Questions and Answers
WE are often asked certain questions which we invariably answer by reference to articles in the back issues of Unsearchable Riches. We find that some recurring questions have already been dealt with so satisfactorily in the magazine that we can hardly improve on what was said. The questions which come up most often are certainly on basic matters, and worthy of frequent review.
The questions come from our readers. The earlier questions were answered directly by A. E. Knoch. Later answers are selections taken from various back numbers of the magazine or in our other publications. Generally they will be from articles by Mr. Knoch, and in some cases we will edit them slightly in order to make them more directly and briefly responsive to the question. This is necessary, of course, since what was written was not originally in reply to a question.
26. How can it be shown that "death" in 1 Cor.15:26 refers to the death state and not to the cessation of dying?
What is the subject of the passage? It is resurrection. Now the cessation of the act of dying is not resurrection at all; in fact it removes the necessity of resurrection. Furthermore the immediate subject is not keeping alive, but making alive--vivification--and the abolition of the act of dying makes no one alive, while the abolition of the death state makes all alive. This is the proposition the apostle has before him.
Furthermore, this abolition must not precede the abolition of all sovereignty and all authority and power. Now it is true that in the last eon, there shall be no more death--the death state shall receive no additions in that eon--yet this is not its abolition, for the lake of fire (which is the second death) continues throughout its length and sovereignty and authority is not abolished. This is clear from the fact that there are kings (Rev.21:24 and the Lambkin occupies the throne with God (Rev.22:1), and His servants continue to reign (Rev.22:5). It is not until the end of this eon, at the consummation, that the lake of fire, into which death has been cast, and which alone comprises the death state, is abolished.
27. Are we not to understand "all rule" (1 Cor.15:24) as referring to opposing rule only as is explained in the next verse?
It is always dangerous to add to the Word of God even in our thoughts. The sentence itself is very explicit and makes use of strong figure of speech to assure us that all sovereignty and all authority and power are to be abolished. The repetition of the world "all" is unnecessary to the sense and is intended to emphasize the fact that not some kinds of sovereignty but all is to be abolished. That sovereignty which does not oppose God is included is further evident from the fact that the sovereignty of the Son (which surely cannot be classed with opposing rule) is included, for He, too, lays aside His scepter at that time. Now, the next phrase "for He must reign till every enemy has been put under His feet" does not limit the previous statement. The conjunction "for" gar does not limit. It gives the reason. Neither should we read "the last enemy to be abolished is death." The emphasis is on "last." it stands before the word enemy when, in Greek, it should normally come after it. So that we should read "The last enemy..." In other words, all sovereignty and authority and power held by anyone except God Himself is inimical to God's purpose to be All in all His creatures. So long as there is a go-between of any kind, whether priest or king, there is a measure of estrangement between God and His creatures which must not continue permanently. When He is their All, when access is unhindered, when there is perfect subjection, then an intermediary is only in the way. All sovereignty and all authority and power are "opposing" forces, hence all are to be abolished. These, it must be remembered, refer only to delegate rule, not to the sovereignty of God Himself. Under Him the "kingdom" continues as a paternal despotism, if we may be allowed the use of such an expression.
28. Does not God harden the hearts of those who do not believe so that they cannot believe and so are finally lost?
God does indeed harden hearts, but such scriptures as Matt.13:12-15; 25:29; Mark 4:24,25 and John 12:37-40 do not record His reason for so doing. The purpose of God in Israel's unbelief is fully treated in the eleventh of Romans. There we read that God locks all up together in distrust. Why? In order that He may have mercy an all.
29. If Christ's words are not final in the case of Judas, how can we know they are final in the case of those who were not lost?
The Lord was careful to refrain from the use of the word "final." He never said that anyone was "finally" lost or "finally" saved. All of this belongs to the times of the eons, in which nothing is "final." Judas was lost, the eleven were saved. He will suffer affliction and anguish for his awful crime; they will enjoy the summit of earthly blessing and glory. But when it comes to final things we must look to other scriptures which speak of final things. If God had revealed a final state in which all would eventually be lost, then blessing would be limited to the eons and would terminate with them. But as He has revealed an ultimate in which all are saved, we need only believe Him, both as to His severe judgments on those who are lost during the eons and His reconciling grace at their close.
30. If repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ are essential to salvation, how can Judas and the devils be saved?
That Judas regretted his action we are plainly told (Matt.27:3). But it must never be conceded that repentance and faith are "essential to salvation." Such a statement is far too sweeping. These are essential to an entrance into the Kingdom, but nowhere are we told that Paul includes repentance in the gospel of God, or in the "gospel of the Mystery," which is in force at present. The necessary elements of salvation change with each economy. Now all that is demanded is faith, so to agree with grace (Rom.4:16). In the day of Jehovah, confession will be added (Rom.10:9). Then only those who invoke the name of Jehovah will be saved, for these only will endure to the end. Salvation, no matter how much of the creature element may be introduced, is all of God, and He alone has the right to lay down the conditions. We have no right to insist that He always acts on the same principles, for He has not in the past and will not in the future. And if He should insist on repentance on the part of the demons, He would not be at a loss to grant it to them. The whole question is simply this: Is God going to reconcile the universe to Himself or not? If He says He will, it is foolish to put imaginary hindrances in His way and it is wicked to wrest His own word so that He contradicts Himself. Those who take Heb.2:16 as a proof that salvation is not for angels, must not forget that, if this is true, it must follow that it is not for the nations either, who are not of the seed of Abraham.
Psa.9:5 makes it clear how long the blotting out is to last. As the LXX renders it, it will be "for the eon," and "for the eon of the eon." That is it will be for the two succeeding eons, up to the consummation. Or, in other words, up to the final state. This is in exact accord with the passages which teach that such will have their place in the lake of fire (Rev.13:8; 3:5).
The great gulf of Luke 16:96 has no reference to a final state. This is stated as being hades, and hades itself is cast into the lake of fire, so that there will be no hades long before the final state.
33. When it is said that the "last state" of the deliberately wicked is worse than the first, is not this the final state?
This is an illustration of the wicked generation to whom the Lord spoke (Matt.12:45; 2 Peter 2:20). The context limits the expression to demon possession. There is no comparison between the time before he was possessed by demons and the second time they enter him. Neither was it any reference to any time after they leave him. The terms "first" and "last" are often used relatively, not absolutely. Peter himself (2 Peter 3:3) speaks of the "last" days. No one attempts to take this absolutely for we know that these days precede His coming, after which come the days of refreshing. The resurrection of life is often spoken of as at the "last" day. Christ was seen "last" by the Apostle Paul. Does this mean that no one shall ever see Him again?
Eph.1:10 has no reference to "eternity" if the time following the consummation is referred to by that expression. In "eternity" Christ is not presented as the Head of all but as having handed over His headship, for He delivers up the Kingdom to the Father that God may be All in all. Eph.1:10 refers to the eon of the eon, the final of the series, when God subordinates all to the Son, but not to post eonian perfection when all sovereignty and authority and power are abolished.
A reference to a concordance will give ample logical grounds for making the word "things" include persons. When the apostle assures the Corinthians that all things were theirs, what did he mean? Did he include persons? Were Paul and Apollos and Cephas persons or things? Even in the Authorized Version, then, "things" is applied to persons. We read "that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Surely we must not degrade Him to a thing.
The word "thing" does not occur in the original of the passages in question. It is simply the translator's attempt to render the so-called "neuter" gender of the word for "all." Now this "gender" is simply an indefinite form which may be applied to things or persons or to both at the same time. The word for little child, for instance, is in the so-called "neuter" gender, yet no one would argue from this that little children were not persons, but things.
How did Paul's readers in those days understand this expression? In 1 Cor.15:27 we read: "He hath put all things under His feet. But when He saith `All things are put under Him,' it is manifest that He is excepted which did put all things under Him." We will not pause to point out the emptiness and absurdity of putting all things under His feet. Persons are surely included when the apostle is solicitous lest he should be understood as including God Himself in the phrase. We have quoted from the common version which refers to Him as "which." When the translation was made "which" was applied to persons as well as things and the word "things" had no such exclusive use as the question involves.
To be above all things and to fill all things are very empty glories, indeed, unless there is some reference to persons (Eph.4:10).
How can "all things" be "made alive" or rather "preserved alive" as the true reading is (1 Tim.6:13)? How shall we understand the exclusion of persons when all things are to be in subjection under His feet (Heb.2:8)? And how can all things (it is the same expression in the original) speak (Rev.5:13)?
There is no battle of Armageddon. But it seems probable that before the siege of Jerusalem and the slaughter in the valley of Jehoshaphat, the rendezvous for the armies of all nations will be on a plain at the city of Megiddo, about forty miles north of Jerusalem. The battle which follows will not have the slightest likeness to the present European struggle. This is a war among the nations, then it will be a war in which all the nations will combine their forces against the nation of Israel. The rendezvous at Megiddo cannot take place until after the great iron beast, the last confederate world power has arisen and has defeated the three great eastern powers, so making it possible to combine all nations against Jerusalem (Joel 3:2; Zech.14:2). Egypt and Assyria must once more become nations and fight each other as of old. When the armies of the world take Jerusalem, then the Lord shall go forth, and His feet shall stand once more on the Mount of Olives (Zech.14:3; Acts 1:10-12) and then He shall become King over all the earth. Megiddo is mentioned in Joshua 12:21; 17:11; Judges 1:27; 5:19; 1 Kings 4:12; 9:15; 2 Kings 9:27; 23:29,30; 1 Chron.7:29; 2 Chron.35:22. Megiddon is mentioned in Zech.12:11.
37. Are there not "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" as well as "vessels of mercy which He had afore prepared into glory" (Rom.9:22,23)?
There certainly are. Their purpose is two-fold; to display God's indignation and make His power known and to make it possible for Him to make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy.
It is the old question of God's choice or "election." Calvin claimed that God chose some to be damned eternally. The Scriptures teach that He chooses some in order to use them in blessing the rest. Israel was His choice of a nation. Through them all the nations are to be blessed. But they made their choice an end in itself and despised those who were not chosen. So with many of His people today. They do not realize that they are vessels to convey God's mercy to others. In due time Israel will fulfill her mission; and in due time the "elect" of today will realize their function. In the meanwhile God's forbearance is brought in. Now, while we heartily believe that there are vessels of indignation, we do not believe (what is not said of them) that they will always remain so, or that God's purpose concerning them, as revealed in other Scriptures, will never find fulfillment. The Jews stumbled at difficulties of this kind when they read of a suffering and a glorified Messiah. Now we can see that their stumblingstone, which kept them from believing all the Scriptures, was merely a question of time. Messiah Ben Joseph, the sufferer and Messiah Ben David, the King, is One and the Same. But the time of His manifestation as the latter follows the former after a long interval. Thus it is with mankind. It is God's will that all mankind shall be saved. And who can resist His intention? Yet before this is realized many will serve to manifest His power and indignation and will be destroyed as "vessels of wrath." Let us not fall into the error of receiving only part of God's word, but let us believe all, for all will be fulfilled in its own time.
38. Will everything be swept off the earth and be burned up literally before our Lord sets up His kingdom?
Among the judgments which precede the kingdom of our Lord are the seven trumpets. When the first of these sounds hail and fire, mingled with blood, is cast into the earth. As a result a third of the earth and a third of the trees and all the green grass is burnt up (Rev.8:7). There is no reason for taking this otherwise than literal. It is not until after the thousand years, however, that the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Its dissolution into its elements is followed by a new earth (2 Peter 3:10-13). This is confirmed in the Revelation by the vision of the great white throne and the One Who sits on it from Whose face the earth flees. The sea disappears and is not found on the new earth. All of this is undoubtedly literal, but full of spiritual significance besides. The unstable sea and the polluted earth give place to a stable and holy condition spiritually as well as physically.
39. How can there be only one age after the millennium when the devil, at the end of the thousand years, is to be tormented unto ages of ages?
This difficulty arises from a loose use of terms. The thousand years are only a part of the age or eon to come. They do not end at the same time. Not only does the rebellion of Gog and Magog follow the millennium, but after the Slanderer has been sent to his doom the judgment session of the great white throne takes place before the new heaven and the new earth ushers in the last eon. Nor is there anything to show that the great white throne follows immediately upon the casting of the Slanderer into the lake of fire. The great white throne judgment must require some time. This shows that the Slanderer's torment is not confined to the last eon, but commences in the previous one.
Now the expression "for the eon" does not necessarily include all of the eon intended. This eon began at the flood. When our Lord said to the fig tree (Matt.21:19; Mark 11:14) "no fruit...on thee henceforward for the eon," He did not mean for the entire eon from the flood onward. That was already past. So also with "for the eons of the eons." In the case of Satan's torment it lasts from the conclusion of the thousand years to the end of that eon and for all of the next eon. We welcome criticisms of this kind, if offered in the spirit of love. Yet we would far rather have constructive criticism--an explanation of the phrases "for the eon of the eon," "for the eon of the eons," and "for the eons of the eons," which will stand the test of all scripture. Until this is provided, attacks on our suggestive outline of the eons will only distract, not edify.
40. When the Lord says, "I pray not for the world but for those whom thou hast given Me," is it not clear that some are not given Him (John 17:9)?
Much depends, in a question like this, on the tense of the Greek verb, unless we take the context into consideration. It is not simply "I pray", i.e., I never have or will pray, but "I am asking"--a present petition, not for salvation but unity, which could not be the subject of a prayer concerning the world. And again "those whom Thou hast given Me" speaks only of those who had been the objects of His guarding love during His earthly ministry (see verse 12). Shall we infer from this that only those who were thus "given" Him and sent by Him into the world should be saved? This is what is implied in the question. That this is not true is shown by that fact that later (verse 20) He goes on "Nor am I asking concerning these only, but concerning those who are (not shall) believing on Me through their word." And why? "In order that the world may believe that Thou sendest Me." So that our Lord's request for unity, while limited to His own little group (and widened to include all who believed at that time) had for its ultimate object the very world which seems at first to be excluded. The world will never share that unity but they will enjoy its fruits. Let us not distort our Lord's words by referring them to salvation when He asks concerning unity.
"Separation" is usually true of death in the case of composite beings. But it fails when spoken of beings like the "gods," who are not composite, hence cannot be separated. They die but do not separate. This shows that this term, while true of death at times, does not define it. Even in the case of human beings, the process of death is not a process of the separation of body, soul and spirit. It is a process in which these disintegrate or return to their own element.
Nothing in the book of Revelation goes beyond the eon of the eons. It is this last eon which is spoken of here. In it there are no changes such as we know now. The just do not lapse nor do the unjust become just. The holy remain unsullied but the filthy are fixedly so. This continues for the eon of the eons and then God's word reveals a complete and final change of all eonian conditions in which the terms just and unjust, holy and filthy, life and death will only be memories, for then there will be no death and all else will be perfectly pleasing to God in accord with the august purpose of the eons which He purposed in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
These are four words which we specially need to revise in order to understand this passage. These are "punishment," "everlasting," "destruction" and "presence." The revisers have changed the latter to "face" which avoids confusion with the period of His "presence." They also change "everlasting" to "eternal," for what reason it is difficult to see. If "eternal" means without beginning, as well as without end, as the best usage demands, then it is clearly no improvement over "everlasting." It is the usual word for eonian, and, instead of making infinite duration, restricts it to the eons. "Punished" is but a form of the word for "just." It means "justice" (Acts 25:15; 28:4). The word "destruction" is used only four times (1 Cor.5:5; 1 Thess.5:3; 1 Tim.6:9). To avoid confusing it with the word ordinarily so translated, we prefer the rendering "ruin." From this it is evident that some will "incur the retribution of eonian ruin from the face of the Lord" when He comes in the glory of that day.
Hebrew texts do not divide Samuel, Kings, or Chronicles into two books. It seems to have first appeared in the Septuagint, the Greek version. There is a tradition that these books were too long to suit the parchments and so were divided into two parts each. They are to be reckoned as only one book each. The Hebrew text, while it is supplied with the chapters and verses which are at present in use, has no break in the text between these books. Indeed, in Ginsburg's unrivalled edition, in two instances, the last words of one and the first words of the other are on the same line.
45. What is the believer's proper attitude, or what is God's purpose as to the healing of believers in answer to prayer without the use of other means at the present time?
We are often told that "the healing of the body is in the atonement." There is no doubt but that not only the healing of disease, but the resurrection and vivification of the body are provided for in the work of Christ on Calvary. Yet the resurrection has not yet taken place, even though it is ours in Him. In fact all blessing of every kind is latent in the cross of Christ, yet all waits God's opportune and fitting time and place.
Isaiah, who prophesied concerning Judah and Jerusalem, tells them of the "Man of Sorrows" that
"Surely He hath borne our sicknesses,
And carried our pains."
And that this really refers to bodily infirmity we are assured when Matthew tells us that it was fulfilled when He healed all that were sick (Matt.8:16,17). The first kingdom commission was given soon after this when He told His twelve Apostles to "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead..." This was repeated to the seventy and was given again in connection with the creation commission at the end of Mark's Gospel. The Acts gives us many cases of healing so that Peter heals the lame man at the gate Beautiful, and the paralytic Aeneas, and restores Dorcas to life. But Paul is not a whit behind the chief of the Apostles. He heals the Lystrian cripple, casts out the spirit of Python from the Philippian damsel, and restores Eutychus to life. In fact he was blessed with extraordinary powers so that even handkerchiefs from him drew diseases from the sick (Acts 19:11,12). As he progressed in his course his ministry underwent a change. He himself was burdened with infirmities. He took pleasure in infirmities, for when he was weak, then he was strong (2 Cor.12:10,11). The exalted nature of the revelations he received made this necessary. God's grace was his alone sufficiency. Timothy, his genuine child in the faith (1 Tim.1:12), like whom there was no one (Phil.2:20-22) was also afflicted with "often infirmities" (1 Tim.5:23). Why did he not heal him? Why did he prescribe wine? Epaphroditus, while with Paul, was sick, very nigh death, in fact, yet Paul did not even attempt to heal him. Besides this he had left Trophimus at Miletum sick. Why did he not heal him?
The fact that all of these cases are grouped together in the final and culminating ministry of the Apostle, together with the entire absence of any healing at that time is eloquent for those who have ears to hear. So long as the apostle was proclaiming Christ according to the flesh he was not outdone by any one in the gift of healing. But when the most glorious administration of the mystery began to dawn, which had hitherto been a secret, he himself suffered bodily infirmity and his closest friends suffered likewise. The reason was that the transcendent spiritual blessing was best emptied into broken vessels, whose boast would be humbled by physical infirmities. Israel will be blessed with every physical blessing and this will overflow to the nations that share her bliss. But we are blessed with every spiritual blessing which often demands physical infirmity for its manifestation.
Let anyone get a grasp of present truth and the healing of the body will be seen in its true place--earthly, soulish, pertaining to the kingdom of which the prophets and Apostles spoke. But our blessings transcend all this: in fact God is going to change our very bodies into spiritual bodies in the resurrection and fit them too for the heavenly spheres. In the meanwhile it is our privilege not only to use a little wine for our stomach's sake (1 Tim.5:23), but to enjoy that celestial nectar which cheers the heart of God and man (Judges 9:13), which is the best tonic until He comes to transfigure the body of our humiliation to conform it to His body glorious.
46. What is the Scriptural definition of sin? What are the Hebrew and Greek words from which the English word "sin" has been translated?
"Sin" is the translation of four Hebrew and two Greek expressions. The Hebrew ahshahm, is usually translated trespass, but means guilt (Gen.26:10). It is rendered sin in Isa.53.10 (which should read "make His soul a guilt-offering"), and a few other instances. Another word seldom translated "sin" is gahvohn perversity. It is usually iniquity in the A. V. The word for trespass pehshag is twice rendered "sin" in Proverbs (10:12,19), but usually is represented by transgression. The word which usually stands for "sin" is ghattah. So that, in the so-called "Old Testament" the translation of this word is quite uniform. If "sin" or "sin offering" stands in our versions it usually represents this Hebrew word. Its meaning is well pictured for us in Judges 20:16. Among the sons of Benjamin there were seven hundred chosen men who could sling stones at a hair's breadth and not sin, or as our version aptly puts it, not miss. To sin is a very broad term, including many other expressions. Any action which falls in the least of perfection is sin just as any one of the slingers would be counted sinners if they missed hitting the mark. To sin is to miss the mark.
In the later Scriptures the translators have done even better, for, if we except Eph.1:7; 2:5 and Col.2:13, all the other occurrences of "sin" represent one word in the Greek. The word in these passages is paraptooma offense, and is usually so translated or by "trespass." Hamartia is the Greek for "sin," being almost always so rendered. It has the same meaning as the Hebrew, to miss the mark, because it is used as its equivalent in the Septuagint.
47. Is the Fourth Commandment and are the remaining nine, of the Ten Commandments binding upon the Church? If so, to what extent?
The very First Commandment is evidence that the law was given only to the nation of Israel, for they only were brought up out of the land of Egypt (Ex.20:2; Deut.5:6). The Fourth Commandment, concerning the Sabbath Day, likewise is restricted to that nation for it is written: "Remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that Jehovah, thy Elohim, brought thee out hence by a mighty hand and a stretched out arm: therefore, Jehovah, thy Elohim, commanded thee to keep the Sabbath Day (Deut.5:15).
Israel's greatness consisted partly in this, for "what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day" (Deut.4:8)? It was one of their special prerogatives (Rom.5:9, not the giving of the law, but the legislation) in which they boasted (Rom.2:23), and a part of the oracles of God, which were their chief advantage over the other nations. Negatively, we are told that the nations, who have not law shall perish without law and be judged by their conscience (Rom.2:12-16). Some are inclined to repudiate these passages because of Rom.3:19, which sums up the two lines of argument the Apostle has been pursuing. First he indicts the nations (Rom.1:18 to 2:16), without a single appeal to the Scriptures. Then he turns to the Jew (Rom.2:17-3;19a) and quotes their own Scriptures to show their guilt. Then, having previously indicted Jews as well as Greeks to be all under sin, he quotes what the law says, which can only apply to those under the law, to prove Israel's guilt and thus stop every mouth (Jew as well as Greek) bringing in all the world guilty before God. It is foolish to insist that "as much as the law is saying it is saying to those in the law" and then immediately gainsay it and assert that the law is speaking to the whole world, whether under its jurisdiction or not. The Greek conjunction used here (hina, in order that) introduces a logical deduction which must be traced back to its sources. It must not be used to distort one of its premises because the other has been lost sight of.
There are two classes among those who believe so far as their previous place in the world is concerned--those who were Jews and those who were of the other nations. Before faith comes (Gal.3:23) the former are guarded under law, but after faith is come (Gal.3:25) they are no longer under law. They are now exempted from the law, having died to that which was holding them fast (Rom.7:6). The spirit's law giving life by Christ Jesus, frees them from the law of sin and death (Rom.8:2).
Soon after some of the nations believed the sect of the Pharisees insisted that it was needful to command them to keep the law of Moses (Acts 15:5). At the conference called to consider this matter, Peter declared that God had purified their hearts by faith. "Now therefore, why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved even as they" (Acts 15:6-12). And even James gave it as his judgment that "we trouble not them which from among the nations are turned to God:" (Acts 15:19). Yet they made decrees for them to keep, which were binding on those among the nations who believed until Jew and Gentile are reconciled through the cross, and are created into one new humanity, and the law of precepts in the Jerusalem decrees are repealed (Eph.2:15,16).
The period from the council at Jerusalem until Paul's imprisonment is the only one during which the nations were under any law, yet these decrees were in no sense a repetition of the decalogue. They made no reference at all to the Sabbath.
It should be freely and fully acknowledged that our Sunday is a purely heathen holiday. It is not even referred to in the Scriptures. While the first day of the week may be mentioned in our version, it has no place in the original. We know that it was not a Sabbath, or day of cessation from labor, or it would assuredly have been so designated. We need hardly say that "the Lord's day" is a modern misuse of a term which should be applied only to the day of the Lord spoken of by the prophets. The observance of Sunday was probably unknown until the time of Constantine--a name associated with much which is prized by men, but an abomination to God.
What then, is our attitude towards the law? If the reader is a Jew, let him reckon himself as dead to it and beyond its jurisdiction. He will not keep Saturday as the Sabbath, for that is the letter of the law whose infringement would bring him into bondage, but, knowing Christ as the consummation of the law (Rom.10:4), in spirit he enjoys all that the keeping of the law could bring and far more. His Sabbath consists, not in cessation from physical labor each seventh day, but complete rest from his own efforts to attain righteousness. Christ has become this to him. The Sabbath was but a shadow of this real rest. The danger in falling off from grace (Gal.5:4), even so little as going back to the literal observance of the Sabbath lies in the fact that the slightest infringement of the law of the Sabbath carries a curse with it. "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal.3:10). The first sign that it has become a legal observance is the repudiation of Sunday for Saturday--the seventh day--which was the day God sanctified. This is but a step to the deadly bondage of the law. For if it is necessary to observe the right day it is also necessary to keep every jot and tittle of the commands concerning that day. And the slightest failure here brings condemnation. Grace brings us beyond condemnation: law puts us under it. The law says do or die; grace says believe and live. But if the reader is not a Jew (as the writer of these lines) let us exult in the transcendent grace which has become ours in Christ Jesus, so that, though never under the jurisdiction of the law before faith came, we are not bound by its chains after we have believed, but are free in Him. Our incentive to good deeds is not the law's loud thunders, but the gentle, but far more potent call of love--the love of Christ constraineth us.
The law has its place and function. It slipped in alongside in order to increase offense. Sins of ignorance are no offense to God. It is when sin is committed against His express commands that God is offended. And this was needed in order to magnify the grace which was about to be revealed. Yet where sin increases, grace superabounds. Thus it is with us quite the opposite of being under law. Condemnation increases as sin increases under law: grace increases as sin increases for those in Christ Jesus (Rom.5:2-6:1).
In conclusion, the law was a wise provision for God's earthly people and many of its enactments are fraught with physical and moral benefits which may profit us. To rest one day in seven is undoubtedly a good plan and well worth observing as a rule of health provided it be kept out of the domain of law keeping. It is the motive that matters. To do aught to justify ourselves strikes at the heart of God's purpose, to lock up all in distrust, in order that He may have mercy on all. And to keep the law after faith has come defeats His purpose to draw us close to His heart in reconciliation. It denies the gift of the spirit. It recalls the administration of death, which has been eclipsed by the administration of righteousness and life and love.
As we are not acquainted with the doctrines of the Universalists we hesitate to define their position. Those, however, who seek to discredit the universal reconciliation by calling it "universalism" generally insinuate that it is not founded on the work of Christ, but upon human merit or divine leniency. Reconciliation is the very opposite of this. It is the triumph of the blood of Christ, absolutely denies all human merit and is the expression of God's sovereign love.
Yes. It is in the Lord's day, which corresponds to the day of the Lord spoken of by the prophets. This includes the second and third chapters. We hope to give a detailed exposition (D.V.) some time in the future.
Jacob is blessing his sons. The tribal headship belonged to the first-born, Reuben, but he had forfeited it (cf Gen.35:22; 49:4). The next in order were Simeon and Levi, but they too defaulted because of their cruelty in the matter of the murder of the men of Shalem (cf Gen.33:18; 34:25,26; 49:5-7). So the headship devolves upon the fourth son, Judah. To him it is said, "Thy fathers sons shall bow down before thee" (Gen.49:8). This is further elaborated in the tenth verse, of which we give a literal Hebrew rendering:
The club shall not turn aside from Judah
And a magistrate from between his feet
Till He shall come Whose it is
And to Him shall be the people's expectation.
The word we have rendered "club" is the usual word for "tribe" (as in verses 16 and 28 of this chapter). It is also the name of the shepherd's club, as in Psalm 23:4, which should read, "Thy club and Thy crook." It is a heavy oak club, hung from the girdle, used to protect the sheep from wild animals and other enemies. It is easy to see how this club could be associated with "tribe" for the tribal headship was figured by this weapon. What the club of the shepherd was to the sheep that the tribe, of Judah was to be to the tribes of Israel. Judah, in other words was to have the place forfeited by Reuben and Simeon and Levi. The next line is a parallel, repeating the same thought from a different angle. The word "lawgiver" has no reference to the giving of law, but rather the enforcement of statues. It is rendered "decree" in Prov.8:15. In Prov.31:5 it refers rather to the execution of the statutes than the mere remembrance of the law. That Judah had this place we know from Psa.60:7 and 108:8. Yet this is not for always for the time is coming when Jehovah will be their "lawgiver" or magistral (Isa.33:22). This is what we have in the next line. Judah has these honors till He should come Whose it is. All the ancient versions unite in reading this phrase instead of "Shiloh."
These honors remained with Judah until He came to Whom they belong, but since then they no longer have this place among the tribes, for they rejected Him. Now the expectation of the people is no longer centered in a tribe but in a Person Who, indeed, came out of that tribe--our Lord Jesus Christ.
The reading "sceptre" is better suited to another word. It is connected with David, not Judah. It cannot be used here, for Judah and his descendants had no sceptre until the time of David. Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin. It was simply a question of tribal headship which was retained until the time of our Lord. It was not promised after that but reverts to Him whose it is. He unites in Himself all the dignities of Judah and of David--yes and His headship shall yet embrace both heaven and earth, for it delights our God to head up the universe for Himself in the Christ again (Eph.1:10).
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