LXIX. September/October 1986 No. 5
"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten
virgins...." -- Matthew 25:1
offering this meditation on the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13)
we do not present some new interpretation. Instead, it is our purpose to
offer encouragement to those who have responded to our Savior by
reflecting on the fact that no one can shut the believer out of the
promises of God -- except the believer himself. One of those promises,
the one hope of our calling (Eph. 4:4), is that we might be part of the
marriage of the Lamb.
presents Jesus as the bridegroom. Similarly, the solemnity of the
marriage ceremony is uniformly upheld. That Jesus and his church are
jointly the subject of Scripture is also evident, as we see from these
forty-five depicts the union of Jesus and the church.
parable of the king's son (Matt. 22) gives another picture of this
Paul uses these words: "I feel
a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as
a pure bride to her one husband" (2
Cor. 11:2, RSV).
John in the vision on Patmos refers to the church as the Lamb's wife.
to the parable we ask, Whom do the virgins represent? Is it not the
visible church of Christ: professed followers and friends of Jesus?
Using virgins as an illustration, Paul demonstrates the loveliness and
purity of Jesus' followers. In these we look for a holy affection for
Christ and obedience to his authority. Indeed, our profession of faith
must show that we love Christ and desire to exhibit that love in cheerful
obedience to his commands.
an important detail. All the virgins are of the professing church --
else they would not have gone out to meet the bridegroom. They are not of
the world. Yet, five of the virgins enter into the reward they sought
and five fail. We must conclude that belonging to the professing church
does not guarantee an entrance into the kingdom of heaven even though
organizational minds claim that only the members of some particular
church, or channel, or fellowship are assured of such an entrance.
Paul says, "Examine
yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test
Cor. 13:5, RSV). He
does not say examine whether you are in the correct church, but whether
you are in the faith. Why then should we attend church, or meetings, or
have fellowship with other believers? Because it is the church's purpose
to teach the Word of God which inculcates faith in the hearer. It is here
that you are taught -- from God's Word -- what his will is and what his
plan is to accomplish.
further. Knowing about the Bible is, of itself, to no avail. Anyone may
learn Scriptures and know them well. Yet, these may not be what their
Creator destined them to be. The aim of Christian teaching is to enable
divine grace to operate in the heart, the mind, and the lives of those who
will vanish away (1 Cor. 13:8). It is only as the holy Spirit brings the
Word of God alive and activates it in the experience of an individual that
it produces a spiritual effect. The elder cannot bring a pupil to life
in Christ; the elder cannot grow for his pupil. After the pupil receives
life, by the spirit, and in Christ (John 6:63), he stands alone.
is not to say that teachers are without value. Quite to the contrary,
teachers are to be highly valued. A Christian teacher can teach the truths
of the Bible, but he can also go far beyond, praying that the holy Spirit
will activate those truths in those who are taught and allowing himself to
be used by the holy Spirit in guiding, helping, and encouraging his
pupils. Such may share the Word with others, but they do so in such a way
that God may use the Word to lead the pupils to faith in Christ. It is
faith which opens human eyes to their Christian responsibility towards
those who do not know God.
the operation of the Spirit. The teacher teaches the pupil. The pupil then
becomes the teacher. Each receives a chance to tell others of God. Your
destiny depends upon your reaction to meeting the Master. When have we met
him? -- Through our association with others who have met the Master (cp.
John 14:7; 1 John 4:7-12).
How Do We View the Savior?
those who have met the Savior some have been unimpressed. These see no
need for his healing touch in their lives. They live their lives unchanged
by the Savior. Others are intrigued by his novel approach to life but
postpone any decision until later in life. Frequently it happens that no
decision is made.
is, however, another group. Some are overwhelmed by their Master's love.
These are overcome by love's power. The love of Christ constrains them (2
Cor. 5:14): by his mercy, his grace, his kindness; and they yield
themselves wholly to him. From that time forward they are different
people. The change may not be instantaneous. Nor is it always readily
noticeable. Nevertheless they are different. Their actions may often belie
their conviction, but there is always a point of return for them. And when
returning, they plead for and receive forgiveness of their sins and
short-comings from the heart of their loving Lord.
Count the Cost
Lord tells us to count the cost. We know that we are unable to amount to
anything. What then does he mean by the admonition "count the
cost"? Are we to evaluate our position only to decide that we are
unable? This is the difference between the wise and the foolish virgins.
Wisdom weighs the advantages of each side of an argument. With pencil in
hand we begin to list in columns what each offers to us:
Peace of mind
Freedom from sin
say, "What of the trials, the troubles, the arguments in the
church, the disunity." But what merit is there in such an argument?
Are we like the Prodigal's brother, refusing to enter the open door
sulking or angry because of slight or criticism? Who is hurt by such
stubbornness? Is the church? Are the brethren? Maybe. But we hurt
ourselves most of all.
what of the trials? The sacrifices and sufferings? Shall we, who have come
to the Father, leave because of the attitude of the Prodigal's brother? We
have entered the opened door. The Prodigal's brother refused to enter.
The Wise And Foolish Differ
wise planned for the present and the future. They provided themselves with
oil for any emergency which might occur. They prepared and acted for the
future. That is why we meet with other believers: to fill ourselves with
the oil of the Spirit for any emergency. The foolish, on the other hand,
had lamps but no oil for future needs. Their religious profession had
reference only to the present.
fixes its attention upon the most important matters and arranges chiefly
for them. Folly is to have our gaze fixed upon the present, uncertain,
flitting "now." Folly neglects to prepare for the sure and
momentous future. A mere profession of faith may suffice for the
present fading years of life but it alone will not endure the realities
of death, judgment, and eternity.
came a time when the bridegroom tarried and the virgins slept. Christ
did not appear as soon as expected -- this has been true of the entire
gospel age. Jesus promised to return and take them (his followers) unto
himself. But, in God's plan, many things lay between Jesus' promise and
his return. And so they fell asleep, one and all -- the sleep of death,
awaiting the final day.
what did the virgins hear? A cry! The momentous proclamation! "Behold
the bridegroom cometh: go ye out to meet him." When did it
happen? At midnight -- during the night -- before the dawn of that great
day of the Lord.
sublime is this announcement!
the Bridegroom cometh" -- in all his magnificence, in all his glory! He comes as predicted --
comes to establish his kingdom on this earth. But there is a work to do.
First, he reckons with the wise and foolish. How important, therefore,
is the command, "Go ye out to
meet him!" They had been waiting a long time. Now they were
startled and awakened into life. How simply and grandly Paul expresses
this event! For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and the sound of the
trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are
alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord (1
Thess. 4:16,17, RSV).
-- Now is the grand crisis of the age. The day of destiny and judgment has
The Difference is Discovered
is only now that difference between the wise and foolish is discovered.
The foolish have no oil. Their profession died with them. They have no
real grace and therefore cannot join that nuptial procession. The wise
trim their lamps and go forth, as they had prepared to do, as they had
desired, as they had expected. The difference is apparent when it is too
late. The foolish attempt to buy -- in vain. The wise have no oil, no
grace, no merit, no righteousness to benefit others; therefore the door
is shut to the foolish virgins. The wise enter with the bridegroom.
Their faith is now realized in sight. They see the bridegroom. They are
face to face with the Lord. Their hope comes to fruition. They are to be
forever with the Lord.
foolish are excluded! 'The door was
shut!" How terrible that short sentence! The door is shut, and
that forever. Their cries are vain: "Lord,
Lord, open unto us!" But the answer comes: "Verily I say, unto you, I know you not!" Watch therefore,
for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man comes.
How We Watch
we to watch the sky for signs? Are we to watch prophecy? No. We watch in
order to be ready when he appears (Matt. 24:44). It means preparing now.
Have you done so? Not in word or some symbolic action. Have you decided
to come to Christ. Have you gotten the oil of the spirit in your lamp? "..Let
us who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and
love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation" (II Thess. 5:8-10).
Don't be a foolish virgin having eyes only for the present. Let us both
desire and expect our salvation.
hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus
Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep we should live
together with him" (vss. 9-10).
you counted the cost? Have you recorded what the world offers and what
Christ will do? Have you determined, as did Joshua, "...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15 )?
People find the time and money to do what they really want to do. What we
do depends upon what we emphasize and value. Values rightly placed will
afford time, money, and energy for the Lord's service. You have already
believed. Are you now valuing things of the present more highly than the
promises of God's Word for your future? Have you counted the cost, because
only you can shut the door! "How
shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation!" May we learn
to be wise virgins, prepared for the marriage feast when the bridegroom
comes to take his Bride. -A. Jarmola
blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with
it." - Proverbs
not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be
judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you
again." - Matthew
these words were but grasped by the man in the street they would
revolutionize his life. He, of course, does not believe them. Most
people who do something wrong entertain the hope that they can avoid
paying the penalty. If they have injured another they hope that the
injured party will forgive them, or at least be powerless to take
revenge. Better still, they hope their misdeed will never come to light.
is true of the man in the street. How is it with us? Do we really believe this statement of our Lord? Of course, we mentally
assent to its truth. But to believe a
thing in the scriptural sense is to act as if it were true. Do we always
act as though we were thoroughly convinced that with what measure we mete
it shall -- shall, not may -- be measured to us again? Yet what psychologists term the
law of retribution, here enunciated by our Lord, is as sure and certain as
the law of gravity.
one ever supposes that the law of gravity has been repealed or is likely
to be. It is a cosmic law, inevitable, inescapable, and men shape their
lives accordingly. The law of retribution is also a cosmic law. There is
no such thing as escaping it. Only the Divine Architect could repeal or
suspend its operation, and nowhere in the Scriptures does he give us the
slightest hint that he intends to do so. On the contrary, the apostle
declares: "...God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also
reap" (Gal.6:7). It has been truly said:
a hymn-writer has suggested: Sow flowers, and flowers will follow You
whithersoever you go;
does not mean that every man is to reap in the present life everything he
sows. That was the doctrine once held by Job, but which through his
experience of unmerited suffering he learned could not be true. While even
in this life, men do, as a rule, get what they deserve, this is not
absolutely true. There are many exceptions even to this general rule.
Within the span of a human life, the law of retribution lacks sufficient
scope to operate to its fullest extent.
if we catch the Master's thought correctly, his words do mean that
somewhere or other, sometime or other, in this life or the next, our
actions will be measured back to us -- grain for grain. If I have
practiced deceit, I myself will be deceived. Unkindness to another on my
part will be repaid in kind. Every time I neglect a duty, evade my
responsibility, misuse my authority over someone, I may be certain that
some where, sometime, I shall receive the due reward of my deeds --
possibly in this life, but if not, then certainly in the next. This is the
law of the universe, the law of God -- a law more sure than that of the
Medes and Persians.
while those disposed to evil may come to recognize it as a law, those who
have the mind of the Master know it to be also a gospel -- the Gospel of
Retribution. And what a wonderful gospel it is, when seen in its proper
light! All we have to do, if we desire lenient judgment for ourselves, is
to judge others leniently; if we wish for ourselves "...good
measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over..." we
have but to give this to others and it shall be given us.
- P. L. Read
father loveth [phileo] the Son" - John 5:20
greatest of these is love [agape]." 1 Corinthians 13:13
the apostle Paul celebrates "love" (1 Cor. 13), he places this
quality above such other Christian graces as faith and hope. Bearing in
mind that the Bible was originally written in ancient langu-ages (Hebrew
and Greek), it seems proper to ask, To what extent do our Bible
translations succeed in correctly expressing that which the Spirit
caused to be written on this great theme of love?
are impressed by Job's exclamation (Job 6:25): "How forcible are right words!" However, a student of
language soon learns the imperfection of words. It is difficult to
translate precise thoughts between different tongues. Translators of the
Scriptures into primitive languages for use by missionaries realize this
fact more than others. A language often lacks the synonyms necessary to
denote slight changes in meaning found in the original tongue.
Hebrew word for love "ahav"
is a notable example. Hebrew is a language which uses many synonyms.
There are eight words for axe, nine for wine, eighteen to describe fear,
and twenty-five which in English can only be rendered "deliver".
It seems remarkable, therefore, that the one word ahav
serves to represent love of any kind (religious or secular), from
the love of God to sensual love. One word denotes the love of Jehovah
for Israel and Isaac's love of savory meat (cf. Deut. 23:5; Gen. 27:4),
the "wonderful" love of Jonathan to David, and the impure love
of the licentious (II Sam 1:26; Ezek. 16:37). As we look at the Old
Testament, then, we need not expect to find the various kinds of
"love" finely discriminated by the use of synonyms.
word for "hate" is also used in more than one sense. Its meaning
in one passage is explained by its use in another.
statement "If a man have two
wives, one beloved, and another hated" (Deut. 21:15) is difficult
to understand until it is explained by Genesis 29:30,31. "Leah was hated" (vs. 31) is explained in the preceding
verse to mean that Jacob "...loved
Rachel more than Leah" (compare the New Testament use of
"hate" in Luke 14:26). The precise meaning of the word
"love" in the Old Testament must be determined from the
context. This is also true in English. Both languages lack the necessary
synonyms for clear, literal translation of these words.
ancient Hebrew language was poor in some respects but rich in others. It
was "the most suitable of all to give to mankind the elementary
religious truths and facts of divine revelation" (Briggs). When the
time came for a fuller revelation of divine character and purpose
through the Son (John 1:18), of which revelation "love" was the
central theme (John 3:16), it was no accident that a more developed
language became the vehicle to carry its sublime truths to the peoples of
In the Greek
was the language of the New Testament. Not secular Greek (the classical
Greek of Plato and Demosthenes), but "Hellenistic Greek." This
form of the language which had been profoundly influenced by the
Septuagint -- the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures which had
been made by Jews in Alexandria in the centuries immediately preceding
the Christian era.
Septuagint had gone far toward producing a Greek vocabulary to express
the deepest things of the religion of Israel. And this vocabulary was
profoundly influential in the New Testament. Moreover, the originality
of the New Testament writers should not be ignored. They had come under
the influence of new convictions of a transforming kind, and those new
convictions had their effect in the sphere of language. Common words had
to be given new and loftier meanings, and common men were lifted to a
higher realm by a new and glorious experience (Dr. J.G. Machen).
Septuagint gave the New Testament writers a new vocabulary. Agape
is a noun meaning "love." The corresponding verb agapao
had been used by classical writers, but not in the New Testament
sense. The Septuagint frequently used the word to render the Hebrew ahav.
classical Greek, three words meant "love": agapai, phileo, and erao. The
last of these meant sensual love. It does not occur in the New Testament.
Evidently, the inspired writers shunned this word in favor of eipthumeo.
Agapao and phileo are
frequently found in the Greek Testament. Since they are both translated
"love" it is necessary to consult authorities to learn the
precise meaning of these words. Their definition is given by Dr. M.R.
Vincent in his scholarly work Word
Studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, Page 135):
a reasoning discriminating attachment, founded in the conviction that
its object is worthy of esteem, or entitled to it on account of benefits
bestowed. Phileo represents a
warmer, more instinctive sentiment, more closely allied to feeling, and
implying more passion.
we see why the Greeks used phileo as
the love of family or of friends, but agapao
as a love based on esteem. Most authorities derive agapao and agamai, a verb
meaning to admire.
In the New Testament
distinction between the two words appears to be generally preserved in the
Greek Testament. The love of Jesus for Lazarus is expressed by the warm phileo,
while his love for the sisters (Mary and Martha) uses the more
reserved agapao (John
11:3,5,36). It is true that in many passages the two words appear to be
used almost interchangeably (cp. Matt. 23:6 and Luke 11:43; John 13:23 and
20:2; John 3:35 and John 5:20; John 14:23 and 16:27). "And yet there
is often a difference between them, well worthy to have been noted and
reproduced, if this had lain within the compass of our knowledge"
has in its vocabulary two words which seem to exactly express the
difference between agapao and phileo.
The Vulgate renders these words diligo
and amo respectively (cf. John 21:15-17). Rheims' English version
(translated from the Vulgate) makes no attempt to discriminate between
the two Latin words in this same passage, but renders both
of the more literal modern (English) versions attempt to differentiate
between agapao and phileo when used in the same context. In comparing five of these, we
will look at John 21:15-17. All render agapao
by "love," but each tranlates phileo
American Standard Version uses "love" for both Greek words, but
in a footnote informs the reader that in these verses the word
translates two different Greek words; it fails, however, to state what
those words are, and whether or not they differ in meaning.
the other four versions three render phileo
by words denoting an emotion similar to but less intense than love:
"be fond of" (Rotherham); "affectionately love" (Diaglott);
"have affection for" (New World). Young's Literal
Translation, however, renders phileo
by the words "dearly love" (a stronger expression than
"love"), with which the Diaglott
interlinear agrees. This comparison thus illustrates the problem
of discriminating between agapao and
phileo in an English version. The terms "fondness" and
"affection" are too weak to translate the word agapao on the one hand, and on the other the translation of phileo
by "dearly love" is to give the reader the wrong impression
that phileo is a stronger word
King James Version renders the noun agape
by "charity" in nearly thirty occurrences. Those
translators were strongly influenced by the Latin Vulgate. The Vulgate
uses two words, dilectio and caritas (mostly the latter), to render agape. Since from the Middle
Ages caritas had entered the
English language as "charity," and because in their time
"charity" had the same meaning as agape
(i.e., love), the translators of the Common Version used that word
along with the Anglo-Saxon "love." But, three hundred and
sixty-five years have now passed. The language has undergone many
changes during that time. For example, the word "charity" is now
restricted to tolerance and benevolence. That word no longer suitably
expresses agape. "Charity"
is now replaced by the word "love."
The Elevation of Agape
prominence of agape in the New
Testament as the distinctive word for holy, divine love is better
understood if we recall the history of that word in both its noun and verb
forms. The noun does not appear to have been used in classical Greek but
it does occur (about fifteen times) in the Septuagint, though not with the
same force which it has in the New Testament. The verb form agapao
is, however, common in classical Greek and in the Septuagint. In the
former it was considered a weaker word for love than phileo,
and sometimes it merely meant "to be content with" (Liddell
and Scott). At other times the two words seemed to be used
interchangeably. In the Septuagint, agapao
had no significance beyond the English word "love."
remained to the New Testament to elevate agapao
and its derivatives. These writers redefined the word as the highest
type of love. It is this which the apostle describes (I Corinthians 13).
In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord stated a new law which was to
govern his followers (the new creation). This was to be a law of universal
love -- transcending the standard by which publicans and sinners loved
those that loved them (Matt. 5:43-48; Luke 6:32-36). A word was needed to
express such love. Through the spirit, the New Testament writers chose agapao,
a word with which they were already familiar from its use in the
Septuagint. They, however, gave it a meaning that it had not previously
possessed. Accordingly, the New Testament usage of agapao
and agape describes several
love of God to the Son, to his followers, and to the world of mankind
love of our Lord to the Father, to his footstep followers
love which prompted his sacrifice on behalf of men
love of believers for fellow-Christians (in a few instances this is
expressed by a compound of phileo --
love which Christians must have for their enemies (Matt. 5:44).
of enemies was not commanded in the Law, and it appeared contrary to
Jewish tradition. Yet, the germ of this doctrine is found in Exodus 23:4
and in Proverbs 25:21.
Duty -- Love
term, "duty-love," has been used to discriminate between the
words agapao and phileo. Let us consider this term in connection with the original
a love which is natural, spontaneous, involuntary (as of a mother for her
child). Agapao signifies a love
based on esteem (one drawn forth by the goodness of another, as the love
with which we loved the Lord, having "...tasted
that he is gracious..." "Whom not having seen ye love [agapao]"
(1 Pet. 1:8). It is evident that only the latter could be commanded or
enjoined as a duty. We find that whenever the New Testament commands men
to love it is the agapao form
and not phileo to which we are
enjoined. "Beloved, if God so
loved us, we ought also to love [agapao] one another" (I John
4:11; cf. Matt. 22:37, 39; Luke 6:27; John 15:17; Eph. 5:25).
Abbott-Smith's Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (page 3) refers
to the distinction between these words and adds: If this distinction
holds, agapao is fitly used in
the New Testament of Christian love to God and man, the spiritual
affection which follows the direction of the will and which, therefore,
unlike the feeling which is instinctive and unreasoned, can be commanded
as a duty.
have sought to describe agape, but
how can words express the essence of the divine character? Agape is the "greatest" of all Christian graces, "a
heavenly flame, kindled by God's redeeming love, the crowning gift of the
Spirit, the surest test of Christian character, the fulfilling of the law,
the bond of perfectness!"
- W.A. Eliason
"Go ye out
to meet him." - Matthew 25:6
Note: The subject of our Lord's Return has been hotly discussed for nearly
two thousand years. This fact notwithstanding, we joyfully present this
discussion of the matter because of the Author's careful attention to
what may, perhaps, be the most important aspect of this clearly scriptural
teaching: What does Jesus' return mean to you and to me in the living of
a tremendous time to be alive! Some may say that "all things continue as they were from the beginning of
creation" (2 Pet.
3:4), but we can see with our eyes what previous generations could not
conceive in their minds. Today's events develop so rapidly that men's
hearts are literally failing them for fear as they consider the advances of
technology. Knowledge has outpaced man's moral development. Man has not
learned to control himself and selfishness reigns in the hearts of men.
The forces of destruction grow more powerful, and "might" is
the god which men and nations worship. They can only hope that the god of
"might" will not boomerang, destroying all civilization.
this awesome time only a comparative few of earth's millions have fixed
their eyes upon the Word of God. We, whose trust and confidence is in it's
Author, see things being fulfilled which were recorded centuries ago;
the steps of the Almighty God moving toward a purpose which will surpass
every utopian dream of man.
What Does the Lord's Return Mean to You?
lover of God, can fail to be interested in the epoch-making events of
today. God's Word points toward this very time. If we have been praying: "Thy
kingdom come; thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven," we
will watch these events eagerly, in contrast to the complacency common
to many professing Christians.
does the Lord's return mean to you? Can we think about it, can we talk
about it, and not experience the emotions of those two travelers to
Emmaus? Do not our hearts burn within us? Something is wrong if we do
not find this true of us, and our interest in the subject can be nothing
more than academic. His return is the greatest event of all time. If we
appreciate its import there will be a zeal, a warmth, a liveliness of
spirit which can be likened only to those early days of church history
after the Pentecostal outpouring.
"They knew not"
have been other world crises. The first was the Flood, in which all but
eight persons were destroyed. Through it a "world" passed away.
Now men realize how stupendous the event was, yet of those who were
immediately affected, our Lord said:
the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into
the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away"
knew not." It
has always been so. The majority of people seem unable to appreciate the
significance of events in their own lifetime, even though they are able to
look at past events and see how the world's course has been changed by
events which were not understood at those times. It has always been so,
and it is so even today.
our Lord's First Advent -- an event which has had its affect upon every
part of the world. That was the greatest crisis up to that time. Not only
has it affected world history, but every human is vitally concerned with
the First Advent of our Lord.
did those then living view this event? Jesus' advent attracted little
attention from the world; just faint ripples upon the waters of mankind.
Among those in the land of his birth who should have known and understood
its implications, all were either indifferent or poured scorn upon his
claims. And yet all Israel were in expectation of the Messiah. "He
came to his own, and his own received him not."
was in their midst for thirty-three and a half years -- the one of whom
all the prophets had spoken -- the one who was to change the world; yet "they
know him not." -- they "knew
not the time of their visitation" (Luke 19:44).
So is the Presence of The Son Of Man
does not take keen insight to realize that this could become "a
time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation." Many
recognize this fact. Others -- the professed people of God -- discern in
these events a fulfillment of Bible prophecies. These speak of the
overthrow of Satan's empire preparatory to the establishment of God's
Kingdom of righteousness and peace. But few see further than this, to
the indications of our Lord's return and to the church's near
deliverance and glorification. These see their calling to be associated
with the great Messiah in the uplifting of mankind. Their's is to be a
ministry of reconciliation, bringing man gradually to perfection and
harmony with God, their Creator.
in these events is something which many Christians dismiss from their
minds. To them it is only worthy of passing reference; an incident in the
panorama of world history. Yet, we see the beginning of the next
important stage in the divine plan of the ages. Those who have an
understanding of God's purposes should thrill to see that we are passing
out of one stage of this plan into a new era which is vital and essential
BEFORE mankind can receive those blessings of life, health, and peace
determined by God from the foundation of the world.
Developments in God's Plan
are parallels between the ends of the Jewish Age and of this Gospel
dispensation. Both are periods of transition. During both there is a
gradual change in God's dealings with mankind. During both of these
periods the majority of those to whom the oracles of God have been
committed (Rom. 3:2) have found it difficult to grasp the changing
situation. Nor do they discern the implications of the times in which they
the close of the Jewish Age the eyes of God's people were fixed upon an
earthly kingdom. Most of them were blind to the development of a spiritual
aspect of God's kingdom. Even after the resurrection of our Lord, this
earthly kingdom so filled the minds of the disciples that they asked of
him: "Lord, wilt thou at this
time restore again the kingdom to Israel" (Acts 1:6)? But, the
last words of the risen Lord prior to his ascension indicated that their
future work would not be confined to Israel, but would extend beyond "...Jerusalem, and all Judea, into Sarnaria, and unto the uttermost
part of the earth." It was hard for the apostles to grasp the
at the end of this Gospel age, the eyes of God's people are fixed upon the
spiritual phase of the kingdom. They are so transfixed that many do not
appreciate the fact that the earthly phase of that kingdom is about to
be manifested to all the world. Ours is a spiritual calling, and our goal
is to be associated with Christ in the spirit realm of the kingdom; but,
let us not minimize the great beginnings of a new phase in the outworking
of God's great plan.
the Scripture teaching that much remains to be done before any blessing
can come to the nations of the earth. -- There is a "seed" to be
developed and prepared. That "seed" is not only to be "as
the stars of heaven," but also "as
the sand which is upon the seashore" (Gen. 22:17); in other words
there is an earthly seed to be prepared as well as a spiritual. Until then
the gentile nations must remain unblessed. "All
Israel" must first be saved. That is the clear teaching of Peter,
the apostle to "the circumcision", and of Paul, the apostle to
the gentiles. One can not be reminded too often of Peter's words recorded
in Acts (Acts 15:14-17). Verse fourteen reads: "Simeon
hath declared how God at the first did visit the gentiles to take out of
them a people for his name." There we have recorded Gods
selection of the church from among the gentiles -- a work which has
occupied the whole of this Gospel age, now drawing to its close.
is the same work to which Paul refers in his Epistle to the Romans (Rom.
11:17,24). The apostle speaks of "natural
branches" which were broken off from the root because of
unbelief, while gentile believers, represented by the "wild olive tree" were grafted in. Paul, does not
suggest that "the natural
branches" have no further part in God's plan for man. No, he says
that this cutting away of "the
natural branches" was for a limited period -- "until
the fullness of the gentiles be come in." "For I would not,
brethren,.." writes the apostle,
ye should be ignorant of this mystery [or secret], lest ye be wise in your
own conceit; that blindness [or hardness] in part is happened to Israel,
until the filling up of the gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall
be saved" (Rom. 11: 25,26).
wrote these words, in part, to guard the gentile believer against a spirit
of pride and superiority, "Boast
not against the branches," he writes. "Be
not highminded, but fear" (see vss. 18-20). These words accord
with the sequence of events recorded by Peter: "After
this..." that is, after the calling out of the gentiles, "I
will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is
fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it
until then will the scripture be fulfilled that: "the residue of men will seek after the Lord, and all the gentiles,
upon whom my Name is called, saith the Lord" (Acts 15:16,17).
Signs of The Coming Kingdom
"the fullness of the
gentiles" is nearly complete, and if we are convinced
concerning the signs of our Lord's return, then we should look around us
and scan the pages of God's Word to see this new phase of God's plan which
must synchronize with the closing days of the church on earth. If it is
God's plan, we cannot, we dare not be indifferent to what is taking
place in the earth. Our eyes should turn to the land of prophecy, the land
of Israel. As we do, there will be an incentive to greater diligence and
faithfulness in our Christian walk.
Lord indicated some of the signs that his followers should look for at the
time of his return, preparatory to the establishment of his kingdom:
he spake to them a parable; behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when
they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is
now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass,
know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand."
he adds words which mean much to us: "Verily
I say unto you, this generation [the generation that sees these
things come to pass] shall not pass
away, till all be fulfilled " (Luke 21:29-32).
did Jesus use the illustration of the fig tree? The interpretation is
provided by Jeremiah (Jer. 24). After Nebuchadnezzar had carried away
the Jews into Babylon, the Lord showed Jeremiah two baskets of figs. One
basket contained "evil
figs" (Jer. 24:8-10) and represented the overthrow and captivity
of the Jews at the commencement of "the
times of the gentiles," and their subsequent experiences
throughout the period of gentile dominion. The "good
figs" (Jer. 24:5-7) represented their re-gathering in their own
land and their conversion:
saith the Lord, the God of Israel; like these good figs, so will I
acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have
send out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good. For
I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to
this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant
them, and not pluck them up. And I will give them an heart to know me,
that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God:
for they shall return unto me with their whole heart."
as the fulfillment of Jer. 24:8-10 extended beyond the Babylonian
captivity, so this prophecy of the "good
figs" was not fulfilled at the end of the seventy years
captivity. Not until the Lord's return would the fig tree show signs of
God's returning favor. This prophecy of Jeremiah is one which cannot be
spiritualized without doing despite to reason. The people were to be
dispersed because of their idolatry and waywardness. They were "a
reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse." These are those
whom God has pledged to re-establish in the land of Israel.
might ask: "What about the other trees of which Jesus spoke in this
parable of Luke 21? Why single out the fig tree?" The fig tree is
significant because Jesus singled it out. As a sign of the his parousia
he informs us in parabolic language that the fig-tree nation would
shoot forth its leaves at a time when other nations also would give
evidence of life in their struggles for independence and national
A Significant Sign
there ever a time like this? Races, who for centuries have been subject to
the powers of earth, have thrown off the yoke of servitude. Peoples have
claimed their rights and now exist as sovereign, independent nations.
The British Empire, which for many years derived her wealth from the toil,
labor, and resources of subject peoples, bowed to the demands for
independence of those who were once described as "backward
races." India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma, Africa -- indeed "all
the trees" are "shooting forth." The French Empire has
likewise disintegrated. Now, in the mid 1980's, the vestiges of Dutch
power and the policies of apartheid are the next to feel the melting power
of revolution. The government of South Africa is now melting before our
"eyes" of understanding.
such a time, the Lord's disciples should look up, and lift up their heads
as they see the nearness of their deliverance. Oh, how circumspect we
would be if we were convinced that the last days of our pilgrimage had
been reached! If we could count the days to the time of our change, how
eagerly we would throw aside the trivialities which claim our time and
attention. The petty grievances, the arguing about non-essentials and
things that do not profit, would give place to that warmth of love and
zeal which characterized the earliest days of the Christian church.
we see the majority living their lives as though "all things continue as they were from the beginning." What
if it were tomorrow! Would we find it necessary to reshape our affairs,
to alter our plans, to scrutinize our motives, and to break down the
barriers which have separated us from fellow-brethren in Christ? Do we
long for "his appearing" ?
May we pause to honestly answer the question: "How great is my
desire to 'meet the Lord' and to see him face to face?"
we ready if the call should come? How blest we are if we can say
"Yes"; if from the heart we can utter those words; "Even
so, come Lord Jesus." That is what the Lord's return is all
about! "If I go away, I will
come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be
also" (John 14:3). Do Jesus' words stir your heart? Or would the
return of a loved one from another country stir you more? If so, you are
not ready for him -- and the time of our deliverance is at hand! "Heaven
and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away," said
Jesus (Luke 21:33). How essential that we not only discern the signs which
indicate the Lord's return; if it means anything to us we must also
recognize its implications, for they have a direct bearing upon our
lives and daily walk. Peter wrote: "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved" (- today
we can say "seeing then that all these things are being
dissolved",) "what sort of
persons ought you to be in lives of holi-ness and godliness" (2 Pet. 3:11,RSV).
Lord indicates that at this time there would be the greatest tendency to
become occupied with lesser things; the need for watchfulness would be
more urgent than ever before.
heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and
drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly
like a snare" (Luke 21:34, RSV).
must be a sense of urgency and eager, joyful anticipation -- a daily
living in the imminence of "his
appearing." "The cares of this life" are linked with
the indications of worldliness --"dissipation
and drunkenness..." They tend to crowd in upon every one of the
Lord's people to deaden the awareness of the nearness of "his appearing."
Father designed that all followers of the Lord, throughout the age, should
live in expectation of the Lord's return and of their deliverance and
gathering together to him. How can we who have been enlightened
concerning the parousia of the
Lord do otherwise? Jesus said, "This
generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled' and we must
accept his word! "Behold the
Bridegroom; go ye out to meet him."
One Certain Sign
consider an Old Testament prophecy which s connected with the "fig
tree" nation, fur this sign of the "fig tree" is one of the
near "appearing" of the Lord. There have been many wars during
this Gospel age; there have been many times of trouble, each increasing in
severity and encompassing more and more of the nations; but never before
has there been a budding "fig tree." Jesus informs us that this
is the one certain sign that "he is at the doors" and his
appearing is at hand!
did not say that we were to look for a fig tree f ill grown and mature.
The first signs of life were to be the indication that our deliverance
is near at hand.
the fig tree learn its lesson: As soon as its branch becomes tender and
puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you
see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates."
(Matt. 24:32,33, RSV).
is the "watcher" who will notice the beginnings of a revived
The Valley of Dry Bones
is a nation. But, many things will transpire before Israel is fully
reconciled to God and enjoying the destiny which he has marked out for it.
This is portrayed in Ezekiel's vision of the "dry bones"
recorded in chapter 37. In the first fourteen verses we read:
hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the
Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
and caused me to pass by them round about: and behold, there were very
many in the open valley; and, lo, they
were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And
I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest."
again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye
dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these
bones; Behold I will cause
breath to enter into you, and ye
shall live: and I will lay
sinews upon you, and will
bring up flesh upon you, and
cover you with skin, and put
breath in you, and ye shall
live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So
I prophesied , there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones
came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the
flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above; but there was
no breath in them."
said he unto me, prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, Son of man, and say to
the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and
breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he
commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up
upon their feet, an exceeding great army."
He said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel:
behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut
off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the
Lord God, Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to
come up out of your graves and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye
shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my
people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in
you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall
ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the
the sequence -- "a noise" -- "a shaking" [or
earthquake], and then bone being joined to bone. Then sinews and flesh
upon the bones, and all covered with skin.
far, in symbolic vision, Ezekiel sees a complete organism or entity, but
when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the
skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them (vs.8).
is recorded: "These bones are
the whole house of Israel" (vs. 11). What, then, should we expect
to see? What are we seeing today?
forty years prior to 1914 the longings of scattered Jewry, the Diaspora,
were to be united as one nation in the land of their fathers. These found
expression in the Zionist movement. But the "bones" were dry
and withered. There seemed little hope that the ideals of a Jewish
zealots would ever be realized. "Can
these bones live?" would seem to express how humanly impossible
it was. For nearly two thousand years that people had been dispersed among
the nations. While they retained their identities, they lived in
environments which varied as widely as the nations among whom they were
wonderful is our God! This people, designed to be God's channel of
blessing to all the families of the earth, gained experience by contact
with every race and kindred. Yet these were the sentiments of many: "Dried are our bones, and lost is our hope; we are quite cut off'
(vs. 11, Leeser).
1914 there was a "shaking" or earthquake! One rendering of
verse 7 is: "There was a noise,
and behold a commotion, and the bones came together, bone to its
bone." In 1917, during this commotion, when Palestine was freed
from Turkish oppression, the re-gathering of Jews began. The
"earthquake" has not yet subsided; the "noise" and
commotion continue, but in it Ezekiel's words are being fulfilled. Bone
joins bone. Jews of the earth have gathered together until the Jewish
population of Israel has swelled from fifty-six thousand (1914) to some
three and a quarter million (1984)!
prophet saw more: the skeleton took shape. "And
when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the
skin covered them above (vs. 8). Have we reached this point today?
Turning to the land of Israel, we see not a skeleton, but a nation. In
May of 1948, the "bones" took shape and form. For the first time
since the days of Nebuchadnezzar, twenty five hundred years ago, Israel
is a sovereign and independent nation.
No Breath In Them
of the returned Jews have faith in the scriptures.
still have accepted Jesus as their Messiah.
abide in unbelief.
Ancient Worthies and those who will be 'princes in all the earth' have not
been resurrected to their position as the leaders of restored Israel.
agree that there are points of objection! All of these objections are
true and they accord with the words of prophecy: "But
there was no breath in them" (vs 8). Spiritually, Israel is not
A Covenant After Those Days
is Israel's next step towards revival?
is the loosing of the 'four
winds" that brings life to the nation. Then God's spirit will
be poured upon the nation, and he will make them a new covenant, putting
his law "in their inward parts, and writing it in their hearts." The
giving of life to the nation is the next stage in her development. But,
and this is where we are concerned, "they
without us shall not be made perfect" (Heb. 11:40). The church
must first be glorified; her deliverance accomplished; her course on earth
completed! Israel waits for the appearance, the manifestation of her
Messiah, "...and when he
shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is...
" (1 John 3:2).
we lost that urgency which these truths bring? "Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed" (Rom.
13:11, RSV), yet the expectancy and anticipation seem to decline.
Surely, the knowledge we have received concerning the Lord's parousia should keep us alert and increasingly watchful! It is not
sufficient to produce reasons why we believe the Lord is present. Do
reasons satisfy the longings of the heart? "I
shall be satisfied" -- when? -- "when
I awake in thy likeness." That must be the sentiment of every
lover of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what we should be looking for;
it should be the prompting motive of our lives -- the one thing with
which we are concerned. "BEHOLD
many of the Lord's people have rejoiced in that proclamation. Alas, how
many have quarreled about it. How many have reiterated their conviction
that we are living in the days of our Lord's parousia,
and have joined in the proclamation -- "Behold
the Bridegroom!" But, what has it done for us? What is it doing
in us? Can we remain unmoved as we meditate upon it? Does it stir our
hearts? Can "his
appearing" be long delayed? Have the things of earth lost their
attraction? Have we redoubled our efforts to put on more of the graces of
the spirit and those qualities of heart and mind which the Lord will
expect and delight to see in us "when
the Bridegroom!" is part of the proclamation. But there is something more to be done. "GO
YE OUT TO MEET HIM!" That is just as essential as recognizing the
time of our Lord's return. Very soon "The
door will be shut," and the last member of the Bride will have "made
- Edwin Allbon, England
long as the church remains amid earthly environments and more or less
subject to the enticements presented by the world, the flesh, and the
devil she will find it necessary to keep in mind the facts of the
separated life God expects of his people. She will find it necessary to be
reminded that it is an important part of Christian experience to spend and
be spent in the service of God. Inasmuch as the New Testament abounds in
references to self-effacing sacrifice as a feature of our privilege in
imitating Christ, let us give consideration to some of these.
first to the words of Jesus,
the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love .... My
command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no
one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:9,
12,13) .... Now that I, your lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you
also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you
should do as I have done for you (John 13:14,15, NIV).
True Nature of Love
these texts Jesus tells us to imitate him -- "...do as I have done for you." He demonstrates that there must be a
laying aside of all feelings of superiority in our approach to our
brethren. He does not encourage anyone to note the soiled feet of others
and then in self-congratulation to assume that one's own feet are not
soiled, nor are we encouraged to display the infirmities of others --
some of which infirmities are real enough to be seen, and others of which
may be wholly imaginary.
is the nature of love to cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8). It is the
spirit of sacrificial love to believe that circumstances are better than
we might think -- if only we understood. Truly, the noblest trait of
Christian character is that of loving one's neighbor as oneself. Will not
such a love "esteem other[s]
better than themselves" (Phil. 2:3)? Will it not lead us to
minimize the defects, and "if
there be any virtue, and if there be any praise" (Phil. 4:8) to
magnify these? With this love, which is the love of God and of Christ,
abounding in all hearts, will it not be easier to make provision and
allowance for differences. These after all, will be found amongst
believers so long as the church is in the flesh.
are told, in God's word, why love for the brethren is so vital and why our
sonship to God is dependent upon our love for them. We are pointed to the
Son of God, in whom God was pleased. The Son did not please himself (John
6:38). It was his purpose to reveal the love of God sinful, selfish men.
He came to separate his followers from the world and its spirit by
implanting in them his love for righteousness and his hatred for sin.
Jesus came to unite in a heavenly unity the church which he would redeem;
not by creeds an rituals, but by cords of that same love with which he had
loved them. Self love must be eradicated before this feature of Jesus'
sacrificial love could control a man's life.
United by Benevolent Love
Much has happened between the Pentecostal blessing
and our day. Characters have differed over ii e years. Experiences,
knowledge, and opportunities for service have also changed. But the
heart of a true saint is still the same. There is still one faith,
because there is faith in one Lord. ere is still one hope, because we
wait for the same consummation, "...that
blessed hope..." (Tit. 2:13). We are one with them -- s long as
we allow the love of God to be shed abroad in our hearts. Blessed is that
believers are rivals in their love for the Lord, each heart absorbed with
the greatness o the love and mercy by which salvation and sonship have
come to them personally, they can be united one to another in a bond of
benevolent love. Daily experiences will not shake this bond. To the
contrary, eternity will enlarge and confirm it.
highest blessing of heaven ill rest on those who labor by word and deed to
foster a spirit if consideration for others, to those who by life and
conduct strive to remove the barriers between brethren by bringing them
to gather in the bonds of Christ's love. There are barriers which exist
between men which will only grow when attempts to tear them down are made.
But even these will melt under the warmth of the love of God shining
forth from sanctified, loving Christian hearts.
if we want a place in e heart of God, the only pathway leads us directly
through the pierced heart of the beloved son of God. That heart knew no
selfishness, no enmity. That heart overflowed with love to God, , d to
man. Let us try, by perseverance, to be "imitators
of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just
is Christ loved us" (Eph. 5:1,2, NIV).
- The Lighted Pathway
and stand upon thy feet: for to this end have I appeared unto thee, to
make thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou bast
seen me, and of the things wherein I will yet appear unto thee. Whereupon,
O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision" - Acts 26:16,19.
man cannot surpass the ideal or vision which is set before his mind. Nor
can a life achieve a higher objective than that around which it centers.
He that focuses upon earthly things will conclude that his life is the sum
of the things which he possesses (Luke 12:15), and if we lay up treasures
on earth, moth and rust will eat and destroy them, leaving us poor indeed.
But if our eyes have been opened by heavenly vision and if we do not
disobey that vision, we discover that such an earthbound horizon is not
life at all. Such existence is merely "vanity
and vexation of spirit" (Eccl. 1:14).
what if, instead of such vanity, we recognize life's brevity and turn our
eyes heavenward? Will we not learn, by using our lives to lay up treasures
in heaven, that"...where your
treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Luke 12:34)? By so
doing, we experience a drawing of our character toward that heavenly
teaching is clearly stated: "For
as [a man] thinketh in his heart
so is he..." (Prov. 23:7). -- A man aims his life in a certain
direction and by the force of his own thoughts he becomes the man at which
is why Paul testifies that his life and outlook were changed by the vision
which he experienced. He says that the vision of Jesus Christ
revolutionized his life. That was the "heavenly vision": by it
the bigoted, persecuting Paul was halted and humbled; by it he was
transformed into a servant of the church with a heart full of compassion
(like the Master whose slave he became). The vision taught him that wealth
(as he had known it) was paupery. The vision stabilized his ministry,
centering his mind upon Christ crucified. Yet more than that: upon Christ
formed within the hearts of believers. This transformation became the
object of his devotion to Christ and his church.
was Paul's secret? He faced unparalleled opposition. He was persecuted
by bigoted Jews and by false brethren within the ranks of those called
believers. And even though he was deserted by his co-workers in times of
crisis, yet he remained undismayed and undiscouraged.
proclaims: "I was not
disobedient unto the heavenly vision" therefore, "I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the
race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me -- the task of
testifying to the gospel of God's grace" (Acts 20:24, NIV).
ordaining him to service the Lord had said, "I
have appeared unto thee, to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of
what you have seen of me and what I will show you" (Acts 26:16,
NIV). Thus, Paul had been assured of the ministry committed to him. He saw
the Lord! He felt his power! And Paul was consumed with the desire to
share that which he saw and heard!
had experienced things, "whether
in the body or out of the body" he could not tell, but this
experience so transformed his vista of God that his precepts and example
rebuke forever all lukewarmness in service, all narrowness in concept, all
un-loving selfishness within the circle of the family of God. Paul would
not have been the Paul we know without these experiences, and the example
we have in him continues to this day: Each servant, commissioned of the
Lord, goes forth "...according
to the measure of the Spirit given to every man...." to be
"...a witness of the things wherein thou hast seen me..."
The People Perish
there is no vision, the people perish" (Prov. 29:18). How plain a statement of the
importance of a true vision of the will of God. The word
"perish" originally meant to "become naked" or to be
"uncovered," "exposed," or even "to cast off
restraint." The text might be paraphrased saying, "Where there
is no vision at which the eyes gaze intently, the people cast off
restraint; they are made naked and exposed." This view is supported
by the Lord's words to the church at Laodicea -- and to all Laodiceans
since, Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of
nothing; knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable and blind
and naked; I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou
mayest be rich; and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that
the shame of thy nakedness do not appear (Rev. 3:17,18).
one remedy is offered to cure this condition in Laodicea, "Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see."
an unfortunate state of mind this is for any Christian to exhibit.
Laodicea's lukewarmness resulted from her boast of riches and goods. She
became self-satisfied and grew lukewarm. By contrast to this improper
view, when Paul looked upon Jesus, his own righteousness was swept away.
In Jesus Paul saw strength and righteousness, enough to do all that Jesus
Spirit warns us that Laodicea's self-deception may be reproduced in us.
But, Jesus offers the eye-salve and by it's power our eyes are fixed on
his work in us and opened to the:
of his grace, wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and
prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according
to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself" (Eph. 1:7-9).
focused his attention on one fact: Jesus Christ came into the world to
save sinners. And of these, Paul considered himself chief. This simple
gospel of Christ is "the power
of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." (Rom.
1:16). Paul visualized a "high
calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14), one which was open
to as many as the Lord would call (from the Jews or gentiles). The hearts
of these have been touched -- as had his own. In them there was a
willingness to "count all things but loss and dross for the excellency of the
knowledge of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:8).
saw a church purchased by the blood of Jesus. Being thus purchased by
Jesus' own blood, it was a precious treasure to Jesus. He loved her. He
died for her. He stands in the presence of God for her. He comes again in
the end of the age to receive her unto himself "a
glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing" (Eph.
5:27). Paul envisioned a church enthroned in power with Christ. These
would be fully qualified (because of their experiences in this life) to
become the world's judges. Then their own probationary testing will be
complete, the world will come forth from the prison house of death, and
the church will judge righteously, with patience, longsuffering, and in
tender mercy. This was Paul's vision, the impelling force behind his
years of suffering and devotion, the
vision that made him a man of determination, warm of heart, of mature
discernment, and an epistle of Christ in word, in conversation, in
charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
within your heart. Are you leaving behind a similar record to Paul's?
Oh, we might do "all right" to look at Paul and imitate him. But
No! Let us rather follow his example of following Christ, because we too
must have our eyes fixed upon him who filled Paul's vision. To fix our
eyes on Paul would be to allow a carnal mind to control and a limited
perception to rule our growth.
"Looking unto Jesus the author
and finisher of our faith..." (Heb. 12:2) we shall be like him.
Out of this vision we will grow in grace and knowledge, in service and
fruitage. By growth we will glorify God, bless his people, and be
strengthened to finish our course with joy.
Consecration Depends Upon Vision
an inestimable blessing to see the grace of God in Christ Jesus. It is
possible to have a limited vision of this grace. In fact, we have not
truly had such a vision until we (as Paul did) have seen ourselves as
the chief of sinners. Not until we recognize our righteousness as rags and
the sum of our works as unprofitable service, will we reach a place where
boasting is excluded. Not until
a fixed conviction in our heart can we enter the realities of true
consecration. Love must draw us to Christ, "...who of
God is made unto us wisdom, and
righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption..." (1
Cor. 1:30) --
everything -- that no flesh should glory in his presence.
it possible to remain humble? -- Only by seeing our own poverty! No other
viewpoint will prevent us from thinking more highly of ourselves than we
ought to think. To so err is to fall into that spiritual blindness in
which we judge our own standing before God by the actions and words of
others. Paul warned us about this tendency. Some commend themselves, Paul
says, but in measuring themselves by themselves and in comparing
themselves to others like themselves they are not wise (2 Cor. 10:12).
The foolishness of such a course is obvious; it indicates clouded
vision, and proclaims that our eye has strayed from the Lord Jesus. By
comparison to his example of self-abnegation, devotion, obedience, love,
and sympathy, our lives pale. We recognize our salvation in him:
"...by grace are ye saved through
faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph.
we have proof that consecration must spring from a true affection for
Jesus himself? Consider Revelation chapter two, verses one to six.
This affection for our Lord starts in the sacrificial love of Jesus for
us. It follows that our vision of Christ crucified must never be dimmed.
Our minds must constantly say
church at Ephesus was commended. They had not grown weary in well
doing. They were patient -- a virtue of outstanding worth. They possessed
a proper hatred of those that were evil. They were versed in doctrine --
so much so that they were alert to detect the false position of any
"...who claim to be apostles
but are not..." - Rev. 2:2). They had suffered much for
Christ's sake -- an important feature of true consecration.
this not withstanding, the Ephesian brethren were still to be accused. To
be acceptable to God, a consecration must be true, and the Ephesians had
lost their first love (Rev 2:4). They still loved the truth which they had
received. They remained zealous for its defense and promulgation. But
heir personal devotion to Christ Jesus himself had slipped. This loss, in
the eyes of Jesus, was too vital a matter to overlook.
find that this Ephesian message is directed to us. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the
churches" (Rev 3:22, NIV).
Open Thou Mine Eyes
center of the dedicated life is Christ Jesus himself. Here center two
essential features of Christian life:
unity of the Spirit (as pertains to our fellowship).
service of the Lord and his people.
is what we must have a personal vision of Christ. Paul could say that the
risen Lord was seen by "Peter,
and then to the Twelve after that, he appeared to more than five hundred
of the brothers at the same time..."(1 Cor. 15:5,6, NIV ). But if
he could not say, "Last of all
he was seen by me"(vs. 8), the proof of his apostleship would
have been in doubt. That power which influenced his daily life and
ministry would have been lacking. That vision proved to Paul that his
previous zeal had been misplaced. In fact, he had been disloyal both to
God and to his saints. This opening of his eyes made him our beloved
brother Paul, an outstanding example of love and of lawful striving.
his Master sparked the fire in Paul's heart. From that time forward Paul
yearned to see his Master's character formed in the heart of every
believer. From this impression of his Master, Paul later drew the
inspiration for the personification of love which he left to the church
(1 Cor. 13). The vision was unerasable. And so, he longed to have the
church cleansed and purified, a chaste virgin for Christ, without spot or
wrinkle or any such thing. Let us aim our vision at Christ. Fixing our
eyes upon him and being transformed by his person we will see as clearly
as did Paul. May we learn, with faith and with patience, to follow the
heavenly vision and to inspire others to do likewise. Then we shall learn,
and others through us, to "...know him and the power of his resurrection..." (Phil. 3:10).
"What Seest Thou?"
writings illustrate the degrees of spiritual sight to be expected in his
brethren. -- And there are few who progress beyond the first stage!
Natural men make details (rules, observances, regulations) of paramount
importance. To such men a humble character and the indwelling of the
Spirit of Christ is trivial.
trait is seen in one of Jesus' miracles. The blind man who received
healing at the Savior's hand (cp. Mark 8), first remarked that he saw "men
as trees walking" (vs. 24). The man had received sight, but out
of proportion. Soon, however, a second touch of the Savior's hand put
all things clear. It is reasonable to suppose that had there been no
second touch given this man's eyes, he would have gone his way thinking
himself just like other men. But, the second touch convinced him that his
previous sight had been partial. We find ourselves similarly situated. Our
former sight is only recognizable when we have matured into fuller
we can understand why Paul was so grieved by the spiritual immaturity of
his contemporaries. He saw many things clearly and tried to elevate the
minds of his brethren into the lengths and breadths of the love of Christ.
They, however, could not yet see clearly. Paul was tested by those who
were babes in Christ. They should have been ready for strong meat, but
like the blind man at the first stage of his healing, they thought that
they saw clearly.
Corinthian church understood much. In his first letter, Paul opens by
thanking God that they had received much grace and had been "...enriched by him, in all utterance, and all knowledge" (1
Cor. 1:5). He was encouraged that they were lacking "in no
gift"(vs. 7). But later in the letter serious problems are revealed.
Contentions existed among them. They argued about the merits the three
ministers sent unto them: Paul, Apollos, and Peter. They disputed about
ordinances, personal rights, and opinions. Logically, they reaped the
natural result of such contention: they were "...puffed up for one against another" (1
Cor. 4:6). Their opinions were elevated but common decency was
outraged. They fought for their opinions but failed to look through
spiritual eyes to see that righteousness, purity, and godliness were the
prime requirements of God's saints.
find, then, another reason for the heavenly vision. "The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are, and if any man
defile the temple of God, him will God destroy"(1 Cor. 3:17).
Jesus expresses an underlying principle in the words, "Blessed
are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). Only
the pure in heart do see God. Only they have spiritual vision. Could the
Lord impart a heavenly vision to any other? Could he impress his
revelations on an uncleansed and carnally defiled heart? --
is possible to sit under God's deep truths, yes, even to rehearse them in
our minds, without seeing the law of God which requires first a "single
eye" (Luke 11:34) and then "clean
hands and a pure heart" (Ps 24:4).
an illustration we think about how careful the photographer is about his
film. Too much light or too deep a shadow will ruin a picture. How much
more care should be exercised by us to see that no "...roots
of bitterness..." (Heb. 12:15) ruin our vision of God and his
Spirit. Along this line we are reminded of faithful words: "Greater
than the fault you condemn and criticize is the sin of criticism and
condemnation." John Bunyan created a character to represent this
visionless personality. The man with the "muckrake," his head
bent earthward, never saw the crown which hung overhead. The man may have
thought that by diligence he might have eventually merited a crown, but
Bunyan was right in concluding that there was no more certain way to
forfeit the crown than this.
about ourselves? Are our eyes fixed on heavenly things. Do we behold a
"land that is very far off" -- far off from all earthly
standpoints? Can we echo Job's thoughts? He had heard much, but finally
Job said, "my eye seeth
thee"(Job. 42:5). Are we led to the high ground where men no
longer seem larger than life. Have matters of little eternal worth
vanished from our skies leaving us free to behold his face? Do we see that
our task is to receive the impression of his character in ours? Have we
recognized that in this day "to be purified is to have sin burned
out; to be made white is to have the glory of Christ burned in -- the one
as cleansing, the other as illumination and glorification"? These are
the important things, for
then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons
ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness" (2 Pet. 3:11)?
There is no better way in which to prepare for the change we so fervently
desire than to commit ourselves wholly to Christ. Let him have dominion
in our lives and hearts. His influence will control our thoughts, "...bringing
into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ...." (2
Cor. 10:5) His example will direct our daily walk. His character
will become our aspiration. This is the revealed object of God's
predestinated purpose for his church. Let us learn to pray, ...O may no
earthborn cloud arise,
hide Thee from Thy servant's eyes... and daily walk in the light of his
face. Let us remain faithful to that heavenly vision of his love and
grace. When his power has completed the work begun in us then may we be
ushered into his presence to see him face to face.