|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #437, 438 and 439|
9 April, 2000
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged into Sinai through the miracles of The Exodus, heading eventually towards their Promised Land under the guidance of Moses and the direction of The Almighty God.
Consideration of the Levitical cities of refuge which were to be appointed in The Promised Land brought up a discussion regarding guilt, and hence a discussion of Satan, himself, whose name means "the adversary" or "the accuser."
Satan has great aspirations, and a comprehensive knowledge of God's Law. He has desired to ascend into heaven, and to exalt his throne above the stars of God. He has stated: "I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High."
As we have explained on former Studies in this particular sequence, in order to accomplish this, Satan has drafted a legal plan as the basis of the strategy which he is following in seeking to retain his present power and even to extend it. Knowing that he, himself, lied to Adam and Eve and brought about murder in consequence, and realising that he will be judged for the results of that lie, his legal strategy, in the simplest of terms, is limited to one main theme. He must cause God, The Judge to withdraw from the seat of Judgment. This is a legal possibility which might occur should God be presented with a predicament in which He has undertaken an unconditional commitment to some portion of mankind which He cannot fulfil. The Bible holds many such unconditional commitments of The Almighty, and all such statements will be subject to Satanic interference and attacks as far as he is able to mount them. Should God fail to fulfil any single such commitment to any part of mankind, God will have told a lie. "Liar", and "Murderer" are the two chief charges against Satan, but if God fails to bring everything to pass as He has stated, He cannot thereafter retain the moral authority to judge another on the same charge. Satan is desperately assailing all facets of the legal possibility. He seeks to ruin at least one of God's unfolding steps leading to the establishment upon the earth of the Kingdom of Heaven.
As we previously discovered, Satan, in seeking to disrupt the advent of that Kingdom, has four sub-targets, namely Monarch, Citizenry, The Code of Law forming an agreement between these, and the Domain free of alien interference where it functions. Today, we are looking at the end of the first aspect, namely The Monarchy.
We had discussed how King David had allowed his view of the beautiful Bathsheba, wife of one of his men-at-arms, to submerge his better character and judgment. The army was away, fighting an enemy, and David had taken Bathsheba and bedded her, with the result that she had found herself with child. Her message to David doubtless brought dismay, and he sought a way out by letting her husband come home to enjoy her conjugal benefits. However, on learning that this had not taken place, David, had successfully sought, through giving her husband an extremely dangerous assignment in the war, to be rid of his desperate embarrassment. We now see how God's displeasure was made known to David, and how God's Law concerning sheep-stealing applied in his own situation. Exodus 22:1 states: "If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep." How did this intrude upon the scene? If Satan, The Accuser, makes a valid accusation against any of God's people, God's Law must go into operation, and part of Satan's over-all objective is thereby advanced, for he seeks to so diminish the stock from which God has promised to create the nucleus of the earthly aspect of the Kingdom of God that God will fail to do this, and Satan can claim correctly that, in consequence, God has lied to His people and must relinquish the throne of Judgment.
1. And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.
2. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:
3. But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.
4. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.
5. And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:
6. And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.
7. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;
8. And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.
9. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.
10. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.
David had taken a "sheep", and must pay with four of his own, for "the lamb." King David's six sons are listed, together with their mothers' names, in II Samuel 3:2-5. These were Amnon, Chileab, Absolom, Adonijah, Shephatiah and Ithream, but there was another for we must remember the son created by David's illicit action with Uriah's wife, Bathsheba. That son was taken by God through sickness (II Samuel 12:15-19).
Amnon, David's eldest son, forced and lay with his half-sister, Tamar, (II Samuel 13:1-20), and her brother, Absolom, took vengeance upon him for this deed, (II Samuel 13:20-28). Absolom's Rebellion eventually brought on his own subsequent death, at which King David mourned greatly. Adonijah sought the throne before Solomon received it, while David was still alive, and at Solomon's accession, he forfeited his life for his unwise conduct. So four of David's own sons paid the debt. But there is more. Note that last verse in the passage. The sword shall never depart from the descendants of King David, in consequence of this terrible breach of God's Law.
Later, Satan used Solomon's love of many strange women and the daughter of Pharaoh, in an attempt to miscegenate the royal line. God therefore removed the ten and a half tribes from his son, Rehoboam, thus reducing his kingdom in size. Zedekiah's sons were slain, and he taken blinded in fetters to Babylon. Sin allows Satan to accuse the sinner in court, and God must carry out the penalty. Jeremiah had advised that the state submit to Babylon, because Babylon was the first in the sequence of world empires which God was setting up in order to be the means of bringing punishment upon His people for their corrupt ways, and their dismissal of His Law.
When the Magi asked "Where is he that is born king of the Jews?" - King Herod slaughtered the babes in Bethlehem, David's Royal City, in an attempt to kill Jesus. At the start of Christ's Ministry, Satan sought, by temptations, to pervert his course with sin, and thus to disqualify Christ from that perfection required in order to complete His work as Saviour on the Cross. The cry of the Jewish populace to Pontius Pilate, "We have no king but Caesar", was yet another attempt by Satan to deny Christ's claim to be the King, and incidentally there is something most ironic in that cry, for they were not aware of the full import of what they were claiming. Remember that the fourth world empire in the Babylonian sequence of national empires which the LORD was raising up in order to punish Israel for her spiritual whoredom was that very Roman Empire against which, on the one hand, the Jewish zealots were striving, and for which, on the other, the Jewish leaders were claiming its Caesar as their king!
We have dealt with the matter when looking at the reply of Our LORD when approached by the same factions in Jewish society, the Pharisees and the Herodians, with the question "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar or not?" (Matthew 22:15-22). Jesus, you may remember, asked to see a coin, (actually he was asking them to see what was on it in a new light) and at His question asking whose image and superscription it bore, they naturally answered "Caesar's." That embodied the answer to the question, for God had appointed Caesar as the custodian of national power and disciplinarian of the unruly elements in Israel, during the "times of the gentiles" (Luke 21:24). By giving the tribute to Caesar, they were obeying the penalty clauses regarding their spiritual whoredom from The Almighty, so in the action of paying Caesar in Caesar's coin, they were yielding to both Caesar and to God at the same time, and by the same action, that which they had withheld when they were free but falling into that spiritual whoredom which destined them to this fate.
The Crucifixion, death and burial are important aspects of this whole study, and these require a separate treatment with the approach of the Passover which is commemorated at this season of the year.
16 April, 2000
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, began several years ago with God's call to Abram. We have followed the Scriptural account of Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob (Israel) into Egypt and The Exodus under the leadership of Moses. At Mount Sinai, they had become a national wife to The Almighty God, and received sundry laws and regulations.
More recently, we have been branching from the commands regarding Cities of Refuge, to the topic of Satan's Strategy. In view of the celebration of Palm Sunday at this time in the calendar, I want to take a partial digression within that general topic, in order to accord our thoughts with that appropriate specific theme on this occasion. I shall recall passages from the broadcast given on 23 March, 1997, for today's address, because it has much which is worth repeating.
On Palm Sunday Jesus, as the sinless Lamb of God, and being the culminating fulfilment of the prophetic aspects of the Passover ritual, mounted an ass, and also its foal, in succession as He rode into the city in full view of the massing crowds who were making their way towards Jerusalem and the temple, in order to observe the annual religious ritual called in Hebrew pesah, or, as we would call it, Passover.
We may visualise the scene as the multi-coloured robes of the massed throngs, - probably the most costly and least-worn of their entire wardrobe, mingled with the more orthodox finery of the devout and the tatters of beggars, to make a festive and colourful panorama in constant motion against the time-worn and weather-stained stone walls and gates of the great city of Jerusalem. At strategic points near gates and on the walls, the occasional glint of light, shining a spark of reflected sunlight from helmet, spear or armour, would draw attention to the robe of a centurion or a leather-and metal armoured squad of troopers, and would place a sharp reminder before us that this was a city under occupation, and its cultural and religious observances were permitted by sufferance of an austere alien empire. This was the fourth power in Daniel's prophetic vision which was to continue the Babylonian succession of government during the times of Israel's punishment for departing the worship of her God. The populace was constantly aware of their demeaned status, and heedless of the point that the oppressor was, in fact, God's scourge upon them, popularity awaited any leader of Israel who would arise to fulfil the prophetic expectations of the patriotic zealot and the religiously fervent alike.
Most had at least seen some glimpse of Jesus during His time of ministry, and many would now have turned to see the simply dressed prophet and teacher as He rode forward amidst the throng, accompanied by his followers and disciples. Doubtless they saw in Him the possible fulfilment of national aspirations, and a hint of the regal would be all that was needed to ignite a hope that the day had now come for national release. Robes and palm branches were flung down before him, in hope that some of the mystic glory yet to come might hallow these tokens of adulation for each who was thus moved. Christ rode on in lonely glory, but not as a military conqueror this day. He was the Passover-lamb being shown, according to The Law, that all might see a spotless character yet to fulfil His role as the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). He alone saw the strain of His opposition to evil in the nation, His trial, the scourging, the bleeding and the pain which lay immediately before Him, and then the agony of The Cross whereon He was to hang, like the brasen (copper) serpent in the wilderness to heal all who might look towards Him (Numbers 21:9). He would within the week be despised and rejected, scorned and in the agony of death. His expression would doubtless have reflected that knowledge, and display the fortitude which would face all, and win the victory, even for those who would spurn or flee from Him in that dread hour. If we do not see this, we do not see what is truly afoot this day. It is the greatest love binding the greatest sin through submission to bondage and nails. We do well to contemplate it well, for our own future existence depends upon the blood to be shed in place of our blood.
According to The New Bible Dictionary item "Passover", the Hebrew word comes from a verb meaning "to pass over", in the sense of "to spare." The term is used both for the ordinance and for the sacrificial victim. Abib, later called Nisan, the month of the ripening ears and of the first Passover, was made in honour the first month of the Jewish year, according to that reference. [Here I believe the word "Israelitish" ought to have been used by the editors of The New Bible Dictionary for it seems much more appropriate in this context than the word "Jewish", the use of which term appears to be an unfortunate anachronism. I ought to explain that there were many Israelites in existence at The Exodus, but only the descendants of about one one-hundredth of those Israelites might, centuries later, belong to that tiny branch of Israel which returned from the Babylonian captivity, a remnant of a remnant of a remnant, to be known to subsequent generations as "Jews." (The very much larger Assyrian captivities were of Israelites who were not, and never have been, Jews. Most of these, we of the British-Israel-World Federation evidence to have developed into the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the world today.)]
The Dictionary mentions that no bone of the Passover victim was to be broken, a typological detail "fulfilled when it is reverently applied to the crucified One (Jn. xix. 36)."
That means of transport used by Our Lord, in contrast to use of a war-horse, would symbolise a peacefully intentioned entry to the city of Jerusalem. All this He did, in fulfilment of the prophetic aspects of the Passover as described in Exodus 12:2-6. That passage reads:
2. This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
3. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
4. And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
5. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6. And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.
Thus, the ritual required that the chosen Lamb which was to become the sacrifice a few days later might be inspected and watched, during the intervening days to see that it was indeed perfect, and without blemish. When Jesus got to the Temple (Herod's Temple, I might point out), he entered it, and began to cast out the money changers, and those that sold doves and other sacrificial animals for profitable gain on the monetary exchange which was imposed on those who came to worship.
In that regard we might profit by reading the account, taken from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21:1-13.
1. And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
2. Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
3. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
4. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5. Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
6. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
7. And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
8. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
9. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
10. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
11. And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
12. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
13. And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
Here we may point out that, in cleansing the Temple of all those who were making it a place of financial enrichment, and cheating the public through a monopoly on the traffic in sacrificial animals and birds, Jesus was clearly demonstrating His own fitness to be chosen as that perfect, and unblemished "Lamb of God" which "taketh away the sins of the world", and to become the Redeemer of His people, Israel, and The Saviour of the world.
Thus was the Old Testament prophetic enactment of the Passover blood to be played out in this subsequent event, the culminating focus of history as far as The First Advent was concerned. May your meditations this week reflect the understanding which appreciates that greatest of gifts which was at Christ's expense, and may none who understands neglect to receive the offering thus made. There is to be a sequel, at the Second Advent, when the joy, which has been long delayed, at last replaces the sorrow of that dread hour so long ago, yet so near to every contrite heart.
23 April, 2000
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began several years ago with God's call to Abram has followed the Scriptural account of Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob (Israel) into Egypt and bondage from which the Israelites were led out by the miracles of The Exodus under Moses. At Mount Sinai, they have become a national wife to The Almighty God, and received their National Law Code, becoming thus the nucleus of the Kingdom of God yet to develop upon the earth, together with sundry regulations and Ordinances. As we are now in the season of Passover and Easter, and as a partial digression from a subsidiary topic of recent days, Satan's Strategy, I have chosen to digress from our regular course to examine some topical thoughts relating to the season of "Holy-week", or "Passion-week", as it is commonly termed in England according to Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary.
I believe today's study will be appropriate to the occasion, although it will not, perhaps, form the usual pattern of treatment for such a sermon. Last week we reviewed the Biblical passages which relate to the Palm Sunday observances and the cleansing of the Temple by Christ, a recapitulation in part, of the Study given on 23 March, 1997, and although it might seem to offer a digression to the normal treatment of the story of the events of Holy-week, I now want to bring to our listeners passages from the talk delivered on 30 March, that same year, beginning with the words of Jesus in John 14:1-3. These words were spoken to His disciples during the hours of The Last Supper immediately prior to the Crucifixion. Christ spoke to the disciples regarding the house of His Father. Let us hear the words of the Biblical passage. It says:
1. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
Here, Thomas says "we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" to which Jesus replies "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him."
Now what is the usual interpretation which the average church-goer or even minister of the Gospel places upon that passage? From the many hymns which speak in verse of a general departure of "the church", or "God's people" out of this earth to go to some heavenly country to occupy glorious palatial mansions allotted to each by way of regard for services rendered on earth, one might expect that Christ was not destined to return at all! Hymns which are introduced by lines such as "There Is A Blessed Home Beyond This World Of Woe..." (#615), "There Is No Night In Heaven; In That Blest World Above..." (#623), Around The Throne Of God In Heaven Shall Countless Children Stand..." (#706), "Jerusalem On High..." (#608) and "When The Trumpet Of The Lord Shall Sound", with its refrain, "When the Roll is called up yonder", are all apparently in large measure based upon this mistaken interpretation, and, while we may sing them in fellowship with our friends, I might question whether the theological thrust of the wording is in strict accord with Scripture. Let us see what our study reveals.
I would suggest that such a concept of a heavenly abode in some distant realm vaguely assumed to be "somewhere altogether parted from the earth" is a common misconception, to which the true meaning of that passage is quite startlingly at variance. I herewith offer an alternative interpretation of the true meaning of this passage, related to Scriptural cross-references; one which I believe will be consistent with Christ's intent when He uttered the words of this teaching.
Let us review the words and phrases in this teaching, and see if other scriptures will throw some light upon what Christ was actually stating to His followers. I will begin by asking the question "What constitutes that Father's House" wherein all those "places of abode" are located? The Companion Bible has a marginal notation which offers an alternative rendering of the term "many mansions." It reads "abiding places." That reference goes on, in the same note, to state the words "Gr. mone (from meno, a characteristic word in this Gospel). Occurs only here and in v. 23." Young's Concordance also agrees with the explanatory word "abode."
That marginal notation tips off the careful reader to look up the rendering of this word in Vine's "Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words" where we find under the term "Mansions" the following information: "MONE... primarily a staying, abiding (akin to meno, to abide), denotes an abode (Eng., manor, manse, etc.), translated 'mansions' in John 14:2; 'abode' in vers. 23. There is nothing in the word to indicate separate compartments in Heaven; neither does it suggest temporary resting-places on the road." I think, therefore, that it will repay us to consider carefully the indication that is made clear in that reference, to correct the vague misconception that there are many huge palaces being prepared by a divine carpenter for each person, somewhere "away beyond the blue" in some heaven far away, as so often superficially thought!
After I had presented the theme in 1997, I later discovered the same approach in Foxe's Book of Martyrs, for Foxe states that before his fiery martyrdom St. Lawrence faced an avaricious tyrant bent on acquiring church treasure. Indicating the poor Christians, St. Lawrence said "These are the precious treasure of the church; these are the treasure indeed, in whom the faith of Christ reigneth, in whom Jesus Christ hath his mansion-place. What more precious jewels can Christ have than those in whom he hath promised to dwell?"
Let us consult the words of St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul writes: "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" Again, in 2 Corinthians 6:16 Paul makes the point in the words: "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
In Ephesians 2:19-21 St. Paul writes to the saints at Ephesus in these terms: They are "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Paul makes it quite clear to those who read his words in all these Scriptures that "ye are the temple of God... ." So we are to be the "abodes" or "mansions" of God!
Revelation 3:12 confirms this interpretation in the words " Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name."
Let us note there also the fact that the whole design of this new Jerusalem is said to come down to earth from God Who dwells in heaven. It is Christ's "departure" through Crucifixion and death which is the pre-condition which, so to speak, "sets the stage" and by that means facilitates the building of those "mansions" in His followers!
Now another matter may be of interest. In Matthew 21:12 we read: "And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves." This was the second time that that had happened. In John 2:13-17, we read that Jesus had done the same thing at the beginning of His ministry, and on that occasion, it had led to a dispute wherein Christ stated "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up", to which the Jews who opposed Him argued: "Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?" The passage continues "But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said."
While we see that the opposition remembered the words Jesus had spoken, and repeated them with derision but without understanding their meaning in Matthew 26:61, Matthew 27:40, Mark 14:58 and Mark 15:29, let us place three or four scripture concepts together to observe a possible double meaning therein. The "temple" of His body was raised up in three days. Jesus' followers are, as we have seen, also "the temple" being built and, in II Peter 3:8 we read "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." It is therefore possible to construct a scenario in which, just as the Israelites followed the Ark of the Covenant towards Jordan as they were entering the Promised Land, but were to remain about two thousand cubits behind it (Joshua 3:4), so the "body of Christ", His "temple" of living stones, may likewise follow Him into the "Promised Land" of His Kingdom within three one-thousand-year "days" through a similar experience, so that Christ will be "the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29)! Revelation 21:22 states in the symbolism of that Book "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." As Christ is the head of His body of followers that combination would be just what Revelation describes. That may provide some food for thought and meditation during the coming week!
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