THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS
By F. E. GAEBELEIN
[* From chapter 9 of the author’s book “Exploring the Bible,” (pp. 141-172).]
In the case of a book like the Bible, unique in quality and of admittedly divine inspiration, as to assign diverse values to its parts is a task of insuperable difficulty. Yet while the thoughtful scholar shrinks from preferring one portion of God’s Word above another, the superficial reader sometimes does what the learned hesitates to attempt. How many professing Christians confine their all-too-desultory Bible reading to familiar chapters of the Gospels and certain of the Psalms. To how many are the great reaches of the historical books, the close-knit logic of the doctrinal epistles, and the vibrant testimony of the prophets a terra incognita! No one would dispute the value of the universally known Psalms and Gospel passages. Their appeal is unquestioned, and it is fortunate that in their cases God has chosen to place the nuggets of His truth on the surface. Yet it would be folly to infer that all Bible study is a mere literary placer mining with the gold on surface view. Quite the contrary, some of the most precious of God’s truths lie incrusted with the soil of ancient custom and the rock of Oriental symbolism. For these treasures the earnest reader of Scripture must search. With the sharp pick of the keen intellect and the penetrating drill of the devout spirit he must sink his shaft beneath the outer crust of a bygone literary form, until, like the indefatigable miner, he is rewarded by [the Holy Spirit’s help and enlightenment] finding pure gold and precious gems, by revelations of divine truth and glimpses into the eternal counsels of the Almighty, inestimable in value and unfading in beauty. Such, figuratively expressed, is prophetic study. Never popular among the rank and file of church members, its difficulties are arduous and its rewards great.
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 inspired
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, after His Resurrection, His Ascension into heaven to sit at His Father’s right hand in heaven, until His enemies be made His footstool? See Psalm 110.]
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 [and their allegiance to David their King during the “age.” Yet to come!]*
[*“And I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of
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 in 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
7 Rev. 19: 10.
8 John 5: 39.
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 9 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
9 From Messiah, the Hebrew term for the coming Christ.
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 God’s Covenants are shown below.]
[* Revelation 3: 21. cf. Luke 22: 28-30, R.V.]
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 yet 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.
16 Genesis 49: 8-12.
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.
20 John 1: 11.
[* That is, blinded to the good news about their Messiah’s coming glory: “But and if our gospel (good news) is veiled,” said Paul, “it is veiled to them that are perishing: in whom the god of this age hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them:” (2 Corinthians 4: 4, R.V.).]
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 [out] from the dead** and will return, a mighty King, to judge the quick [i.e., the living] and the dead.
[* 1 Corinthians 1: 7; Revelation 22: 12, R.V.]
[** See Acts 2. 31. cf. verse 34. Also 1 Corinthians 15: 20, 23: also Paul’s address to the Athenians, - “He has fixed a day,” [i.e., ‘the God who made the world and all things,’ verse 24], “in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man [i.e., Christ Jesus] whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead: (Acts 17: 31, NASB). Translated literally the last words read: “… having raised him [the Messiah] out of dead ones.” Christ’s resurrection was selective: no other soul was resurrected “out of dead ones” at that time.]
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 [at that time. That is, at His Second Advent] 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 [today].
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 Son of Man must reckon with the great fact of fulfilled [and unfulfilled*] 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.”
[*See Psalms 2: 8; 46: 9-11; 47: 3, 4; 53: 66: 4; 67: 3-5 and all of Psalm 72; and compare with (Luke 24: 25-27, 44, R.V.).]
[From chapter 8 in the author’s book under the heading]
GOD’S IMMUTABLE PROMISES
OF like importance to the dispensations are the covenants. If as we have seen* the dispensations [or past ages] are to be regarded as periods of time during which God tests the obedience of man to a specific revelation of His will, then the covenants may be considered as God’s enunciation of those specific revelations under which man is tested. As a sort of plan or chart of this chapter, let us, therefore, first of all sketch out this significant relationship between dispensations and covenants. This plan should be constantly referred to during the reading of the following pages. On one side we shall list the dispensations; on the other the covenants. The order, of course, is chronological. It should be noted that the correspondence in time is not absolute. For instance, the Dispensation of Human Government continues in force through the Mosaic Covenants and indeed overlaps in respect to the Gentile nations some of the latter dispensations.
[* See Footnote at end.]
HUMAN GOVERNMENT NOAHIC
PROMISE ABRAHAMIC *
*.From the time of Abraham the covenants are primarily Jewish.
LAW MOSAIC A (Sinai)
MOSIAC B (Palestineian)
* Grace, being universal and opening the way, spiritually, for the Gentiles,
does not have an exact covenantal explanation, as do the other dispensations.
KINGDOM DAVIDIC B (Consummated)
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.
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 as shown in our diagram, 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.
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.
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 2 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 into the eternal counsels of God. They deal, to be sure, directly with
[From pages 103-110 at the end of chapter 7 in the author’s book entitled:]
GOD’S PLAN FOR THE AGES
The Dispensation of Grace 1
1 Instituted by Christ’s work on the Cross. First New Testament reference - John 1: 17. Extent: From the Cross to Christ’s second coming.
The sixth dispensation partakes of the nature of a transition. In its beginning Israelitish like Promise and the Law, it later broadens to universal scope and comprises all mankind. Furthermore, it has special interest as the dispensation under which we are living.
Grace is briefly defined as the unmerited favour of God towards man. Or, to use the words of Paul, it is “the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man … not by works of righteousness which we have done.” 2 Here we have succinctly expressed the distinction between Grace and the five preceding dispensations. Grace depends upon what God does; man, undeserving and in himself unworthy, has but to believe to receive divine favour. On the other hand, the rewards under Law and the earlier dispensations are more nearly dependant on what man does. Or, to phrase the point differently, under Grace belief is chiefly tested. In this sense, grace is perhaps the simplest as it is the broadest of the dispensations. It emphasizes the love of God, while the Dispensation of the Law, for instance, stresses His just wrath.
2 Titus 3: 4, 5.
For the sake of clarity, it is well to divide Grace into two parts. The first we shall call the Jewish division; the second, the universal division. The Key to the dispensation as a whole is concisely stated in John 1: 17: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” It is clear, then, that the dispensation is to be thought of as peculiarly related to our Lord. He inaugurated it, and He will close it at the great consummation when He appears again in glory.
As our four gospels clearly show, the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry proclaimed His Messiahship and offered Himself to the Jews as their predicted King. This was the Jewish division of the dispensation. But, instead of receiving Him, they hated Him, rejected Him, and by shameful crucifixion put Him to death. The test, then, was national acceptance or rejection of the Messiahship of Christ.
Now, with the death of Christ, the dispensation broadens; the test is still acceptance or rejection of Christ, but Gentiles as well as Jews are concerned. Was Christ the Saviour of the world, did He shed His blood for the sin of the world, did He die for the individual whether Jew or Greek, bond or free? That was the great test question in the first century. That is the great test question in this twentieth [now the 21st century] of Grace. An affirmative answer through simple belief in the crucified One brings a new heart and eternal life. Rejection means continuance in sin, the dominion of the baser elements of life, and final spiritual darkness apart from the presence of God.
As we are now living during the Dispensation of Grace, its end is not a fact of past history but rather of prophecy, the history of the future.* According to the predictive portions of the New Testament, this [evil] age is to end in widespread apostasy of falling away from the truth. The result, as given in the Book of Revelation, will be a series of [divine] judgments culminating in the end of the present dispensation.
[* That is, in “A new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21: 1, R.V.): after Messiah’ millennial reign and after “books were opened … and death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20: 7, 12, 14a, R.V.).
Those who neglect Messiah’s millennial reign and teach contrary to the Word of God, are in my opinion making a very costly mistake, they show their disbelief in unfulfilled prophetical truths, (Psalm 72; Acts 17: 31, R.V.); seek to blind the Lord’s redeemed people to “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4: 4; 1 Peter 1: 11, R.V.); and thereby seek to deprive out Lord and Saviour of His promised inheritance! (Psalm 2: 8; Luke 1: 32, R.V.). This is the apostasy of which Peter speaks of in his epistles.]*
The Dispensation of the [Millennial] Kingdom. 3
3 Institution: Christ’s second coming. Old Testament reference – 2 Samuel 7: 1-17; New Testament reference - Ephesians 1: 10. Extent: 1,000 years, from Christ’s second coming until He delivers the Kingdom up to the Father (1 Corinthians 15: 24).
The last of the dispensations is indissolubly linked with a covenant God made with David. In 2 Samuel 7: 1-17, we have the record of the incident. David, at peace with all his enemies, desired to honour the Lord by building a suitable temple for the sacred ark. In answer to this desire God sent a message to David through Nathan, the [divinely appointed] prophet. The gist of it was that David should not build the temple, but that the Lord would establish David’s son Solomon to construct the temple. Then, as is so often the case in sacred prophecy, the message broadened to universal scope, and the Lord sealed the covenant with these words: “Thine house and thine kingdom shall be established for ever* before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever,” 5 This is the promise of the [millennial]* kingdom, and the seventh dispensation of its divine fulfilment.
4 2 Samuel 7: 16.
[* Keep in mind: Messiah has two kingdoms. In Scripture, the context must always be examined to show and make known which “kingdom” was promised to our Lord Jesus by His Father as His inheritance upon this earth during the “age to come.” (See Psalm 2: 8. cf. Psalm 110; Acts 1: 3ff; Heb. 6: 5, R.V. etc.).
The following short quotation, from Dr. Nathaniel West’s writings; will, in my opinion, be found to be a tremendous help in understanding many unfulfilled prophetic texts relative to our Lord’s thousand-year reign upon this earth:
“The word ‘Olam,’
not of itself, and by fived necessity, always denote the annihilation of time, but as
frequently, in Hebrew usage, denotes simply unbroken continuance up to a
special epoch in history, or to a certain natural termination. It has
a relative as well as an absolute sense, a finite as well as an infinite
length. It means ‘Here’ as well as ‘Beyond,’ and applies to a kingdom that comes to ‘an End’ as well as to one that has ‘no End.’ For this reason, a World-Period
or Age, is called an ‘Olam,’ and World Periods, or Ages, are called ‘Olammim,’ and in
order to express infinite time, the reduplication is used, ‘Ages of Ages,’ ‘Olammim Olammim.’ It is
therefore a false conclusion to say that because the term ‘Le Olam,’ ‘Forever,’ is applied to the
Messianic kingdom, therefore the Hebrews contradicted themselves, when they
assigned to it limits at the same time. Messiah’s kingdom is Temporal and also Eternal, and in
both senses, Olamic. … True to this view, the Jewish Teachers ever held to a
Testament history tells us, of course, that the immediate posterity of David
proved untrue to their sacred trust.
Solomon, who began so gloriously, finally turned
away from the truth. His son Rehoboam
was a misguided weakling and through his utter lack of true leadership
alienated the ten tribes of
there was one ray of light. All through
the chequered history of the Kingdom, the Davidic dynasty remained intact. This was a fact almost miraculous, when one
considers the intrigues and treacheries of those bloody days. During a period more than a hundred years
shorter, the neighbouring
5 Matthew 1.
death conquered and had Christ failed to rise from the dead, the
6 1 Corinthians 15: 14.
[* Luke 24: 39, R.V.).]
And so, at the close of this dispensation, the Kingdom [which the Father has promised to His only begotten Son as His inheritance*] will come into its own. The [present day Christian] apostasy in the form of a world-wide departure [by the Anti-millennialists] from the faith 7 will be man’s answer to God’s forbearance and mercy under Grace. Judgments will follow; the Lord will come for His Church, there will be a time of unprecedented trouble and disaster, and finally at Armageddon Christ, described in Revelation as the Rider “on the white horse,” 8 will overthrow the rebellious hosts of man. And then will be fulfilled the long-awaited promise [of reward*]. As “King of Kings and Lord of lords,” the divine Ruler will enter upon a glorious rule. For a thousand years Christ will occupy the throne of David.
7 2 Timothy 3: 1-9; 2 Peter 2.
[* Psalm 2: 8. cf. Psalm 110: 1-3, 5-6: see also exposition of this psalm.]
8 Revelation 19: 11-16.
[* See Hebrews 11: 6, 13, 26. cf. Colossians 3: 23-24; Revelation 22: 12, R.V.).]
This is the period known as the millennium, 9 the time of blessing of which the prophets [of God] sang. It will be signalized in a unique way. Satan will be temporarily restrained and the curse will be lifted from the earth, 10 and there will be unheard-of productivity. Sickness and physical death will be the exception, not the rule. With Christ, the Prince of Peace, as King, wars shall cease, and the long-sought day of universal amity will at last be realized. Even the wild beasts will forget their enmity, and “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid … and a little child shall lead them.” 11
9 Revelation 20: 1-5.
10 Isaiah 65: 17-25.
11 Isaiah 11: 6.
But, even under such favourable conditions, evil will persist in the hearts of some. Giving feigned obedience and honour to the King, they will conspire together. At the end of the thousand years, there will be a brief and final flare of evil, Satan being loosed, after which the rebels will be destroyed and Satan cast forever into the lake of fire. 12
12 Revelation 20: 7-10.
The dispensation of the Kingdom is over; Christ delivers up the Kingdom to His Father; 13 the Great White Throne is set up; the wicked dead are judged [after their resurrection out of the books] according to their deeds, and Heaven and earth flee away. Then, in eternity, as the twenty-first chapter of Revelation tells us, is prepared “the new heaven and the new earth.” The translation to eternity is complete, and God is all in all.*
[* Here the sequence of the author’s events has been altered. - Ed.]
Thus ends the plan of the ages. How glorious is its scope! How boundless is its sweep! And how wonderful is the truth that all merges and finds fulfilment in our Lord Jesus Christ. In him Innocence is unbroken, Conscience undisturbed, on His shoulder the government rests, in Him promise and Law find fulfilment, and in His kingdom, the power and the glory forever!
13 1 Corinthians 15: 24.
* * *
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto
a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:” (Matthew 7: 24).
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven:
but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven:” (Matthew 7: 21).
Do is still the key-note of the chapter. He that doeth righteousness is righteous. He that doeth the will of the heavenly Father, he and he only shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.* By this we are to know false prophets, testing their doctrine by their deeds. Holiness is not in saying, “Lord, Lord!” Pious phrases, pious tones, pious looks, pious professions, count for nothing, unless there is the doing of the Father’s will. He that heareth and doeth not, builds his house upon the sand; he that heareth and doeth, builds his house upon a rock.
[* Literally: “the kingdom of the heavens.” Presumably this is a reference to the heavenly sphere of Messiah’s millennial kingdom for resurrected saints only, after Jesus returns to resurrect all martyrs and the holy dead! Luke 20: 35-36; 1 Thess. 4: 16. cf. Luke 14: 14; John 14: 3; Rev. 3: 5; 6: 9-11; 20: 4-6, etc, R.V.]
Then our Lord closes the sermon with the parable of the two builders: he that heareth and doeth; and he that heareth and doeth not. The figure continues the line of thought which immediately precedes the parable. Each house was a doing - a labour. Probably, building on the sand is the greatest labour of the two. But the wise man’s labour was to get on to the Rock. As soon as that was his foundation the Rock gave its strength to the whole building.* Every stone in it was firm, because the foundation was good. THAT ROCK WAS CHRIST.
[* That is, provided the builders are not “teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men” (Mk. 7: 7b, R.V.)! The builders’ teachings are to be synonymous to those of their Lord and His Apostles! See Luke 13: 27; 1 John 3: 24; 1 Cor. 3: 10b, 13; 4: 2, 6; 2 Cor. 5: 9-10; Gal. 6: 7, etc.]
- Mark Guy Pearse.
What we should be done to purpose; effect something; not only move ourselves, but move others - out of their sins to Christ; move the Church, and better it, and not be at an everlasting standstill.
Erasmus tells of a man, named Rabirius who wanted his servant, Syrus, to get up, and called to him to move. “I do move,” replied Syrus. “I see you move,” rejoined the master, “but you move nothing!” Now, there may be much religious activity, and yet not a sinner moved out of his sins, and the Church very little advanced in holiness [and spiritual understanding]. When we move, we should move to some purpose, and accomplish something!
- James Caughey.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not: and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering: (James 1: 5, 6).
“Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived:
neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of
themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor
revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the
(1 Corinthians 6: 9-10, R.V.).
I have not sufficient wisdom to meet these difficulties so as to be able to know what steps to take, but He is able to [give understanding and] direct me. What I have, therefore, to do is this: in simplicity to spread my case before my heavenly Father and my Lord Jesus. Then I have to believe that God will do so, and go with good courage to my business, and expect help from Him in the next difficulty that may come before me. I have to look for guidance, I have to expect counsel from the Lord; and, as assuredly as I do so, I shall have it. I shall find that I am not nominally, but really in partnership with the Father and with the Son.
- George Muller.
Being perplexed, I say,
Lord, make it right,
Night is as day to Thee,
Darkness is light.
I am afraid to touch
Things that involve so much:
My trembling hand may shake,
My skill-less hand may break,
Thine can make no mistake,
Lord, make it right!
Being in doubt, I say,
Lord, make it plain,
Which is the true, safe way,
Which would be vain.
I am not wise to know,
Nor sure of foot to go:
My poor eyes cannot see
What is so clear the Thee –
Lord, make it clear to me,
Lord, make it plain!
- Anna Warner.