Messiah’s Kingdom Coming
on the Earth
A Reply to the Mystic Interpretation
by JAMES PAYNE
1. A Review of a series of 24 articles by Dr. John Wilmot
2. A Review of The Interpretation of Prophecy by Dr. Patrick Fairbairn,
re-published by the Banner of Truth Trust. [8 pages]
3. Some difficulties elucidated. [8 pages]
A Review of a series of Prophetic Studies by Dr. John Wilmot,
published in the
IT is with much hesitation that I undertake this Review because I have profited much in the past through Dr. Wilmot’s ministry on prophetic subjects.
Wilmot confuses “literal” with “natural”. He
regards these as synonymous which they are not.
Literal and spiritual are not antitheses as the Doctor seems to
think. The antithesis of “spiritual” is “natural” as Paul
makes clear in 1 Cor. 15, but the
antithesis of “literal” is “figurative”.
The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ was a literal birth but it was not a natural birth. His resurrection was a literal resurrection but it was not natural. Our own resurrection will be a literal one but no resurrection is natural. The Dr. tends to scorn those who suggest that God’s literal is spiritual. The modernist makes the same confusion and claims that Christ’s was a spiritual resurrection and therefore not literal but the fact is that it was both.
God’s literal is spiritual
Again the author confuses application with fulfilment. He speaks of Micah 7 as a fulfilment of Exodus 12 but it cannot be so unless Exodus 12 was either a vision or an allegory. Micah makes application of literal history to God’s dealings with his people in a spiritual realm. And God’s planning of the history for this purpose does not alter the fact. Dr. Wilmot seems to suggest that all Old Testament history was natural and all New Testament teaching spiritual and that the Old Testament history was written for the sake of the Church in the New Testament. But what about the “Church in the wilderness”? Did not God deal spiritually with them? Abraham “saw Christ’s day” and rejoiced. And if Abraham saw it, are we not warranted to believe that many other Old Testament saints saw it also; e.g., Jacob, Moses, David? The children of faith in the Old Testament saw in the literal history, the foreshadowment of the truths of Redemption and Substitution. So again, God’s literal was spiritual - to them.
Because Old Testament history foreshadowed New Testament doctrine, the author seems to suggest that Old Testament prophecy has no other purpose than to set forth spiritual teaching and has no literal significance at all. And he suggests that the one case is analogous to the other. But the analogy completely breaks down. In the one case there is type and antitype and in the other antitype only and the type does not in fact exist!
The history was certainly a record of literal and earthly happenings illustrative of Gospel doctrine. And, by analogy, the Old Testament prophecy (which is but history written beforehand) is a foretelling of literal and earthly happenings also illustrative of Gospel and heavenly doctrine. This surely is the true analogy.
fulfilled prophecy has been fulfilled with literal exactitude. When God said that His people should be
redeemed after 430 years of sojourning, He brought them out from
Wilmot deals with Acts 3: 17-26 as a
principal plank in his argument but Peter’s words are perfectly plain if they
are not misconstrued. He is speaking to
the men of
In order to support his contention the Doctor makes “until” meaning “during” without any reason or warrant. Peter’s meaning, however, seems clearly to be that God will send Jesus Christ at the appointed time and in the meantime repentance and forgiveness of sins will being times of refreshing from His presence.
in verse 26 the author puts an entirely
wrong meaning on the expression “raised up”. But there is no doubt about the meaning in verse 22 and surely in the same context it means the same thing. As God raised up
Moses, so He raised up Jesus Christ and sent Him first to
Covenant Promises to Abraham
said to Abraham when he was a stranger in the
“As well may He His being quit
As break His oath or word forget.”
[*That is, ‘the whole land’ promised; but only as far as his eyes could see, - “From the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward” (Gen. 13: 14, 15, cf. Gen. 15: 7; 17: 8).]
therefore, can this promise to Abraham be fulfilled but after the [first] resurrection? If God does not fulfil His promise to
Abraham, what warrant have I to believe that He will fulfil any of His promises. If one
promise of Grace can be annulled, then they all may be. It was “to Abraham and his seed that the
promises were made”. Abraham as well as his seed must possess the
land as God promised; and as Jesus said, “Many shall come from the east and the west and shall sit down
with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the
[* See also Phil. 3: 11. cf. Luke 22: 28-30; Rev. 2: 25-29; 3: 11, 21, R.V.): all are conditional upon the believer’s works after regeneration!]
“Literal” not necessarily “Carnal”
In referring to these very promises in one of his articles, Dr. Wilmot still denies the possibility of a literal fulfilment. He also makes charges against millennialists which he must know to be incorrect in view of the fact that he himself was once one of them. In this, therefore, his criticism can scarcely be regarded as fair criticism. He says, “The obvious literalistic character of this statement would seem to refer to the earthly Canaan millennially restored, in which case it is proposed that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will receive a temporal, carnal and moral (?mortal) inheritance while they themselves will be gloriously fitted for an eternal, spiritual and immortal state”. Now, no one suggests that eternal, spiritual and immortal beings will ever enter upon a carnal inheritance. But this charge arises from the author’s confusion of terms. He supposes, as we have previously seen, that everything literal is, necessarily, carnal. But may I remind him that eternal, spiritual and immortal beings do constantly, even now, minister in this present sin-cursed world? The angels are “all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them which shall be heirs of salvation”. And they are none the less real because they are invisible. Our Lord Himself, in His immortal body [of “flesh and bones”], spent 40 days in this present world. And whether He was seen or unseen by His disciples, depended upon His sovereign will. Under the Old Testament dispensation He often visited this world and spoke to and was seen by many of His servants.
If, therefore, immortal [angelic] beings can minister here while the world is under the curse and Satan as its god, surely there is nothing so extraordinary in such beings [accompanied by immortal, resurrected saints in bodies of “flesh and blood”] ministering in the restored world with the curse removed and Satan in chains. And all will be visible then as our Lord said to Nathaniel, “Hereafter, ye shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man”.
“The Heir of the World”
Another pitfall into which Dr. Wilmot seems to have fallen in his articles is the confusion of Abraham’s fatherhood with his inheritance. He says that the many nations (or great multitude) of which Abraham was to be the father are the company of believers gathered out by grace from all nations. Yet he says that the gathering out of the same company fulfils the promise to Abraham that he should be the heir of the world. He surely cannot be both father and heir to the same company. The promise to Abraham that he should be the father of many nations was fulfilled naturally, as well as spiritually through Christ. And the promise that he should be the heir of the kosmos shall be fulfilled literally. When Christ, the Seed, reigns; Abraham, together with all God’s saints [who will be “accounted worthy”] shall reign with Him over [and upon] the earth. This is the promise to all redeemed souls [who fulfil His conditions].
the Dr. … says that Peter by reference to the Holy Nation means the Church, he
surely forgets that Peter’s epistle was written to “the sojourners of the diaspora”
and is reminding them that they are still God’s holy nation. God’s determination concerning
author says that the repeated promise to the fathers and to David is condensed
by Paul into one sentence, that God would “raise unto
The meaning of “Tabernacle”
Dr. Wilmot makes great play on the reference in Amos 9: 11, to the “tabernacle” of David and suggests that if its rebuilding is
understood literally, then the Tabernacle first erected in the wilderness and
re-erected by David must again be set up.
But he surely must know that the word sukkah
(tabernacle) used in Amos is as often translated “booth” as it is “tabernacle” and
in Job (long before the tabernacle was set up in the
wilderness) it is translated “covert”. The word has no reference whether to the
Tabernacle of Israel in the wilderness but simply refers, metaphorically, to the
dwelling place of David which was
Again, Dr. Wilmot entirely misinterprets the expression “in that day” in Amos 9: 11. Surely the meaning is that when all the rebellious sinners in the nation have perished (verse 10 - see also Zech. 13: 9) then “I will raise up, etc.”. And James in the Acts accordingly translates “in that day” as “After this I will return and built”, etc. And this, he says, is in perfect agreement with the gathering out of a people from the Gentiles in this dispensation preparatory to the gathering of the residue in the age to come.
The author’s method of expression seems almost like that of Swedenborg where everything has an esoteric meaning and scarcely anything means just what it says. In his efforts to turn the Word of God from its plain meaning he becomes so involved in the language he uses as to make it difficult at times to understand what he means at all and it is with relief that we turn back to the simplicity of the Scriptures when read in their literal and most obvious sense.
Paul Tillich says he wants to “de-literalise” the Bible. If we, therefore, de-literalise a part of it, do we not blunt it as an instrument wherewith to combat those who would de-literalise the whole.*
* B. W. Newton in Aids to Prophetic Enquiry has, as the title to ch. 2, “NO POETIC EXAGGERATION IN THE LANGUAGE OF SCRIPTURE”; moreover he resists what he calls “the non-natural” use of the meaning of words.
Rev. K. Runia, TH. D., says of Neo Gnosticism: “The theologian masters God’s Word and makes it say what he thinks. The words of the Bible are no longer allowed to have their own meaning but are just emptied of their original meaning and then re-filled with the philosophical presuppositions of man”. Is not this also the principle on which the A-millennialists deals with the Word. It is an exceedingly dangerous procedure.
“Every Word of God is Pure”
If “every word of God is pure … purified seven times” we should expect to find the words used to be the very best calculated to convey the meaning intended, as indeed they are. The Word of God is what it claims to be - a Revelation and not something entirely veiled in allegory and symbolism.
Dr. Wilmot says, “It is decreed that He (Christ) is to have the uttermost part of the earth for His possession, which is to be the ultimate achievement of His evangelical commission (Ps. 2: 8; Acts 1: 8)”. One might venture to ask the Dr. when he thinks this will be achieved. Today at least three-quarters of the world openly deny Christ’s sovereignty and this proportion is increasing, not decreasing.
dealing with the Olive Tree in Romans
11, the Dr. seems to forget that the Tree
a vain effort to show that Messiah is not and never will be any more to Israel
than to the rest of mankind the author quotes the Scriptures, “The desire of all nations
shall come” and “all nations shall call Him
blessed”, and implies that these
Scriptures are fulfilled in the Gospel ministry in this age. But Jesus Christ is not and never yet has
been “the desire
of all nations”. The nations all desire peace and
continually clamour for it but seek it in estrangement from the Prince of Peace
and can never thus find it. Not until
Christ is enthroned [in
Wilmot rightly rejoices in the immutability of God’s election grace, and that
God’s purpose in the election of grace will stand despite all the waywardness
and rebellion of the human heart. But
while the Dr. sees this so clearly regarding God’s
saints as individuals, he fails to see
the same truth as regards the nation of
author quotes the Lord’s oft-repeated words to
Promise of Grace
will be sure both to the nation and to the Gentile Church, Paul has made clear in Romans 4: 16, “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham”. If the nation is not to receive the promise of grace, what is the meaning of the words “only” and “also”? If Dr. Wilmot’s surmises were correct, these words should be omitted. But they are there and accordingly bring to nought his entire thesis.
In order to fit in with his thesis, he makes the Lord’s word to Nathaniel in John 1: 51, read, “From this time forth, etc.”, and makes them applicable to God’s children now. Now while it is conceded that the words ap arti may sometimes bear this signification (and are sometimes so translated) it is clear that they cannot always do so. It is quite obvious that they do not bear this meaning in Matt. 26: 64 and I think it is equally clear that they do not bear it here. I feel quite sure that Dr. Wilmot himself has not yet seen heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. But I am sure he will when [and if ] he shares in the millennial blessedness of all [those judged worthy to be amongst]* God’s saints. The [A.V.] translators were correct in rendering the words in both these cases by “Hereafter”.
[* See Matt. 5: 20; 7: 21; 8: 11, 12; Heb. 9: 27. Compare also Num. 14: 8, 21-23 with 1 Cor. 10: 5, 6, 11; 1 Thess. 2: 9-12; 2 Thess. 1: 4, 5; 2 Pet. 1: 10, 11; Rev. 2: 10, 11; 22: 12, R.V. etc.]
Dr. Wilmot falsely accuses Millennialists when he says, “Is such (worship in spirit and in truth) to give place when Christ comes again to a re-introduction of the ‘beggarly elements’, the ‘shadows’, etc. So it is taught by those who treat Ezekiel’s prophecy as a setting forth with literal intention of a future earthly millennial age”. No! Dr. Wilmot; you were once a millennialist but you did not teach this; neither do we. The Lord said, “God is a* Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”. Whether therefore it were Abraham or Moses or David or Isaiah or Ezekiel or Paul; all worshipped God in spirit and in truth; else they did not worship Him at all. The form of worship only differs in different ages according to God’s sovereign appointment. And who are we to dictate the form to Him? “Who hath known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”
[* The “a” before “Spirit” should be deleated: “God is Spirit.” He is not one of many as the indefinite article “a” suggests!]
Temple of Ezekiel’s Vision
Dr. Wilmot scorns the idea of sacrifices in the
millennial age being memorials. But the
Passover itself was a memorial of deliverance from
In contending that the size of the
The author further says that the spiritual meaning of
God’s ordinances under Moses is given in the New Testament, should not the
explanation of Ezekiel’s prophetic ceremonialism be sought in the same
evangelical truth? That both point to
A Priest for Ever
Again, Dr. Wilmot argues against Christ exercising a Priesthood on earth, on the basis of Paul’s words in Heb. 8: 4-6, and asks “Is He then to abandon the ‘more excellent ministry’ for an inferior?” But why should His ministry when He sits “as a Priest upon His Throne” (Zech. 6: 13) be inferior to His ministry now [in heaven] “at the right hand of the Throne of God.” What Paul is saying, in effect, is that His present Priesthood could not be exercised upon the earth. But when [His Millennial] Kingship and Priesthood are joined (as in Melchisedec), THEN such exercise will be possible. When enthroned as “a great King over all the earth” He will also exercise His Melchisedec Priesthood “as Priest upon His Throne”.
The Dr. complains that Ezekiel speaks of a Levitical system of Priesthood. This is true, but we are told that Levi paid
tithes to Melchisedec in Abraham; so it will be no wonder that the Levites
should serve in the restored
In dealing with the word “until” the Dr. seems to contradict himself. He goes to some lengths in an effort to show
that the use of the word in Romans
11 does not imply that the partial
The Glory of the Lord
Dr. Wilmot reminds us that Isaiah’s words “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together” is quoted by Luke as “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” and he interprets this as fulfilled in the Gospel. It should be noted that the word “it” in Isaiah is in italics. “Him” would better clarify the meaning. Jesus Christ is the glory of the Lord (Kadob Jehovah). When Simon gazed upon the infant Jesus, he said, “Mine eyes have seed Thy Salvation”. Jesus is God’s salvation. So whether we take Isaiah’s vision or Luke’s, the meaning is the same and the inspired penmen direct us to a [divine] Person. But all flesh have not yet seen Him together. To interpret this of the Gospel ministry, of which multitudes of men are still ignorant, is only to belittle the Word of God. When He comes in [manifested and bodily] glory, however, “every eye shall see Him”. Then all* flesh shall see Him together and Isaiah’s prediction will have its complete fulfilment.
[* Keep in mind: the word “all” must be interpreted in the context in which it is used: and it does not mean everyone at this time.]
The Dr. repeatedly states that there are no references to the Millennium in the New Testament. This is an astonishing statement for any servant of God to make when the millennium (1,000 years) is specifically mentioned six times in one chapter with a number of passing references elsewhere. As to the meaning of the millennium, the Dr. may honestly differ from other Bible students but to say that it is not mentioned in the New Testament is a flat contradiction of the Word of God itself and ill becomes such an honoured servant of Christ.
We are tempted, however, to ask, Is the Old Testament any less authoritative than the New? The Old Testament teams in all its parts with references to Christ’s personal reign on [THIS] earth and therefore little more was necessary in the New Testament than to show the duration of such a reign and this John has done with superlative clearness.
In dealing with 1 Cor. 15: 24, Dr. Wilmot maintains that the word “then” means “at that time”
and that therefore the “end” will
immediately follow the resurrection of those “that are Christ’s”. Now the two
words in this passage (epeita and eita) translated in the Authorised Version as “afterwards” and “then”
have the same significance. In the Revised Version and in the Englishman’s Greek New Testament they are both
rendered “then”. Cranmer and
Tyndale also render them both as “then” whereas Wycliffe
renders them both “afterward”;
In order to support this incorrect exegesis, the Dr. refers to the word “then” in Matt. 13 - “then shall the righteous shine forth, etc.” and he rightly says the meaning there is “at that time”. But the word there translated “then” is an entirely different word (tote) which does, of course import time and corresponds to the more common meaning of our word “then”.
The Smiting Stone
In speaking of the [coming Messianic] Kingdom of Christ and of God, Dr. Wilmot refers to the “stone cut out of the mountain” (Dan. 2: 34) filling the whole earth and he explains this as the conquests of the Gospel during this [evil] age. He says it is coextensive with the Gospel preached unto the “uttermost part of the earth”. It is astonishing how blind to obvious facts even godly men can be when they have first rejected one part of Holy Scripture. Daniel says Christ’s Kingdom is to “fill the whole earth” and David says that Messiah shall reign from “sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth”. And yet today about a third of the people of the nations deny His very existence while at least a further third utterly repudiate His authority.
The author says that the figure of the stone which smote the image “befits the first rather than the second advent”. But the smiting by the stone resulted in the utter destruction of the image, and its component part became “as the chaff of the summer threshing floors and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them”. Did our Saviour accomplish this at His first advent? He Himself says, “I am not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them”. And again, “The Son of Man is not come into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved”. If the kind of exegesis adopted by Dr. Wilmot is allowed, then the Scriptures can be made to mean anything.
God Says what He means
While Dr. Wilmot contends vigorously that God means what He says, he is obliged to admit that He does not always say exactly what He means. But these two things stand or fall together. If God does not say what He means, then He does not mean what He says and Dr. Wilmot’s entire thesis reveals one vain effort to prove this. As a contemporary periodical has said, “If God does not mean what He says in Romans 11 and in Rev. 20, when does He mean what He says? If there is to be no reign of Christ on earth as seen in Rev. 20 and elsewhere, why not also allegorise Gen. 1-3 and join the so-called Higher Critics?”
In his article on “Gaps and Guesses” the Dr. credits millennialists with teaching the theory of a gap between Gen. 1: 1 and 2. But he was once himself a Millennialist but so far as I am aware, he never taught the gap theory of Gen. 1. It seems hardly fair, therefore, on his part to label millennialists without distinction as advocates of something which a very large number of them repudiate.
He further argues that because the Millennium is not mentioned by Peter in his second Epistle, therefore there is no millennium. He might with similar “logic” argue that because Micah in his 5th chapter (which predicts so clearly the birth, ministry and exaltation of the Messiah) does not mention the atonement, therefore there is no atonement. A similar argument might be applied to Isaiah 9. Or he might argue that because none of the first three evangelists record the miracle of the water into wine, therefore it did not happen. This is, in fact, exactly how the modernists do treat the Gospel by John. They argue simply that Paul overthrew by his teaching much that Christ and the Apostles had taught previously.
Into this same snare Dr. Wilmot seems to fall when he rejects the clear testimony of John concerning the Millennium simply because Peter does not specifically mention it. Such reasoning is equally fallacious whether in relation to history or prophecy. To set one part of Scripture in opposition to another part only betrays a biased mind and a lack of understanding of the Scripture as a whole.
The World to Come
There are many passing references to the Millennium in the writings of Paul. He says that God hath not put in subjection to angels “the oikoumene to come whereof we speak”. What is the “oikoumene to come” which will be in subjection to Christ if not “the kingdoms of this world” which are to become His kingdom (Rev. 11: 15); and Paul in perfect harmony with this writes to the Corinthians, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world (kosmos)?” Again to the Romans Paul speaks of the promise to Abraham that he should be the heir of the world (kosmos) and he says to the Galatians, “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise”.
The author’s title on “The Millennial Administration of the Ascended Messiah” is a gathering together of various Scriptures in almost hopeless confusion. Referring to 1 Pet. 1: 11, he says that any interlude before Christ enjoys “the glories that follow” is eclipsed altogether. Of course Christ is now in glory at the right hand of the Father but the glory which he has there and the glory He will receive when He occupies the Throne of His father David do not cancel out each other.
“Glories upon glories has our God prepared,
With the souls that love him one day to be shared.”
He further says that the Apocalypse communicated by the Lord Jesus Christ to the Churches was not literally intended but “signified” and therefore symbolical and figurative; as if the word “signified” necessarily precluded all literal understanding whatsoever. But this word is used three times by John in his Gospel in connection with the method of our Lord’s death. Was there anything mystical, or other than literal, about that? He was crucified as He repeatedly “signified”. The same word is used by Festus in Acts 25 in connection with the setting out of a prisoner’s crimes. Was there anything mystical about that? It is suggested that the things written on the prisoner’s charge-sheet were not intended to be taken literally!? Furthermore, at the close of the Apocalypse the Lord Jesus says He sent His angel to testify these things in the Churches, “Testify” (marturea) simply means to bear witness and is more often so translated. The apocalypse is an unveiling - not an obscuring - of the glory of Christ and His saints.
The Reign of the Saints on Earth
Again, Dr. Wilmot says “heaven and not earth is the scene of the millennium” and “the reign of Christ and His saints being heavenly and spiritual is not on earth”. This seems a flat contradiction of the Scripture. The song of the redeemed given by John is “Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood … and we shall reign on the earth”. We cannot refrain from asking, Was Christ literally slain? Where His saints literally redeemed to God by His blood? Is our kingship and priesthood a reality or merely a myth? If these things are real and literal, then why should the reign on earth be regarded as mystical and symbolical? Such exegesis makes the Word of God a plaything for the modernist who denies the literality of both redemption by blood and resurrection.
The Dr. further argues that the millennium is not earthly because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the
Although Dr. Wilmot contends that heaven is the scene
of millennial blessedness, he quotes Daniel that “the kingdom and dominion and greatness of the kingdom under
the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most
High”. He seems to forget, moreover, that Messiah’s
He further maintains that Satan was bound at
“The Two Resurrections”
Dr. Wilmot confuses “quickening” with “resurrection”. He refers to John 5: 21 as indicating two resurrections but it doesn’t. On the other hand in Rev. 20, which clearly does speak of two resurrections, he makes one a quickening and insists therefore, that there is only one resurrection and that despite the repeated testimony of Scripture that there are two. Quickening is the passage from [spiritual] death to [spiritual] life which occurs in every believer who is born again by the Spirit whereas resurrection is a rising again [after physical death]. The Scriptures never confuse the two - they are always distinct. The quickening of the [believing] soul into divine life is never referred to as resurrection; neither in the Scriptures referred to nor elsewhere.
Dr. Wilmot says that
When Dr. Wilmot says that the New Testament provides “not the slightest confirmation of” the restoration
and conversion of
Substance verses symbol
In dealing with Zech. 14, the
author seems to be harassed by some measure of doubt. He says “the great
mountain” of Zech. 4: 7 is “perhaps
We would not, of course, question that the cloven Olivet mat symbolise the Rock of Ages or that the living waters are illustrative of the life of the Spirit just as the Mosaic sacrifices symbolise the atoning work of Christ. But as it is acknowledged that the typical sacrifices were substantial in themselves, why should it be denied that there is any substance in the cloven mountain and the flowing waters, etc. Surely the latter are as substantial as the former except that the one is prophecy and the other history.
This denial of any literal substance in the prophecies
runs through the entire series of these articles. In support of this theory the writer says, “the
greatest historical event at the beginning of their (
Dr. Wilmot states that all the promises to
In his 18th article he says that the
What the Dr. altogether fails to realise is that the
salvation of the nation of Israel was just as much the fruit of Christ’s death
and resurrection as was the gathering of His elect out of all the nations
(John 11: 49-52).
One crown or “many crowns”
In his article on “
Dr. Wilmot speaks in the clearest terms concerning “the unity of the faithful from first to last”, a doctrine which we of the S.G.A.T. have always held most tenaciously. Here Dr. Wilmot has no quarrel with us nor we with him. This blessed doctrine is set forth by him most ably in his exposure of the errors of those whom he calls the “mystery dividers”.
Yet he goes on to say, “Contrary
to such as ascribe to them (the twelve tribes) a
In dealing with Rev. 21: 24-26 he is obliged to “water down” the text and make it mean something far short of what it says. He says, “the nations of them that are saved” does not mean nations as such but some “saved from among all nations”. Similarly he contends that “the kings of the earth” means only “some in high places as ‘kings’”. And this despite his contention that God means what He says. To support this interpretation he states that the commission that disciples should be made of all nations did not mean nations as such but individual sinners from among them. So this age of Gospel witness, the purpose of which is to “gather out from the nations a people for His (Christ’s) name” is confounded with the gathering of nations in the age to come. The witness of David, as before shown, is that “all kings shall fall down before Him and all nations shall serve Him” and the witness of Zechariah is that “many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day”.
“Daniel’s Seventy Weeks”
In dealing with “Daniel’s Parenthesis” Dr. Wilmot again looks at the scripture which he is endeavouring to expound to the exclusion of other Scriptures dealing with the same matter. Daniel 9 must obviously be understood in the light of chapters 2, 7 and 8. Dr. S. P. Tregelles, in his mastery analysis does this. Dr. Tregelles’ work on Daniel is now being reprinted and we will not, therefore, comment largely at this stage on the subject but leave our readers to judge as between Dr. Tregelles and Dr. Wilmot when they are able to have the two expositions side by side.
We will, however, stay to point out one inconsistency in Dr. Wilmot’s interpretation on a point which Dr. Tregelles does not specifically touch. There can be little doubt that our Saviour’s reference to the Abomination of Desolation in Matthew 24 refers to Daniel’s mention of it in ch. 9: 27 (as well as those in 8: 14 and 12: 11). The compilers of the Oxford Bible references evidently thought so for Dan. 9: 27 is the only reference given from Matt. 24: 15. If, therefore, Daniel’s 70th week ends with the Crucifixion as Dr. Wilmot contends, then the Abomination of Desolation must have been set up at about the time of Christ’s baptism. Yet the Lord definitely refers to it in Matt. 24, towards the close of His ministry, as being yet in the future.
The author endeavours to overcome this difficulty by separating between the expressions “He shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease” and “for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate” and inserts between them some 70 years. In the other references to these two things by Daniel, however, they are clearly bracketed together as being synchronous. In Dan. 12: 11 the Angel says, “From the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be, etc.”. Again in Daniel 8: 13 one asks “How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?” It was one vision. So whilst Dr. Wilmot refuses to admit a parenthesis which the Scriptures clearly require, he inserts a shorter one of his own between things which the Scriptures clearly require, he inserts a shorter one of his own between things which the Scriptures consistently refer to as one event.
Moreover, he contends that the causing of “the sacrifice and oblation to cease” (Dan. 9: 27) is the work of Christ Himself by His sacrifice whereas in ch. 8: 11, this same event is clearly spoken of as being the work of the Man of Sin.
Who are Daniel’s People?
Again, he seems to bring himself into confusion when
speaking of “Daniel’s
people”. Again, he seems to bring himself into
confusion when speaking of Daniel’s
people but he seems to make this
expression mean different things according to the whim of the moment. He says of the nucleus of the New Testament
Church, “They were the first citizens of the
commonwealth of grace to whom believers were
added without distinction for they all are Daniel’s people. Daniel belongs to them and
they to Daniel.
There is no promise in Gabriel’s prediction of an earthly establishment
On the strength of Gal. 3: 16, Dr. Wilmot seems to suggest that there are no covenant promises to Abraham’s natural seed at all. Whilst, however, many of the promises to Abraham point clearly to the personal Seed which is Christ (e.g., Gen. 12: 7 relating to the land and 22: 18 relating to the blessing of the nations) it is equally clear that many of the promises to Abraham refer to a plurality of seed, e.g., Gen. 17: 7 and 8 - “I will establish my covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant … and I will be their God”.
Space forbids any further references but let us briefly examine these three. The first promises the land to the Seed (singular) which is Christ. Now Christ, God’s [only begotten] Son, created the heavens and the earth. All are His. He said, “All things that the Father hath are Mine”. Nevertheless, as Abraham’s Seed, the land is to be given to Him. And in harmony with this, Isaiah refers to it as “Immanuel’s land”. And the promise to our Lord’s mother was “Jehovah shall give unto Him the throne of His father David and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever”. When the throne is occupied by Him, the land also will be His in fulfilment of the [divine] promise.
The second reference is to the blessing of the nations. “In thy Seed (singular) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22: 18). When the Seed which is Christ shall rule over the land, then all nations (as such) will be blessed in Him.
The third reference (Gen. 17: 7 and 8) is clearly to a plurality of seed. To Abraham’s seed in
their generations is promised the
[* That is, for as long as this present earth will remain.]
The first [divine] promise to Abraham (Gen. 12: 3) was “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed”. And in Gen. 13: 15, it is added, “All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy Seed forever”. So Paul says, “To Abraham and to his Seed were the promises made”. So then Abraham also must possess the land and, as we have before shown, this can only be after the resurrection when “they that are Christ’s at His coming” shall “ever be with the Lord”.
Not “carnal” but Christian
Dr. Wilmot, scorning belief in the Millennium, says it
implies “that Jewish nationalism will somehow effect results in excess of Christian evangelisation”. But the
Millennial reign will also be one of Christian evangelisation because all
The Dr. manifests a constant tendency to carnalize the
Millennium as witness his reference to “
He suggests that the 1,000 years referred to in Rev. 20 may “indicate a prolonged and indefinite period” and he supports the suggestion by Deut. 7: 9-12 and similar passages. The relevancy of such passages, however, is far from apparent. Nothing could be more indefinite (as regards the period) than 1,000 generations - an impossible period in the history of man; whilst nothing could be more definite than 1,000 years.
Under the title “Dispensationalist Misconstructions” Dr. Wilmot maintains that David’s Throne is now in heaven and that Christ now occupies it. In support of this he refers to Acts 2: 29-36. But nowhere in that passage does Peter suggest that Christ now occupies David’s Throne. What is made clear is the following -
(1) God had sworn with an oath to David that Christ should sit on His throne.
(2) David therefore predicted the resurrection and ascension of Christ as a necessary prelude to this.
(3) Christ is at the Father’s right hand until He makes His foes His footstool.
(4) then, by inference, the way will be prepared for the occupation of David’s throne.
Psalm 80 to which the
author also refers teaches precisely the same thing. After speaking of the promised stability of
David’s throne the Psalmist mourns “Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries; thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice”. And not until
God’s enemies and
Speaking of Isaiah 53 he says, “We search in vain for any Biblical futurist ascription of
this chapter to the Jewish nation”.
We would venture to assist him in his search. The last 27 chapters of Isaiah’s
prophecy is one continuous utterance and the whole of Isaiah’s prophecy, as he
tells us twice at the commencement thereof, concerns
And Jeremiah, speaking of the time when this shall be, says, in ch. 31, “Behold the days come saith the Lord that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah … they shall teach no more every man his neighbour and every man his brother saying ‘know the Lord’ for they shall all know me, from the least unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah, for I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more”. And in writing to Hebrew believers, Paul confirms this with exquisite precision.
Referring to Isaiah 11: 11-16, Dr. Wilmot declares that this was fulfilled when the
Again, the Dr. refers to Jer. 32: 37 to the return of
Dr. Wilmot says, “It is historically recorded that the unparalleled tribulation spoken of in our Lord’s prediction, was visited upon the Jews when the Roman destruction took effect about 70 A.D.”, and he quotes largely from Josephus in proof of this. Dr. Tregelles has rightly pointed out that all history necessary for the right understanding of Scripture prophecy is found in the Scriptures themselves. God has not given us an incomplete revelation. We would far rather rest our faith upon Scripture prophecy alone than upon the questionable statements of an unbelieving historian.
The Dr. might have avoided this pitfall if he had paid attention to the word “then” so oft repeated in Matt. 24. We have previously referred to Dr. Wilmot’s confused use of the words eita and tote, both translated “then”. In Matt 24 is tote throughout, indicating events which either synchronise or follow immediately one upon another. In verse 25 this is made most emphatic - “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened … and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven”. The use of the word “then” (tote) throughout this chapter requires that the placing of the Abomination of Desolation is followed immediately by the “great tribulation”, on account of which “those days shall be shortened”. And immediately after those days the Son of Man shall come in the clouds of heaven. This exposes the nonsense of Josephus and entirely invalidates Dr. Wilmot’s exposition.
Dr. Wilmot accuses Millennialists of wanting to change
the “so” in Rom. 11: 26 to “then”. We have no
such desire. The word “so” clearly refers to the manner
If this does not describe the deliverance and
exaltation of a nation, then words surely have lost their meaning. Moreover, all this is to happen when “the darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the
peoples”. This our Saviour further describes in Matt. 24: 29 and 30 as being when “the Son of Man shall come in the clouds of heaven with power
and great glory”. This is His glory which
It is grievous to observe throughout these articles a looseness in dealing with Scripture which was foreign to Dr. Wilmot’s earlier expositions of Holy Writ. On occasions he quotes from other writers, both sacred and profane, and makes confusion worse confounded. This only serves to show the paucity of his arguments. He links together belief in a millennium with a hope of salvation after death. This kind of confused thinking is totally unworthy of such a stalwart in the Christian Church as he has been.
The two Scriptural truths rejected by him are -
(1) the personal reign of our Saviour over earth, and
(2) the restoration of
All relevant Scriptures are made to bend to the support of these two principle denials of truth, in some cases without any regard to the contextual setting of such Scriptures.
Our prayer is that Dr. Wilmot may be delivered from the obscurity which seems to have clouded his mind and that he may be brought back to the “simplicity which is in Christ”, that he may again expound the Word with the same simple clarity which characterised his utterances some quarter of a century ago.
Since the Review appeared in “Watching & Waiting”, Dr. Wilmot has commented upon it in the Toronto Gospel Witness. His remarks, however, do not meet fairly and squarely the arguments set out in the Review. He has simply re-iterated some things he has previously said and has brought in some extraneous matter associating my name with some opinions of other people with which I do not agree.
I would invite Dr. Wilmot to expound clearly, verse by verse, passages dealing with the millennial glory of
However this controversy would now appear to be moving out of the sphere of textual criticism and into the sphere of personal criticism; and in these circumstances it is perhaps better for all concerned that it should now cease, and that thinking men should prayerfully ponder what has been said, in the light of the Scripture of Truth.
* * *
“The Interpretation of Prophecy”
By Dr. Patrick Fairbairn
The author of this work, in following the line of many
other anti-millennialists and post-millennialists, frequently sets one
Scripture against another. When Dr. Fairbairn
says that Christ is greater than Moses, he is, of course, quite right but when
he intimates that Christ’s words are more authoritative than those of Moses and
that the Apostles’ teaching takes precedence over that of the Prophets, he is
quite wrong. The Scriptures do not
themselves allow this. The Apostle says,
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (God-breathed) and is
profitable”. Peter says of the Prophets that “holy men spake as they were
moved by the Holy Ghost”. The Holy Ghost is the author of the
whole. Christ also said, “Had ye believed Moses,
ye would have believed
Dr. Fairbairn has unwittingly laid a foundation for the modernist of today to build upon. If there are degrees of authority in the Word of God, then it follows that some parts are not absolutely authoritative and the modernist argues that if some Scriptures are less authoritative than others, then they are unreliable and may be discarded.
While that it is true that the New Testament unfolds and amplifies the Old, it is equally true that the study of the Old Testament prepares for the understanding of the New. Dr. Fairbairn begins his study of “the prophetical future of the Jewish people” with Matthew. He should have begun it with Genesis. He may then have reached far different conclusions.
It was the lack of understanding the Old Testament
which made the first coming of Christ a stumbling-block to
As we have pointed out, Dr. Paul Tillich and Bishop Woolwich and others of their ilk want to “de-literalise” the Bible, so that having made it entirely mystical, they can interpret it as they choose. The Anti-Millennialist and the Post-Millennialist adopt the same principle, only with less intent.
Loose handling of Scripture
Scriptures are misquoted and therefore misinterpreted. I give just one example. Dr. Fairbairn quotes Acts 2: 30 as saying that Christ is already “exalted to sit on the throne of David”. This passage says nothing of the kind. The above quotation, put in quotation marks by Dr. Fairbairn, is not there. On the contrary the inspired penman emphasises the fact that “David is not ascended into the heavens”. How then can Christ exalted in the heavens sit on David’s throne? What the passage does teach is as follows:
1. God has promised David that Messiah should be his seed
and heir according to the flesh.
2. That this necessitated the resurrection of Christ,
of which David prophesied.
3. That Jesus, having risen from the dead is now exalted at God’s right hand
in fulfilment of David’s further prediction in Psalm 110.
4. He is there, [in heaven at His Father’s right hand] as David’s heir,
until all His enemies are placed beneath His feet.
Then (and not till then) will He occupy David’s throne. It was said by Solomon who foreshadowed Him, when he ascended the throne of David (which was also “the Throne of Jehovah” - see 1 Chron. 29: 23) that “there was neither adversary nor evil occurrent” because God had put all David’s enemies “under the soles of his feet” (1 Kings 5: 3 and 4). What was effected temporarily and in measure upon Solomon’s accession will be preformed absolutely and permanently on the accession of the Messiah.
Jesus will then sit on David’s throne, not only as “King of the Jews” but as “King of kings and Lord of lords” for David says of Him, “All kings shall fall down before Him”. Even a child can understand this. It is only the sophisticated mind [which has been blinded by Satan to “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4: 6b, R.V.)] that makes it mean something [entirely] different.
Ignoring the Detail
The loose way in which the Word of God is here dealt with is most deplorable. God says, He has magnified His Word above all His Name and that “every Word of God is pure”. Jesus said, “My words shall not pass away”. And yet Dr. Fairbairn intimates that the whole passages of the prophetic Scriptures may be ignored so far as their detail is concerned and that only the principles enshrined in the predictions endure in the succeeding ages. This means that so long as the prophets adhered in all their utterances to imperishable principles, they might predict anything and still be certain of the fulfilment of the principles involved. This, of course, reduces the prophetic Scriptures to the level of fictitious allegories and places God Himself in the role of a fortune teller who is quite impotent to bring about the things he has predicted.
Dr. Fairbairn goes so far as to suggest that the working of the minds of some of God’s prophets as they wrote the Scripture was of a similar kind to that which Shakespeare depicts as working in the distorted mind of Macbeth when contemplating murder; with the result that their prophecies were highly coloured and exaggerated in description. Is this, in fact, what we are to understand by Peter’s words that “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”?
If a modernist had written such things we should have characterised them as near blasphemy. Fairbairn’s method of interpretation of Bible prophecies is precisely the same, in principle, as the modernist’s interpretation of the whole Bible.
Dr. Fairbairn speaks of Ezekiel writing in “his peculiar
fashion” concerning the details given in
his vision of the
We will take but one example. The author refers to Isaiah 59: 20 together with Romans
11: 26. He says
(without any Scriptural authority) that
What these passages clearly imply is that the Redeemer
shall come out of the heavenly
The Test of Time
Had Dr. Fairbairn lived today he would probably not have written as he has. Instead of his predicted “fulness” in this age, one sees a world-wide apostasy which the Scripture says will increase until “all the world wonders after the Beast”. The fulness will be seen in God’s appointed time when “the oikoumene to come” will be under the governance of Immanuel.
Dr. Fairbairn’s arguments regarding the fulfilment of the prophetic Word are precisely the same in principle as the modernists’ arguments regarding the truth of the historic Word. The modernist says that the historical record must not be taken literally but is given solely for the purpose of conveying moral and spiritual truths and is not necessarily accurate. Dr. Fairbairn says that the prophetic Word must not be taken literally but is given only to convey the principles of God’s moral and spiritual government in its application to the future and therefore may not be fulfilled in its specific detail. Both arguments accord with the modernist principle that what is said is not itself the Word of God but only contains or conveys the Word of God. In essence it denies the inspiration of the words of Scripture and suggests that the writings are only intended to convey Divine thoughts and principles.
If the doctrinal part of the Word of God were simply dealt with, then all that the “Banner of Truth” stands for would fall to the ground.
Dr. Fairbairn’s description of the Millennium is excellent - as clear as any I have read - but he expects it before Christ appears in glory. He describes it thus, “The subversion of anti-Christian falsehood and denomination, the bringing to nought of the world’s power and wisdom, the abolition of all that in the social and political condition of things is opposed to truth and justice, and, along with these, the formal elevation of the pious and God-fearing portion of mankind to the place of influence and authority, and the establishment through all lands of the pure and benign principles of the Gospel” (page 477). He speaks of the reconciliation of the world “to the rule of the saints”. He says, “If there shall be power to make the people generally willing to obey, how much more of power - power to reach the greater things of God - will be required for those who in such a time will be called to rule in the affairs of men and ride on the high places of the earth” (pages 478 and 479). But he strenuously denies any manifested presence of Christ in the millennial earth.
He further says, “When the people of Christ are thus represented as possessing the kingdom it must be because they are ostensibly to bear sway upon the earth; the reigns of government are to be in their hands” (pages 479 and 480). Speaking of the “brightness of Christ’s coming” referred to in 2 Thess. 2, he says, “Since even worldly kingdoms are to be actively employed in affection it, the coming spoken of cannot be that of the final advent or any external manifestation of Christ’s power and glory”.
All this misconstruction of Scriptures arises from his supposition that the “first resurrection” spoken of in Rev. 20 is only figurative and is not a literal resurrection at all. Thus he plays again into the hands of the higher critic who denies the literality of all resurrection. Dr. Fairbairn says that the “first resurrection” simply sets forth “the mighty revival and spread of living Godliness destined to characterise the latter days”.
In speaking of Daniel’s vision he declares that the age of despotic rulers and dictators is long past. Had Dr. Fairbairn been living today he could scarcely have written such things. He further denies the possibility of the rise in the last days of any atheistical or anti-God power out of the professing Church. He regards the Pope as antichrist and he looks forward only to a resurgence of Godliness and the coming in of millennial conditions. Again, had he been alive today and read such works as “Honest to God” and “The God above god” and had seen the hand of the Pope outstretched towards the heathen religions and to the atheists, he could not have written as he did. The system of Dr. Fairbairn’s interpretation has been utterly falsified by the effluxion of time.
Much greater blindness must attach to those who still
adhere to this system of interpretation in spite of the fulfilment before their
eyes of such passages as 2 Thess. 2 and 2 Tim. 3. Paul makes clear that the apostasy having
once set in will continue and increase
until the Lord comes in glory to overturn it. Those who preach a millennium before His
coming are only preparing the way for the coming of the Man of Sin and the
institution of Satan’s counterfeit of the
The Personality of Satan
Dr. Fairbairn even denies the personality of the Devil as seen in the Apocalypse. He says it is to be understood only in a figurative sense as the influence of evil and that the fall of Satan there depicted simply sets forth the triumph of good over evil. And this despite John’s clear identification of the Dragon as “that old Serpent, called The Devil and Satan” (Rev. 20).
Can we wonder then, if professed men of God interpret the Word thus, that the higher critic should also deny the personality of the Serpent in Eden and, indeed, of Satan in all the Scripture. If the Devil of prophecy is impersonal, how can we prove that the Satan of history is not also impersonal?
Dr. Fairbairn constantly contrasts the “real” and the “ideal”. The writings of the prophets, he says in effect, were ideal and therefore we must not look for reality in them. This accounts for his almost wholly fanciful interpretation of the Apocalypse and other Scriptures.
Referring to Micah’s
prophecy concerning Messiah’s birthplace, he contends that if that prophecy is
understood literally, then Jesus Christ was not the promised Messiah because He
did not reign as King. This is sheer
unbelief arising out of impatience. The
prediction says that “Out of
Dr. Fairbairn declares that even Daniel did not understand his own visions. And this despite the clear record that “God gave Daniel understanding in all visions and dreams”. It is true that Daniel had to exercise patience and to chasten his spirit in prayer whilst he wrestled for understanding but Gabriel declares eventually “I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding … therefore understand the matter”. And in connection with the final vision it is written that Daniel “understood the thing and had understanding of the vision”. It can, therefore, only be unbelief to suggest that he did not understand.
In endeavouring to maintain that the stone smiting the image in Dan. 2 refers to Christ’s first coming, Dr. Fairbairn seems to amend the vision to suit his purpose. He speaks of the stone “pressing” and “bruising” the image. The Word declares that the stone smote the image and “brake it in pieces”.
To sum up then, the author first lays down his own imagined principles of interpretation (with little reference to Scripture) and then proceeds to bend all the Scriptures dealt with to fit the false principles so laid down.
It is a matter of profound regret that the Banner of Truth Trust has seen fit to produce such a work as this which so grievously soils the banner and misappropriates the trust.
Dr. H. Bonar, who was contemporary with Professor
Fairbairn, answers him in “The coming and
* * *
Some Difficulties Elucidated
CERTAIN Old Testament Scriptures quoted in the New Testament sometimes seem to be given a meaning which the original passages in the Old Testament seem not to bear in their contextual setting. This gives rise to the question whether they are not to be understood in a mystic sense rather than in the obvious and literal sense which, at first sight, they would seem to sustain.
We refer to such Scriptures as Acts 15, 16 and 17 and Amos 9: 11; Rom. 9: 25 and 26 and Hos. 1: 10 and 2: 23; Rom. 11: 26 and Isaiah 59: 20 and 21; 1 Cor. 15: 54 and Isaiah 25: 8 and Hos. 13: 14; Isaiah 65: 17-19 and 2 Pet. 3: 13.
Some of these have already been referred to and commented upon in the preceding chapters and we need not, therefore, refer to them again. In considering the remainder it is perhaps desirable that we should give a brief summary revealed in Holy Writ of
God’s purposes in the earth
At Creation God gave to Adam the complete sovereignty over the earth and all that was therein (Gen. 1: 28). In the exercise of that sovereignty Adam gave names to the whole animal creation and God brought the creatures to Adam for that purpose. This sovereignty was forfeited by sin and the destruction of men by the brute creation eventually became one of God’s “four sore judgments” (Ezek. 14: 21). Immediately, however, there was the promise of the “Seed of the woman” whom Paul subsequently refers to as “the second Adam” who was Himself to have, as Man, the sovereignty forfeited by the first Adam. “He shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth” (Psalm 72: 8) and also the field; the fowl of the air, etc.” (Psalm 8 and Heb. 2: 6-9).
The promise to Noah was very different. Here the fear of man was put upon the brute creation and they were delivered into his hand. We need not enlarge upon the many and varied cruel purposes for which man has used them in the exercise of his sinful government.
For the accomplishment of His
purposes in earth, God, in His sovereignty, chose Abraham and promised to make
of him a great nation and a universal blessing. This promise
was made in sovereign grace and in the first instance without any reference to
his Seed. That the nation was to be the
Subsequent revelation, moreover, showed the fulness of this blessing was to come through the Seed, which is Christ. The promise is again given to Abraham unconditionally of universal blessing and universal sovereignty as well as an innumerable seed. Paul interprets this promise as indicating that Abraham should be “heir of the world (kosmos)” and emphasises its unconditional nature. And this blessing God confirms with an oath and stakes His own existence upon it.
The Promises cannot be Disannulled
Many similar promises are given subsequently to Israel with the condition of obedience attached but, as Paul points out, the law which was 430 years after cannot disannul the promise to make it “of none effect”. Moreover, the promise concerning David’s Seed and His dominion is given him unconditionally and again, the very being of God is staked upon it. (Psalm 89).
In the meantime, however, the promised Seed arrived through whom all the promises were to be fulfilled. “All the promises of God are in Him Yea and in Him Amen, to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1: 20).
In fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham and many
other similar promises throughout the Old Testament, the great mystery of the
Gentiles being partakers of God’s promise in the Messiah is unfolded through
the Gospel [of God’s grace] and
thus all believers become Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. Many of the promises to
The Spiritual Blessings in Christ
are applicable alike to
But the bringing of the Gentile believers into the
[* See NOTE 1.]
So, similarly, the same sovereign grace which gave the
blessings to Abraham and
The Faithful in all Ages
The promises of God are made, in all ages, not to the
unbelievers but to the faithful remnant.
At the time of
Moreover Paul, when writing to both Jew and Gentile in
the covenant of grace with
In the Millennial reign of Christ, the earthly
The Lord says through Isaiah that “in this Mountain shall the
Lord make unto all peoples a feast of fat things … And He will destroy in this mountain … the vail that is spread over all mountains. He will swallow up
death in victory; and the Lord will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the
rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it”. The Lord,
moreover, says to the faithful remnant through Hosea, “I will ransom them from the power
of hell [ Heb. “Sheol” = Gk. “Hades”]; I
will redeem them from death”. And Paul
makes perfectly clear in 1 Cor. 15 that these promises are fulfilled at the first resurrection. Therefore the feast of fat things in
Isaiah 65: 17 and 18
There is a reference to two creations and the word
implies that the same God who will create the new heavens
and earth, creates first
To sum up then; as the SEED OF DAVID, Jesus will occupy David’s throne according to God’s promise; as the SEED OF ABRAHAM, He will be the heir of the kosmos: “all nations shall serve Him”; as the SECOND ADAM, He will have control of all creation, when “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid … and a little child shall lead them”; as the SON OF GOD, He is “appointed heir of all things”; and in sovereign grace all His people [who “suffer with Him” (Rom. 8: 17b. cf. Matt. 5: 10; 2 Tim. 2: 3, 9, 12; 1 Thess. 1: 4, 5, R.V. etc.)] made joint-heirs with Him. And so, “He is head over all things to the Church which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all”. All these promises are “in Him Yea and in Him Amen, to the glory of God by us”; and we must not magnify one to the exclusion of the others.
He is the Son of God; He is the King of Israel. Satan challenged the first in the wilderness, but Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power … by the resurrection from the dead”. Satan challenged the second at the cross but this will also be made manifest when He comes in glory and Israel will again say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the LORD” (Ps. 18: 26 and Luke 13: 35). Then all creation will join in the song of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”.
following writing (by Dr. A. L. Chitwood,
THINGS THAT ACCOMPANY SALVATION
In the third of the five major warnings in Hebrews, the writer first dealt with the negative side of matters. He began by revealing that the recipients of his message were spiritually immature; but, at the same time, he exhorted them to “go on unto perfection [‘maturity’]” (5: 11- 6: 6). Then, by way of illustration, drawing from nature, he looked at the matter from both positive and negative aspects (verses 7, 8). And following that, the writer turned entirely to the positive side and finished the exhortation (begun in verse 1) after this fashion: “But, beloved, though we are speaking this way, we are persuaded better things of you, things which accompany [i.e., ‘things which have to do with’] salvation” (ref. N.I.V.)
The writer begun by dealing with the fact that the recipients of his message were “dull of hearing,” babes in Christ (5: 11-14). Then he dealt with the possibility of a Christian falling away after he had been allowed to go on unto maturity, resulting in the Christian (through such a falling away) bringing shame and reproach upon the name of Christ (6: 1-6). And all of this would compare, with the world of nature, to bringing forth fruit (works, resulting in fruit-bearing) comparable to “thorns and briers,” which could only be “rejected ... whose end is to be burned” (6: 8).
But before paralleling falling away, the writer introduced another type fruit-bearing - comparable to bringing forth “herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed” (verse 7) - anticipating the positive side of the matter beginning (v. 9).
The nurturing source for this type fruit is “the rain [from heaven],” and this fruit is associated with “blessings from God.” And both the nurturing and blessings come from above.
Contextually, for a Christian, this would have to do with drinking in the Water of life, the Word of God, which comes from above (cf. John 2: 6-9; 4: 14); and, through growth and activity after this fashion (feeding upon the Word, and, at the same time, allowing works to emanate out of faith [faithfulness]), the individual would mature in the faith and bring forth fruit of a proper kind. That is, as illustrated from the world of nature, “herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed” rather than “thorns and briers.”
Within the text, “better things” are the “things that accompany [‘have to do with’] salvation.” One parallels the other in this respect. Or, to state the matter another way, that encompassed within the expression “better things” from verse nine is associated with fruit-bearing from verse seven, which, it turn, is immediately connected with works from verse ten (works emanating out of faithfulness, resulting in fruit-bearing of a proper type); and the goal in view - through this interrelated process of faith and works, resulting in fruit-bearing - is “salvation” (verse 9).
Viewing the matter within the scope of the revealed fashion, one should easily be able to see what salvation is in view. It can’t be eternal salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2: 8, 9; Heb. 1: 3), for our presently possessed salvation cannot, after any fashion, be associated with man’s works, with fruit-bearing. The salvation which is ours as a free gift through faith in Christ was wrought, in its entirety, through the work of Another. And not only has the work been completed, but God is satisfied with this finished work. Nothing can ever be added or taken away (John 19: 30).
The salvation referred to in Heb. 6: 9 is the same salvation to which the writer referred earlier in the warning (5: 9). And, before that, he had referred to this salvation as “so great salvation” (2: 3). Then later in the book he refers to this salvation in connection with Christ’s return (9: 27, 28). And then after that he refers to the same salvation as “the salvation of the soul” (10: 39).
The salvation in view is connected with a future inheritance (1: 2, 14), which is acquired “through faith and patience” (6: 12, 15). It is “the hope set before us,” which is “an anchor of the soul” (6: 18, 19).
This is the salvation with which Hebrews concerns itself throughout. The entire book deals with this salvation (the salvation of the soul), not with eternal salvation by grace through faith.
THE SALVATION OF THE SOUL
One must exercise care when dealing with these different aspects of salvation so as not to confuse one with the other. Verses of Scripture which pertain to one must not be removed from their contexts and applied to the other. If this is done, the end result will be two-fold: (a) confusion concerning the salvation message on the one hand, and (b) corruption of the salvation message on the other.
For example, the [eternal] salvation which all Christians presently possess is dependent entirely upon the finished work of Christ at Calvary, but the [future] salvation of the soul is dependent on the works of the individual who has passed “from death unto life.” Such works emanate out of faithfulness (James 2: 14-26), and it is these works (or lack of these works, resulting from unfaithfulness) which come under review in the Christian’s daily life and behaviour.
And one can easily see what would happen if a person took Scriptures having to do with the present [and future] aspect of salvation and applied them to the past aspect, or vice versa. Man’s works would either be brought over into an area where works of this nature cannot exist (brought over into the message of salvation by grace through faith alone), or such works would be rendered meaningless through trying to place the message of salvation by grace through faith (were man’s works cannot exist) within the present aspect of salvation (were man’s works must be operative.)
Through the salvation effected by the birth from above, man has been placed in a position where he can perform works acceptable or pleasing to God (which has to do with the “saving of the soul”). Works are now possible, for he now has spiritual life and can exercise faith in the realm from which man’s works can ensue.
That is, after he has passed “from death unto life” he can then exercise faith in his spiritual life - a life which he did not possess prior to the birth from above - and works, pleasing to God, can emanate only out of faithfulness of this nature.
It is this aspect of salvation with which the book of Hebrews deals. The warnings apply to the saving or losing of the soul, not his eternal life. The former is closely related to the first resurrection (Acts 2: 27, 31; Rev. 6: 9) and can be forfeited, but not the latter; and a person must be in possession of the latter before anything in the former would even apply in his life.
FULL ASSURANCE OF HOPE
The recipients of this message had been praised for their “work and labour of love” (verse 10), and their actions through ministering to Christ’s brethren, these believers had ministered to Christ Himself, and their actions were mentioned after this fashion for a purpose. Immediately following (verses 11, 12), the writer uses their faithfulness in this realm in order to exhort them in another realm. He turns from one thought to another, which is emphasized over and over throughout the epistle. At this point in the book it is seen to be - both textually and contextually - his one driving, burning desire underlying everything which he wrote in the epistle.
Hebrews 6: 11 reveals an earnest desire on the part of the writer to see every saved individual to whom he was writing show the same diligence “to [‘toward,’ or, ‘with respect to’] the full assurance of hope” that they had shown in their “work and labour of love” among the saints.
What though is meant by “full assurance of hope”? This is the heart of the matter, with the whole thought turning on these words.
“Full assurance” is the translation of a Greek word which conveys the thought of full conviction, certainly, assurance wrought through understanding; for there could be no confident conviction or confident assurance apart from an understanding of the matter in view.
And, viewing the context, the whole overall thought of “understanding” could only fit perfectly within that which is stated in Heb. 6: 11, for the verse appears toward the end of a section in which the main thrust of the entire matter has to do with an exhortation to “go on unto perfection [‘maturity’]” (vv. 1ff). The end result of this maturity is presented in verse eleven (further explained in verse 12) as bringing them into a position where they could understand and, consequently, have a confident, expectant conviction of the hope set before them (in the sense of one day realizing this hope).
The hope itself is simply that blessed hope from Titus 2: 13, associated with the “appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (ASV). In Titus 1: 2; 3: 7 this hope is clearly revealed to be associated with an [earthly] inheritance awaiting the saved which will be realized in the coming age.
Note Titus 3: 7. There is first a justification; then there is an inheritance awaiting the justified, connected with the “hope of eternal [Gk. “aionian”] life.” The words “eternal life,” from aionios in the Greek text, could be better translated “life for the age” in this passage. This word is used different places in the Greek text in the sense of both “eternal” and “age-lasting,” and the manner in which it is used in any given passage will always be governed by its textual usage (cf. Heb. 5: 9; Gal. 6: 8; 1 Tim. 6: 12 etc.)
The manner in which aionios is used in Titus 3: 7 is evident. The justified (those in possession of eternal life) cannot be made “heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” There is no “hope” connected with eternal life (the salvation which is the present possession of every regenerate believer, through simply believing on the Lord Jesus Christ [John 3: 16]). “Hope” is connected in Scripture with the saving of the soul, life for the age, the inheritance (which can be forfeited) awaiting Christians (e.g., Heb. 6: 18, 19; 10: 23, 36-39 [Heb. 10: 23 should literally read, “Let us hold fast the confession of the hope ... “]).
And this “hope” is exactly where the writer of Hebrews wanted those to whom he was writing to fix their attention. He earnestly desired that every one of them show the same diligence which they were expressing in their “work and labour of love” to a full conviction and expectation of the hope set before them. And he wanted them to hold this conviction and expectation “unto the end.”
THROUGH FAITH AND PATIENCE
Those being addressed were spiritually immature, but the exhortation, as previously given, was, “let us go on ...” (verse 1). In verse twelve, the word “slothful” is a translation of the same word rendered “dull of hearing” in the previous chapter (5: 11). The writer used the word in chapter five to best describe the present immature condition of those in view. And now, in chapter six, he uses the same descriptive word again as he exhorts these Christians not to remain in their present immature state but to go on unto maturity, for a revealed purpose.
To better understand exactly where the writer had been and was going with this whole line of thought, note verse eleven and the first part of verse twelve in a more literal rendering, with a few explanatory thoughts:
“And we earnestly desire that every one of you [those in 5: 11ff] do show the same diligence [as exhibited in their ministry among the saints(verse 10)] with respect to a full conviction and expectation of the hope [derived through knowledge, as they moved from immaturity to maturity] unto the end [that is, hold this ‘hope unto the end,’ with a full conviction and expectation that will one day be realized]: In order that you might not remain dull of hearing [5: 11 (or ‘slothful’ as rendered)], but ...”
The latter part of verse twelve, immediately following the preceding rendering, then provides the stated purpose for the entire exhortation; and the remainder of the chapter provides background and support from the Old Testament.
Those being addressed were exhorted to go on unto maturity so they could be “followers [‘imitators,’ in the sense of governing their pilgrim walk] of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (verse 12b).
There is a future inheritance in view (which is the manner in which the Book of Hebrews begins [1: 2] and continues [1: 4], revealing an inheritance belonging to firstborn sons [cf. 2: 10; 12: 16, 17, 23]); and Christians will come into a realization of this future inheritance only through governing their present pilgrim walk after a manner described by the words, “faith and patience.”
Note the words of the text: “... through faith and patience [lit., ‘patient endurance’] inherit the promises” (verse 12b). “Patient endurance” would go hand in hand with “faith,” for there could not be a continued [obedient] walk by faith apart from patient endurance (James 1: 2-4).
And this is exactly what one finds at the capstone of the book (chs. 11, 12a), leading into the heart of the last of the five major warnings (12: 16, 17) - a warning which deals specifically with the rights of the firstborn.
Faith in the promises of God is the key to inheriting His promises. Remaining faithful (continuing to believe God), a continuance involving patient endurance in the presence of opposition under various trials and testings. The Old Testament saints “all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them far off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (11: 13). It is faithfulness [resulting in] “the saving of the soul” (10: 39). The implication is clear. These Old Testament saints ran the race after a particular fashion, with a goal in view; and Christians are to run the race after the same fashion, with the same goal in view - an inheritance out ahead, to be realized in the coming age.
* * *
THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS
By F. E. GAEBELEIN
No book on Bible study would lay claim, however modestly, to adequacy and comprehensiveness can neglect the unique field of prophecy. The mere extent of this portion of divine revelation is impressive evidence of its importance. Out of sixty-six books, seventeen are throughout prophetic in theme covering about two hundred and twenty of the ten or eleven hundred pages of Scripture, as commonly printed. This, however, is but the surface extent of prophecy. Many other books, generally accounted non-prophetic, are, to revert to our former figure, richly veined with prophetic truth. Almost the majority of the Psalms, sections of the epistles and of the historic books, many sayings of our Lord Himself, bear heave lodes of prophecy. Surely the all-wise Author has written these things for our instruction, not for our bewilderment or neglect. Indeed, one may well infer from the fact that so much of Scripture is run in the prophetic mould, a challenge to the spiritual faculties of humanity.
just what is this prophecy that bulks so large in God’s Word? The answer depends upon understanding a group
of men who, with the exception of a few of the apostles of Christ, their
greatest Exemplar, lived more that two thousand years ago. Like all great literature, prophecy is the
outgrowth of life, the undying expression of kindling feeling and heroic
action. While the outward form often
bears the marks of human genius, it owes
its qualities of spiritual grandeur and unerring foresight entirely to contact
with the Spirit of God. As Peter
came not in old time by the will of man: but
holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”1 This accords
well with the original Hebrew term for prophet.
The word is “nabi,”
and it is derived from the verb which, according to competent etymologists,
connotes “bubbling forth like a fountain.” A key to the meaning of “nabi” is found in Exodus 4: 16. Moses, called of God to lead
out His people from Egyptian bondage, pleads his inability to appear before
Pharaoh because of lack of natural eloquence.
To this God replies that Aaron will be the “nabi,” or “spokesman,”
of Moses. “And he
[Aaron] shall be thy spokesman [“nabi”] unto
the people: and
he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of
a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.” This early use
of the term clearly defines its meaning; the prophet is one who announces and
pours forth the counsels of God. In the
words of Augustine, the prophet is nothing else less the enunciator of the
words of God to men. And notice the
relation of the prophet to his master.
He is but the mouthpiece, the spokesman.
It is through the Spirit of God
that he is moved and borne along.
Let those who will cavil at the verbal inspiration of Scripture. The fact is incontrovertible that the prophetic writings are [divinely] inspirer in actual detail. Scores and
even hundreds of times the prophets cry out “Thus saith the Lord,”
“The Word of the
Lord came unto me.”
1 2 Pet. 1: 21.
Two other words, less commonly used, designate in Hebrew the prophet. Both “roeh” and “chozeh” are rendered “seer.” The meaning illuminates the mission of the prophet. For, in the process of enunciating the declarations of God, he saw the future, glimpsing through the divine words or direct visions vouchsafed him the course of distant ages. Thus he was rightly called a seer. Inspiration strengthened his vision, so that his gaze transcended the bounds of time. The world has known other prophets. Other religions have had their seers. The Greeks and Romans had their oracles. But at best their forecasts were ambiguous. Indeed it can safely be asserted that only in the Bible is prophecy reduced to a certainty rather than a shrewd guess. Only the Biblical prophets actually foretold the future with definite detail. Later we shall find occasion to treat more directly of this phase of prophecy. Suffice it to say now that the fulfilled prophecy of Scripture is unique and constitutes an unanswerable evidence of the supernatural inspiration of the Bible. And it may be that God’s plan of authorship prophecy was for this reason accorded such a large place. For through it the Bible contains within itself the accredited evidence of its own authenticity.
It is in relation to this wonderful faculty of foretelling the future, however, that prophecy is commonly misunderstood. The misconception lies in a popular tendency to consider the prediction as the whole of the prophetic office. Prophecy, to be sure, is pre-written history, but it is also much more. To the people of his own time the prophet exercised a distinctive office. He was sent not alone to make known the future. He came as the zealous agent of reform, reproof, and instruction. With current abuses and besetting iniquities he was vitally concerned. His mission, then, was first of all local, contemporary, directed toward the alleviation of the present-day evil or the warning forecast of future retribution.
moral and deeply practical aspect of prophecy is important, although sometimes
overlooked by earnest students of prediction.
Nevertheless, according to such an accepted definition as that in the
Scofield Reference Bible, “Prophets were men raised up
of God in times of declension and apostasy in
2 Introduction to the Prophetical books.
[* See for example 1 Pet. 1: 10-11, R.V.]
Were one to emphasize one single principle as essential to the understanding of prophecy, it would be this principle of twofold application - the local and universal aspects of the message. To lack of comprehension of this principle most of the misunderstanding of prophecy is traceable. The local and universal messages, often woven together in the prophet’s words, are entangled by the interpreter, and the result is confusion.
us, in order to clarify the important generality, analyze a concrete
illustration. The first nine verses if
the seventh chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy put before the reader a certain bit of
international intreague, ominous of the future Royal
House of David, the dynasty which, according to the Davidic Covenant, was to be
established forever. The time is about
742 B.C. Ahaz, a weak king cursed with
tendency to compromise with the abominations of the heathen, sits upon the
throne of David and reigns over
3 This prophecy
was fulfilled when the ten tribes of
But note the immediate sequel, recorded in the text without a break. Isaiah goes on to record the words of the Lord to Ahaz. “Ask,” says God to the King, “a sign. Ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.”* But Ahaz, lacking faith, demurs. “I will not ask,” he replies, “neither will I tempt the Lord.” Consequently, Ahaz loses the high privilege of personally receiving from the Lord a sign or confirmation of the promise of deliverance. Yet, because the safety of the Davidic house was linked forever to the integrity of God’s covenant, the Lord does proclaim a sign, not to Ahaz merely, but to the entire house of David. Then comes the glorious promise of the Virgin-born Redeemer, Immanuel. “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.” 4
[* Is there not here a reference to Messiah’s Death at Calvary, His sojourn in “Hades,” for “three days and three nights,” and His Ascension into Heaven?]
4 Isaiah 7: 14-16.
As there can be no doubt of the local immediate character of Isaiah’s divinely commanded message to Ahaz, so there can be no question to the universal quality if its sequel as recorded by the same great prophet. The faithless King is submerged in the entire house of David. The suggested sign of reassurance becomes the magnificent promise of Immanuel, the Virgin’s Son, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ [to David their King during the coming “age.”]*
[*“And I will make them one
nation in the land, upon the mountains
This then, is one example of the juxtaposition in which we fine the local and the universal or predictive elements of prophecy. Let us now turn to another illustration of this frequent puzzling feature of [divine] prophecy.
generation or so before Isaiah, Joel brought to
suddenly the emphasis of Joel’s message shifts.
In the destruction wrought by the insect plague, Joel discerns the still vaster destruction of the Day of the Lord, the future
time of the Lord’s appearance im might and great
glory when the rebellious world powers will be smitten with a “rod of iron” in the final crossing of swords at
Armageddon. The locusts themselves become symbols of a greater plague, the hosts of
evil who in the last days will invade
Then, pausing to make practical application of the future truth, Joel calls upon all the dwellers in the land that is so sorely smitten with the locust plague and that is to suffer many more grievous burdens and be the scene of momentous events - upon these inhabitants he calls for repentance. For the Lord, he reminds the people, will be merciful. He will give them food and drink. He will drive the invaders away and will overthrow their forces. The desolated corps and pastures will again be fruitful. That which the locust has eaten will be restored. Deliverance will come not only immediately but also in the time of future persecution.
fact, so great will be the blessing that in the last days there will be a
notable bestowal of God’s Spirit upon His children. “And it shall come to
pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those
days will I pour out my Spirit.” 5 It was these significant words that Peter quoted at
Pentecost, that day of supernatural power when God poured out His Spirit, and
the church was founded. 6 Although Peter rightly saw in the events transpiring
before him a fulfilment of this great promise, it is clear from Joel’s context
that there is yet to come
a fulfilment of his words as they relate to
5 Joel 2: 28, 29.
6 Acts 2: 17-21.
In a brief flash of insight into the future, Joel next sees the miraculous signs accompanying the Day of the Lord. Then, again heralding deliverance for [the nation of] Israel, he predicts the judgment of the Gentile nations and describes the Day of the Lord afresh and at length, closing his prophecy with an eloquent preview of the coming [messianic] kingdom when Israel will be restored to blessed relationship with her God.
Such, in brief outline, is the prophecy of Joel. In its intermingling of present and [yet] future, in its practical exhortations based on coming events, it is typical of the prophetic manner of speaking. Other examples could be multiplied - Daniel, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Haggai, John’s great apocalypse, the Lord’s remarkable predictive discourses; all prophets and prophecy, in fact, exhibit the same admixture of messages of local with messages of universal import. Indeed, the unity of prophetic Scripture is one of its most apparent features and a strong proof of its divine inspiration.
is but natural that questions should now arise regarding the prophetic message
in general. What is the great theme of
themes? What is the purpose? Like most important questions having to do
with the Bible, these are answered by
Scripture itself. We find the reply
in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation. John, lifted out of himself by the
overshadowing Spirit of God, beholds the consummation of the mystery of the
ages - the marriage of the Church, the redeemed Bride, to the Lamb, the
redeeming Christ. Overcome by the vision
of glory, John falls down to worship his heavenly guide, but is deterred from
his mistaken homage by the words of the angel: “See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and
of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus; worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” 7 In this last clause of the angel’s warning to John is
the key of the prophetic message. In
other words, the vitalizing factor of prophecy, its underlying spirit, is to
testify of Jesus. It is well in
considering this truth to look back to the original meaning of the name of our
Lord. Jesus means “Saviour.” The testimony of the Saviour, the story of
salvation [past, present and future], then is the central theme of prophecy. How well this accords with the words of our
Lord himself! Following His healing of
the paralytic at the pool of
This “search” is the most rewarding and interesting phase of Bible study. Indeed, it may safely be said that all such study to be fruitful must bear either directly or indirectly on the discerning of Christ in the pages of Scripture. To suppose, then, that Christ may be found only in the books that treat fully and more or less contemporaneously of Him, such as the Gospels and the remainder of the New Testament, is an error, if persisted in, will immediately impoverish Bible study. For “the testimony of Jesus” is spread throughout the entire Scriptures. There is not a book of the Old Testament that does not, either directly or in type, show forth the Christ.
Let us, in order to make clear this central theme of
prophecy, consider some traces of “the testimony of
Jesus” in the Old
Testament. The very first book of
Scripture is extraordinary rich in Messianic prophecy. Not only in the initial chapter but even in
the opening verse, one can discern the Redeemer. For scholars have noted
that the designation for God in the Hebrew of Genesis 1: 1
is a noun of uni-plural type. Consistent with this is such a statement as
occurs in Genesis 1: 26. “And God said,” writes Moses, “let us make man in our image,
after our likeness.” A similar use
of the plural in connection with the words of God is found in the divine
comment on the proud effort of man expressed in the
10 Genesis 11: 7.
The above instance is like the tiny gleam that announces to the anxious mariner the lighthouse miles across the troubled sea. Shining down the centuries and millenniums of human history it points to the One whom Malachi, the last of the Messianic prophets, called “the Son of righteousness,” 11 But the gleam of Genesis 1 very soon becomes a brighter beam, then a flashing ray, and finally the effulgence of the Sun, Himself.
11 Malachi 4: 2.
us follow it, as it waxes brighter through the pages of God’s book. Genesis 3: 15 marks the first definite statement of the coming
Redeemer. In connection with the Adamic Covenant we have already
explained 12* the exact meaning of this protevangel. Yet we may well pause to note the eloquent
comment of Dr. Alfred Edersheim 13 on the verse.
“It is,” the great
12* [The author’s writing on “The Adamic Covenant,” “The Abrahamic Covenant,” “The Mosaic Covenant,” “The Palestinian Covenant,” “The Davidic Covenant” and “The New Covenant” are shown below.]
13 Cf. The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah, by Alfred Edersheim.
The Abrahamic Covenant, as has already been shown in an earlier chapter, points unmistakably to Christ. “In thee,” said God to Abraham, “shall all families of the earth be blessed.” 14 How incredible the statement to the wandering Abraham venturing forth into the unknown! Yet it was [and is to be literally] fulfilled in the Lord Jesus, the great descendant of Abraham. In Him truly all families, all nations, all peoples of the earth have been, are, and will [during the coming millennium] be blessed. He alone is the hope of humanity. Through Him alone is God’s grace available for a fallen race. He only is the way, the truth, and the life. “For,” as Paul so rightly said, “There is … one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 15
14 Genesis 12: 3.
15 1 Timothy 2: 5.
But the book of Genesis is full of Messianic prophecy. Through writing history, Moses also recorded prophecy. Indeed, merely from the types in Genesis, the silent witness of the lives of men such as Enoch and Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, one can discern a representative portrait of the Christ.
passing to the prophets later than Moses, however, we must take notice of the patriarch Jacob’s dying words to his
son Judah. Calling his twelve sons
together, Jacob gave each his blessing, the blessings being prophetic of the
future of each as representative of the twelve tribes. On his
son Judah, Jacob bestowed a most significant blessing 16 with a definitely Messianic trend.
The reference of this whole passage to
the Lord Jesus Christ has been recognized by commentators from the earliest
times. Indeed, John two thousand years later refers
to it in the Revelation, for he sees Christ
enthroned as “the Lion of the tribe of
17 Revelation 5: 5.
But the tone of Jacob’s blessing being so far very definitely regal, one may well pause to ask how it can be applied to a [promised] Messiah who neither reigned nor legislated, but who hung instead upon a cross of shame, repudiated publically and irrevocably by His own brethren. Surely at the crucifixion Christ’s brethren neither praised Him nor bowed down before Him. The object is well worth consideration, and leads us to another distinction fundamental to the understanding of prophecy.
was John in the Revelation who spoke of Christ as “the Lion of the tribe of
18 John 1: 29.
But why this intimate admixture of diverse strains of truth? The query leads us back to the [millennial and] eternal purposes of the Almighty, “the deep things of God,” 19 to use the Pauline phrase. Touched with divine mercy, God provided a Saviour for the sin of man. That Saviour was the Christ, the Messiah of royal descent. He it was who should [and most certainly will one day] sit upon David’s Throne in accordance with the unchangeable covenant. All this was prewritten in sacred prophecy. Holy men of God, moved by the [Holy] Spirit, recorded these facts centuries in advance. And the Messiah came. Virgin-born, of the seed of Abraham and the line of David, He came as the prophets had written. But He was rejected! As John has it in a verse of infinite tragedy, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” 20 Blinded by [Satan* and] sin, proud in their own conceits, the Jews, the chosen race, spurned Him with a hatred voice in the terrible cry with which they answered Pilate, “His blood be upon us, and on our children,” 21 and expressed in the shame of the crucifixion. The Messiah had come and had been cast out by the very race whom in the plan of God He was to rule.
19 1 Corinthians 2: 10.
[* 2 Corinthians 4: 4, R.V.]
20 John 1: 11.
21 Matthew 27: 25.
And God knew in advance of the Messiah’s rejection. He foresaw the hostile attitude of His brethren, the indignities that were heaped upon Him, the deep humiliation of the cross. Foreseeing it all, He wrote it into the prophetic record. Grieving at the shameful treatment of His matchless Emissary, God caused His prophets to tell in detail the very excesses of cruelty with which the enemies of Christ thought to erase Him from the pages of their national life. And God’s forevision was correct [to the minutest detail], for His Word is truth. As the prophetic word states, Christ was “despised and rejected of men.”
Thus it is that side by side with the prophecy of a kingly Messiah we have the [divine] forecast of a suffering Saviour. Thus it is that all will be fulfilled [when the Lord Jesus returns].* He who suffered and was rejected is coming again to reign. God’s covenant regarding the [true] Messiah as King will [then] be honoured. Though He was crucified, dead and buried, He yet arose from the dead and will return, a mighty King, to judge the quick [i.e., the living] and the dead.
[* 1 Corinthians 1: 7, R.V.]
seen Christ in Jacob’s blessing as the “Lion of the tribe of
22 Mark 15: 24.
Such details, however, by no means exhaust the prophetic significance if this wonderful Psalm. It must be read in its entirety after the phrases have been searched with a devout spirit. For David has set down the very thoughts of the Son of Man as He suffers the penalty for the sin of the world. Over-shadowed by the Holy Spirit, for what he wrote was far above the reach of his own intellect, he writes a poem that affords a fleeting glimpse into the holiest of holies - the heart of the dying Saviour.
One of the leading characteristics of prophetic Scripture is its harmony. Such a passage as we have just examined does not stand alone. Rather it is surrounded by the corroborative witness of different prophets of different ages. Isaiah, for instance, offers in his fifty-third chapter an equally striking picture of the suffering Messiah. Yet he writes nearly three centuries after David. Very beautifully he describes the sorrows of the Lamb of God. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; he was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.” 23 These are memorable words. They are fulfilled exactly in the crucifixion of our Lord. While David seems to describe the actual physical sufferings, Isaiah is concerned with pointing out the significance of this torment as comprehended in the fact that the Messiah was suffering in behalf of others, and that He died in our stead, not for His own iniquity. But like David’s forecast of the passion of Christ, Isaiah’s prophecy is marked also for accurate detail of the far-off event. He speaks of the humiliation which the Messiah suffered. He mentions the stripes that were laid upon His unresisting back by the Roman scourge. He points out His quiet in the hour of accusation. “But He answered him nothing,” 24 says Luke before Pilate. Most shocking of all, however, is Isaiah’s prevision of a detail of the burial of the Messiah. “And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death.” Matthew, recounting the burial of Christ, tells how “there came a rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph … He went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus … And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb …”25 And, as in the case of David’s prediction of the gambling soldiers, all four of the Gospels agree in their mention of this detail, foreseen so definitely by Isaiah more than seven hundred years before.
23 Isaiah 55: 3-7.
24 Luke 23: 9.
25 Matthew 27: 57-60.
So much for fulfilled prophecy. God’s book, however is not dead, but living, and one must remember that the working out of the divine plan of the ages is not yet complete. Consequently much of prophecy still awaits fulfilment. While this is true of portions of the Old Testament predictions, it holds especially for New Testament prophecy. When Christ said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go … I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also,” 26 He was clearly speaking of a future event, an event even now unfulfilled. He had in mind that phase of His second coming when, as Paul describes the scene in Thessalonians, 27 “the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout” and those who are alive [… “that are left”*] at the time of His coming will be gathered at once to be with Him, being in an instant metamorphosed from mortality to immortality, the dead in Christ having risen first in obedience to the trumpet call. This again much of the book of Revelation is unfulfilled prophecy. Its elaborate and striking symbolic pictures of the consummation of God’s plan for the world follow closely the mould of our Lord’s Olivet Discourse, the greatest single bit of prophecy in the Bible. 28 So too certain passages in the Epistles, such as Paul’s second letter to Timothy and Jude’s brief but important Epistle, in their prophetic abomination of the coming apostasy picture with startling vividness the present widespread denial of the Faith. Indeed, we have in these cases an example of the fulfilment of prophecy in our own times. And they are by no means unique. The close student of international affairs who knows his Bible sees prophecy fulfilled in the daily papers [and by images on television screens]. Recent press accounts, for instance, on Zionistic activities in Palestine are fully in accord with the Old Testament Scriptures, which speak of the ultimate return of the Jews to their own land, first in unbelief and finally in acceptance of their King. It is the return in unbelief that we see in the Zionistic movement.
26 John 14: 2, 3.
27 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17.
[* 1 Thessalonians 4: … 15, R.V. Those “left” will be “left unto the coming of the Lord,” after others “prevail to escape” the dreaded end time events! Luke 21: 34-36; Rev. 2: 10, R.V.]
28 Matthew 24, 25.
enough examples have been cited to show the nature of prophecy and to make
clear its great purpose. Once the fact
that the Lord Jesus Christ stands out as the central theme of prophecy is
grasped with all the implications, the treasures of the prophetic word are
within reach. Other themes there are in
prophecy: the history of the Jews, the fate of the great nations of antiquity,
the religious conditions and the international alliances of the future - all
these have their place. Yet they are
each of them subsidiary to the great unifying theme of the Messiah, for they
derive from Him their permanent significance.
The Jews were chosen as the bearers of God’s unique revelation, and of
their race Christ was to come.
That this should be the case is but fitting. According to John, Christ was “in the beginning” with God. 29 He had an active part in the great work of creation and now abides in everlasting unity with the Father. According to Paul, “by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him: and He is before all things and by Him all things consist … that in all things He might have the pre-eminence,” 30
29 John 1: 1, 2.
30 Colossians 1: 16-18.
To the pre-eminence of the divine Son of God prophecy makes an essential contribution. It is infallibly accurate prediction of scores of hundreds of details from the exact place and unique manner of Christ’s birth to His atoning death and His future Kingdom consists an unanswerable authentication of His [messianic] claims as the saviour of the World. Whoever would reject the [inheritance* promised to the] Son of Man must reckon with the great fact of fulfilled prophecy. Until Messianic prophecy be rationally explained, the supremacy of Christ will remain unshakable. The supernatural prophesies are the credentials of the supernatural Christ. “For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.”
[* Psalm 2: 8.]
The meaning of the term “covenant” is perfectly obvious. It is simply another way of saying “promise” or “agreement.” One caution, however, must be made as to its application to God’s dealings with men. When used in this manner the word has an accommodated sense. In the human covenant, the two covenanting parties contract together regarding certain mutually agreeable conditions. But in the divine covenant, from the very nature of the case, man merely receives the terms of the agreement and has nothing to do with fixing these terms. To be sure, his free will enables him to reject the covenant, divine though it be, but he has no power to change in any way its provisions.*
* Note. From the time of Abraham the covenants are primarily Jewish.
Grace, being universal and opening the way, spiritually, for the Gentiles, does not have an exact covenantal explanation, as do the other dispensations
The covenants of God are divine provisions or conditions for the guidance and government of God’s people throughout the ages of God’s dealings with the race. The fact that they emanate from God makes their terms obligatory rules to be obeyed. Consequently, it is not surprising that blessing attends obedience and judgment disobedience. And it is just here that the peculiar covenant character of these divine pronouncements enters in. Along with their absolutely binding authority, they are truly promises. God says in effect to man - “Here are certain provisions for your guidance. Follow them, and blessing and the highest good will attend you. My word is the guarantee of this compact.” Indeed, God is actually represented as confirming His covenants by an oath, as is brought out by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in speaking of the Abrahamic Covenant.1
1 “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath.” Hebrews 6: 17.
The major covenants, of which there are eight, rank with the dispensations in importance. The dispensations, however, apply in some cases to all men; the covenants are more exclusively Jewish in scope. Scripture is God’s supernatural revelation to humanity. And of what is the revelation? The answer obviously is that it is a revelation of God’s mind, particularly as regards His purpose towards humanity [upon this earth]. And in the covenants we have the great key-statements of that revelation. God spoke to men. He spoke to them progressively. As the ages passed, He spoke again, with wonderful grace and mercy accommodating His edicts to man’s needs. The dispensations mark the ages or periods of God’s dealings with man; the covenants are God’s enunciation of the principles of guidance, judgment, and blessing accompanying these ages. They may be likened to the major points of God’s discourse to man. Understand them and you begin to see the logic of the divine mind.
And now, always bearing in mind the corresponding dispensations … we may proceed to examine more especially each of the covenants.
The Edenic Covenant
First is the Edenic Covenant, stated in Genesis 1: 28 and the following verses. This of course, particularizes the test conditions of the Dispensation of Innocency. God covenants to bless man by giving him sway over the whole earth and its creatures. Man’s part of the contract is to fulfil the following responsibilities: 1. To reproduce his own kind so that humanity might dominate the earth. 2. To subdue for humanity’s use the earth. 3. To control the animal realm. 4. To subsist upon herbs and fruits. 5. To cultivate the divinely appointed Garden of Eden. 6. The one prohibition is to abstain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Lastly, with this covenant there went a single but awful penalty - death.
The responsibilities fulfilled, man was to enjoy the world and all creation to the glory of God; but were the responsibilities unfulfilled, the sentence of death was to fall.
The Adamic Covenant
(Genesis 3: 14-20.)
The Adamic Covenant … deals with humanity after the
first sin in
1 Revelation 21: 5.
conditions, broadly, are as follows: 1.
The serpent, utilized as the agent for Satan’s
malignant subtlety whereby man was morally ruined, is cursed. From a most beautiful creature it becomes the
loathsome reptile, a perpetual object lesson of the repulsive effects of
sin. 2. A glorious hope is held out for the encouragement of the blighted
race. The Redeemer is promised. The “seed” of the woman is to bruise the “head”
of the serpent. 2 In other
words, the poison of sin no sooner infects mankind than God heralds the divine
antidote - the only-begotten Son who, though He knew no sin, is “made sin” and suffers the penalty of death that a
corrupted humanity might become whole. 3 3. Woman is henceforth to bear unusual suffering through
multiplied offspring and the pangs of motherhood. She is also to be under the headship of
man. 4. For man’s ultimate welfare the earth is cursed, so that only by
wholesome, cleansing toil may the essentials of life be wrested from it. The fallen nature
of man requires the stabilizing influence of toil. 5.
Life is to be marked by inescapable sorrow.
6. The earth being cursed,
the light occupation of
2 Genesis 3: 15.
3 Note on Genesis 3: 15. “And 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.”
The monumental importance of this verse has been recognized by commentators from ancient times. Its gospel character is so marked that for centuries it has been known as the “protevangel,” i.e., “first gospel,” for it is the first hint of the good news. The interpretation, while not fully apparent on the surface, is made plain by common-sense application of the rules of grammar. The matter simply hinges on the pronouns and their logical antecedents. “and I will put enmity …” (Who is the antecedent of I? Very evidently, God, as we see by reference to verse 14) “… between thee and the woman …” (Who is the antecedent of thee? Clearly the serpent, addressed by way of cursing in the preceding verse).
In this simple bit of grammar lies the key to the protevangel. Remembering the antecedents of the pronouns, we continue – “and between thy [the serpent’s or Satan’s] seed [i.e., Satan, the principle and personality of evil] and her [ the woman’s] seed [i.e, Christ, the second Adam, the perfect representative of humanity]; it [the woman’s seed, or the Redeemer] shall bruise thy [the serpent’s or Satan’s] head [i.e., render Satan a mortal blow, as indeed Christ did at the resurrection], and thou [the serpent or Satan] shalt bruise his [Christ’s] heel” [i.e., deal a transient blow, as in the crucifixion, after which Christ overcame death].
4 Job. 14: 1.
5 “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
The Abrahamic Covenant
Back in the ninth century before Christ the Moabites
and the Ammonites, heathen enemies, invaded the
[* That is, for as long as God allows this creation to remain, He replaces it with “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21: 1).. See “The Thousand Years” (pp. 349-378), by Nathaniel West, D.D.]
1 Romans 4: 3.
story is familiar. As the record of Genesis 11 shows, he lived with Terah, his father,
3 Genesis 12: 2, 3.
4 Genesis 12: 4.
5 Genesis 15: 5.
6 Genesis 17: 4-22. Here, as a token of fulfilment, God changes the name of Abram (high father) to Abraham (father of many nations).
Abraham’s obedience is again
tested. An old man, he is commanded to
take his beloved son Isaac and sacrifice him to God upon
7 Genesis 22: 7.
The sequel to this magnificent display of faith rewarded is the final reaffirmation of the covenant of promise to Abraham. Notable is the manner of reaffirmation. 8 And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven a second time, and said, “By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” 9 The covenant is witnessed, witnessed by an oath of tremendous import. “By myself have I sworn,” said God. The Creator, being supreme, can call only Himself to attest His [millennial and] everlasting covenant with Abraham His friend.
8 It is worthy of note that the covenant is also reaffirmed to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and his grandson Jacob. Cf. Genesis 26: 1-6; 28: 10-15.
9 Gen 22: 15-18.
So much for the background and instruction of the
Abrahamic Covenant. Equally illumination is a summary of its provisions and their glorious fulfilment. First of all, the land was promised to Abraham: This was fulfilled in the
Israelitish possession of
10 Cf. Genesis 15: 13-16; Jeremiah 25: 11, 12, and the Palestinian Covenant.
11 Galatians 3: 29.
12 Genesis 13: 14-17; 15: 18; 24: 34, 35.
13 Genesis 15: 6; Romans 4: 3; John 8: 56.
14 Galatians 3: 13, 14.
The Mosaic Covenant
Simultaneously with the Dispensation of the Law, God gave the covenant known by the name of Moses. Moses was a great lawgiver, and this covenant exactly explains the test of the corresponding dispensation under which the Israelites were tried by their obedience to the Law.
In a chapter such as this it is too easy to descend to a mere listing of abstract principles, devoid of the vivid colours of actual life. We might well pause, therefore, to glimpse through the eye of the imagination the majestic circumstances that ushered in the Mosaic Covenant. For legal though this covenant be, its legalism is that of fundamental morality. Far from being entirely abstract, its multitudinous provisions reflect the various hues of life itself. In its religious sections there is a glorious pageantry of worship never to be surpassed for the majesty of its ceremonial.
the time, then, of the institution of this covenant the hosts of the Israelites
were encamped in the midst of the desert
There they wait before the towering red mass of Sinai, outlined like a monstrous Throne against the burning glare of the sands and the empty vault of the sky. How the call came to their leader is not given us to know. The record simply says, “And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain.”1 But what a depth of sublimity undergirds the simple words! God speaks. Moses hears and transmits the word to the elders of the people. They hear and assent. The momentous decision is made, for God has proffered the Law. If the people would obey it, God would make of them “a peculiar treasure” unto Himself “above all people.” They would be “a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.”2 And so Moses returns to the Mount, bringing the affirmative answer of the people. Then God issues a warning. The people are to be sanctified and made ready for the third day, for on that day the Lord Himself will overshadow with His glory the Holy Mount. But let the record speak. “And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightenings, and a thick cloud upon the mount and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.” 3 The modern may criticize and assert that the foregoing narrative is primitive and crude. But he who reads it with the mind of the spirit, he who is in the least responsive to the sublimity of great literature, will, like the waiting multitudes, remain afar off and in awe.
1 Exodus 19: 3.
2 Exodus 19: 5, 6.
3 Exodus 19: 16-19.
from the mount the tremendous display of the Lord’s might, Moses, as the divine
spokesman, enunciated the law. As this
constituted the covenant, it would be well to see in what it consisted. It had three parts. 1.
The ten commandments,4
the expression of the holy will of Almighty God. Of their importance as the ultimate
foundation of all law and morality it is hardly necessary to speak. 2. The rules for governing the social
4 Exodus 20.
5 Exodus 21: 1-24: 1.
6 Exodus 25: 31: 12.
As in the other covenants, so in the Mosaic Covenant judgment attended disobedience but blessing followed obedience. Yet the history of the Jews, sad to relate, is predominantly the record of just penalties imposed for repeated violations of this covenant.
The Palestinian Covenant
Further explanatory of the Dispensation of the Law is
the Palestinian Covenant. In fact, … it is really another Mosaic Covenant. The statement preceding its instruction gives
ample warrant to this view. “These are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of
1 Deuteronomy 29: 1.
conditions of this covenant are seven in number. 1. Dispersion and expulsion from the land will follow disobedience
of God’s laws. 2. While under the sentence of this dispersion,
Thus briefly stated, the provisions of the Palestinian Covenant are somewhat difficult to grasp as a whole. Related to the great forecast of the prophets, however, these provisions stand out as a mighty panorama of the past and future history of a great people.
The Davidic Covenant
During the long centuries covered by the Dispensation of the Law, God gave still another covenant in explanation of His will. Like the compacts made with Abraham and Moses, this covenant was given to a highly-favoured servant of Jehovah. Unlike the Mosaic, yet similar to the Abrahamic Covenant, it has to do primarily with the individual as the head of the nation, although the nation itself shares fully in its provisions.
As Abraham was known as “the friend of God,” so David, “a man after God’s own heart,” had a scarcely less unique title. The seventh chapter of II Samuel sets before us the instruction of the covenant which God made with him. David through the Lord’s favour rests in his palace at peace with all his enemies. As he contemplates the magnificence which surrounds him, he speaks to Nathan, the prophet [of God], of the discrepancy between the royal dwelling and the tabernacle. The latter was a portable, tent-like structure which housed the sacred Ark of the Covenant round which shone the glory of God. Yet king David lived in “a house of cedar.” And so it came to the heart of the impulsive king to build for his God a more fitting temple.
very night there came through Nathan, the prophet, a message for the King. God did not want David to build a temple. Rather would the task be reserved for Solomon,
David’s son [described in Scripture as a man of peace]. Far greater,
however, than the distinction of building the temple was the honour inherent in
the Davidic Covenant, which formed the chief portion of Nathan’s message from
the Lord. This covenant is in the great
evangelical line, starting with the protevangel and continuing through the gracious promises of the Abrahamic
Covenant. On it the glorious [divine promises
and] Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ is to
be founded. It is
essential, therefore, to remember that, while it was given to David during the legal
dispensation, it was interrupted by reason of the disobedience of the
[* See for example the word “glory” in Habakkuk 2: 14 and Zechariah 7: 12-13, R.V. and compare this with Christ’s words recorded in (John 5: 44, 45a) where the context (verses 39-41), make it perfectly clear that our Lord Jesus is speaking about His own coming “glory”:
“How can you believe [in Me] receiving glory one from another; and the glory that cometh from the only God ye seek not? Think not that I will accuse you to the father…” R.V.]
But the Davidic Covenant demands a closer view. Its provisions are simple but momentous. It establishes a Davidic “house,” or family. In connection with this house, the throne is mentioned as indicative of royal authority. So also a Kingdom is named as a place of exercise of royal authority [upon this restored earth]*. Finally, all - house, throne, and Kingdom - are established forever [i.e., for an “Age”]. The covenant has but one condition; in the event of disobedience of God’s commands, the posterity of David is to suffer chastisement, but never in such a form as finally to annul the covenant.
[* See for example Hosea 2: 18, 21-23; Jeremiah 12: 14-17 and compare Jeremiah 31: 1, 3-7 with Romans 8: 19-22; 2 Peter 2: 8, R.V.]
condition illuminates a somewhat puzzling phase of the Davidic Covenant. “How,” it has
been asked, “can one speak of David’s throne as being
established forever, when, since the time of Zedekiah, the last king of
1 The Gospel genealogies of Christ are clear proof of His Davidic ancestry and hereditary right to the throne [promised to Him by His heavenly Father, (Psalm 110: 2b. R.V.).] Matthew 1; Luke 3.
Thus the Davidic Covenant remains in abeyance. But God’s oath is immutable. At the Dispensation of the kingdom [i.e., during the “age to come” (Heb. 6: 5ff.)] the throne will be re-established, the Kingdom will [then have] come, and Christ will reign on the throne of David, not only as King of His people, but as the acknowledged “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
The New Covenant
In the plan of God’s Word one book of the New Testament is reserved for a most illuminating comparison. The ordinances of the Old Testament, the sacrifices and the offerings, are explained by relating them to Christ. In every case He is seen to be the divine fulfilment. The laws and ordinances of Judaism had their place, but their higher significance related to Christ, of whom typically they spoke in a thousand different ways. Where it not for the Epistle to the Hebrews, which discharges the functions above stated, Leviticus would be a closed book and much else in the Old Testament obscure.
But not only are the ceremonial ordinances illuminated by Hebrews, but the covenants are summed up in a final comparison with the excellences of the New Covenant - the culmination of the line of compacts made by God with man through the ages. Fittingly enough, it is the eighth covenant, this speaking of a new beginning [after the Resurrection of the holy dead] through the law of numerical symbolism.
Although the comparison is instituted chiefly between the Mosaic and the New Covenants, yet all the preceding covenants are necessarily in view. The great basis of superiority lies not in morality - for all God’s covenants are perfect in righteousness and judgment - but in efficacy.
The key to the New Covenant and its superiority lies in the following words: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” 1 Herein is the gracious excellency of the New Covenant. Just and merciful the preceding compacts were, but, so deep in sin was man steeped that the wilful corruption of his nature constantly prevented his obedience. He needed, in short, a new heart in order to be well-pleasing to God. The dispensation of Grace, through the atonement, provided a way whereby all men might receive this new heart through the simple acceptance of the Saviour.
1 Hebrews 8: 10.
But the Israelites, to whom the covenants chiefly pertain, have been, since the rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah, blind to the grace of God by reason of their unbelief. 2 And to insure them the new heart so necessary for acceptance by God, the New Covenant will come into effect at the time when the glorious Dispensation of the [Millennial] Kingdom opens. Into the minds of the rebellious and spiritually blinded Israelites, God Himself will put His laws; into their hearts He will write His commands. Thus they will know their King as Messiah.
2 In the great parenthesis in Romans (chapters 9 through 11) Paul explains this. cf. particularly Romans 9: 25-33 and 11: 7-12.
specifically, the points of superiority of the New Covenant are as follows: 1. It is
better than its predecessors not morally, but efficacy. 2.
It is better established on unconditional promises. Before, God said, “If ye will”; now He says, “I will.” 3.
It is better than the preceding covenant, because obedience to them resulted
often from fear of consequences; under the New Covenant obedience springs from
the renewed heart and mind. 4. The New Covenant, by putting the
laws in the individual’s mind and writing them on his heart, secures the
personal revelation of the Lord to every one under its provisions. 5.
The New Covenant secures the complete effacement and oblivion of sins. 6.
It rests upon a finished redemption, not upon a future, uncompleted redemption. 7.
It consummates the Davidic Covenant by securing the perpetuity future
conversion, and blessing of
then, are the covenants. They give us a
large glimpse inti the eternal counsels of God. They deal, to be sure, directly with