Ezekiel 31 - 33
Pharaoh to Be SlainEzekiel 31:1 In the eleventh year, in the third month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude:
“Whom are you like in your greatness?
3 Behold, Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon,
with beautiful branches and forest shade,
and of towering height,
its top among the clouds.
4 The waters nourished it;
the deep made it grow tall,
making its rivers flow
around the place of its planting,
sending forth its streams
to all the trees of the field.
5 So it towered high
above all the trees of the field;
its boughs grew large
and its branches long
from abundant water in its shoots.
6 All the birds of the heavens
made their nests in its boughs;
under its branches all the beasts of the field
gave birth to their young,
and under its shadow
lived all great nations.
7 It was beautiful in its greatness,
in the length of its branches;
for its roots went down
to abundant waters.
8 The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it,
nor the fir trees equal its boughs;
neither were the plane trees
like its branches;
no tree in the garden of God
was its equal in beauty.
9 I made it beautiful
in the mass of its branches,
and all the trees of Eden envied it,
that were in the garden of God.
15 “Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day the cedar went down to Sheol I caused mourning; I closed the deep over it, and restrained its rivers, and many waters were stopped. I clothed Lebanon in gloom for it, and all the trees of the field fainted because of it. 16 I made the nations quake at the sound of its fall, when I cast it down to Sheol with those who go down to the pit. And all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the world below. 17 They also went down to Sheol with it, to those who are slain by the sword; yes, those who were its arm, who lived under its shadow among the nations.
18 “Whom are you thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? You shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the world below. You shall lie among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword.
“This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, declares the Lord GOD.”
A Lament over Pharaoh and EgyptEzekiel 32:1 In the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, raise a lamentation over Pharaoh king of Egypt and say to him:
“You consider yourself a lion of the nations,
but you are like a dragon in the seas;
you burst forth in your rivers,
trouble the waters with your feet,
and foul their rivers.
3 Thus says the Lord GOD:
I will throw my net over you
with a host of many peoples,
and they will haul you up in my dragnet.
4 And I will cast you on the ground;
on the open field I will fling you,
and will cause all the birds of the heavens to settle on you,
and I will gorge the beasts of the whole earth with you.
5 I will strew your flesh upon the mountains
and fill the valleys with your carcass.
6 I will drench the land even to the mountains
with your flowing blood,
and the ravines will be full of you.
7 When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens
and make their stars dark;
I will cover the sun with a cloud,
and the moon shall not give its light.
8 All the bright lights of heaven
will I make dark over you,
and put darkness on your land,
declares the Lord GOD.
11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: The sword of the king of Babylon shall come upon you. 12 I will cause your multitude to fall by the swords of mighty ones, all of them most ruthless of nations.
“They shall bring to ruin the pride of Egypt,
and all its multitude shall perish.
13 I will destroy all its beasts
from beside many waters;
and no foot of man shall trouble them anymore,
nor shall the hoofs of beasts trouble them.
14 Then I will make their waters clear,
and cause their rivers to run like oil,
declares the Lord GOD.
15 When I make the land of Egypt desolate,
and when the land is desolate of all that fills it,
when I strike down all who dwell in it,
then they will know that I am the LORD.
17 In the twelfth year, in the twelfth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came to me: 18 “Son of man, wail over the multitude of Egypt, and send them down, her and the daughters of majestic nations, to the world below, to those who have gone down to the pit:
19 ‘Whom do you surpass in beauty?
Go down and be laid to rest with the uncircumcised.’
22 “Assyria is there, and all her company, its graves all around it, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, 23 whose graves are set in the uttermost parts of the pit; and her company is all around her grave, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who spread terror in the land of the living.
24 “Elam is there, and all her multitude around her grave; all of them slain, fallen by the sword, who went down uncircumcised into the world below, who spread their terror in the land of the living; and they bear their shame with those who go down to the pit. 25 They have made her a bed among the slain with all her multitude, her graves all around it, all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; for terror of them was spread in the land of the living, and they bear their shame with those who go down to the pit; they are placed among the slain.
26 “Meshech-Tubal is there, and all her multitude, her graves all around it, all of them uncircumcised, slain by the sword; for they spread their terror in the land of the living. 27 And they do not lie with the mighty, the fallen from among the uncircumcised, who went down to Sheol with their weapons of war, whose swords were laid under their heads, and whose iniquities are upon their bones; for the terror of the mighty men was in the land of the living. 28 But as for you, you shall be broken and lie among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword.
29 “Edom is there, her kings and all her princes, who for all their might are laid with those who are killed by the sword; they lie with the uncircumcised, with those who go down to the pit.
30 “The princes of the north are there, all of them, and all the Sidonians, who have gone down in shame with the slain, for all the terror that they caused by their might; they lie uncircumcised with those who are slain by the sword, and bear their shame with those who go down to the pit.
31 “When Pharaoh sees them, he will be comforted for all his multitude, Pharaoh and all his army, slain by the sword, declares the Lord GOD. 32 For I spread terror in the land of the living; and he shall be laid to rest among the uncircumcised, with those who are slain by the sword, Pharaoh and all his multitude, declares the Lord GOD.”
Ezekiel Is Israel’s WatchmanEzekiel 33:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, 3 and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.
7 “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
Why Will You Die, Israel?10 “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’ 11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?
12 “And you, son of man, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness, and the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins. 13 Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. 14 Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, 15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.
17 “Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just. 18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. 19 And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this. 20 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.”
Jerusalem Struck Down21 In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month, a fugitive from Jerusalem came to me and said, “The city has been struck down.” 22 Now the hand of the LORD had been upon me the evening before the fugitive came; and he had opened my mouth by the time the man came to me in the morning, so my mouth was opened, and I was no longer mute.
23 The word of the LORD came to me: 24 “Son of man, the inhabitants of these waste places in the land of Israel keep saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he got possession of the land; but we are many; the land is surely given us to possess.’ 25 Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: You eat flesh with the blood and lift up your eyes to your idols and shed blood; shall you then possess the land? 26 You rely on the sword, you commit abominations, and each of you defiles his neighbor’s wife; shall you then possess the land? 27 Say this to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: As I live, surely those who are in the waste places shall fall by the sword, and whoever is in the open field I will give to the beasts to be devoured, and those who are in strongholds and in caves shall die by pestilence. 28 And I will make the land a desolation and a waste, and her proud might shall come to an end, and the mountains of Israel shall be so desolate that none will pass through. 29 Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land a desolation and a waste because of all their abominations that they have committed.
30 “As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ 31 And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. 32 And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. 33 When this comes—and come it will!—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
What I'm Reading
By John Walvoord (1990)
Watchfulness Encouraged for the Owner of a House
Matthew 24:43–44. Jesus made the application of watchfulness as would be required of the owner of a house who did not know when a thief would break in (v. 43 ). Not knowing the exact hour, he would have to watch continuously. Jesus applied this to those waiting for the second coming with the exhortation, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (v. 44 ).
Illustration of a Servant Put in Charge of His Master’s House
Matthew 24:45–50; Mark 13:33–37. One who is waiting for the second coming of Christ is like a servant who is put in charge of his master’s house. Not knowing when his master would return, the servant was urged to be faithful (vv. 45–47 ). If, however, the servant takes advantage of his master and abuses his fellow servants and lives the life of a drunkard, he will experience the judgment of his master when the master returns unexpectedly (vv. 48–50 ). Jesus stated that the unfaithful servant will be cut in pieces and placed with the hypocrites (v. 51 ). The implication of this passage is that belief in the second coming of Christ is linked to belief in the first coming of Christ. If one accepts who Christ was and what He did in His first coming, he will also accept who Christ will be and what He will do at His second coming and, accordingly, will live in preparation.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
Matthew 25:1–13. As another illustration of the need for preparedness for the second coming, Christ described a familiar scene in Israel — that of the bridegroom claiming his bride. The normal procedure was for a wedding to have three stages. First, the parents of the bridegroom would arrange for the marriage with the parents of the bride and would pay the dowry. This was the legal marriage. The second stage, which often took place a year or more later, was fulfilled when the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends, would proceed from the home of the bridegroom at midnight and go to the home of the bride and claim her. The bride would know that he was coming, would be ready with her maiden friends, and would join the procession from her home to the home of the bridegroom. The third phase of the traditional wedding was a marriage feast following this, which might take place for days and was illustrated in the wedding at Cana ( John 2 ). It is significant also that the bride is not mentioned — only the bridegroom. The ten virgins were not the bride but the attendants at the wedding, and this will apply, of course, to those who are waiting for the second coming of Christ. Though the interpretation relates to the second coming, there is an application of this truth to the rapture in the sense that preparedness for the rapture is just as necessary as preparedness for the second coming. Matthew 25:14–30; cf. Luke 19:11–26. While Jesus was still in the vicinity of Jericho and on His way to Jerusalem, He used the parable of the ten minas to indicate the need for working while waiting for the return of the Lord ( Luke 19:11–26 ). Luke recorded how the master gave his servants ten minas — one mina each to ten servants— and instructed them to invest their mina and use it to best advantage while he was gone to receive appointment as king. A mina was equivalent to three months’ wages. Upon his return, one servant had gained ten minas and another five, and both were commended. However, the one who hid the mina and had not done anything with it was condemned by his master because he had not taken advantage of the opportunity of making this money work for his lord. 1. Matthew 25:31–46. This judgment relating to the Gentiles at the time of the second coming is revealed only here in Scripture. Premillenarians interpret this judgment as determining who among the Gentiles will enter the millennial kingdom. The basis for judgment is how they treated Christ’s brethren, the Jews, as a token of their faith or lack of it. Amillenarians believe that the second coming ushers in the eternal state and interpret this judgment as determining who will enter into the new heaven and the new earth. The question of whether or not there is a millennium after the second coming of Christ must be determined by other Scriptures, as this passage in itself is not decisive.
While the figure of bride and wife is used in more than one application in Scripture, normally, Israel is described as the wife of the Lord, already married, and the church is pictured as a bride waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom ( 2 Cor. 11:2 ). At the rapture of the church the Bridegroom will claim His bride and take her to heaven.
The illustration here is in reference to the attendants at the wedding. Each of the ten virgins took a lamp, but only the five wise virgins took oil with their lamps. Though Scripture does not explain the spiritual meaning of these elements, frequently in the Bible the Holy Spirit is described as oil, as illustrated in the lamps burning in the tabernacle and in the temple. When the cry rang out that the bridegroom was coming ( Matt. 25:6 ), the virgins all rose to light their lamps and meet the procession. The foolish virgins, however, had no oil at all, even in their lamps, and their wicks soon burned out. When they requested oil from the wise virgins, they were told to go buy some.
While they were out trying to make their purchase at midnight, which could have been difficult, the five wise virgins went with the procession to the home of the bridegroom, and Scripture recorded that then the door was shut (v. 10 ). When the five foolish virgins finally arrived, they were shut out because they were not watching for the coming of the bridegroom and his procession. As in all illustrations, the meaning of the illustration should not be pressed to the point where it becomes a basis for doctrine. In this case the main objective is clear. When the second coming occurs, it is going to be too late to get ready. Though some have viewed this incident as the rapture of the church, there is really no justification for this because the context is entirely related to the second coming of Christ, and Jesus had not yet revealed any truth concerning the rapture. He could hardly, therefore, expect His disciples to understand an illustration of a truth that had not been revealed.
The kingdom of heaven here is the sphere of profession, as in Mt. 13. All alike have lamps, but two facts fix the real status of the foolish virgins: They “took no oil,” and the Lord said, “I know you not.” Oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, and “If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his” ( Rom. 8:9 ). Nor could the Lord say to any believer, however unspiritual, “I know you not.” C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1917), 1035.
The Parable of the Talents
The account in Matthew of the parable of the talents has the same illustration, somewhat changed, which Jesus used in connection with His Olivet Discourse. In the parable of the talents the master of the house gave to one five, another two, and another one talent and instructed the servants to work with this while he was gone. A talent was originally a weight of from fifty-eight to one hundred pounds. In modern value, a single silver talent is worth in excess of two thousand dollars, and a gold talent is worth in excess of thirty thousand dollars. In today’s inflated prices, gold and silver are worth much more. In Jesus’ time, a day’s wages amounted to sixteen cents. Accordingly, these sums represented an enormous value.
In the illustration that Christ used, He was referring to silver talents as illustrated in the word money ( Matt. 25:18 ), which is literally silver. In the illustration the master gave one servant five talents, another two, and another one, according to his estimate of their abilities. The master was gone for a long period of time, but when he returned, he called in his servants to give an account (v. 19 ). The five-talent man brought in an additional five talents, saying, “Master ... you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more” (v. 20 ). He was commended by his lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (v. 21 ) When the two-talent man reported, he, likewise, had doubled his money and received precisely the same commendation (vv. 22–23 ).
The one-talent man, however, had a different report: “‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you’” (vv. 24–25 ).
The master judged his servant, saying, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest” (vv. 26–27 ). The handling of the one-talent man is one of the major points of this illustration. Why was the master so hard on his servant? The answer is that the servant indicated he had serious questions as to whether the master would return. If the master did not, the servant could keep the money and not report it as part of his master’s estate. If the master returned, he would be able to reproduce the talent and could not be accused of stealing. What the unprofitable servant displayed was lack of faith in his master and a desire to have his master’s money illegally.
The point is that those who reject the truth of the return of the Lord are, in effect, nullifying the fact of His first coming, as acceptance of one should lead to acceptance of the other. In the illustration the master declared, “Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vv. 28–30 ).
As is brought out in 2 Peter 3:3–4, for one to question the literalness of Christ’s second coming raises questions as to whether the person believed in the first coming. If Jesus is indeed the Son of God, then His coming again is both reasonable and to be expected. If He is not the Son of God, of course, He will not return. Accordingly, a lack of faith in the second coming stems from a lack of faith in the first coming. The one-talent man indicated outward profession of service to his master but did not possess real faith.
2 Peter 3:3–4 (ESV) 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
The Judgment of the Gentiles at the Second Coming
Premillenarians contrast this judgment to several other judgments mentioned in Scripture such as the judgment of the church ( 2 Cor. 5:10 ), the judgment of Israel, and the purging out of the rebels as a prelude to the millennial kingdom ( Ezek. 20:33–38 ), and it is also different from the judgment of the wicked dead resurrected at the judgment of the Great White Throne ( Rev. 20:11–15 ), which occurs at the end of the millennium.
The time of this judgment is clearly stated in Matthew 25:31: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.” The judgment is not of all men but of living Gentiles (Gr., ethne). The Gentiles are described as either sheep or goats, and Jews are described as brothers of Christ.
Jesus described the situation: “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left” (vv. 32–33 ). While sheep and goats look much alike, they are different breeds; and even though in ordinary life, sheep and goats sometimes are in the same flock, at the proper time they could be separated.
The sheep, representing the saved, are addressed: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me’” (vv. 34–36 ). When the sheep were surprised and stated that they did not know that they had done this to Christ, Jesus said, “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’” (v. 40 ).
Likewise, the goats will be addressed: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me’” (vv. 41–43 ). The goats likewise replied, saying that they had not been aware that they had neglected Christ, but He replied, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (v. 45 ). The passage closes with the statement that the sheep will be declared righteous and have eternal life, and the goats will go into eternal punishment (v. 46 ).
Taken as a whole, this judgment fits naturally into the premillennial order of events before and after the second coming of Christ. This judgment related to the Gentiles is similar to the judgment relating to Israel ( Ezek. 20:33–38 ). The contrast of Jews and Gentiles is a familiar one in Scripture as Gentiles are distinguished from the Jews in their outlook and hope (cf. Rom. 11:13; 15:27; 16:4; Gal. 2:12 ). They are contrasted to those who are considered Jews as in Romans 3:29 and 9:24.
This passage, however, has puzzled expositors because there is no preaching of the cross, there is no statement of the gospel as necessary for salvation, and all the passage speaks of is the contrast of the works of the sheep and the goats. The answer to this problem, however, is not a denial that salvation is based on faith and grace alone ( Rom. 3:10–12, 21, 28 ). The passage can be seen in the light of James 2:26, which declares, “Faith without deeds is dead.” What is presented here is not the ground of salvation but the fruit of salvation.
Matthew 25:32 This judgment is to be distinguished from the judgment of the great white throne. Here there is no resurrection; the persons judged are living nations; no books are opened; three classes are present, sheep, goats, brethren; the time is at the return of Christ (v. 31 ); and the scene is on the earth. All these particulars are in contrast with Rev. 20:11–15. The test in this judgment is the treatment accorded by the nations to those whom Christ here calls “my brethren.” These “brethren” are the Jewish Remnant who will have preached the Gospel of the kingdom to all nations during the tribulation. ( Isa. 1:9; Rom. 11:5 ). The test in Rev. 20:11–15, is the possession of eternal life. C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1917), 1036.
It is significant also that the bride is not mentioned — only the bridegroom. The ten virgins were not the bride but the attendants at the wedding, and this will apply, of course, to those who are waiting for the second coming of Christ. Though the interpretation relates to the second coming, there is an application of this truth to the rapture in the sense that preparedness for the rapture is just as necessary as preparedness for the second coming.
Matthew 25:14–30; cf. Luke 19:11–26. While Jesus was still in the vicinity of Jericho and on His way to Jerusalem, He used the parable of the ten minas to indicate the need for working while waiting for the return of the Lord ( Luke 19:11–26 ). Luke recorded how the master gave his servants ten minas — one mina each to ten servants— and instructed them to invest their mina and use it to best advantage while he was gone to receive appointment as king. A mina was equivalent to three months’ wages. Upon his return, one servant had gained ten minas and another five, and both were commended. However, the one who hid the mina and had not done anything with it was condemned by his master because he had not taken advantage of the opportunity of making this money work for his lord.
1. Matthew 25:31–46. This judgment relating to the Gentiles at the time of the second coming is revealed only here in Scripture. Premillenarians interpret this judgment as determining who among the Gentiles will enter the millennial kingdom. The basis for judgment is how they treated Christ’s brethren, the Jews, as a token of their faith or lack of it. Amillenarians believe that the second coming ushers in the eternal state and interpret this judgment as determining who will enter into the new heaven and the new earth. The question of whether or not there is a millennium after the second coming of Christ must be determined by other Scriptures, as this passage in itself is not decisive.
Predicted Events Relating To The Nations
1. United Nations organized as first step toward world government in 1946.
2. Israel is formed as a recognized nation in 1948.
3. Europe is rebuilt after World War II, setting stage for its role in the future revival of the Roman Empire.
4. The rise of Russia as a world military and political power.
5. World movements such as the European Union and the World Bank set the stage for future political and financial events.
6. Red China becomes a military power.
7. The Middle East and the nation of Israel become the focus of worldwide tension.
8. The Arab oil embargo in 1973 results in world recognition of the power of wealth and energy in the Middle East.
9. Lack of a powerful political leader prevents the Middle East from organizing as a political power.
10. The rapture of the church removes a major deterrent to expansion of political and financial power of the Mediterranean world.
11. A new leader arises in the Middle East; this leader is later identified as the Antichrist, who secures power over first three, and then all ten nations, uniting them in a Mediterranean confederacy.
12. The new Mediterranean leader imposes a peace settlement for seven years on Israel.
13. Russian army accompanied by several nations invades Israel and is destroyed by judgments from God.
14. Peace settlement in the Middle East is broken after three and a half years.
15. Middle East ruler becomes a world dictator as the Antichrist.
16. Middle East ruler claims to be God and demands that all worship him at pain of death.
17. Middle East dictator defiles the temple in Jerusalem.
18. The terrible judgments of the great tribulation—described in the seals, trumpets, and bowls of the wrath of God in the book of Revelation—begin.
19. There is worldwide discontent at the rule of the Middle East ruler, resulting from many catastrophes and causing rebellion and gathering of the world’s armies in the Middle East to fight it out with Armageddon as the center of the conflict.
20. Second coming of Christ occurs; Christ is accompanied by the armies from heaven.
21. The armies of the world attempt to fight the armies from heaven but are totally destroyed.
22. Christ’s millennial reign is established, climaxing judgments on all the unsaved and the final disposition of Gentile political power.
23. Those saved (both Jews and Gentiles) are placed in the New Jerusalem in the earth where they will spend eternity.
In ordinary times it would be difficult to determine whether a Gentile is saved or lost on the basis of his treatment of Jews. However, in the great tribulation preceding the second coming — because of worldwide anti-Semitism and the attempt to kill all the Jews — anyone who opposes this and actually befriends a Jew and visits him in prison or in the hospital is obviously declaring his faith in the Bible and his recognition that the Jews are God’s chosen people. Apart from faith in Christ under these circumstances, no one would dare to befriend a Jew. Though the sheep were different in nature than goats, they are demonstrated as the saved by their works, and goats are demonstrated by their lack of good works.
In the larger question as to whether the premillennial, amillennial, or postmil-lennial views of the future are correct, it should be noted that the passage gives no basis for hope for either the amillennial or the postmillennial point of view. While it fits naturally into the premillennial sequence of events, there is no evidence that this judgment is of all men, as it deals only with the living at the time of the second coming in contrast to the demands of the amillennial concept of one general judgment at the second coming.
This judgment is also quite different from the judgment of the Great White Throne ( Rev. 20:11–15 ) because there are no resurrected people here, but rather people living on earth. Further, the purpose of the judgment is to allow the righteous to enter the millennial kingdom. It should be noted that there is no resurrection related to this judgment such as would be true if it was the rapture of the church.
The passage also tends to contradict the posttribulational view that the rapture occurs at the end of the tribulation at the time of the second coming. If such a rapture had taken place in the process of Christ’s coming from heaven to earth and believers were caught up to meet Him, as the rapture is described, the sheep would have already been separated from the goats, and no judgment like this would be necessary. After Christ’s kingdom is set up on earth, there is still the mingled picture of saved and unsaved. Living Gentile believers at this judgment prove that no posttribulational rapture had taken place.
The Olivet Discourse takes its place among the great prophetic passages of Scripture. The judgment explains why Christ did not bring His kingdom in at His first coming: Other prophecies had to be fulfilled before the second coming could be fulfilled. Accordingly, while Christ was declared the King of Israel and the Savior of the world, He was rejected at His first coming but will return in triumph, fulfilling literally the passage in the Old Testament that describes this victory.
The disciples were ill prepared to understand this, and they, no doubt, did not understand at the time as they asked the further question in Acts 1 concerning the time that Christ would bring in His kingdom. The early church was slow to respond and understand that there would be an extensive time period between the first coming of Christ and His second coming and that in it would be fulfilled God’s program, unpredicted in the Old Testament: that God would call out a people, both Jews and Gentiles, to form a special body of believers for time and for eternity.
The Peace of God (Prayer)
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
OUR God, we stand not afar off as Israel did in Sinai, nor does a veil hang dark between Thy face and ours ; but the veil is rent by the death of our Divine Lord and Mediator, Jesus Christ, and in His name we come up to the mercy seat all blood besprinkled, and here we present our prayers and our praises accepted in Him. We do confess that we are guilty ; we bow our heads and confess that we have broken Thy law and the covenant of which it is a part. Didst Thou deal with us under the covenant of works none of us could stand. We must confess that we deserve Thy wrath and to be banished for ever from Thy presence. But Thou hast made a new covenant, and we come under its divine shadow ; we come in the name of Jesus. He is our High Priest ; He is our righteousness ; He is the wellbeloved in whom Thou art well pleased.
Holy Spirit teach us how to pray. Let us know what we should pray for as we ought. Our first prayer is : Be Thou adored ; reign Thou over the whole earth ; hallowed be Thy name. We desire to see all men submit themselves to Thy gracious government. We wish especially that in the hearts of Thine own there may be an intense love for Thee and a perfect obedience to Thee. Grant this to each one of us. We would each one pray, " Lord, sanctify me ; make me obedient ; write Thy law upon my heart and upon my mind." Make our nature so clean that temptation cannot defile it.
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One." May our course be very clean, our path be very straight ; may we keep our garments unspotted from the world ; and in thought and desire and imagination, in will and in purpose, may we be holy as God is holy.
O God, we pray again fulfil that covenant promise, "I will take away the heart of stone out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." May we be very tender towards Thee ; may we feel Thy faintest monition ; may even the gentlest breath of Thy Spirit suffice to move us ; may we not be "as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding ; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto us," but may we be as children obedient to a father; may we yield our members cheerfully to the instruments of righteousness ; may we have a natural desire wrought in the new nature towards everything that is pure and honest, unselfish and Christly.
O, Spirit of God dwell in us. Is not this also a covenant promise, "I will put My Spirit within thee, and I will make thee to walk in My ways." Dwell with us Holy Spirit ; rule over us Holy Spirit ; transform us to Thy own likeness, O Holy Spirit ! Then shall we be clean ; then shall we keep the law. We would offer a prayer to Thee for those who are quite strange to the work of the Spirit of God, who have never owned their God, who have lived as if there were no God. Open their eyes that they may see God even though that sight should make them tremble and wish to die. O ! let none of us live without our God and Father. Take away the heart of stone, take away the frivolities, the levity, the giddiness of our youth, and give us in downright earnest to seek true happiness where alone it can be found, in reconciliation to God, and in conformity to His will.
Lord save the careless, save the sinful, the drunkard, take away from him his cups. The unholy and unjust men, deliver these from their filthiness ; the dishonest and false, renew them in their lives ; and any that are lovers of pleasure, dead while they live, and any that are lovers of self, whose life is bounded by the narrowness of their own being, the Lord renew them, regenerate them, make them new creatures in Christ Jesus. For this we do fervently pray.
Lord God the Holy Ghost, may faith grow in men ; may they believe in Christ to the saving of their souls. May their little faith brighten into strong faith, and may their strong faith ripen into the full assurance of faith. May we all have this last blessing ; may we believe God fully ; may we never waver. Resting in the Great Surety and High Priest of the New Covenant may we feel "the peace of God which passeth all understanding," and may we enter into rest.
Bless Thy people that are at rest, and deepen that rest. May the rest that Thou givest be further enhanced by the rest which they find when they take Thy yoke upon them and learn of Thee. May Thy Word be very sweet to them. May there come over our spirits a deep calm, as when Christ hushed both winds and waves. May we feel not only resignation to Thy will, but delight in it, feeling pleased with all the Lord provides. May we rest in our God and be quite happy in the thought that our sins and our iniquities He will remember no more. He has brought us into covenant with Him by a covenant which can never fail, so like David we may say this morning : "Although my house be not so with God, yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure."
Lord, bless Thy Word throughout the world. Prosper all missions amongst the heathen, all work among the Mohammedans ; and, oh ! send Thy grace to the churches at home. Turn the current of thought which sets so strong in the wrong direction, and bring men to love the simplicities of the Gospel. Remember our country in great mercy, and in all ranks and conditions of men do Thou give the blessing. May there be multitudes come to Christ from among the poorest of the poor, and let the wealthy be led away from their sin, and brought to Jesus' feet. Be gracious to the Sovereign and Royal Family, and to all that are in authority over us. May peace and order be maintained, and let not the peace of the world be broken.
But what of all this? Our heart goes far beyond all this : "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven ; for Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, for ever and ever." "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly." All things are in Thy hand, come quickly ; the cries of Thy people persuade Thee, "the Spirit and the bride say, come," make no tarrying, O, our Redeemer, and unto the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, the God of Abraham, and God of our Lord Jesus Christ be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
An invitation to the intellectual pursuit of God
By Travis Dickinson, PhD
Jesus commands us to love God with all of who we are—our hearts, souls and minds (Matt. 22:37). One might find this as a command problematic since love isn’t the sort of thing we can turn on or off. When something is lovely, we experience loving feelings and affections toward that thing. And when it is not, we don’t.
(Mt 22:37–40) 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ESV
But this of course assumes that all Jesus had in mind was the mere feeling of love. What seems more plausible in context is that Jesus was not dictating certain feelings we ought to have but dictating a certain approach. He was telling us that we ought to turn our affections, the deepest part of us, and our minds toward the relational pursuit of God.
I think we have at least a grasp of what it means to pursue God with our hearts and affections. Most Christians regularly pursue God in an impassioned way each week in a worship service. It’s perhaps less clear, but I think we have an idea of what’s involved with pursuing God with our souls. But I don’t think we have the first clue what it means to love God with our minds.
I want to suggest that loving God with our minds is to pursue God intellectually.
Okay, but what does it mean to pursue God intellectually? The picture that I’d like to paint is one where we bring our deep and difficult questions, our doubts, and our intellectual struggles into our pursuit of God. We need to think of this as a normal part of discipleship.
Welcome to The Benefit of the Doubt where I talk about the art of dialogue, the value of doubts, and the virtue of Christian faith.
I LOVE to dialogue about big ideas, especially with those with whom I disagree. But the tone of most discussions are, let’s call it, unproductive. I’m really interested in helping people with the art of dialoguing well.
No one likes to doubt deeply cherished beliefs. However, I want to suggest that there is great value in our doubts. When handled properly, they lead to truth and knowledge, and even deeper faith.
I’m convinced that Christianity is true, good and beautiful. I’m convinced that Jesus is peerless. Though faith is often disparaged, caricatured and deeply misunderstood, I’m convinced that Christian faith is the primary way to flourish as a human being.
I am the author of Everyday Apologetics and co-author of Stand Firm: Apologetics and the Brilliance of the Gospel (B&H, forthcoming). He blogs at www.travisdickinson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.
Forgiving the Wounds of a Friend
By Kristie Anyabwile 9/7/2017
I thought we were friends. The pain behind those words can overshadow years of life, love, and memories. All the good times fade to black when a friendship is betrayed. Investment, down the drain. Vulnerability, restrained. Trust shattered. Love questioned.
Friends hurt friends. It’s inevitable because every friend is a sinner, and sinners gon’ sin against one another and hurt one another — intentionally or unintentionally. Either way, it’s always harder to recover from the pain inflicted by a friend.
The pain of conviction that comes through the godly rebuke of a friend who speaks truth in love is a real gift (Proverbs 27:6). But what if you’re the one sinned against, and you’re hurt because of unkind words, betrayal, or manipulation by a person you consider a friend? How do you address it with your friend, and how do you move past the pain and toward reconciliation?
(Pr 27:6) 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. ESV
Overlook an Offense | In the midst of your hurt, trust that God is working in your relationship to grow you both in the grace and knowledge of Christ: “Trust in him at all times, O people” (Psalm 62:8).
(Ps 62:8) 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah ESV
It is one’s glory (or beauty) to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11). This requires prudence, patience, maturity, and wisdom. Overlooking an offense adorns the gospel and is a loving response that demonstrates we are indeed Christ’s disciples (John 13:35).
(Ps 62:8) 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah ESV
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Kristie Anyabwile (@kanyabwile) is a mother of three, reader, baker, cook, discipler, speaker, writer, and wife of Thabiti. They live in Washington, D.C.
Understanding the Times: An Interview with Carl Trueman
By Carl Trueman 9/1/2012
Tabletalk: Please describe your conversion and your call to ministry.
Carl Trueman: I first heard the gospel at a Billy Graham rally in Bristol, U.K., in 1984. I then started going to church and reading the Bible along with Christian literature. It was through God’s Words: Studies of Key Bible Themes that I really came to understand God’s grace.
My call to ministry came much later. While teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary, I became convinced of the need to be under church oversight. Thus, I pursued ordination in the OPC. Last winter, the church where I also served as teacher voted to call me as pastor beginning in August 2012. I continue to serve at Westminster but also serve part-time at the church.
I am a firm believer that the call to ministry needs both an internal component (one should desire it) but also an external dimension (one must be judged competent for it). Only the people who have to sit and listen to you can really know if you are meant to be a preacher.
TT: What are your responsibilities as professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary?
CT: As professor of church history, I teach master-of-divinity courses on the ancient and Reformation church periods. I also offer electives on various topics relating to Reformation and Presbyterian history and theology. Of course, few come to seminary to learn history; most come to do biblical studies or theology or counseling. With that in mind, I strive to make history more than names and dates. I strive to inculcate an attitude to the past and a way of reading history that provides students with critical skills for understanding their own culture and their place within it.
TT: What is the chief role of the seminary, and how should seminaries relate to the church?
CT: Westminster has three main purposes: to train men for ordained ministry; to train men and women for other leadership roles within the church; and to train men and women in theological and biblical research. Of these three, the first is our primary reason for existence.
The relationship between church and seminary is important. Obviously, what is taught in the lecture theater will sooner or later find its way into the pulpit. So, seminaries have a responsibility to make sure that what they teach is orthodox. How that is ensured is more complicated. The story of Princeton is one of how the denomination went bad and pulled down the orthodoxy of the seminary. Yet, history is also full of independent seminaries that have gone bad, quite independent of any adverse denominational influence on them. In my time as vice president of academic affairs at Westminster, we moved to a position where all future faculty will have to be ordained as ministers in their first three years of appointment. We are an independent seminary, but that move keeps our professors accountable not only to the seminary’s board but also to the courts of the church.
TT: What are three reasons why every Christian should have a basic understanding of church history?
CT: You need to have some grasp of church history in order to know why the church thinks, speaks, and behaves the way she does.
You need to have some grasp of church history in order to avoid reinventing the wheel—theological and/ or ecclesiastical—every few years.
You need to have some grasp of church history in order to have an appreciation of how God has preserved and sustained the church over the generations.
TT: What are two books on church history that every layperson should read?
CT: This is tough. Only two? Well, I would have to say the first is Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther! It is a little dated but a great read and helpful in understanding what exactly was at stake in the Reformation.
Second, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I have major issues with Murray’s interpretation of the career of MLJ in the 1960s and beyond, but this first volume is a marvelous story of one very influential man’s call to the ministry.
TT: What is the “real scandal of the evangelical mind”?
CT: Lack of historic orthodoxy. The evangelical world seems obsessed with “engaging culture” even as the average Christian’s knowledge of the basics of the faith diminishes. You can go to heaven without being able to offer a Christian appreciation of film, art, or music; one cannot go to heaven without knowing who Jesus Christ is and what He has done.
TT: Why should Christians accurately represent the views of those with whom we disagree theologically, politically, and morally?
CT: That is a simple ninth commandment issue. We should speak truthfully about others.
TT: How can Christians be rightly concerned about how they are viewed by unbelievers without compromising the gospel?
CT: Paul makes it clear in 1 Timothy that elders are to be models of behavior for other Christians and to be of good reputation with those outside. Thus, Christians must of necessity be so concerned. This clearly does not involve conforming to the world’s standards of, say, sexual morality, but it does mean that we will be very careful how we confront the world. Paul is very clear that the church judges the church, not the world. So the kind of hateful histrionics we often witness from Christians aimed at the world around us are not good examples of how to engage. Of course, some of this is the result of media hype and spin, but not all of it. Christians are not to mimic the world — no more in style of engagement than in sexual ethics.
TT: How would you respond to those who criticize you for using humor in serious theological and cultural discussions?
CT: Humor can be very serious as a pedagogical tool. It is not necessarily flippant or trivial. The Bible is full of humor. Church history is full of those who used humor for good. (Athanasius, Martin Luther, John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, and G.K. Chesterton spring to mind as just five of the more obvious examples.) Humor is often predicated on mental switches, on leading the mind one way and then suddenly springing a trap or doing something unexpected. In other words, it can make people think. (Parables function in a similar fashion.) As a professional teacher, I do not see my job as what many would call an information dump that simply fills people’s minds with facts and ideas. I want to provoke people to think for themselves. Humor is my favorite means for so doing.
Humor, when used properly, also prevents pomposity. I try to make myself and my own sillinesses a regular target. It is also a well-attested survival mechanism. And anyone involved in church or theological education needs survival mechanisms in order to avoid despair or cynicism.
Of course, humor is very subjective, both personally and culturally. What is hilarious to one person might be deeply offensive to another. The writer needs to bear that in mind, but so does the reader. My own tastes tend to be on the absurdist/ satirical end of things. If people are offended by what I write, then, once they have realized that is the case, it might be best if they simply avoided reading me.
TT: What do you mean when you say that evangelicals need good, solid reasons for not being Roman Catholic?
CT: Rome has chronological priority over any Protestant denomination. Thus, Protestantism was and is a movement of protest. We are by definition protesting against something: the claims of the papacy, the burying of the gospel under garbage, the denial of assurance to ordinary Christian believers. We must never forget these things. We should respect our Roman Catholic friends; we should rejoice in the great doctrine we hold in common; but we must not minimize that which divides us from each other.
Carl Trueman Books | Go to Books Page
Mothers Show Us More of God
By Tyler Holley 9/7/2017
I’ve had dozens of mothers. That may raise a few eyebrows around town, but it shouldn’t surprise us as Christians. After all, Jesus promised us much in following him (Mark 10:29–30). Clearly, motherhood is about more than just physically giving birth.
In my case, the main mother in my life has been my biological mom. It may be easy to romanticize motherhood, but only one person picked up after me when I was little and made the best PB&J ever created when I broke my arm — we still talk of that sandwich, never since reproduced. Stories of my mother’s love will fill annals in God’s library of unrecognized faithfulness, even though true motherhood is more broad than just that.
God's Glory, Many Mothers | Motherhood reflects the glory of God. It is the particularly feminine shape of holiness that women of faith strive for. When Paul says that women are “saved through childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15), he does not mean that women can earn their salvation by giving birth, but that God is able to save them even as they endure the feminine part of sin’s curse (Genesis 3:16). Childbearing symbolizes the creational role of women because motherhood is the clearest example of the difference between men and women.
When I was a child, a middle-aged woman slipped a torn corner of the church bulletin in my hand with a Bible reference penciled on it. She said it was her favorite passage and that I might like it too. And I remember a young lady with a felt board teaching a Sunday school class on baptism, and that’s when I learned what baptism meant. When I was in college, an older lady in my church would give me weekly hugs and tell me she was praying for me — those prayers would sometimes be accompanied by brownies.
Mothers are everywhere, if we only have eyes to see them. Motherhood is woven into the very fabric of creation, and God says that all of creation tells about his glory (Psalms 19:1; Romans 1:20). What, then, does God have to teach us about his glory through motherhood?
Tyler Holley is a husband, seminary student at Bethlehem College & Seminary, and member of Cities Church in Minneapolis.
No One Follows Their Heart
By Jon Bloom 9/7/2017
No one actually follows their heart. I know that sounds odd, given the prevalence of our cultural creed to "follow your heart." But if we think carefully about what the "heart" really is and how it functions, we will see that this creed doesn’t make sense, and why it ends up confusing and misleading people.
A few years ago, I wrote an article titled, “Don’t Follow Your Heart,” in which I argued that, considering the heart’s pathologically selfish orientation, it is not a leader we should want to follow.
Some readers objected, arguing that as Christians our hearts of stone have been replaced with new hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), and therefore should be reliable to follow. I understand the point, though I believe it to be naïve. Romans 7 (and much of the New Testament) bears witness to — and my extensive personal experience and observation confirms — an active, deceptive sin nature still infecting the regenerate person, requiring us to remain wary and vigilant.
But in pursuing greater clarity, I'll push my argument one step further and say, No one follows their heart. Because God did not make the heart to work that way.
What Is “the Heart”? | What do people mean when they say, “Follow your heart”? I doubt most have thought carefully about it. Since it’s always wise to know who one’s leader is before we decide whether it’s wise and safe to follow, we must ask, what is this immaterial thing we call “the heart”?
Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God. He and his wife live in the Twin Cities with their five children.
Jon Bloom Books | Go to Books Page
Read The Psalms In "1" Year
Psalm 101I Will Walk with Integrity
101 A Psalm Of David.
1 I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O LORD, I will make music.
2 I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
3 I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
4 A perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.
5 Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly
I will destroy.
Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart
I will not endure.
The Coming of the Kingdom part 19
By Dr. Andrew Woods 10/04/2013
Because today's evangelical world believes that the church is experiencing the Messianic kingdom, we began a study chronicling what the Bible teaches about the kingdom. In this series, the biblical teaching on the kingdom has been surveyed from Genesis to Revelation. This earthly kingdom is anticipated in the office of Theocratic Administrator that was lost in Eden, in the biblical covenants, in the predictions of the Old Testament prophets, and in the earthly theocracy governing Israel from the time of Moses to Zedekiah. This theocratic arrangement terminated with the initiation of the "Times of the Gentiles" when the nation had no king reigning on David’s Throne as Judah was trampled by various Gentile powers. Against that backdrop entered Jesus Christ, the rightful Heir to David's Throne. Had first-century Israel enthroned Christ, the earthly kingdom would have become a reality. Despite this unprecedented opportunity, Israel rejected the kingdom offer leading to the kingdom's postponement.
Due to this postponement, Christ explained the spiritual conditions that would prevail during the kingdom's absence. This interim program includes His revelation of the kingdom mysteries and the church. Because neither represents the fulfillment of God's Old Testament kingdom promises, the kingdom will remain in a state of abeyance as long as God's present work in the world continues through His interim program. However, one day the church's mission on the earth will be completed resulting in the church's removal from the earth through the rapture. Then God, who is not forgetful of His prior unconditional covenants with Israel, will re-extend the offer of the kingdom to national Israel in the midst of the coming Great Tribulation. Unlike at the First Advent, this time the offer will be accepted leading to Christ's return and subsequent earthly kingdom. Revelation explains how the world will eventually transition from the rule that Satan has had over the world ever since the Fall in Eden to the future time in history when God and His people "will reign upon the earth" ( Rev. 5:10b; 11:15b ). The Apocalypse furnishes the important detail of the Messianic kingdom's duration, namely one-thousand years ( Rev. 20:1-10 ). God's kingdom program will extend beyond Christ's one-thousand year earthly reign as it transitions into the Eternal State ( Rev. 21-22 ).
We further noted that those closest to the biblical text, the early church fathers, also held to premillennialism or the reality of the coming, earthly kingdom of Christ. We also observed that the problem with using New Testament verses in an attempt to argue that the Messianic kingdom now exists in spiritual form is to interpret the New Testament in a manner that contradicts the Old Testament.
In addition, we began scrutinizing a series of texts that "kingdom now" theologians routinely employ in order to argue that the kingdom is a present spiritual reality. We began with the use of such alleged "kingdom now" texts in the life of Christ. We noted that the expression "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" merely communicates that the Old Testament expectation of an earthly kingdom had drawn near in the person of Christ. Had the nation enthroned Christ ( Deut. 17:15 ), what the Old Testament predicted concerning an earthly kingdom would have become a reality not only for Israel but also for the entire world. As long as Christ was present amongst first-century Israel offering them the kingdom, it was in an imminent state of nearness. This reality is an entirely different matter from saying that the kingdom was present or had arrived.
We also observed that Matthew 6:9-13 is in actuality a model prayer for the disciples consisting of three requests for the kingdom to come and three additional requests for their temporal needs to be met prior to the kingdom's establishment. Such a framework makes it obvious that the Lord did not establish the kingdom at His First Advent.
Kingdom Resistance And Violence
Another pair of parallel texts that "kingdom now" theologians use is Matthew 11:12 and Luke 16:16. These verses speak of the kingdom being resisted and suffering violence during the days of John the Baptist and Christ. Matthew 11:12 says, "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force." Blaising, an advocate of inaugurated eschatology,  contends that the kingdom had to be present in order for it to be resisted so strenuously.  But is it possible for the kingdom to suffer violence without being present? An answer can be found in the parallel passage ( Luke 16:16 ), which says, "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it." Here, the emphasis is on the proclamation of the kingdom. Thus, what is actually being rejected is the proclamation of the kingdom or the message of the kingdom rather than any present manifestation of the kingdom. This interpretation finds support in the verses following Matthew 11:12 where Christ equates the hardness of His generation to His message to children not pleased with the asceticism of John nor the ministry of Christ ( Matt. 11:16-19 ). 
Matthew 11:12 It has been much disputed whether the “violence” here is external, as against the kingdom in the persons of John the Baptist and Jesus; or that, considering the opposition of the scribes and Pharisees, only the violently resolute would press into it. Both things are true. The King and His herald suffered violence, and this is the primary and greater meaning, but also, some were resolutely becoming disciples. (Cf. Lk. 16:16.)
Matthew 11:20 The kingdom of heaven announced as “at hand” by John the Baptist, by the King Himself, and by the twelve, and attested by mighty works, has been morally rejected. The places chosen for the testing of the nation, Chorazin, Bethsaida, etc., having rejected both John and Jesus, the rejected King now speaks of judgment. The final official rejection is later ( Mt. 27:31–37 ).
Matthew 11:28 The new message of Jesus. The rejected King now turns from the rejecting nation and offers, not the kingdom, but rest and service to such in the nation as are conscious of need. It is a pivotal point in the ministry of Jesus. C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1917), 1010–1011.
The Kingdom Of God Has Come Upon You
Another statement made by Christ that is utilized by "kingdom now" theologians is found in Matthew 12:28, which says, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (see also Luke 11:20 ). "Kingdom now" theologians interpret this statement to mean that Christ began a spiritual form of the Messianic kingdom at His First Advent. However, this view fails to interact with Christ’s “offer of the kingdom” to first-century Israel.  This is the idea that the kingdom was offered to the nation by John the Baptist, Christ, and the disciples, was rejected by the nation, postponed, and eventually will be re-offered to the nation during the future Tribulation period. This interpretive framework allows the various manifestations of the kingdom in the life of Christ ( Matt. 12:28 ), such as His miracles, the exorcising of demons, and His Transfiguration ( Matt. 17:1-8 ) to be interpreted as mere tokens of the coming kingdom rather than announcing an inaugurated form of the kingdom. In other words, the presence of the kingdom in the life of Christ could become a reality for Israel and the world had Israel fulfilled her responsibility of enthroning her king ( Deut. 17:15 ). Unfortunately this offer of the kingdom approach is totally by-passed by "kingdom now" theologians. Instead of seeing an offer in the kingdom preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus, they instead interpret Matthew 12:28 as the "breaking in" of the kingdom "in minuscule" and "spiritual form.”
Yet, Toussaint provides eight reasons why the "offer of the kingdom" should not be so easily dismissed since it rests upon firm exegetical footing. It is found not only in Matthew’s Gospel but also Luke’s Gospel.  First, the idea of the contingency of a benefit depending upon whether the offeree is willing to accept the terms of the offer is well established in the Old Testament ( 1 Kgs. 11:38; Jer. 18:7-10 ). Second, Israel’s covenantal structure required repentance before the kingdom could be established ( Lev. 26; Deut. 28 ). Third, the message of the kingdom’s nearness was confined to national Israel. Matthew 10:5-7 says, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, ‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Fourth, the contingency of the offer is seen in statements of Christ, such as, “And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come” ( Matt. 11:14 ). Of this statement, Toussaint remarks, “There is scarce a passage in Scripture which shows more clearly that the kingdom was being offered to Israel at this time. Its coming was contingent upon one thing: Israel receiving it by genuine repentance.” 
Fifth, there is a cessation of the announcement of the kingdom after Israel rejects her Messiah ( Matt. 12; Luke 11 ). Sixth, the Lord pronounces judgment upon that generation ( Matt. 23:36-39 ) for failing to recognize the hour of their visitation ( Luke 19:42, 44; Dan. 9:26 ). In other words, they were judged because they failed to accept the offer. Seventh, the parables of rejection depict the postponement of the kingdom. While earlier in Luke’s gospel the kingdom is portrayed as being near ( Luke 10:9, 11 ), the parable of the minas was told in order to dissuade the disciples’ expectation of the kingdom’s nearness ( Luke 19:11 ). The parable teaches that the kingdom program would be postponed for a long duration and the disciples had obligations to fulfill in the interim ( Luke 19:11-27 ). Eighth, the message of the kingdom’s imminence does not reappear until the context pertains to the Seventieth Week of Daniel or the future Tribulation period ( Matt. 24:14; Luke 21:31 ). In sum, when understood in the light of this kingdom offer, Christ's statement in Matthew 12:28 was not indicative of the fact the kingdom had arrived. Rather, His statement simply meant that the tokens of the kingdom (His miracles, exorcisms, etc...) could have become a reality for the nation of Israel had she responded to the contingency of the offer that Christ was extending to her.
ENDNOTES While still holding to some form of a future earthly reign of Christ, inaugurated eschatology advocates maintain that the kingdom is still a present spiritual reality with Christ presently orchestrating it from David's Throne in heaven.
 Craig Blaising, "The Kingdom of God in the New Testament," in Progressive Dispensationalism (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1993), 248.
 Stanley Toussaint, "Israel and the Church of a Traditional Dispensationalist," in Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 233.
 See parts five and six in this series for a fuller development of this concept.
 Stanley Toussaint, "The Contingency of the Coming Kingdom," in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands: Biblical and Leadership Studies in Honor of Donald K. Campbell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 225, 232-35.
 Stanley Toussaint, Behold the King (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 2005), 153.
Dr. Andrew Woods Books
Note I copied this article from The Bible Prophecy Blog.
Dr. Andrew Woods Ministry Page, YouTube Channel, and Church.
The Continual Burnt Offering (Acts 18:17)
By H.A. Ironside - 1941
September 9Acts 18:17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this. ESV
Gallio the indifferent! History tells us he was the brother of Seneca the philosopher, who exclaims, “O most sweet Gallio! Few men are so agreeable about anything as my brother Gallio is about everything!” Yet this amiable man lost a marvellous opportunity to hear the gospel from the lips of Paul, and perhaps lost his soul at last just because he was so unconcerned about eternal things that he did not consider them worthy of his attention. To him the whole matter was beneath contempt, consisting only, as he supposed, of a quarrel about words and names and Jewish ceremonial observances. So he turned scornfully away without hearing that glad message which God was sending out in grace to a needy world. His attitude stands out as a warning to others not to treat lightly the privileges God gives, lest the day of doom find them still in their sins.
Oh, what will you do in the solemn day,
When earth and sea shall flee away;
When the rending heavens in fire shall roll,
And shrivel up like parchment scroll?
Oh, what will you do when the sins of the past
Shall rise like clouds that gather fast,
And stand before you in dread array;
O sinner, tell me, what wilt thou say?
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
by Bill Federer
The same year the United States won California from Mexico, some workers constructing a sawmill for John Sutter on the south fork of the American River, discovered gold. News spread like fire and soon “Forty-Niners,” as the prospectors were called, poured in from all parts of the world. Quickly populated, California became the thirty-first State on this day, September 9, 1850. The Constitution, which prohibited slavery, stated in its Preamble: “We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution.”American Minute
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Life is a culmination of the past,
an awareness of the present,
an indication of a future beyond knowledge,
the quality that gives a touch of divinity to matter.
--- Charles Lindbergh
Every human character appears only once in the history of human beings. And so does every event of love.
--- Isaac Bashevis Singer
Love and Exile: An Autobiographical Trilogy
At the bottom of the heart of every human being, from earliest infancy until the tomb, there is something that goes on indomitably expecting, in the teeth of all experience of crimes committed, suffered, and witnessed, that good and not evil will be done to him. It is this above all that is sacred in every human being. The good is the only source of the sacred. There is nothing sacred except the good and what pertains to it.
--- Simone Weil
Two Moral Essays: Draft for a Statement of Human Obligations, and, Human Personality
If our life is not a course of humility, self-denial, renunciation of the world, poverty of spirit, and heavenly affection, we do not live the lives of Christians.
--- William Law
To please God, even a little is infinitely greater than to have the acclamations of all our race throughout the centuries.
--- Charles Spurgeon
... from here, there and everywhere
Thanks to Meir Yona
How John Tyrannized Over The Rest; And What Mischiefs The Zealots Did At Masada. How Also Vespasian Took Gadara; And What Actions Were Performed By Placidus.
1. By this time John was beginning to tyrannize, and thought it beneath him to accept of barely the same honors that others had; and joining to himself by degrees a party of the wickedest of them all, he broke off from the rest of the faction. This was brought about by his still disagreeing with the opinions of others, and giving out injunctions of his own, in a very imperious manner; so that it was evident he was setting up a monarchical power. Now some submitted to him out of their fear of him, and others out of their good-will to him; for he was a shrewd man to entice men to him, both by deluding them and putting cheats upon them. Nay, many there were that thought they should be safer themselves, if the causes of their past insolent actions should now be reduced to one head, and not to a great many. His activity was so great, and that both in action and in counsel, that he had not a few guards about him; yet was there a great party of his antagonists that left him; among whom envy at him weighed a great deal, while they thought it a very heavy thing to be in subjection to one that was formerly their equal. But the main reason that moved men against him was the dread of monarchy, for they could not hope easily to put an end to his power, if he had once obtained it; and yet they knew that he would have this pretense always against them, that they had opposed him when he was first advanced; while every one chose rather to suffer any thing whatsoever in war, than that, when they had been in a voluntary slavery for some time, they should afterward perish. So the sedition was divided into two parts, and John reigned in opposition to his adversaries over one of them: but for their leaders, they watched one another, nor did they at all, or at least very little, meddle with arms in their quarrels; but they fought earnestly against the people, and contended one with another which of them should bring home the greatest prey. But because the city had to struggle with three of the greatest misfortunes, war, and tyranny, and sedition, it appeared, upon the comparison, that the war was the least troublesome to the populace of them all. Accordingly, they ran away from their own houses to foreigners, and obtained that preservation from the Romans which they despaired to obtain among their own people.
2. And now a fourth misfortune arose, in order to bring our nation to destruction. There was a fortress of very great strength not far from Jerusalem, which had been built by our ancient kings, both as a repository for their effects in the hazards of war, and for the preservation of their bodies at the same time. It was called Masada. Those that were called Sicarii had taken possession of it formerly, but at this time they overran the neighboring countries, aiming only to procure to themselves necessaries; for the fear they were then in prevented their further ravages. But when once they were informed that the Roman army lay still, and that the Jews were divided between sedition and tyranny, they boldly undertook greater matters; and at the feast of unleavened bread, which the Jews celebrate in memory of their deliverance from the Egyptian bondage, when they were sent back into the country of their forefathers, they came down by night, without being discovered by those that could have prevented them, and overran a certain small city called Engaddi:—in which expedition they prevented those citizens that could have stopped them, before they could arm themselves, and fight them. They also dispersed them, and cast them out of the city. As for such as could not run away, being women and children, they slew of them above seven hundred. Afterward, when they had carried every thing out of their houses, and had seized upon all the fruits that were in a flourishing condition, they brought them into Masada. And indeed these men laid all the villages that were about the fortress waste, and made the whole country desolate; while there came to them every day, from all parts, not a few men as corrupt as themselves. At that time all the other regions of Judea that had hitherto been at rest were in motion, by means of the robbers. Now as it is in a human body, if the principal part be inflamed, all the members are subject to the same distemper; so, by means of the sedition and disorder that was in the metropolis,. had the wicked men that were in the country opportunity to ravage the same. Accordingly, when every one of them had plundered their own villages, they then retired into the desert; yet were these men that now got together, and joined in the conspiracy by parties, too small for an army, and too many for a gang of thieves: and thus did they fall upon the holy places 11 and the cities; yet did it now so happen that they were sometimes very ill treated by those upon whom they fell with such violence, and were taken by them as men are taken in war: but still they prevented any further punishment as do robbers, who, as soon as their ravages [are discovered], run their way. Nor was there now any part of Judea that was not in a miserable condition, as well as its most eminent city also.
3. These things were told Vespasian by deserters; for although the seditious watched all the passages out of the city, and destroyed all, whosoever they were, that came thither, yet were there some that had concealed themselves, and when they had fled to the Romans, persuaded their general to come to their city's assistance, and save the remainder of the people; informing him withal, that it was upon account of the people's good-will to the Romans that many of them were already slain, and the survivors in danger of the same treatment. Vespasian did indeed already pity the calamities these men were in, and arose, in appearance, as though he was going to besiege Jerusalem, but in reality to deliver them from a [worse] siege they were already under. However, he was obliged first to overthrow what remained elsewhere, and to leave nothing out of Jerusalem behind him that might interrupt him in that siege. Accordingly, he marched against Gadara, the metropolis of Perea, which was a place of strength, and entered that city on the fourth day of the month Dystrus [Adar]; for the men of power had sent an embassage to him, without the knowledge of the seditious, to treat about a surrender; which they did out of the desire they had of peace, and for saving their effects, because many of the citizens of Gadara were rich men. This embassy the opposite party knew nothing of, but discovered it as Vespasian was approaching near the city. However, they despaired of keeping possession of the city, as being inferior in number to their enemies who were within the city, and seeing the Romans very near to the city; so they resolved to fly, but thought it dishonorable to do it without shedding some blood, and revenging themselves on the authors of this surrender; so they seized upon Dolesus, [a person not only the first in rank and family in that city, but one that seemed the occasion of sending such an embassy,] and slew him, and treated his dead body after a barbarous manner, so very violent was their anger at him, and then ran out of the city. And as now the Roman army was just upon them, the people of Gadara admitted Vespasian with joyful acclamations, and received from him the security of his right hand, as also a garrison of horsemen and footmen, to guard them against the excursions of the runagates; for as to their wall, they had pulled it down before the Romans desired them so to do, that they might thereby give them assurance that they were lovers of peace, and that, if they had a mind, they could not now make war against them.
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
by D.H. Stern
don’t raid the place where he lives.
16 For though he falls seven times, he will get up again;
it’s the wicked who fail under stress.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest
Do it yourself
Determinedly Discipline other Things.
Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. --- 2 Cor. 10:5.
This is another aspect of the strenuous nature of sainthood. Paul says—“I take every project prisoner to make it obey Christ.” (Moffatt.) How much Christian work there is to-day which has never been disciplined, but has simply sprung into being by impulse! In Our Lord’s life every project was disciplined to the will of His Father. There was not a movement of an impulse of His own will as distinct from His Father’s—“The Son can do nothing of Himself.” Then take ourselves—a vivid religious experience, and every project born of impulse put into action immediately, instead of being imprisoned and disciplined to obey Christ.
This is a day when practical work is over-emphasized, and the saints who are bringing every project into captivity are criticized and told that they are not in earnest for God or for souls. True earnestness is found in obeying God, not in the inclination to serve Him that is born of undisciplined human nature. It is inconceivable, but true nevertheless, that saints are not bringing every project into captivity, but are doing work for God at the instigation of their own human nature which has not been spiritualized by determined discipline.
We are apt to forget that a man is not only committed to Jesus Christ for salvation; he is committed to Jesus Christ’s view of God, of the world, of sin and of the devil, and this will mean that he must recognize the responsibility of being transformed by the renewing of his mind.
the Poetry of RS Thomas
Selected poems, 1946-1968
Those Others (Tares)
A gofid gwerin gyfan
Yn fy nghri fel taerni tan.
I have looked long at this land,
Trying to understand
My place in it--why,
With each fertile country
So free of its room,
This was the cramped womb
At last took me in
From the void of unbeing.
Hate takes a long time
To grow in, and mine
Has increased from birth;
Not for the brute earth
That is strong here and clean
And plain in its meaning
As none of the books are
That tell but of the war
Of heart with head, leaving
The wild birds to sing
The best songs; I find
This hate's for my own kind,
For men of the Welsh race
Who brood with dark face
Over their thin navel
To learn what to sell;
Yet not for them all either,
There are still those other
Castaways on a sea
Of grass, who call to me,
Clinging to their doomed farms;
Their hearts though rough are warm
And firm, and their slow wake
Through time bleeds for our sake.
The two rabbis in our Midrash offer very different explanations of the ritual of the Red Heifer. In so doing, they actually present two very different approaches to the significance and meaning of religion. Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai admits to his students that the ritual is a great mystery and is beyond our comprehension and understanding. God decrees the ritual; therefore we obey. It is enough for us to know that in performing the ritual, we are following God’s will. The very act of going through all the prescribed steps should bring us closer to God. Why these particular steps is something that we can never fathom. And exactly what happens when we do these steps is also a secret. Having thus been drawn closer to God, we surrender ourselves over to the divine plan, confident that somehow all this is for the best. Rabbi Yoḥanan might tell us that “God is in the details.” Doing the ritual with all its particulars brings us into contact with the divine.
Rabbi Aivu takes an entirely different approach. The meaning of the ritual, and the beauty of it, lie in its logic, which is simple. Sinning requires atonement; atonement comes through a sacrifice. Since the sin was committed with a (golden) calf, the atonement should come through the sacrifice of a (red) cow; the mother should clean up after her child!
Applying this approach to religion in general, Rabbi Aivu might tell us that the goal of religion is not to have us surrender, but to push us to search. The ritual has a message to convey to us. If we perform it blindly, without thinking about its deeper meaning, we are missing the whole point. God gave us rituals pregnant with meaning. We perform them, and it is our search for “the message-that-lies-within” that helps to change us in very significant ways.
The Red Heifer or cow was, in one way or another, about purification. The closest thing that we have today to such a ritual, in content (if not in form), is our observance of Yom Kippur. Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, sitting through the twenty-five hours of the Day of Atonement, might say to us: It’s the solemn mood of the day that makes Yom Kippur so powerful: the gathering at twilight, the wearing of the tallit after dark, the daylong fasting, the heart-wrenching melody of Kol Nidrei, the sadness of the Yizkor prayers for the dead, the confession of sins accompanied by the beating of the breast, and the terror of the words reminding us that God decides who will live and who will die. An overpowering, mysterious atmosphere is created, and, coming to synagogue, we are brought closer to God.
Rabbi Aivu might see it differently. We’ve sinned, so we need to do teshuvah, to turn around our lives. We accomplish this by spending long hours sitting (or standing) and meditating on our shortcomings and how we might best make up for them. The prayers we recite, the melodies we hear, the RS Thomas we listen to, all inspire us to repent and become better human beings. It’s all very simple: We resolve to stop sinning and do better.
Both approaches are committed to the rituals; where they differ is about the purpose of those rituals.
At first blush, the story of the king, the servant woman, and her child may seem rather crude. The Hebrew word translated as “filth,” צוֹאָה/tzo-ah, also means “excrement.” The king can wave his hand and command, “Let his mother come and wipe up the filth.”
However, on a deeper level, the parable may be less coarse than we think—if we reconsider the reaction of the king. He is not looking for blame. He does not ask, “Why did this happen?” He simply wants his palace cleaned up (and it would be improper for a king to do it himself). Were he a vengeful ruler, he could have said, “Off with the head of the child who sullied my palace!” Or “That mother did not watch over her son. Let her rot in jail!” Rather than focusing on blame, vengeance, or justice, the king instead asks, “Whose mess is it?” so that he or she may clean it up.
The Rabbis often use “king parables” to speak of the relationship between God (the King) and the Jewish people (God’s subjects). If the king in the story is less concerned with finding fault than with righting the situation, then perhaps we should reassess our view of God. The Rabbis may be saying that God does not want to punish us for what’s wrong; rather, God wants to remind us to remedy the inequities. If this is God’s focus, then it should be ours as well.
Imagine the following: It’s Shabbat Morning, and the Torah scroll, in preparation for reading, is being taken out of the Ark. The gabbai hands the scroll to Bernie, the uncle of the Bat Mitzvah girl, who turns to face the congregation. All of a sudden, before anyone can do anything about it, Bernie stumbles and the Torah falls to the floor. What should happen next?
Here’s what we don’t do next:
• A discussion on why the sefer Torah fell and who was at fault.
• A heated meeting on the side of the pulpit to discuss honors at future Bat Mitzvah ceremonies.
• An angry explanation to all assembled that those with honors must pay attention to the three steps leading up to the Holy Ark.
What should happen when a Torah scroll falls?
• We pick it up!
• After Shabbat, we fix the Torah if it needs repair.
• During the week, we may fast or give to tzedakah as a sign of our communal remorse.
We are saddened that this happened. Our first—and most important—reaction should be to right the wrong. Rabbi Yoḥanan is teaching us that we can be too focused on theory and philosophy. His approach reminds us: “If something is amiss, then clean it up!”
They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. --- Hebrews 11:37–38.
We have not even in dreams experienced the things among which those men and women spent their whole lives, always doing rightly and yet always afflicted. (The Early Church Fathers: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: First Series (The Early Church Fathers, First Series , So14))
They had not even clothing, no city, no lodging place—the same as Christ, who had no place to lay his head. Not even when they had gained the wilderness were they at rest. Even there, they were driven out of even that which was uninhabitable. Wandering like exiles and outcasts, they found no refuge but must always be flying, seeking hiding places, always in terror.
What then is the reward?
They have not yet received it but are still waiting, and after thus dying in such great tribulation. They gained their victory so many ages ago and have not yet received it. And you who are yet in the conflict, are you vexed?
How great a thing it is that Abraham should be sitting, and the apostle Paul, waiting till you have been perfected, that then they may receive their reward. For the Savior has told them that unless we also are present, he will not give it to them. And are you vexed that you have not yet received the reward? What then will Abel do, who is sitting uncrowned? And Noah? And they who lived in those times, seeing that they wait for you and those after you?
For “God had planned something better for us.” In order that they might not seem to have the advantage over us from being crowned before us, he appointed one time of crowning for all, and those who gained the victory so many years before receive their crowns with you. See his tender carefulness?
“That only together with us would they be made perfect.” They were before us as regards the conflicts but are not before us as regards the crowns. He didn’t wrong them, but he honored us. For if we are all one body, the pleasure becomes greater to this body when it is crowned altogether. The righteous are worthy of admiration in this, that they rejoice in our welfare as in their own. So this is their wish, to be crowned along with their own members. To be glorified all together is a great delight.
--- John Chrysostom
Jabez September 9
Mary Redfern lived in the small English village of Haddon in Derbyshire. Her mother was bedfast, and all the care for her eight younger siblings fell onto Mary’s shoulders. One day in 1769, she heard a commotion in the street. A little man was preaching before a crowd in the open. His name was John Wesley.
Soon after, Richard Boardman, one of Wesley’s evangelists, came preaching. He had recently lost his wife, and his demeanor was tender and poignant. He spoke from 1 Chronicles 4:9 about Jabez, “the most respected son in his family.” Mary was deeply moved and never forgot the story of Jabez. She moved to Manchester, married, and named her firstborn Jabez. And when Wesley preached in Manchester’s Oldham Street Church Mary brought little Jabez. The great evangelist touched the child and blessed him.
Little did he know he was blessing his future successor.
Young Jabez often heard Wesley preach, and he developed a great love for the Gospel. As a lad he would walk miles to hear preaching, returning to deliver his own little RS Thomas to long-suffering sisters, using his father’s shirts as ministerial robes. When 19 he preached his first official sermon in Sodom, near Manchester, and shortly thereafter he was ordained to the ministry.
Jabez quickly advanced in Methodism, but he often proved hardheaded and strong-willed. When he rose to leadership following Wesley’s death, he ruled with a strong hand. His slogan was: “Methodism hates democracy as it hates sin.” One of several controversies occurred on September 9, 1825, when the Brunswick Chapel opened in Leeds, England. A dispute arose over whether an organ should be installed. Many members opposed it, but Bunting and the leaders installed it anyway. The organ, it was later said, cost 1,000 pounds and 1,000 Methodists.
Jabez was called the Pope of Methodism. But he preached a clear Gospel and brought Methodist theological training and world missions into their own. His influence lasts to this day.
You must watch over everyone God has placed in your care. Do it willingly in order to please God, and not simply because you think you must. Don’t be bossy to those people who are in your care, but set an example for them.
--- 1 Peter 5:2b,3.
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - September 9
"I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not." --- Jeremiah 33:3.
There are different translations of these words. One version renders it, “I will shew thee great and fortified things.” Another, “Great and reserved things.” Now, there are reserved and special things in Christian experience: all the developments of spiritual life are not alike easy of attainment. There are the common frames and feelings of repentance, and faith, and joy, and hope, which are enjoyed by the entire family; but there is an upper realm of rapture, of communion, and conscious union with Christ, which is far from being the common dwelling-place of believers. We have not all the high privilege of John, to lean upon Jesus’ bosom; nor of Paul, to be caught up into the third heaven. There are heights in experimental knowledge of the things of God which the eagle’s eye of acumen and philosophic thought hath never seen: God alone can bear us there; but the chariot in which he takes us up, and the fiery steeds with which that chariot is dragged, are prevailing prayers. Prevailing prayer is victorious over the God of mercy, “By his strength he had power with God: yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Beth-el, and there he spake with us.” Prevailing prayer takes the Christian to Carmel, and enables him to cover heaven with clouds of blessing, and earth with floods of mercy. Prevailing prayer bears the Christian aloft to Pisgah, and shows him the inheritance reserved; it elevates us to Tabor and transfigures us, till in the likeness of his Lord, as he is, so are we also in this world. If you would reach to something higher than ordinary grovelling experience, look to the Rock that is higher than you, and gaze with the eye of faith through the window of importunate prayer. When you open the window on your side, it will not be bolted on the other.
Evening - September 9
“And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment.”
--- Revelation 4:4.
These representatives of the saints in heaven are said to be around the throne. In the passage in Canticles, where Solomon sings of the King sitting at his table, some render it “a round table.” From this, some expositors, I think, without straining the text, have said, “There is an equality among the saints.” That idea is conveyed by the equal nearness of the four and twenty elders. The condition of glorified spirits in heaven is that of nearness to Christ, clear vision of his glory, constant access to his court, and familiar fellowship with his person: nor is there any difference in this respect between one saint and another, but all the people of God, apostles, martyrs, ministers, or private and obscure Christians, shall all be seated near the throne, where they shall for ever gaze upon their exalted Lord, and be satisfied with his love. They shall all be near to Christ, all ravished with his love, all eating and drinking at the same table with him, all equally beloved as his favourites and friends even if not all equally rewarded as servants.
Let believers on earth imitate the saints in heaven in their nearness to Christ. Let us on earth be as the elders are in heaven, sitting around the throne. May Christ be the object of our thoughts, the centre of our lives. How can we endure to live at such a distance from our Beloved? Lord Jesus, draw us nearer to thyself. Say unto us, “Abide in me, and I in you”; and permit us to sing, “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.”
O lift me higher, nearer thee,
And as I rise more pure and meet,
O let my soul’s humility
Make me lie lower at thy feet;
Less trusting self, the more I prove
The blessed comfort of thy love.
Walter Chalmers Smith, 1824–1908
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17
In our enjoyment of a personal relationship with God, we sometimes lose sight of the awe and reverence that should also be part of our worship of Him. Often we tend to forget the supreme holiness and greatness of who God really is. In our hymnody and theology we can carelessly treat our Lord as merely “the friend upstairs.”
Consider this ancient advice from a father to his son:
First of all, my child, think magnificently of God. Magnify His providence; adore His power, pray to Him frequently and incessantly. Bear Him always in your mind. Teach your thoughts to reverence Him in every place for there is no place where He is not. Therefore, my child, fear and worship and love God; first and last, think magnificently of Him!
--- Paternus, Advice to a Son
The author of the fine worshipful text of “Immortal, Invisible” was Walter Chalmers Smith, a pastor and an important leader of the Free churches of Scotland. He had various volumes of his poetry published, including several hymnals. “Immortal, Invisible” was first published in Smith’s 1867 hymnal, Hymns of Christ and the Christian Life.
One can reflect at length on the greatness of God as described by these words:
Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes, most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious—Thy great name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might; Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all, life Thou givest—to both great and small; in all life Thou livest—the true life of all; we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, and wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light, Thine angels adore Thee all veiling their sight; all praise we would render—O help us to see ’tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!
For Today: Job 37:21–24; Psalm 36:5, 6; 104:1–5; Colossians 1:15–17, 19; Revelation 21:23
J. P. Phillips, in his book Your God Is Too Small, reminds us that our concept of God is generally too limited. Reflect on this truth as you sing ---
DISCOURSE IV - ON SPIRITUAL WORSHIP
Use II. shall be for examination. Let us try ourselves concerning the manner of our worship. We are now in the end of the world, and the dregs of time; wherein the apostle predicts there may be much of a form, and little of the power of godliness (2 Tim. 3:1, 5); and, therefore, it stands us in hand to search into ourselves, whether it be not thus with us? whether there be as much reverence in our spirits as there may be devotion in our countenances and outward carriages.
1. How, therefore, are our hearts prepared to worship? Is our diligence greater to put our hearts in an adoring posture, than our bodies in a decent garb? or are we content to have a muddy heart, so we may have a dressed carcass? To have a spirit a cage of unclean birds, while we wipe the filth from the outside of the platter, is no better than a pharisaical devotion, and deserves no better a name than that of a whited sepulchre. Do we take opportunities to excite and quicken our spirits to the performance, and cry aloud with David, “Awake, awake, my glory!” Are not our hearts asleep when Christ knocks? When we hear the voice of God, “Seek my face;” do we answer him with warm resolutions, “Thy face, Lord, we will seek?” (Psalm 27:8.) Do we comply with spiritual motions, and strike whilst the iron is hot? Is there not more of reluctancy than readiness? Is there a quick rising of the soul in reverence to the motion, as Eglon to Ehud; or a sullen hanging the head at the first approach of it? Or if our hearts seem to be engaged and on fire, what are the motives that quicken that fire? Is it only the blast of a natural conscience, fear of hell, desires of heaven, as abstracted from God? or is it an affection to God; an obedient will to please him; longings to enjoy him, as a holy and sanctifying God in his ordinances, as well as a blessed and glorified God in heaven? What do we expect in our approaches from him? that which may make divine impressions upon us, and more exactly conform us to the Divine nature? or do we design nothing but an empty formality, a rolling eye, and a filling the air with a few words, without any openings of heart to receive the incomes, which, according to the nature of the duty, might be conveyed to us? Can this be a spiritual worship? The soul then closely waits upon him, when its expectation is only from him (Psalm 62:6). Are our hearts seasoned with a sense of sin; a sight of our spiritual wants; raised notions of God; lowing affections to him; strong appetite after a spiritual fulness Do we rouse up our sleepy spirits, and make a covenant with all that is within us to attend upon him? So much as we want of this, so much we come short of a spiritual worship. In Psalm 57:7 (“My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed”), David would fix his heart, before he would engage in a praising act of worship. He appeals to God about it, and that with doubling the expression, as being certain of an inward preparedness. Can we make the same appeals in a fixation of spirit?
2. How are our hearts fixed upon him; how do they cleave to him in the duty? Do we resign our spirits to God, and make them an entire holocaust, a whole burnt-offering in his worship? or do we not willingly admit carnal thoughts to mix themselves with spiritual duties, and fasten our minds to the creature, under pretences of directing them to the Creator? Do we not pass a mere compliment upon God, by some superficial act of devotion; while some covetous, envious, ambitious, voluptuous imagination may possess our minds? Do we not invert God’s order, and worship a lust instead of God with our spirits, that should not have the least service, either from our souls or bodies, but with a spiritual disdain be sacrificed to the just indignation of God? How often do we fight against his will, while we cry, “Hail, Master!” instead of crucifying our own thoughts, crucifying the Lord of our lives; our outward carriage plausible, and our inward stark naught! Do we not often regard iniquity more than God in our hearts, in a time of worship? — roll some filthy imagination as a sweet morsel under our tongues, and taste more sweetness in that than in God? Do not our spirits smell rank of earth, while we offer to heaven; and have we not hearts full of thick clay, as their “hands were full of blood?” (Isa. 1:15.) When we sacrifice, do we not wrap up our souls in communion with some sordid fancy, when we should entwine our spirits about an amiable God? While we have some fear of him, may we not have a love to something else above him? This is to worship, or swear by the Lord, and by Malcham (Zeph. 1:5). How often doth an apish fancy render a service inwardly ridiculous, under a grave outward posture; skipping to the shop, warehouse, counting- house, in the space of a short prayer! and we are before God as a Babel, a confusion of internal languages; and this in those parts of worship which are, in the right use, most agreeable to God, profitable for ourselves, ruinous to the kingdom of sin and Satan, and means to bring us into a closer communion with the Divine Majesty. Can this be a spiritual worship?
3. How do we act our graces in worship? Though the instrument be strung, if the strings be not wound up, what melody can be the issue? All readiness and alacrity discover a strength of nature; and a readiness in spirituals discovers a spirituality in the heart. As unaffecting thoughts of God are not spiritual thoughts, so unaffecting addresses to God are not spiritual addresses. Well, then, what awakenings, and elevations of faith and love have we? What strong outflowings of our souls to him? What indignation against sin? What admirations of redeeming grace? How low have we brought our corruptions to the footstool of Christ, to be made his conquered enemies? How straitly have we clasped our faith about the cross and throne of Christ, to become his intimate spouse? Do we in hearing hang upon the lips of Christ; in prayer take hold of God, and will not let him go; in confessions rend the caul of our hearts, and indite our souls before him with a deep humility? Do we act more by a soaring love than a drooping fear? So far as our spirits are servile, so far they are legal and carnal; so much as they are free and spontaneous, so much they are evangelical and spiritual. As men under the law are subject to the constraint of “bondage all their life- time” (Heb. 2:15), in all their worship; so under the gospel they are under a constraint of love (2 Cor. 5:14): how then are believing affections exercised, which are alway accompanied with holy fear; a fear of his goodness that admits us into his presence, and a fear to offend him in our act of worship? So much as we have of forced or feeble affection, so much we have of carnality.
4. How do we find our hearts after worship? By an after carriage we may judge of the spirituality of it.
(1.) How are we as to inward strength? When a worship is spiritually performed, grace is more strengthened, corruption more mortified; the soul, like Samson after his awakening, goes out with a renewed strength; as the inward man is renewed day by day, that is, every day; so it is renewed in every worship. Every shower makes the grass and fruit grow in good ground where the root is good, and the weeds where the ground is naught; the more prepared the heart is to obedience in other duties after worship, the more evidence there is that it hath been spiritual in the exercise of it. It is the end of God in every dispensation, as in that of John Baptist, “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17): when the heart is by worship prepared for fresh acts of obedience, and hath a more exact watchfulness against the encroachments of sin. As carnal men after worship sprout up in spiritual wickedness, so do spiritual worshippers in spiritual graces; spiritual fruits are a sign of a spiritual frame. When men are more prone to sin after duty, it is a sign there was but little communion with God in it; and a greater strength of sin, because such an act is contrary to the end of worship which is the subduing of sin. It is a sign the physic hath wrought well, when the stomach hath a better appetite to its appointed food; and worship hath been well performed, when we have a stronger inclination to other acts well pleasing to God, and a more sensible distaste of those temptations we too much relished before. It is a sign of a good concoction, when there is a greater strength in the vitals of religion, a more eager desire to know God. When Moses had been praying to God, and prevailed with him, he puts up a higher request to “behold his glory” (Exod. 33:13, 18): when the appetite stands strong to fuller discoveries of God, it is a sign there hath been a spiritual converse with him.
(2.) How is it especially as to humility? The Pharisees’ worship was, without dispute, carnal; and we find them not more humble after all their devotions, but overgrown with more weeds of spiritual pride; they performed them as their righteousness. What men dare plead before God in his day, they plead before him in their hearts in their day; but this men will do at the day of judgment: “We have prophesied in thy name,” &c. (Matt. 7:21). They show what tincture their services left upon their spirits; that which excludes them from any acceptation at the last day, excludes them from any estimation of being spiritual in this day. The carnal worshippers charge God with injustice in not rewarding them, and claim an acceptation as a compensation due to them (Isa. 58:3): “Wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and thou takest no knowledge?” A spiritual worshipper looks upon his duties with shame, as well as he doth upon his sins with confusion; and implores the mercy of God for the one as well as the other. In Psalm 143:2, the prophet David, after his supplications, begs of God not to enter into judgment with him; and acknowledges any answer that God should give him, as a fruit of his faithfulness to his promise, and not the merit of his worship: “In thy faithfulness answer me,” &c. Whatsoever springs from a gracious principle, and is the breath of the Spirit, leaves a man more humble; whereas, that which proceeds from a stock of nature, hath the true blood of nature running in the veins of it; viz., that pride which is naturally derived from Adam. The breathing of the Divine Spirit is, in everything, to conform us to our Redeemer; that being the main work of his office, is his work in every particular christian act influenced by him.
Now Jesus Christ, in all his actions, was an exact pattern of all humility. After the institution and celebration of the supper, a special act of worship in the church, though he had a sense of all the authority his Father had given him, yet he “humbles himself to wash his disciples’ feet” (John 13:2–4); and after his sublime prayer (John 17.), “He humbles himself to the death, and offers himself” to his murderers, because of his Father’s pleasure. (John 18:1): “When he had spoken those words, he went over the brook Kedron into the garden.” What is the end of God in appointing worship, is the end of a spiritual heart in offering it; not his own exaltation, but God’s glory. Glorifying the name of God is the fruit of that evangelical worship the Gentiles were in time to give to God (Psalm 86:9): “All nations which thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord, and shall glorify thy name.” Let us examine, then, what debasing ourselves there is in a sense of our own vileness, and distance from so glorious a Spirit.
Self-denial is the heart of all gospel grace. Evangelical, spiritual worship cannot be without the ingredient of the main evangelical principle.
(3.) What delight is there after it? What pleasure is there, and what is the object of that pleasure? Is it the communion we have had with God, or a fluency in ourselves? Is it something which hath touched our hearts, or tickled our fancies? As the strength of sin is known by the delightful thoughts of it after the commission; so is the spirituality of duty, by the object of our delightful remembrance after the performance. It was a sign David was spiritual in the worship of God in the tabernacle, when he enjoyed it, because he longed for the spiritual part of it, when he was exiled from it; his desires were not only for liberty to revisit the tabernacle, but to see the “power and glory of God in the sanctuary,” as he had seen it before (Psalm 63:2): his desires for it could not have been so ardent, if his reflection upon what had past had not been delightful; nor could his soul be poured out in him, for the want of such opportunities, if the remembrance of the converse he had had with God, had not been accompanied with a delightful relish (Psalm 42:4). Let us examine what delight we find in our spirits after worship.
Use III. is of comfort. And it is very comfortable to consider, that the smallest worship with the heart and spirit, flowing from a principle of grace, is more acceptable than the most pompous veneration; yea, if the oblation were as precious as the whole circuit of heaven and earth without it. That God that values a cup of cold water given to any as his disciple, will value a sincere service above a costly sacrifice. God hath his eye upon them that honor his nature; he would not “seek such to worship him,” if he did not intend to accept such a worship from them; when we therefore invoke him, and praise him, which are the prime parts of religion, he will receive it as a sweet savor from us, and overlook infirmities mixed with the graces. The great matter of discomfort, and that which makes us question the spirituality of worship, is the many starts of our spirits, and rovings to other things. For answer to which,
1. It is to be confessed that these starts are natural to us. Who is free from them? We bear in our bosoms a nest of turbulent thoughts, which, like busy gnats, will be buzzing about us while we are in our most inward and spiritual converses. Many wild beasts lurk in a man’s heart, as in a close and covert wood, and scarce discover themselves but at our solemn worship. No duty so holy, no worship so spiritual, that can wholly privilege us from them; they will jog ua in our most weighty employments, that, as God said to Cain, sin lies at the door, and enters in, and makes a riot in our souls. As it is said of wicked men, “they cannot sleep” for multitude of thoughts (Eccles. 5:12); so it may be of many a good man, he cannot worship for multitude of thoughts; there will be starts, and more in our religious than natural employments; it is natural to man. Some therefore think, the bells tied to Aaron’s garments, between the pomegranates, were to warn the people, and recall their fugitive minds to the present service, when they heard the sound of them, upon the least motion of the high-priest. The sacrifice of Abraham, the father or the faithful, was not exempt from the fowls pecking at it (Gen. 15:11). Zechariah himself was drowsy in the midst of his visions, which being more amazing, might cause a heavenly intentness (Zech. 4:1): “The angel that talked with me, came again and awaked me, as a man is awaked out of sleep.” He had been roused up before, but he was ready to drop down again; his heart was gone, till the angel jogged him. We may complain of such imaginations, as Jeremiah doth of the enemies of the Jews (Lam. 4:19).
Our persecutors are swifter than eagles; they light upon us with as much speed as eagles upon a carcass; they pursue us upon the mountain of divine institutions, and they lay wait for us in the wilderness, in our retired addresses to God. And this will be so while,
(1.) There is natural corruption in us. There are in a godly man two contrary principles, flesh and spirit, which endeavor to hinder one another’s acts, and are alway stirring upon the offensive or defensive part (Gal. 5:17). There is a body of death, continually exhaling its noisome vapors: it is a body of death in our worship, as well as in our natures; it snaps our resolutions asunder (Rom. 7:19); it hinders us in the doing good, and contradicts our wills in the stirring up evil. This corruption being seated in all the faculties, and a constant domestic in them, has the greater opportunity to trouble us, since it is by those faculties that we spiritually transact with God; and it stirs more in the time of religious exercises, though it be in part mortified; as a wounded beast, though tired, will rage and strive to its utmost, when the enemy is about to fetch a blow at it. All duties of worship tend to the wounding of corruption; and it is no wonder to feel the striving of sin to defend itself and offend us, when we have our arms in our hands to mortify it, that the blow may be diverted which is directed against it. The apostles had aspiring thoughts; and being persuaded of an earthly kingdom, expected a grandeur in it; and though we find some appearance of it at other times, as when they were casting out devils, and gave an account of it to their Master, he gives them a kind of a check (Luke 10:20), intimating that there was some kind of evil in their rejoicing upon that account; yet this never swelled so high, as to break out into a quarrel who should be greatest, until they had the most solemn ordinance, the Lord’s supper, to quell it (Luke 22:24). Our corruption is like lime, which discovers not its fire by any smoke or heat, till you cast water, the enemy of fire, upon it; neither doth our natural corruption rage so much, as when we are using means to quench and destroy it.
(2.) While there is a devil, and we in his precinct. As he accuseth us to God, so he disturbs us in ourselves; he is a bold spirit, and loves to intrude himself when we are conversing with God: we read, that when the angels presented themselves before God, Satan comes among them (Job 1:6). Motions from Satan will thrust themselves in with our most raised and angelical frames; he loves to take off the edge of our spirits from God; he acts but after the old rate; he from the first envied God an obedience from man, and envied man the felicity of communion with God; he is unwilling God should have the honor of worship, and that we should have the fruit of it; he hath himself lost it, and therefore is unwilling we should enjoy it; and being subtle, he knows how to make impressions upon us suitable to our inbred corruptions, and assault us in the weakest part. He knows all the avenues to get within us (as he did in the temptation of Eve), and being a spirit, he wants not a power to dart them immediately upon our fancy; and being a spirit, and therefore active and nimble, he can shoot those darts faster than our weakness can beat them off. He is diligent also, and watcheth for his prey, and seeks to devour our services as well as our souls, and snatch our best morsels from us. We know he mixed himself with our Saviour’s retirements in the wilderness, and endeavored to fly-blow his holy converse with his Father in the preparation to his mediatory work. Satan is God’s ape, and imitates the Spirit in the office of a remembrancer; as the Spirit brings good thoughts and divine promises to mind, to quicken our worship, so the devil brings evil things to mind, and endeavors to fasten them in our souls to disturb us; and though all the foolish starts we have in worship are not purely his issue, yet being of kin to him, he claps his hands, and sets them on like so many mastiffs, to tear the service in pieces. And both those distractions, which arise from our own corruption and from Satan, are most rife in worship, when we are under some pressing affliction. This seems to be David’s case, Psalm 86: when in ver. 11 he prays God to unite his heart to fear and worship his name; he seems to be under some affliction, or fear of his enemies: “O free me from those distractions of spirit, and those passions which arise in my soul, upon considering the designs of my enemies against me, and press upon me in my addresses to thee, and attendances on thee.” Job also in his affliction complains (Job 17:11) that “his purposes were broken off;” he could not make an even thread of thoughts and resolutions; they were frequently snapt asunder, like rotten yarn when one is winding it up. Good men and spiritual worshippers have lain under this trouble. Though they are a sign of weakness of grace, or some obstructions in the acting of strong grace, yet they are not always evidences of a want of grace; what ariseth from our own corruption, is to be matter of humiliation and resistance; what ariseth from Satan, should edge our minds to a noble conquest of them. If the apostle did comfort himself with his disapproving of what rose from the natural spring of sin within him, with his consent to the law, and dissent from his lust; and charges it not upon himself, but upon the sin that dwelt in him, with which he had broken off the former league, and was resolved never to enter into amity with it; by the same reason we may comfort ourselves, if such thoughts are undelighted in, and alienate not our hearts from the worship of God by all their busy intrusions to interrupt us.
2. These distractions (not allowed) may be occasions, by an holy improvement, to make our hearts more spiritual after worship, though they disturb us in it, by answering those ends for which we may suppose God permits them to invade us. And that is, First, When they are occasions to humble us,
Martin Luther | (1483-1546)
The Bondage of the Will or Christian Classics Ethereal Library
Sect. CXLIII. — cccccccccccccccccccccc BUT many elude and evade Paul, by saying, that he here calls the ceremonial works, works of the law; which works, after the death of Christ, were dead.
I answer: This is that notable error and ignorance of Jerome which, although Augustine strenuously resisted it, yet, by the withdrawing of God and the prevailing of Satan, has found its way throughout the world, and has continued down to this day. By means of which, it has come to pass, that it has been impossible to understand Paul, and the knowledge of Christ has, consequently, been obscured. Therefore, if there had been no other error in the church, this one might have been sufficiently pestilent and powerful to destroy the Gospel: for which, Jerome, if peculiar grace did not interpose, has deserved hell rather than heaven: so far am I from daring to canonize him, or call him a saint! But however, it is not truth that Paul is here speaking of the ceremonial works only: for if that be the case, how will his argument stand good, whereby he concludes, that all are unrighteous and need grace? But perhaps you will say — Be it so, that we are not justified by the ceremonial works, yet one might be justified by the moral works of the decalogue. By this syllogism of yours then, you have proved, that to such, grace is not necessary. If this be the case, how very useful must that grace be, which delivers us from the ceremonial works only, the easiest of all works, which may be extorted from us through mere fear or self-love!
And this, moreover, is erroneous — that ceremonial works are dead and unlawful, since the death of Christ. Paul never said any such thing. He says, that they do not justify, and that they profit the man nothing in the sight of God, so as to make him free from unrighteousness. Holding this truth, any one may do them, and yet do nothing that is unlawful. Thus, to eat and to drink are works, which do not justify or recommend us to God; and yet, he who eats and drinks does not, therefore, do that which is unlawful.
These men err also in this. — The ceremonial works, were as much commanded and exacted in the old law, and in the decalogue, as the moral works: and therefore, the latter had neither more nor less force than the former. For Paul is here speaking, principally, to the Jews, as he saith, Rom. i.: wherefore, let no one doubt, that by the works of the law here, all the works of the whole law are to be understood. For if the law be abrogated and dead, they cannot be called the works of the law; for an abrogated or dead law, is no longer a law; and that Paul knew full well. Therefore, he does not speak of the law abrogated, when he speaks of the works of the law, but of the law in force and authority: otherwise, how easy would it have been for him to say, The law is now abrogated? And then, he would have spoken openly and clearly.
But let us bring forward Paul himself, who is the best interpreter of himself. He saith, Gal. iii. 10, “As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” You see that Paul here, where he is urging the same point as he is in his epistle to the Romans, and in the same words, speaks, wherever he makes mention of the works of the law, of all the laws that are written in the Book of the Law.
And what is still more worthy of remark, Paul himself cites Moses, who curses those that continue not in the law; whereas, he himself curses those who are of the works of the law; thus adducing a testimony of a different scope from that of his own sentiment; the former being in the negative, the latter in the affirmative. But this he does, because the real state of the case is such in the sight of God, that those who are the most devoted to the works of the law, are the farthest from fulfilling the law, as being without the Spirit, who only is the fulfiller of the law, which such may attempt to fulfil by their own powers, but they will effect nothing after all. Wherefore, both declarations are truth — that of Moses, that they are accursed who continue not in the works of the law; and that of Paul, that they are accursed who are of the works of the law. For both characters of persons require the Spirit, without which, the works of the law, how many and excellent soever they may be, justify not, as Paul saith; wherefore neither character of persons continue in all things that are written, as Moses saith.
Sect. CXLIV. — IN a word: Paul by this division of his, fully confirms that which I maintain. For he divides law-working men into two classes, those who work after the spirit, and those who work after the flesh, leaving no medium whatever. He speaks thus: “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Rom. iii. 20). What is this but saying, that those whose works, profit them not, work the works of the law without the Spirit, as being themselves flesh; that is, unrighteous and ignorant of God. So, Gal. iii. 2, making the same division, he saith, “received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Again Rom. iii. 21, “but now, the righteousness of God is manifest without the law.” And again Rom. iii. 28, “We conclude, therefore, that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law.”
From all which it is manifest and clear, that in Paul, the Spirit is set in opposition to the works of the law, as well as to all other things which are not spiritual, including all the powers of, and every thing pertaining to the flesh. So that, the meaning of Paul, is evidently the same as that of Christ, John iii. 6, that every thing which is not of the Spirit is flesh, be it never so specious, holy and great, nay, be they works of the divine law the most excellent, and wrought by all the powers imaginable; for the Spirit of Christ is wanting; without which, all things are nothing short of being damnable.
Let it then be a settled point, that Paul, by the works of the law, means not the ceremonial works, but the works of the whole law; then, this will be a settled point also, that in the works of the law, every thing is condemned that is without the Spirit. And without the Spirit, is that power of “Free-will,” (for that is the point in dispute), — that most exalted faculty in man! For, to be “of the works of the law,” is the most exalted state in which man can be. The apostle, therefore, does not say, who are of sins, and of ungodliness against the law, but who are “of the works of the law;” that is, who are the best of men, and the most devoted to the law: and who are, in addition to the power of “Free-will,” even assisted, that is, instructed and roused into action, by the law itself.
If therefore “Free-will” assisted by the law and exercising all its powers in the law, profit nothing and justify not, but be left in sin and in the flesh, what must we suppose it able to do, when left to itself without the law!
“By the law (saith Paul) is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. iii. 20). Here he shews how much, and how far the law profits: — that “Free-will” is of itself so blind, that it does not even know what is sin, but has need of the law for its teacher. And what can that man do towards taking away sin, who does not even know what is sin? All that he can do, is, to mistake that which is sin for that which is no sin, and that which is no sin for that which is sin. And this, experience sufficiently proves. How does the world, by the medium of those whom it accounts the most excellent and the most devoted to righteousness and piety, hate and persecute the righteousness of God preached in the Gospel, and brand it with the name of heresy, error, and every opprobrious appellation, while it boasts of and sets forth its own works and devices, which are really sin and error, as righteousness and wisdom? By this Scripture, therefore, Paul stops the mouth of “Free-will” where he teaches, that by the law its sin is discovered unto it, of which sin it was before ignorant; so far is he from conceding to it any power whatever to attempt that which is good.