By Dr. BULLINGER.
Cursed is the ground for thy sake (Gen. 3: 17).
There shall be no more curse (Rev. 22: 3).
The words of these two texts are easily uttered and soon said, but their amazing depth and solemnity it is impossibly for us to realise, even as we cannot comprehend the fulness of their meaning. The first records the most terrible event that has ever occurred in the history of this world. The second promises the most wonderful blessing that this world has [and for one day (2 Pet. 3: 8, 9) in the not too distant future, have] ever experienced since the original blessing at Creation.
Let us dwell for a few moments on the former passage for the purpose of deepening our gratitude to Him who has gilded it with glory,* for the depth and extent of the calamity will prove the resources of the transcendent mercy which rolls it back, and leaves blessing and happiness in its place. The appalling darkness of the long and weary night, makes us wish for the day and long for its dawning and thankfulness for the hope to at is presented to us. The fact that all the efforts of moralists, all the theories of philosophers, all the plans of philanthropists, and all the efforts of churches, have entirely and utterly failed even to touch the chronic and terrible disease, should make us turn with eagerness to Gods prescription for the agonised sufferer.
[* Hab. 2: 14. For: the nations shall bless themselves in him [Messiah Jesus], and in him shall they glory: (Jer. 4: 2b, R.V.). See also Ps. 72: 19b; Isa. 35: 1, 2; 66: 18. Cf. Matt. 19: 28, etc.]
first chapter of Genesis speaks of blessing, the third chapter speaks of curse;
the very good
being changed to the solemn words of Gen. 3: 17-19. That this sentence of a righteous Judge has
taken effect, the sad record of nearly 6,000 years of the worlds history fully
proves. From the curse then pronounced,
the [restored]* creation has ever since suffered and groaned. It is indeed a fallen world; it is indeed out of course, and all inhabitants (without respect
of persons), are exposed to pain and suffering, lamentation, mourning, and woe,
death and the grave. Mankind rebelled
against God; the whole world is in revolt.
Here is at once the cause and the effect of the disaster. Sin plucked the keystone from the glorious
arch which connected
[* NOTE. The other Paradise, of which our Lord spoke, is located in Hades - the Underworld of the dead, (Luke 23: 43; Acts 2: 27, R.V.): it is Gods appointed waiting-place for the disembodied souls of the dead (Rev. 6: 9-11, R.V.), until such times (after judgment there, Heb. 9: 27), The First Resurrection must follow (Rev. 20: 4, 13, R.V.) cf. John 3: 13; 14: 3; 1 Thess. 4: 16, etc.]
There are several words translated curse in the Bible, and it is interesting to note the differences between them. (1) There is ah-lah, to swear, to bind with an oath, referring to the words: thus The words of the curse (Deut. 29: 19). The curses that are written (ch. 20: 19).
(2) Bah-rach, to kneel, to invoke; this is the common word for bless, but rendered curse in the Authorised Version in Job 1: 5, 11, and 2: 5, 9, rightly so, because this is one of the eighteen emendations of the Sopherim whereby the original Hebrew word kalal, to curse, is changed to bah-rach to bless, out of an idea of reverence. These emendations were made long before the advent of Christ, and are all indicated in the margin of ancient manuscripts.
(3) Cheh-rem, to cut off, destroy. Achan took of the cursed thing (Josh. 7: 1), i.e., took of the thing devoted to destruction.
(4) Kah-vav, to cut into, to pierce, then to pierce with words How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed? (Num. 23: 8).
(5) Kah-lal to burn, then to burn with words, thus Goliath the Philistine, and Shimei the Benjamite, cursed David. He loved cursing (Ps. 109: 17); Let them curse, but bless Thou (verse 28).
None of these is the word in the text, but ah-rar, to push aside with abhorrence, to wipe away, in that sense, to curse. Go see now this cursed woman (2 Kings 9: 34); cursed be the man that trusteth in man (Jer. 17: 5). This is the word here.
Man had revolted against God, and he was pushed aside, creation was bereft of blessing. The earth is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate, therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned and few men left (Isa. 24: 5, 6). Hence moral guilt and physical suffering have always gone together, and have characterized all generations.
War, famines, pestilence, floods, droughts, earthquakes, storms, diseases, epidemics are words of dreadful significance, and words that enter largely into the history of nations. We might enlarge on all these things, and yet have but the faintest idea of what the reality is. The groaning creation testifies to the working of the virulent poison, and then in addition to all this physical evil there is a moral evil: The whole world lieth in the wicked one. A malignant spirit of untiring evil is loose in the world, trying with malicious effort to frustrate the work of the Redeemer, to seduce man to his destruction. Society is full of his deeds, the world is full of his temples, and the majority of mankind are his willing slaves. Time would fail me to set forth the long list of moral, social, and spiritual evils. We have only to look around to see the poverty, cruelty, oppression, persecution, and suffering which fill the world with woes, and its journals with news!
But are these things to go on forever? Are eyes always to be filled with tears? Are friendships always to be severed, and relations always to be bereaved? Are orphans always to be fatherless and widows desolate? So far as man is concerned, it seems so! He has as yet given no hope of remedying his own evil nature, still less the physical evils of creation! There are dark problems at every step which science has no power to solve, difficulties which no human intellect cannot remove, thick clouds which man is wholly unable to disperse; and so the disciple of Christ cries out with the prophet Daniel, What shall be the end of these things?
We look for some Divine assurance that order shall supersede this terrible chaos, that harmony shall take the place of this horrible discord. Thank God the pledge of this was given in the same breath in which the curse was pronounced, in the promise and prophecy of Gen. 3: 15. I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. In this verse lies all the rest of the Bible; the Prophets, the Gospels, and the Apocalypse. In due time the first part of the promise was fulfilled, The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1: 14).
whole of the work of the Blessed One may be summed up in one word, REDEMPTION. The present redemption of His people by precious blood, the future
redemption of the purchased possession by Almighty power and tremendous
judgments. The first is already
accomplished, for His people are justified from all things, passed from death
unto life, crucified with Christ, risen with
Christ, seated in the heavenlies with Christ, made sons of God and joint heirs with Christ; [if so be
that we suffer with him, that we may be also
glorified with him, (Rom. 8: 17b, R.V.).]*
They are chosen and called out of the world during the present period of
long-suffering, while the Lord is absent waiting for His return. The removal of the curse from the world is a
work which the Church cannot do, and which therefore she is neither expected,
nor asked, nor commanded to do.
[* See chapters 1, 26-28 on Accountability Truths in J. D. Fausts book The Rod Will God Spare It? pp. 1-10 and 289-384.]
It is strange that a work requiring the exercise of judical authority and judgment should ever have beened deemed possible by the Church. The nature of the Church, called out from the world; its constitution, which is special in character; its true place in the purposes of God all these must have been lost sight of before the thought could ever have arisen that ecclesiastical influence or human agency could rescue apostate humanity, convert the revolted world, put all enemies under the feet of Christ. Surely it is clear that no diffusion of Christianity could ever remove the curse. Why, the holiest among men have had no immunity from sorrow and suffering. No extent of holiness over the world, no intensity of devotion to Christ, could deliver from bodily pain, decay. And death. No state of spirituality, however high, could turn the desert into a fruitful field. IF WE COULD ALL BE PERFECT, it would not purify the pestilential air, extract the malaria from the soil, tame the savage beast, and make the poisonous adder a harmless plaything for a little child, and crush the head of the great enemy under our feet. It is not in the nature of personal piety to cause the fig-tree to come up instead of the thorn, or the myrtle instead of the briar. The agency must correspond with the nature of the work to be done, and there is no correspondence between the belief of the Gospel [of the kingdom] and the performance of those physical marvels which must be wrought to remove the curse from the earth, although intelligent human enterprise may to a limited extent do something in that direction.
But we are told [today by all Anti-millennialists] that these predictions are to be understood in a spiritual sense. That is exactly what the Jews said of old as to the other class of prophecies which promised the other part of Gen. 3: 15 - the bruising of Christs heel, the sufferings of Christ. The Jews explained away by this means the prophecies of Messiahs sufferings, and [the vast majority of] Christians today explain away the [salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1: 5, R.V.) and the] prophecies of the Glory that should follow. The Jew thought he honoured the promised King by refusing to believe He would come in humiliation; the [regenerate] Christian thinks he honours his Redeemer by refusing to believe that the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of David, and reign over [and upon] this world. In the former case the Word of God was made of none effect by a false imagination; in the latter by a false canon of interpretation; in both cases the Word od made subordinate to human reason. The eye of the Jew was so dazzled by the coming Glory that he would not hear of atoning death. The eye of the Christian is so fixed on Gethsemane and Calvary that he will not hear of a victorious King reigning on Mount Zion [in the Holy Land] and ruling with a rod of iron.*
[* See Ps. 110: 2, 3, and compare with Ps. 72.]
portion of [Gods prophetical] truth
separated from the rest was the cause of
Let Messiah come, said the Jew, and He will subdue the world under our feet. And so the [unbelieving*] Christian to-day, and we will bring the world under His feet. And so the Christian is every whit as unbelieving as one whom he speaks as the unbelieving Jew. We must therefore reject this mythical spiritualizing [of Gods unfulfilled prophecies] of Scripture with all our might. It misled the Jew, and it is a well without water, a mirage in the desert. It robs the Jew of the land of his fathers, the Christians of the Blessed Hope, the Prophets of ordinary intelligence; and the sleeping saints of a joyful resurrection at [the time of] Christs coming. It robs Jesus Christ of His crown of glory [and of His promised inheritance (Ps. 2: 8)] where He was crowned with thorns, and the Father of the fulfilment of His promises; and finally it robs [this groaning] creation of the blessed time of beauty and fertility, when Amos 9: 13-15, and Isaiah 35: 1, 2, shall be fulfilled.
[* NOTE:- the god of this age hath blinded the minds of the UNBELIEVING, that the light of the gospel OF THE GLORY of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them (2 Cor. 4: 4b, R.V.).]
Scriptures of the New Testament are plain and clear; the world will be no
better until [Messiah Jesus] the King
comes: As it was
in the days of Noah
in the days of
Let us therefore no longer deceive ourselves with vain hopes. Remember the story of the Transfiguration. The disciples [at the foot of the Mount] could not cast out the demon until the Lord came down from the Mount of Glory, and we cannot cast out the demons from the world until the Lord of Glory descends. Let us no longer vainly imagine that the renovation of a fallen world will be effected by human instrumentality. Let us engage heartily in missionary work and in the diffusion of truth, but let us do it intelligently, not with a vain hope of subduing a revolted world, but with the sure and certain hope of making ready a people for the Lord, by calling out sinners from all nations to form the Church and Body of Christ.
This work will succeed. This will not burden us with undue anxiety of which we have no business with: or responsibility which we ought not to bear. We have exceeding great and precious promises: Beloved, now are we children of God; and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is. And every one that hath this hope set on him purifieth himself, even as he is pure (1 John 3: 2, 3, [R.V.]) and also Rom. 8: [17b],19-23). Great, sublime, amazing words! Let there be light, was the glorious command of [this restored] creation. Cursed be the ground, etc., was the solemn judgment of the Fall! It is finished, was the [Lords] gracious assurance of accomplished redemption; but these words of the Holy Spirit - [describing A new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21: 1), after the Millennium, when the HEAVENS shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the EARTH and the works that are within shall be burned up (2 Pet. 3: 10).] - are the Crown of all, AND THERE SHALL BE NO MORE CURSE. Here we bow our heads and worship. No more curse! Everlasting stability in purity, in righteousness, in life and in glory. Redemption completed. The counsels of eternity developed in might, majesty and splendour before which our hearts are overwhelmed! In its subduing power it touches the grave [empties Hades (Rev. 20: 13)], and the [remaining] dead arise; it touches the curse and it gives place to wonderous [and everlasting] blessing.
For us to have any part in [all] those blessings, the curse must be removed from our hearts now. The awful effects of the curse are now upon our hearts, our natural heart is enmity against God. By nature we prefer the brief pleasures of sin to the [attaining a share in Messiahs blessings and rewards during the age yet to come (Phil. 3: 11; Luke 20: 35, 36; Rev. 22: 12), as well as the] eternal glories of the new heavens and the new earth: we prefer the curse as our portion. Oh what a solemn fact! No wonder it requires the same power applied to our hearts to quicken them as that which [energised the Lords Apostles and] raised up Christ from the dead, [Gk. out of dead ones] the mighty power of God (Eph. 1: 18, 19, 21, [R.V.]).