RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH
AS TO THE LORDS COMING
From Genesis 3: 15, onward, the Lords coming has always been the hope of His People.
But this hope, while ever the same in kind, has varied in degree according to the extent of the revelation, and measure of information made known from time to time.
For example, up to the call of Abraham it was the Coming One who was to end the conflict of the ages by crushing the head of the old Serpent.
After the call of Abraham it was Abrahams seed who is to be a blessing not only to
From the revelation to David (2 Samuel 7), it was the coming one of Davids seed who was not only, to have possession of Abrahams LAND, but to rule on Davids THRONE.
All the Prophets have these two aspects of the coming for their scope; and nothing that they reveal goes beyond this.
When we come to the Gospels we have the Coming One presented to Israel; and all that He said and did was as a minister of the circumcision, for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers (Romans 15: 8). If we rightly divide the Word of Truth, according to the scope of Romans 15: 8, we shall get the truth concerning Christs ministry when on earth, and be preserved from the alternative error which is the foundation of all Romish teaching, that Christ came on earth to found a Church.
That error is brought about by not dividing off what was subsequently written, and by amalgamating the further revelation given in the Epistles, with what is recorded in the Gospels and Acts.
The coming referred to in the Gospels is what we speak of as the first coming: and, clearly, looks back to the Past, and not onward to the then future (except, of course, where there is direct and new prophecy).
Those who were waiting and looking for that coming had the prophecies of the Old Testament before them; and, studying them, they would see from Micah 5: 2 that His coming forth would be at Bethlehem; while in Zechariah 9: 9 there was to be a coming unto Jerusalem.
There was nothing to tell the students of that day how those two Scriptures were to be rightly divided, in order to be understood; some may have dwelt on one passage, and some on the other; while some higher critics among them (if such had been invented then) may have seen a discrepancy, and refused to believe either.
But we now know that some thirty years and more lay between the beginning and end of all the wonderful events which went to fill those years, and make up what we speak of as the first coming.
Those who then read the words of Isaiah 61: 2, could not have known how to rightly divide them until they heard them read by the Lord Jesus in Luke 4: 18, 19. Then they might have known that the whole of the present Dispensation was to come in between those two sentences: viz., the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God.
The Lord showed where the Word of Truth was to be rightly divided, when He closed the book, and sat down, and explained how far that prophecy was fulfilled up to that day, and what part of it remained to be fulfilled at a later day.
All this shows us by example as well as by precept what we must do, if we would understand the Scriptures.
Many see that this principle must be applied to Isaiah 61: 1, 2, and have already applied it to other subjects. They have got beyond a general resurrection, and a general judgment, but they stop short, and fail to apply this same indispensable principle when they go on to study subsequent Scriptures, which treat of the Lords coming again.* They go back to the dim light of our creeds which were framed after the blessed hope had been lost; and though they have recovered, during the last half century, much concerning the Lords coming, they have stopped short as though all the truth that was lost had been recovered.
[* Which begs the question: Is this being practised today, because Bible Teachers are more concerned with being faithful to what their particular denomination believes and teaches, rather than being faithful in proclaiming what the Word of God, His prophets and Apostles teach?
Anti-millennialists and Post-millennialists take note: it is a frightful position to be in when, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, your teachings will be found to be flawed; and responsible for undermining the plain and easy-to-be-understood prophecies of God, misleading His redeemed people by interpreting out of context, and denying our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ of His inheritance here! See Psalm 2: 8. cf. Numbers 14: 20-23 & 1 Corinthians 10: 11, 12, R.V.).]
This is the one reason why the book of the Acts is so imperfectly understood; and why questions about it are continually rising in the minds of our readers.
Instead of consistently following the example set by our Lord in Luke 4: 18-20, we use it with regard to resurrection and judgment; but when we come to the [Second] Advent, we cast it aside, and thoughtlessly ignore the Word. Hence we fail, to find the truth which comes to us only as we rightly divide it.
Instead of carefully noting what is said in the Acts, we leap over it; and then turn back and read into it what is further revealed about a later Dispensation: and, not stopping there, some actually read the Epistles into Matthew chapter 24, and talk of the Gospel of the KINGDOM as though it were the Gospel of the GRACE of God, and as though we were already [living] in the days then prophesied.
We fail to realise that, within a very short time of the Lords Ascension, another announement was made as to the return of the Lord, who had by wicked hands been crucified and slain.
We fail to ask: Did
that rejection have no effect on the prophecies as to Christ as the Coming One?
Would He ever return at all? True, there were prophecies as to His rejection,
but how did the matter of the fulfilment of the prophecies of His Coming [back to reign from Davids throne in
All such questions were very soon answered. The prophecies of Joel began to find their fulfilment. The Holy Spirit was pouring out His gifts, and
Peter (to whom the keys of the KINGDOM had been given) opened its
doors, first to
Repent and turn to the Lord that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come (R.V.) the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and that He may
SEND JESUS CHRIST,
which before was preached unto you; Whom the heaven must receive, until the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3: 19-21, R.V.).
Here then, was a new promise, a new prophecy, and a new Revelation. Nothing had been heard like this before.
This good news concerning the Kingdom, inquired about in Acts chapter 1: 6, was henceforward preached by Peter to the Jews, and by Paul to Jews and Gentiles alike.
We know the result. Pauls ministry continued down to Acts 28., where the Apostle, for the hope of Israel and bound with his chain, made a final appeal to the chief of the Jews;* and, when this was at length rejected, the sentence of judicial blindness foretold by Isaiah (6: 9, 10), and twice quoted by the Lord (Matthew 13: 14, John 12: 40), was at length executed.
* Representing the nation; see Acts 3: 17; 4: 26; 13: 27.
Now, if we are consistent with the Lords example in Luke 4: 18, 19, we shall not go beyond this Book of the Acts for the understanding of what is written therein, and of the earlier Pauline Epistles, written during that special Dispensation of the Holy Ghost, while He was witnessing in a manner never before seen, by miracles, signs and wonders (Hebrews 2: 3, 4), as Christ had witnessed to His own testimony in the Gospels.
Had Israel repented and turned to the Lord, it is certain that Jesus Christ would have been sent, and every prophetic word written, not only in all the Old Testament prophets, but in 1 and 2 Thessalonians., 1 and 2 Corinthians., Galatians and Romans* would have been fulfilled.
* Except, of course, the Doxology written and added by Paul later
on, when in
What would have happened with regard to the Mystery (or Great Secret), no human tongue can tell. All we know is that God is sovereign, and infinite in wisdom, and power and skill; and all would have been perfect and glorious.
But we have to do with what is written; and we urge, as a matter of consistency, that we ought not to read Pauls later Epistles into the dispensation covered by the Acts.
In Acts 28:
20, he was bound, and in prison (he says), for
What, therefore, he was inspired and commissioned to put into writing from that same prison, in the later Epistles, was not from the standpoint of Israels hope, but, from a different standpoint, and concerning later and further revelations concerning that blessed hope connected with Christ and His Church.
As regards Christ the Coming One, as the hope of
Why should we sow confusion and reap trouble by reading the later Pauline Epistles into the Acts and earlier Epistles?
Why should we cease to rightly divide the word of truth at Acts 28, or at any other subsequent period?
Why, should we not consistently carry out the same great principle, divinely acted on by the Lord Himself, in Luke 4, and obey the same great precept; divinely given by the Holy Spirit in 2 Timothy 2: 15?
Why should we limit it to certain portions of Scripture instead of carrying it throughout the whole Word of Truth, and rightly divide the Pauline Epistles into the earlier and later periods.
When we think of that blessed hope which is giver us, and notice how differently it is spoken of in the later Pauline Epistles, we cannot fail to be struck with that difference.
Up till Acts 28,
all blessing for Gentile believers was through the Jew. It was the Jew first,
Dispensationally. But, when the Jew had gone (Dispensationally
It is just here where the break of Luke 4: 18-20 comes in. It is here that I open
the later Epistle to the Ephesians, and find the wondrous and new revelation that I no longer have the hope of
Israel, but a new
and blessed hope, no longer blessed with an earthly people or even with a heavenly
calling; but I am
with a spiritual blessings in the heavenly sphere, in Christ. I am taken back to times
eternal and told that All was foreseen; and that I am now linked on to Gods
purpose in Christ, which was BEFORE the
foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:
I am now linked on, not to an earthly city; but to the heavenly
places or sphere.
This is the great secret concerning
Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5: 32). I have lost nothing,
I have gained everything. I can no
longer go back to earthly promises, or blessings to be enjoyed in connection with
There is no reason, of course, why the calling-on-high, in Philippians 3: 14, may not include all that is said in 1 Thessalonians 4, and much more not there stated. But, in doing this, there is no occasion for us to rob a future
repenting remnant of
What do we gain by taking that hope from them, seeing we have all that, and more?
If we turn once more to the dispensational teaching connected with the Lords coming, we can see another aspect of it, after Philippians 3: 14 shall have had its own glorious accomplishment, after 1 Thessalonians 4 shall have had its own blessed end. When the tribulation shall be running out, when the judgments of the Lord are in the earth, and many will have learnt righteousness; there will come a moment when those who will thus be looking for Him will say, in that day;
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him;
And He will save us:
This is Jehovah, we have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice
In His salvation.
If we read carefully Isaiah chapters 25 and 26, we shall see that, though such language is used that it can be applied by ourselves and by all who have waited for Him, yet that language cannot be correctly interpreted unless we rightly divide it, and understand it, of those who will, at that time, and no other, find this language to be the expression of their hearts, and exactly suited to their then experiences.