Matthew the Publican





Rowland V. Bingham.




My acquaintance with Matthew seems to drop into three epochs.



The First Epoch



The first thing I did following my conversion was to buy myself a good teacher’s Bible.  I had no one to guide me, and so knelt by my bedside and opened the book at the New Testament.  There I met Matthew, and he told me of One Who was named Jesus because He came to save His people from their sins.  And I did not doubt that I was one of those whom He came to save.



When Matthew pictured Him, following John the Baptist, and announcing the Kingdom of heaven as at hand, I read on and saw Him preaching the kingdom as already come and almost declaring, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  I was so broken that I felt I had received this blessing.



When I read on, Enter ye in at the strait gate,” not only did I come that way, but soon found myself trying to get others in by the same narrow gateway, and not without some success.



When Matthew presented Christ preaching, Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon the rock,” I sought to hear and do these words of Christ, and there came the assurance that I was building on the Rock.



And when under the urge of this Gospel I was moved to confess Christ before men, and preach Him to men, I went to Matthew to find the most moving messages of warning and entreaty.  In all language there is no more tender appeal than that contained in the sweet invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heave laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11: 28).  And it worked, for men and women responded to it and were gloriously saved.  They came in by the strait gate into the kingdom which I preached.


[* NOTE.  The “rest” here is that which Christ Jesus gives to all His regenerate people at the time of their initial salvation by faith; and it is based upon His finished work.  This “rest” has nothing whatsoever to do with a Christian’s work after receiving eternal salvation. 


But, there is also mention of “a sabbath rest for the people of God” which is an entirely different rest.”  This is a “rest,” which regenerate believers should “give diligence to enter intoHeb. 4: 9, 11, R.V.): and it is something yet future - at the “salvation of souls” (verse 9)! 


We dare not confuse these two different periods of “rest”!  The former is given to all Christians: it is eternal.  It is given immediately after asking Jesus Christ to be one’s personal Saviour; and it cannot be lost.  But, the latter “rest” may be lost (for it is millennial): and is dependant upon the behaviour of some!]



Yet the time came when I met those who protested that Matthew was not written for sinners or saints, but for the Jews.  It was Jewish, and had no practical application to the Church.  To use it as containing the Gospel for sinners, or its precepts as obligatory for saints, evidenced a serious lack of knowledge of the Scriptures.



The Second Epoch



It was this second period that a unique opportunity came to me.  A very godly, cultured minister invited me to his home to study, undertaking to give me daily instruction in the Scriptures and to guide me further in my studies.  His life of faith and prayer was a benediction to me as a young man, and the whole experience meant more to me than a seminary course.



His daily expositions of the Scriptures were wonderfully rich.  And following an hour’s exegesis he outlined my studies for the day.  He introduced me to Hodge’s Theology with its strong Calvinism, and then placed in my hands books by the Brethren, and I was soon revelling in the writings of C.H.M. with their typology of Pentateuch; also in Kelly on the Revelation.



Having never listened to a single address on the Second Coming of Christ, I at once become infatuated with prophetic study.  Had I been warned against systems of prophetic interpretation, and directed to the text of Scripture itself, I should have been saved much.



But I heard the constant repetition of the term “dispensational” interpretation of the Bible, and under this big word I had soon swallowed its whole method of dividing Biblical history into what were termed seven dispensations, in all of which God adopted a different method of dealing with the human race.  Had they been just a succession of the great events of history, which by their outstanding importance gave a milestone mark through the process of time, little harm might have been done.  Or had it divided history, as the Bible itself does, into Old and New Testament periods, in which God was dealing with the race under the Old and New Covenants respectively, no exception could be taken to such a division.



But gradually I found this method robbing me of more and more of the New Covenant heritage.  First, Matthew was Jewish, and its commission even belonged to the Jewish converts of the tribulation period.  Then the other two Synoptic Gospels were soon following in a similar classification.  With others, John’s Gospel followed suit; and ere the process was complete, I was informed at last that the Pauline Epistles alone contained “Church truth,” and that the Pauline Gospel was the only Gospel for today.  The Epistle to the Hebrews and the General Epistles of James and Peter contained Jewish, not Church truth.



Not all these teachers go to the full extreme thus referred to, and commonly classed as Bullingerism, but it is difficult to find a stopping place en route when once the principles of interpretation are admitted.



All of these teachers are strong in their affirmation of believing in the whole Bible, and inveigh against Modernism, but by a subtle process, which they commonly refer to as “rightly dividing the word of truth” (although an entirely wrong application of 2 Timothy 2: 15, in which Paul had no thought of such divisions), they rob the soul of large portions of Holy Writ - they may no longer be applied to those personal needs by which the believer is sanctified through the truth.



As to Matthew, there would be quite general assent among these teachers to the following summary:



1.    The Gospel of Matthew is peculiarly Jewish and contains the Gospel for Jews.



2.    That it sets forth Christ as being heir to the throne of David, King of the Jews, and that He came [at that time] to present Himself to them as such, and ready, if accepted, to set up that kingdom.



3.    That it was this kingdom that was primarily proclaimed as at hand.



4.    That when the Jews refused Him, the kingdom announced was suspended, to be proclaimed anew after the Church Age is complete.



5.    That “the Gospel of the kingdom” has to do with that kingdom, and therefore has no place in the present Church Age, but will be proclaimed by Jews converted subsequent to the translation of the Church.



6.    That the ethics of this book are the laws of the kingdom, and are no standard for the Church - that they express Law and not Grace.



7.    That the eschatology or prophetic part of Matthew pertains also to the period after the Church is translated.  That the Church has nothing to do with the signs given; she has but to watch momentarily for her Lord’s return.  To use the expression we have often heard these teachers use, “When Israel was set aside, the prophetic clock stopped.”



8.    That the great commission with which this Gospel concludes is intended not for the Church but will be taken up and preached after the church is translated by a very convenient and much used “group” commonly referred to as “the Jewish remnant.”



The reiteration of these propositions by such great and godly men whose names are known and beloved by the whole Church, many of whom personally known and loved by me, had made their impression upon me and the second period of my life was largely dominated by this interpretation - although my deep missionary call under the terms of the great commission kept me from their final conclusion given above.



The Third Epoch



Then there came a sudden revelation which led to a revolution and an emancipation.  And it all happened in a day, although there had been introductory premonitions.  There were misgivings at some of the unnatural forced interpretations necessary in order to make every Scripture fit in to what I conceived to be its proper place in my dispensational chart.  The tribulation period took care of a good many of the misfit passages, and was a great convenience.



My wife set the investigating machinery going one day by saying, “Rowland, where do you get the Secret Rapture idea in the Bible?  I have to teach the Second Coming to my class of young women on Sunday, and I have been hunting for some proof of the Secret Rapture.”  I quite glibly replied “1 Thessalonians 4.”  But,” said she, “I have been reading that and it is about the noisiest thing I can find in my Bible - ‘The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God.’  When you have a wife who cannot be bluffed, and who sees the camouflage when an excuse is put out instead of a reason, a lot of trouble can be made by presenting a very artless question.  The weeks that followed that innocent query and the trouble into which it landed me is a separate story.  If you hold the theory [of one rapture only] - a Secret rapture of the [whole] Church [irrespective of one’s personal watchfulness and being “accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21: 36, A.V.)], try out that simple question on yourself.



But you may not have someone who holds your theories on the defence until you prove them.  I tried a second thrust be suggesting that there was the type of Enoch being secretly translated while Noah went through the judgment, to which there came the counter blow that knocked me out of the ring as she said “You know, Rowland, that you cannot build a doctrine on a type.”*


[* But, the Apostle Paul’s teachings and warnings to Christians were built on types!  Read 1 Corinthians 10: 6: “These things but Types of us were made, in order that we might not be lusters of evil things, as even they lusted:” (translated literally from the Greek.).  The fact of the matter is that the whole of the inspired Apostle’s warnings to Christians today (relative to the loss of the “Prize”, the “Crown” and their “Inheritance” in the “Age” yet to come), are all based on Types!  It is true that we dare not teach doctrine from Hymn Books, because much of what is written in some of the hymns which we sing, are not in accordance with the teachings found written throughout the Holy Scriptures!]



Later I said to the unsatisfied wife “My teachers all affirmed that the Greek very clearly differentiates between the secret rapture of the Church and the public manifestation to the world.  The word ‘Parousia’ always indicates the rapture, while ‘Epiphanea’ always has to do with the appearing of Christ with His Church.”  I had heard those two Greek words so often adduced in evidence that it must be so.  If you can only go over a few Greek words, it suffuses mystery and creates authority.  But that help-meet of mine wanted to do what I had never done, check up on those two Greek words.  So there was nothing for it but to get out my Young’s Concordance and turn up every text in which the word “Parousia” occurred.  And it smashed the theory of the Secret Rapture* so hopelessly that I marvelled at the credulity with which I had swallowed my “authorities.”


[*NOTE. Always keep in mind: The rapture at the end of the Tribulation (when Christ returns to resurrect the holy dead, 1 Thess. 4: 16), is not a Secret Rapture - as has been shown above, by a removal of those “accounted worthy to escape:” Luke 21: 36 cf. Rev. 3: 10)! 


These saints only will be removed from earth before Antichrist’s persecutions commence!  The words “accounted worthy to escape” indicate this will be a select rapture of some, and therefore will not include all Christians!  It will take place before the rapture mentioned in 1 Thess. 4: 17 of those “that are alive, that are left” (R.V.), after having endured the fearful persecutions of the coming Antichrist!


How easy, for Satan to blind the Lord’s regenerate people to His responsibility and accountability truths shown throughout the Scriptures!  Many Christians believe in one Rapture only, and one Resurrection only unto immorality, when it is declared in God’s Word that there are two!]


But to come to my revolution by revelation in a day.  An old friend had invited me for about the twentieth time to come to help at his annual missionary conference at which I had generally given the special missionary sermon.  A little while before the conference he wired to tell me that the Bible teacher upon whom he had relied had failed him, and he would look to me for the special teaching ministry of the week.  Unwittingly, I consented.



The intervening days were so crowded with the pressure of my work that I could find no time for the special preparation needed, and the fearful morning arrived when I had to take the train for an all-day ride, with a week’s ministry staring me in the face at the end of the journey - and no message.



In sheer desperation I took out my Bible and threw myself helplessly on the Lord.  And I know the blessed illuminator, the Holy Spirit, responded.  I commenced to read in Matthew, and all day long I Read and re-read, with such an unveiling that my soul was filled to such overflowing that I wondered how I was going to find time in a week to pour out the inward wealth that was poured in that day.



But my theories were being dispelled like mists in the sunshine.  It means a great deal to have a cherished teaching of years upset in a day, and that without argument or human instrument.  As time has gone by, our future study, freed from the system of interpretation which had dominated so long, has only confirmed us in the conclusions reached that day. …



*       *       *






God give us men!  A time like this demands

Strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and ready hands.

Men whom the lust of office does not kill;

Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy:

Men who possess opinions and a will;

Men who stand before the demagogue

And scorn treacherous flatteries without winking;

Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog,

In public duty, and in private thinking.


                                                                                                                         J. G. Holland.



C. H. Spurgeon and the Millennium



There are better times coming, when the religion of Christ shall be universal; when He shall reign from pole to pole, with illimitable sway, when whole kingdoms shall bow down before Him, and nations shall be born in a day; and in the thousand years of the great millennial state there will be enough saved to make up all the deficiencies of the thousands of years that have gone before.  Christ shall be Master everywhere, and His praise shall be sounded in every land.  Christ shall have the pre-eminence at last; His train shall be far larger than that which shall attend the chariot of the grim monarch of hell:” (from C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Volume 1, page 175).