Taken from writings by
Dr. E. W. BULLINGER.
THERE is still
something more to learn concerning the dispensations before we can rightly
understand the unique position and wonderful teaching of the later Pauline Epistles
written from the prison in
These dispensations are commonly spoken of as two, the old and the new, but we must bring them, as all else, to the bar of the written Word to see whether we have learned from man or from God, from tradition or from revelation.
To some extent we shall all agree.
We shall be all agreed that the great subject of the Old Testament prophecies
is a restored
We are at one with all our readers in taking these prophecies in their literal meaning; and in not attempting to explain them, or rather fritter them away by any spiritualizing interpretation which derives them of all their truth and power.
We all look forward also to the time when He that scattered Israel will gather them (Jer. 31: 10); when they shall all be taught of God (John 6: 45, Isa. 54: 13); when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our LORD, and of His Christ (Rev. 11: 15); and when the earthly Jerusalem shall be restored in more than all its ancient glory.
kingdom and sphere of blessing and glory will be on the earth; and the new
Israel with a heart of stone changed to a heart of flesh and with a new spirit,
will bring forth the fruits of righteousness (Ezek. 36: 24-36, Matt. 21: 43). This will
be the regeneration (or Palingenesia)
when the apostles will be seated on twelve thrones
judging the tribes of
This will be the first and lowest sphere of blessing. It will be on earth, and under the whole heaven. These are the people of the saints of the Most High (Dan. 7: 27).
All the nations of the earth will share in this blessing according to Gods original promise to Abraham.*
* Gen. 12: 3, 4; 17: 4; Ps. 22: 27, 28; 67: 4; Isa. 2: 4; 11: 10, 12; 42: 1, 6; 49: 22; 52: 15; 55: 5; 60: 3, 5, 11; 66: 12, etc.
2. But Abraham and his spiritual seed are the saints of the Most High as distinct from the people (of these saints) on the earth (Dan. 7: 18, 22, 25), and [also] occupying a distinct place in the heavenly
sphere of this same [millennial] kingdom. These, according to the Lords words in Luke,
are equal to the angels, sons of the resurrection (Luke
raised in the first resurrection before the
thousand years of earthly blessing for
This is the inheritance of those who, as Peter declares to the believers of the Dispersion, have obtained like precious faith with us. That inheritance is uncorruptible, and undefiled, and fadeth not away, reserved in HEAVEN for you. The Greek, by the figure Homoioteleuton, emphasizes this inheritance as being not earthly, but aphtharton, amianton, amaranton (1 Pet. 1: 4).
The inhabitants of that heavenly city are declared to be the bride, the Lambs wife (Rev. 21: 9).
From the call of Abraham there have ever been these two seeds, the earthly and the heavenly.
The one is likened by Jehovah to the dust of the earth or the sand of the sea (Gen. 13: 16; 22: 17); and the other was likened to the stars of heaven (Heb. 11: 12; Gen. 15: 5).
Both expressions suggest multitude, but the former is specially associated with earthly blessing, while the latter points to the partakers of a heavenly calling (Heb. 3: 1).
These latter, like their father Abraham, looked for a heavenly portion and a heavenly blessing, for the city which hath the foundations.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things make it manifest that they are seeking after a country of their own. And if indeed they have been mindful of that country from which they came out, they would not have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better country, that is a HEAVENLY; wherefore God is not ashamed of them to be called their God; for He hath prepared for them a city (Heb. 11: 13-16, R.V.).
Where, and what could that city have been if it was not the city which John was shown descending out of heaven from God, the foundations of which are specially described in Rev. 21: 19, 20.
All through the ages, from Abrahams day to the present, these partakers of the heavenly calling may be traced.
They formed the congregation of the Lord, and are continually spoken of as such.
Those (probably the few, as we see it today) who gathered to the stated worship of Jehovah are called the assembly or the congregation.
The Hebrew word for congregation is from kahal (from which doubtless we have the word call). The verb means to call, assemble, gather together; and the noun is used of any assembly thus called. Seventy times in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament it is rendered ekklesia (the word for church in the New Testament.*
* The Hebrew word is rendered congregation 86 times; assembly, 17 times; company, 17 times: multitude, 3 times.
It is actually used in the expression the ekklesia (or church) of the Lord in Deut. 23: 1, 2, 3, 8; 1 Chron. 28: 8; Micah 2: 5.
In Neh. 13: 1 it is the ekklesia (or church) of God.
It is the ekklesia (or church) that is referred to as the congregation in Ps. 22: 22; 26: 12; 35: 18; 40: 9, 10; 68: 26.* In Ps. 22: 25 it is spoken of as the great ekklesia or congregation, and in Ps. 149: 1 as the ekklesia of the saints.
* In Num. 16: 3 and 20: 4 the Hebrew kahal is translated in the Septuagint as synagogue. In the Revised Version this is rendered the assembly of the Lord.
This is what David means in Ps. 22: 22, when he says:
In the midst of the congregation I will praise Thee (verse 22), and
My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation (verse 25).
This is the usage of the same word in the Gospels when the Lord said:
Upon this rock I will build My ekklesia (Matt. 16: 18).
He did not, when addressing Israelites, use the word in the new, exclusive and special sense in which it was afterward to be used in the revelation of the secret in the Prison Epistles; but in the larger and wider Old Testament sense which His hearers would understand as embracing the whole assembly of Jehovahs believing and worshipping people who were partakers of the heavenly calling (Heb. 3: 1).
When the [Holy] Spirit by Stephen speaks of the ekklesia in the wilderness (Acts 7: 38) he means the congregation of pious worshippers.
Those who were kept secure under the shadow of the Almighty during the 38 years of penal wanderings in the Wilderness, see Psalms 90 and 91.
When the Lord added to the ekklesia such as were being saved (Acts 2: 47) after Pentecost, He added them to the 120 who before Pentecost assembled together in the upper room, and who continued daily in the Temple (no longer offering sacrifices and partaking of the food furnished thereby), but breaking bread (or eating as in Luke 24: 30, 35 and Acts 27: 35) at home, with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people.
And the Lord added to the church (ekklesia) daily such as were being saved (Acts 2: 46, 47).
It is true that the words the church (Gk. ekklesia) in verse 47, are omitted by all the Textual Critics (even the most conservative and least modern) Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, Westcott and Hort, and the Revised Version; but we lay no stress on the omission here, because even as it stands, it is used in the Old Testament sense of the congregation of the Lord, and not in the later sense as found in the Epistle to the Ephesians: for they would not have understood it (neither should we today, if we had never seen that later Epistle).
When Paul says he persecuted the ekklesia of God (1 Cor. 15: 9; Gal. 1: 13), he does not use the word in a sense which he had at that time never heard of, or had even the remotest idea of. His words must be understood in the same sense in which he then used them; and we must not read into any passage of Scripture that which was the subject of a subsequent revelation: especially, when the sense is perfectly plain and clear as it stands.
The word ekklesia in the Gospels, Acts and the earlier Pauline Epistles must be taken by us in the sense of its Old Testament (Septuagint) usage as meaning simply the congregation or assembly, or company of Jehovahs worshipping people, partakers of a heavenly calling, having a heavenly hope, a heavenly sphere of blessing, and looking for their part in the [First] resurrection unto life.
It had been revealed of old that there would be a resurrection, (see Job 19: 25-27; Hosea 13: 14; John 11: 24); but it was subsequently revealed also that there would be two resurrections, one to life, and [after the Lords coming Millennium] one to judgment. Paul testified of the former as being the hope of those who were worshippers of God (Acts 24: 14, 15; David hoped for it (Psalm 16: 9-11;* 49: 14, 15). So did Daniel (Dan. 12: 1-3).
* Though the Psalm refers to Messiah (Acts 2: 27-31; 13: 35), we may not exclude David himself, though his expectation is not yet (See Ps. 49: 15).
The Lord plainly spoke of the former as the resurrection of the just [or righteous*] (Luke 14: 14); and, as the resurrection of life (John 5: 29). By the word of the Lord was revealed a further hope, or rather, an expression of the hope in John 11: 25, 26.
[* See Matt. 5: 20, which refers to the disciples undisclosed standard of personal righteousness. It is a resurrection of REWARD, for those deemed worthy for the REWARD of the inheritance: Thou shalt be recompensed (rewarded) in the resurrection of the just (14: 14. R.V.). See also Luke 20: 35. cf. Phil. 3: 11; Rev. 20: 4-6, etc.]
There was not only the hope of those who should have part in the first resurrection, but for those who should be alive and remain when that event should take place.
The word of the Lord first mentioned it, and the Holy Spirit by Paul expands it in 1 Thess. 4: 16, 17.
It concerns the Lord, not only as to His being the Resurrection, but as to His being the Life also. He says:
c / I am the Resurrection
d / and the life.
c / He that believeth in Me, though he die, he shall live (again).
[To him] I will be the resurrection
d / and everyone who [is] alive, and believing in Me shall in nowise die, for ever.
[To him] I will be the Life.
This was (and still is) the hope for all who are partakers of the heavenly calling (Heb. 3: 1).
Many of those were to be found when Messiah came.
They were those
(1) who waited for the consolation of
(2) who looked for the redemption in
(3) who trusted that the Lord was He who should have redeemed
(4) who waited for the
(5) who were as many as received Him (John 1: 12);
(6) who gladly received Peters or Pauls word on the day of Pentecost
and after (Acts 2: 41; 8: 14; 11: 1; 17: 11); and
(7) who received the word in much affliction (1 Thess. 1: 6); and
(8) who when they received the word, accepted it not as mans word, but even as it is
truly Gods word which worketh effectually in you that believe (1 Thess. 2: 13):
(9) who received not what was promised (Heb. 11: 39)
but who believed and embraced it by faith.
Which of us has not been in difficulties as to those we speak of as the Old Testament saints?
Well, here they may be seen all through the Old Testament as being the church (or assembly) of God, partakers of a heavenly calling, possessing a heavenly hope, and looking for a heavenly sphere [as well as an earthly sphere*] of blessing [during Messiahs coming millennial kingdom].
[* See Gen. 13: 15, 15: 7; 17: 8. cf. Acts 7: 4, 5.
A Moderator in the Presbyterian Church of Northern Ireland was asked to explain what Stephen meant by his statement recorded in Acts 7: 4. 5. He was unable to answer the question! but after it was suggested that Abraham is presently in Hades awaiting his resurrection; and this must take place before he can be back on the land to enjoy his God-promised inheritance - he said: The Presbyterian Church dont teach that! But how many other Christian Denominations do teach that? See R. Govetts Hades.]
This includes the putting down of the enemies, and the binding of the old serpent the devil.
This is why the enemys great endeavour, now, is to blind the minds of men and women so that the light of this good news (or gospel) of the GLORY of Christ is hidden from them (2 Cor. 4: 3, 4).
And this is why we, who obey God by believing Him as to this revelation, should cherish it as our earnest hope and constant theme; and, not being ignorant of Satans devices, since we are thus told against what his assault is being made, therefore know where our defence is to be directed.
In other words, we are to labour to make known the riches of glory which are connected with this blessing and glory and honour for Christ and His Church.
A NOTE ON ACTS 3: 26.
It may possibly help some readers if I point out the solution of a difficulty which was, to me, a very real one for some time. I could not understand how the past tense sent was used in the phrase sent him to bless you in Acts 3: 26 after the declaration Unto you first, God, having raised up His Son Jesus, which I wrongly considered to refer to the resurrection of Christ. Here was my mistake! The words, having raised up His Son Jesus, evidently refer, not to His being raised up from the dead, but to the fact of His having been raised up of God, according to promise, to be the prophet like unto Moses. See verse 22, where we have the same word For Moses truly said unto the fathers, a prophet shall the Lord your God RAISE UP unto you, of your brethren, like unto me.
This will be quite clear if we note the use of this word in Acts 2: 30. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would RAISE UP Christ to sit on his throne (see also 7: 37).
My mistake may seem to have been a foolish one, but it only serves to show how easily we may miss the meaning of a passage of Holy Scripture by adhearing to traditional interpretation, or even to an interpretation which has in some way or other, most probably from a lack of meditation upon, or searching of the Word, become fixed in ones mind.
Robert J. Noves.
[While anastasis always means resurrection, save in Luke 2: 34, the verb anistemi, which, in the active, means to make to stand up, or raise up, and, in the middle, to stand up, or rise up, has a wider application. See e.g., Matt. 9: 9; 22: 24; 26: 62. Acts 5: 6, 17, 34, 36, 37. Ed.]