto your souls,” He says. Because His yoke is “easy,” that is, gentle, kindly, comfortable, congenial, serviceable, helpful, “like wings to a bird,” as one has described it. And “tailor made.” Someone else’s will not do, it’s not a “one size fits all” yoke. My rancher friend Ed Parke once told me of something he had read, an account of an old timer who made yokes like that. He would place the yoke on the animal and check the fit, and wherever necessary shave it down so it fit without abrasion; it would not cause raw sores by constant rubbing. In the words of old-time Bible commentator Matthew Henry, the yoke is “chrestos, not only easy, but gracious, so the word signifies; it is sweet and pleasant, there is nothing in it to gall the yielding neck, nothing to hurt us, but on the contrary, much to refresh us. It is lined with love.”

“Nothing in it to gall the yielding neck.” I love those words, I love them; evermore put Your yoke upon me, dear Lord, I come to you, and I bow and yield my neck.

And you? Ready to take the risk now for the first time?

Or like me, persistently take it again?

Through The Channel Of Troubles

My purpose in this blog entry, which is much longer than usual, is not so much to get into the why’s and wherefore’s of the pandemic that now has its grip on our world, but to show the provision and wondrous opportunity God has given us in the midst of it.

But just briefly to start, two or three have asked my view on the present pandemic: is it a judgment of God or purely satanic, the work of the Devil? I’ve heard prophecies claiming both, but I take to heart Paul’s exhortation that, while we are not to despise prophesyings (and I don’t) we are to “prove all things,” and “hold fast that which is good” (1 Thes. 5:20,21). Therefore, not having the witness of the Spirit nor of the Scriptures as to these prophecies, I am not holding them fast, for I have not found them good. In fact I have to say I’m weary with most of what passes for prophecy these days. For one thing, did any of our popular prophets see this coming? I wonder that it is not a cause of deep embarrassment to our “prophets” that they are so “out to sea” concerning such events. Where are those like Agabus of old, who prophesied of a coming famine “throughout all the world,” which, amazingly, actually “came to pass…” (Acts 11:28).

I haven’t been graced with the gift of prophecy, so, seeking to be careful not to go beyond my measure, here is my view, guided, I believe, by the Spirit, and based on the Scriptures.

We live in a broken world, in an evil world, “this present evil world,” as the King James Version translates Paul’s introductory words to the Galatian churches. However, the word “world” here is not the usual kosmos, but aionos, which other versions translate “age.” So right at the start we have a promise. It is an evil age we live in, but it is only an age; one day this evil age will come to an end. Meanwhile we find ourselves in it—and need to be rescued from it. Here is the Galatians passage from Young’s Literal Translation:

Grace to you, and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ,
who did give himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of the present evil age, according to the will of God even our Father,
to whom is the glory to the ages of the ages. Amen. (Gal. 1:3-5 YLT)

The word “delivered” is actually much stronger—rescued translates it better, as the New English Translation has it: “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father…”

Now, all throughout the history of this present evil age, evils great and small have abounded. What is the cause? It all began when “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin…” (Rom. 5:12).

There, that one word sin, that is the root of the problem, and Satan certainly had a hand in that. “Sin entered into the world…” In a heavenly realm Satan himself was its originator, he exported it to Adam, who wilfully imported it; and now all those in Adam sin, the result of which is “this present evil age.” Satan and his “principalities and powers” in the heavenlies are now “the rulers of the darkness of this world [again, the word there is age]” (Eph. 6:12). What a grievous ruin it all is—that the creature God made in His own image and likeness, and who was to have dominion over His whole creation, should now be so ruled, the willing and obedient slave of sin in a domain of darkness ruled by evil angels.

But God was not finished with man, and, long story short, rescued him with the one and only Answer to the ruin of man, the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. This present evil world is the result of ignorance of that Answer, or open resistance to Him; it is man’s own attempt to continue in his sins and at the same time save himself from their consequences. It is a world that God will yet bring completely to naught, according to His promise, and I believe we are seeing a further unfolding of this before our eyes.

Now, evil diseases are one of the consequences of original sin. But setting aside the question of just exactly how the caronavirus Covid-19 arose, it is plain as day that God is working in what had now become a pandemic to shake man’s inveterate confidence in himself and his own resources. The pandemic has turned into a major shaking of our world, especially of the economies of many nations. The confidence of multitudes is being shaken severely, and the worshippers of Mammon… are our own hearts broken as God’s heart is broken by those who love and worship Mammon instead of the God who loves them?… the worshippers of Mammon, those who make Mammon their confidence, are now reeling with the aftershocks, scrambling to find something to hang on to. I see that in the news. Closer to home certain people dear to me, I wonder if I don’t hear them thinking, “What’s happening, my world isn’t what I thought it was.” Hopefully this is what many are beginning to do, rethinking a “worldview” which more or less excludes the true God; hopefully they are opening to a willingness to replace that worldview with one that not only includes but centres on Him, on the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ… whose arms are open to embrace them and whose hand is extended to rescue all who reach out to Him.

Rescued from… rescued to…

Again, setting aside the question as to the particular origin of this pandemic, here we find ourselves in the midst of it. What are we to do? What is our hope in the midst of it?

If we who already are His disciples have been rescued from this present evil age, what have we been rescued to? Paul in the Romans 5 passage shows that sin and death entering the world brought about the reign, the kingdom, of sin and death. “Death reigned… sin reigned…” (See Romans 5:11-21.)

That is the bad news—the kingdom from which we have been rescued. But there is Good News. God by His Son has brought in an entirely different kingdom of righteousness and life. This is the word that He gave us from the beginning—from the mouth of John the Baptist, from the mouth of Jesus the Christ, and from the mouth of the apostles in the Acts. Let’s trace it.

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
And saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand [is nigh]. (Mt. 3:1,2)

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel. (Mk. 1:15)

Jesus when He rose from the dead continued to speak of this kingdom to His apostles:

…To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God… (Acts 1:3)

After they received the Spirit they too continued to proclaim this gospel of the kingdom, as we discover all through The Acts:

But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (Act 8:12)

And he [Paul] went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8)

And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. (Acts 20:25)

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him. (Act 20:38,31).

(There are many similar references in The Acts.)

So, we have been delivered from a kingdom, and delivered to a kingdom. This is the gospel that Paul and no doubt the other apostles proclaimed wherever they went. Considering our present world situation, here is a verse of particular interest. Paul and Barnabas having reached the end of their missionary journey began to retrace their steps, visiting again the churches they had established:

Confirming [establishing] the souls of the disciples, exhorting to remain in the faith, and that through many tribulations it behoveth us to enter into the reign of God… (Acts 14:22 YLT).

Note again the emphasis on the kingdom of God—with this further emphasis, that it is through many tribulations this kingdom must be, yes, entered. “Through” is the Greek dia, which Strong’s defines as “a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act.” I like that. In my mind’s eye I see a ship heading out of open water into a channel, a strait, which will take it not away from, but to its desired haven. Even so, says Paul, it is through the channel of troubles that we must sail to enter the kingdom of God. The natural inclination of the earthly man is to shrink back from troubles; perhaps that would also be the inclination of believers green behind the ears, so Paul sought to help these new disciples become established souls who would not be overthrown and draw back when imminent troubles came upon them, but rather would continue steadfast in “the faith,” for it was through those very troubles that “we must—it behoves us to, it is necessary, needful to—enter the kingdom of God.”

What is the kingdom of God?

Just what is the kingdom of God? It is the reign of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom.14:17). Back again to the Romans 5 passage: it is the reign of life (Rom. 5:17). It is the reign of grace (Rom. 5:21). Distilled to its essence it is the reign of God—and that in the midst of and through and many troubles.

And how is one introduced into the kingdom of God? Initially by repenting of that deeply ingrained insistence on sitting upon the throne of our lives ourselves, and leaving God out—that is called sin—and by believing the Gospel of the kingdom of God with a willingness to give the King of this kingdom His rightful place in our lives. We read of this King and His kingdom in the familiar and beautiful passage in Isaiah:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder… 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 justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever (Isa. 9:6,7).

Wonderful! Good News! The government upon His shoulder!

Ah, but the truly wonderful Good News is that by His Spirit, the government upon His shoulder is within us; that very rule of God and His Christ is in our hearts! THAT is the kingdom of God, which John the Baptist announced, and the time of the inauguration of which Jesus proclaimed was fulfilled, and which the apostles after Pentecost proclaimed had arrived. They were now in that kingdom. For, by His Spirit those in Christ are “raised up together, and seated [enthroned] together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:6).

Since that is so, is there not a two-part question that arises?

The first part. Were not these disciples Paul was exhorting already in the kingdom of God? Had they not earlier heard the Gospel, repented, believed in Jesus, and received the Spirit of God? Yes they were; Jesus Himself tells us that those born of water and the Spirit “enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). Also this in Paul’s words to the Colossian church. God has:

…Delivered [same word, rescued] us from the power [the authority] of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love… (Col. 1:13).

The second part. If God has done that, how then can Paul be exhorting the disciples that we must through many troubles or hardships enter the kingdom of God? What can this mean if they were already in the kingdom of God? But this is a pattern we find elsewhere in the Scriptures, and in Paul’s own life. He himself was in the kingdom of God as he went about proclaiming it. For on one occasion he warned the Corinthians that his coming to them might make some of them unhappy, for “the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20). Yet some years later as he shared with Timothy the evils that had come upon him, he assured him that “the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18). Encouraging words for you and I as well. Again, do not those who believe in Jesus have eternal life (Jn. 3:16)? Yes, they do, and yet Paul exhorted Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life…” (1 Tim. 6:12). In like manner Paul exhorted the early disciples who were in the kingdom of God to enter the kingdom of God through many troubles.

Let this be our pattern as well, who by the Spirit of God and new birth have been introduced into His kingdom. Let us “continue in the faith,” let us go through the Channel of Troubles, and what we now know by faith we shall prove more and more fully—the reality of the wondrous kingdom of God. We may, and must, through all troubles great and small, near and far, enter this kingdom, a kingdom that cannot be shaken, a kingdom that is above all as its King is above all, whether men or angels…

…Remembering always that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of priests. Let us therefore continue to come boldly to the throne of empowering grace on the behalf of those in our world around us; they deeply need to see in their midst people who like themselves are in the midst of troubles yet are not troubled, are not shaken, and enquire why that is so, and, in becoming aware of the reality of a different kingdom, may turn and enter it themselves.

Faithfulness As A Mystery Unfolds

Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect [mature]: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:6-8).

I wonder that they did not know. Did they not know the story of Joseph?

In the honour roll of faith the writer of Hebrews, while he does not make specific mention of Joseph’s ordeal of faith, he does make note of those who “had trial… of bonds and imprisonment” and “were tempted.” Certainly that includes Joseph. What he records specifically of Joseph is that it was by faith that he commanded the Israelites to be sure to take his bones with them to the land of promise when God delivered them from Egypt. They did this, after long delay finally laying those bones to rest “in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor…” (Josh. 24:32).

That’s quite something when you think of it. The many times they murmured and complained and doubted God in the wilderness—especially when they concluded in unbelief that entering and taking the land was impossible, utterly beyond their ability—they needed only to take a walk to wherever Joseph’s bones were being kept to remind themselves of the faithfulness of God. It was He who had brought them out. It was He who would bring them in.

When Joseph gave this commandment he knew by personal experience the faithfulness of the God in whom he had trusted when year after long year his own circumstances were more a testimony to the failure of the promises of God than of His faithfulness.

I never tire of reading the story. God had given Joseph two dreams, the first in which his brothers’ sheaves were bowing down to his sheaf. What a dream! How could he not help but share something so glorious with his brethren? They got the interpretation immediately. “Shalt thou indeed reign over us? Or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?” They already hated him because of their father’s special love for him, but now they hated him all the more “for his dreams and for his words.” Then he had a second dream which along with his brothers he told his father. “The sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.” His father rebuked him. “Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” Nevertheless, “his father observed the saying.” But now his brothers added something more to their hatred. They’d begun to feel there could be something to this. So now they “envied him.”

And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt… (Acts 7:9).

Their motive was, “and we shall see what will become of his dreams” (Gen. 37:20).

We know what became of his dreams, we who have read the story, and it’s impossible to read the story without tears in your eyes. The hour came when all his brethren were bowing before him—the very thing they had conspired to prevent—just as the faithful God had shown him in the dreams.

God was with him

Let me quote more fully that verse from Acts.

And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt; but God was with him…

In Potiphar’s house, God was with him. Later in prison, God was with him. In what sense? It doesn’t appear that God ever sent someone to give Joseph a word of prophecy, or ever whispered in his ear, “Don’t worry Joseph, you’re going to end up on the throne of Egypt some day and those dreams will come true.” No, in this God was silent. Yet God was with him. As Joseph went about his daily routine as a faithful slave he was aware that a familiar Presence was still with him. What did it all mean, then? What was it all about? What about those dreams, Lord? In low times they were more a torment to him than a fond hope. But he would go to prayer, and the Presence would be with him, and with it an awareness, then, that somehow, in spite of all this that has happened—it’s all so unjust, Lord—yet, You are with me still. I don’t understand… but please help me to be faithful to You.

The psalmist gives us insight into what God did not disclose to Joseph—that one day God would send Joseph’s brethren to Egypt as well—an ordeal that for them would be utterly devastating, as it had been for Joseph—and that He was preparing Joseph in advance for that very thing:

He [God] sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant [a bondslave];
Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron:
Until the time that his word came, the word of the LORD tried him (Ps. 105:17,18).

The iron fetters entered into his very soul, as the original implies. But what I find so moving is that God wanted to include in Scripture that Joseph’s feet were hurt with fetters. The tender-hearted God took note of that. How could He not? He “was with him.” As if He were saying, “I know all that you’re going through, beloved Joseph—even to the point of feeling the hurt of your feet in the fetters.”

And so through it all, the word God had given Joseph in dreams tried him, purified him. Come on, Joseph, give it all up, God has forgotten you and your dreams, and life is too short. Enjoy yourself. Instead he turned and fled. There was something more important to him than those dreams of glory. That “something” kept him when he was sorely tempted. If the dreams had vanished like a mirage in the desert, his God was still with him, and his love for his God kept him. He would not sin against his God. He remained faithful. It cost him dearly, he was framed for his faithfulness, ended up in prison. Yet even in prison he continued to serve faithfully without bitterness toward God, without resentment toward those near and far who had treated him so unjustly, and without nursing his hurt with thoughts of self pity… or of revenge. He came forth from his trials with a certain something which made God’s heart swell. Proven character. Joseph may have been laid in iron but he came forth as gold.

And the dreams?

Somewhere along the way Joseph had given them back to God for His safekeeping, and had forgotten about them. The day came when the faithful God gave the dreams back to Joseph again—fulfilled.

…And Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth…. And Joseph remembered the dreams… (Gen. 42:6,9).

Who remembered? God had never forgotten those long-ago dreams, but Joseph apparently had.

It is beautiful to see the way God with sovereign genius unfolded His faithfulness to Joseph. It is also, oh, so beautiful, that all along the way Joseph had remained faithful to God when, as far as he knew, there was nothing in it for him. He did so out of love for God. Even so with our Lord Jesus Christ. For those with eyes to see, it was in the cross that the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ shone forth—His love for the Father, His commitment to do His will come what may, a devotion that meant the cross for Him. It is a beauty beyond compare, to God a “fragrance of rest.” It is Jesus’ reflection, the beauty of the Lord, we see in Joseph’s life in the days of his captivity. Joseph sought to do God’s will, to obey Him, in all things to please Him, though it mean what those in a distant day would call taking up his cross.

Where did that lead him?

Where did it lead our Lord?

Where shall it lead you and me? May we ever remember in our own trials that whatever promises may linger unfulfilled, the faithful God is involving us in an unfolding mystery which His enemies do not understand, but which all too often we ourselves do not understand. In such times let us abide faithful. While the mystery unfolds, God is seeking to cultivate unto Himself the beauty of the Lord in our lives—trusting obedience to His will, endurance, patience, meekness, faith, all the while learning from the lowly Jesus the yoke of His rest… God has not forgotten the promises, nor ever will. And so, however contrary to the promises of God our circumstances may seem to be, let us seek to please Him in all things, and take up our own cross, whatever that may involve for you or for me. It is by that very cross that the faithful God means to fulfill the promises He has given, and prepare us for the glory that is to come.

It was by way of the prison in Egypt that the unjustly treated and falsely accused slave Joseph came to the throne. It was by way of the cross of Golgotha that the unjustly treated and falsely accused bondslave Jesus came to the throne, the very thing the princes of this world had conspired to prevent.

May we ever be mindful of this mystery of the cross—which God has ordained, yes, unto our glory—and continue faithful to Him who is faithful. We may safely commit to Him the “dreams” He has given us. He will not forget them. Meanwhile He is lovingly working in our lives, and anticipates something precious coming forth.

Love Not The World

Here is a passage of Scripture I put on Facebook on Super Bowl Sunday, making no further comment because I intended to do so later in a blog entry.

To whom it may concern:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust thereof, but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

Here now is that blog entry.

First, how is “the world” to be defined?

John spells it out plainly enough; can we make it even more simple? It is what “the world” loves—the world of those who know not God—that is “the world.”

Now let me cut to the chase. If the Super Bowl is not “the world” I have no idea what “the world” is. Something like 170 million TV viewers and live streamers watched the Super Bowl (but compare that with the 3.5 billion who watched the Word Cup last year). My point is that the Super Bowl was a great table spread for the lust of the flesh and of the eyes and the pride of this life, and multitudes sat down for the feed. Does it not, then, number among those things that the apostle John has in mind when he calls disciples of Christ to not love the world?

I have no idea how much money was involved in this; I make no mention of the kind of money the players make; I need not labour that to any sensitive conscience that knows Christ’s teaching on the service of God and Mammon. I did see that advertisers paid $5.6 million for a 30-second Super Bowl ad. Bookies and gamblers made and lost fortunes on the game. Apart from the game itself, one Christian social media commenter called the half-time presentation “The Sodom and Gomorrah Show” and shut his TV off. (Then why even take in the game, I ask?) Another, a woman with growing daughters, commented, “No wonder the Moslems hate us.”

Those “of the world,” of course, will do what they will do, and God will judge them for it. What concerns me is that the Church of God which He has sanctified out of the world must have nothing to do with the things that those in the world pursue—and we ought to be judging ourselves concerning these things lest we be condemned with the world. Yet in many churches this does not seem to be taking place. I am aware that both in Canada and the United States many genuine brothers and sisters in Christ sat down to their own feastings and watch parties. Can we not see how discordant it is for disciples of the cross of Jesus Christ to be involved in something like that? I ask the question sorrowing, very aware that many apparently do not see it. Why the blindness?

Beloved, we are going to have to go further than this if we are going to see the testimony of Jesus Christ shining forth in our churches. We are to be characterized by the love of the Father, not the love of the world.

I think often of the Great Awakening in Wales in 1904-06. Wales too was a country preoccupied with football, but in the days of that awakening they could not scrape up enough men to form a football team; no one was interested in sports. Drama troupes were advised that to tour Wales would mean financial ruin; no one was interested in entertainment. They were all consumed with an incomparable love. We still sing about it, don’t we. The love song of the revival. But is that all it is to us—a moving song that evokes in us a wistful yearning?

Or… are we doing the will of God?

That’s what John brings this down to. The world with its desires is passing away, and with it those who pursue those desires. It is the one who does the will of God who abides forever—even though that will lead him or her in the way of fellowship with One whose love for the Father’s will was revealed “on the mount of crucifixion.”

That One “shall never be forgotten throughout Heaven’s eternal days.”

Am I coming across the way I hope? It is with regard to our love that we need so deep, so deep, a heart searching. What will it be, beloved? The love of the world? Or the will of God. The love of the world? Or the Father’s love—and the cross that comes our way in a world at perpetual enmity with Him. That is what doing His will inevitably brings upon us.

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