|Vol. 12, No. 3, May - June 1983
||EDITOR: Mr. Harry Foster
PRIEST AND PRIESTHOOD
(Some comments on the Epistle to the Hebrews -- 4)
John H. Paterson
THE theme of the Epistle to the Hebrews is the greatness of Christ. In
Chapters 3 to 7 of the epistle, the writer's object is to compare the Lord
Jesus with those great figures of Israel's past, Moses and Aaron, and to
show that He is greater than both of them rolled into one.
In our last study, we considered the writer's treatment of the life of
Moses. It was no small matter to present Moses in an unfavourable light,
for his Jewish readers revered Moses as one of the greatest of all their
heroes. Nevertheless, the comparison with the Lord Jesus was not too far-fetched.
Their achievements were, in a sense, parallel. Indeed, the Lord Himself had
prepared the way for such a comparison by using His own teaching as a commentary
on, or counterpoint to, the laws of Moses (cf. Matthew 19:7-9; 22:24-30;
But to make the comparison between the Lord Jesus and Aaron was a different
matter, and that for one very simple reason: that if we are to compare
two people or things, we must find some similarity between them. One
man may be tall and the other short, but they are both men. Jesus and Moses
were both leaders, deliverers and law-givers. But Aaron stood alone. To a
Jew the Aaronic priesthood was, in the fullest sense of the word, incomparable:
there was nothing with which to compare it!
I have recently been re-reading Leviticus and among all the details of
ritual and offerings, food and clothing, one emphasis recurs! It is God's
insistence that only Aaron, only the priests, might perform
the ministry of the Sanctuary. If anyone else attempted to take over the
priest's role, God's judgment would be immediate. No matter how devout or
well-meaning the worshipper, God would have none of him. Only Aaron and his
sons would do. The only way to qualify for the priestly duties was to be
born into that one family.
So how could there be any question of a comparison? Comparison
with whom or what? Israel had known no other priesthood. You cannot compare
the unique with anything at all!
Nor was that the only difficulty. Nothing that the Lord Jesus said when
He was here represented any direct claim that He was a priest. Some of the
things that He said could be construed as an indirect claim, but He never
described Himself as a priest and, indeed, was well known to be generally
hostile to the priests as a class! A comparison with Moses was possible --
not easy, but possible. But how were people to know that Jesus could be
thought of as a priest? He was a Judean, not even a Levite, and certainly
not a member of the Aaronic elite. How could He possibly qualify for priesthood?
THE writer to the Hebrews, steeped as he evidently was in Jewish thought,
must have been well aware of this problem. Indeed, he was quite ready to
concede that Jesus "did not claim for himself the honour of being a high priest"
(Hebrews 5:5). But this was a problem he needed to solve, and he did so in
a most ingenious way -- with the aid of a remarkable and little-known character
There were three points he wished to make:
1. That the Aaronic priesthood was not the only form of priesthood
approved by God.
2. That the Aaronic priesthood was not the highest form of priesthood.
3. That the work of the Aaronic priesthood was incomplete and limited.
Of these, the first point was probably the most difficult for, to make
it, he would have to break down the very strong conviction of the Jewish
people that Aaron's priesthood was unique. He had to get his readers to concede
that there could be another priesthood; that priesthood did not begin
and end with Aaron.
THIS brings us to Melchizedek in Hebrews 5 & 7. If you are like me,
you react to those chapters of the epistle by thinking in bewilderment, 'What
in the world has Melchizedek to do with all this?' The writer drags him
into the argument not once but twice, and quite unnecessarily, as it seems.
Since we know practically nothing about Melchizedek from the
[41/42] Scriptures, this must seem, in our own terms, rather like
using the story of King Arthur and his knights to prove how wise, or brave,
or handsome, the present Prince of Wales is!
Let us try to see, then, what Melchizedek does have to do with
the argument. The writer uses him to break through the Jewish thought-barrier
-- to show, firstly, that it is possible to have other God-approved priesthoods
and, secondly, that Christ belonged to such an alternative priesthood which
was, and is, superior to that of Aaron.
Actually the choice of Melchizedek to make this case was not merely very
shrewd; it was also the only possible case that could have been presented
from the Jewish Scriptures. How many God-approved priesthoods [other than
Aaron's] can you call to mind in the Old Testament? Only Melchizedek (Genesis
14:18) really qualified!
But for this purpose one case was enough. Melchizedek is described as
"priest of the Most High God". His priesthood was evidently accepted also
by God, for in Psalm 110:4 the psalmist records the Lord Himself using the
term "the order of Melchizedek". Here, then, was the one solid, biblical
argument which the Jewish readers could not rebut: Aaron was not unique!
Of course, the case of Melchizedek enabled the writer of the epistle
to make not only his first point but the second and third as well. For this
priest-king was not merely an alternative to Aaron, but he preceded him in
point of time by several hundred years. And thanks to his meeting with Abraham,
and the fact that Abraham recognised his rank and role, the writer is able
also to argue that Melchizedek's priesthood was not only previous to Aaron's
but superior to it. Abraham was the ancestor of Levi and of Aaron, and Abraham
was blessed by Melchizedek. But "as everyone knows, a person who has the
power to bless is always greater than the person he blesses" (Hebrews 7:7.
Living Bible). Therefore Melchizedek was greater than Aaron.
NOW that he had his readers thinking along these lines, the writer pressed
home his advantage by drawing attention to the weaknesses of the Aaronic
priesthood. Briefly they were these:
Firstly, Aaron and his successors were themselves men, subject to human
failure and embarrassed by their own shortcomings. Inasmuch as one of their
chief duties was to offer sacrifices to atone for people's sins, they had
first to do this for themselves, before they could attend to the sins of
others. Think of the uncertainty that this human element introduced into the
whole system: my repentance and my offering might be perfect
and proper, but if the priest had not established his own right standing with
God, where would that leave me?
Secondly, those Aaronic priests were only human, and they kept dying
off. Every time one died there was a gap of time before a new one could
be consecrated. In that gap, anything might happen! Supposing that the priest
collapsed and died just as he was discharging my particular business, what
then? Supposing that he was inexperienced and forgot some part of the complicated
ritual, would God reject my offering? The uncertainties were endless.
Thirdly, while the Aaronic system undoubtedly worked (and we must
never forget that) it was a system that had to go on working for ever. So
long as there was sin in mankind, there would have to be priests and sacrifices.
Nothing in the system would ever bring it to a halt. The sad cycle of sin
and sacrifice would never end.
Fourthly, some of those priests of old were so bad at their task, so
corrupted in their own natures, that God rejected them. The priesthood was
based not on moral or personal qualities but on membership in a family.
What of the "personal qualities" of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10), or Hophni
and Phineas (1 Samuel 2)? What confidence did they inspire among the people
they were supposed to lead to God?
BUT now consider the priesthood of Jesus Christ and notice the contrast.
Firstly, He had no sin of His own for which to atone, so that He was and
is assured at all times of access to God and can devote Himself wholly to
pleading His clients' cause. Secondly, He is not affected by death: like Melchizedek,
He has neither beginning nor end, but goes on for ever, without intermission.
"While they became priests in large numbers, because they kept dying off,
this priest, because his life goes on for ever, holds his priesthood permanently"
Thirdly, with the coming of the Lord Jesus, there was finally introduced
a way, God's way, of bringing into the system an element of finality
. [42/43] At last it was possible to break the
wearying cycle (I use the word advisedly, for God Himself told His people
that He was weary of their sacrifices) of sin and offering, by having something
happen once and for all. What that was, the writer was going on to
Fourthly and finally, with the Lord Jesus, that priest after the order
of Melchizedek, we have a "guarantee of quality" which is entirely personal
to Him. The Aaronic priests took office on the basis of family connection,
but the Lord Jesus by no less an authority than the oath of God Himself.
"The Lord hath sworn and will not repent Himself, Thou art a priest for ever"
(Hebrews 7:21). Can we imagine God committing Himself in this way unless He
was absolutely satisfied about the quality of the High Priest He was appointing?
In summary, then, the qualities of the Lord Jesus are those needed to
provide a priest free from the weaknesses of Aaron and his descendants --
He has been appointed in perpetuity (7:21), in the power of an endless life
(7:16), and will be in the presence of God for ever to intercede for us (7:25).
He is holy and has no need to offer sacrifices for His own sin, for He has
none (7:27); He is perfect for ever more.
And with a final -- no doubt grateful! -- nod at Melchizedek, our writer
signed off with those wonderfully reassuring words:
We have such a High Priest.
(To be continued)
IS THERE ANY WORD FROM THE LORD?
"The king asked him secretly in his house,
and said, Is there any word from the Lord?
And Jeremiah said, There is." Jeremiah 37:17
3. THE WORD OF LIFE
IF a word comes from the Lord, its purpose will always be life. It is
not enough that it should be a word of information, to bring encouragement
or sustaining just for the moment; nor is it solely a message of report or
correction; it is meant to impart everlasting life to the inward man. God's
Word is distinguished in this way: it conveys "all the words of this
life" (Acts 5:20).
Jeremiah was asked, "Is there any word from the Lord?" and the gist of
his reply and of the whole of his long ministry is found in his challenge:
"Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death" (21:8).
In this connection it is striking that the prophet has a special word concerning
escape from death when he offers life as "a prey". "His life shall be unto
him for a prey" (21:9). "He that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live,
and his life shall be unto him for a prey" (38:2). "For I will surely save
thee ... and thy life shall be for a prey unto thee" (39:18) and "I will
bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord, but thy life will I give unto
thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest" (45:5).
A modern translation translates the word, "a prize of war", which seems
right enough since the word is 63 times rendered "spoil" (See 1 Samuel 30:20).
Whatever Jeremiah meant by employing this word, he certainly indicated the
fierce contest which is associated with this matter of life and, for New
Testament readers, he gives a reminder that we only have life in Christ as
the fruit of His triumphant war over sin and Satan. For us it is a gift: for
Him it is the booty obtained by His Calvary conquest. And even in our case,
it is surely true that the maintenance of spiritual vitality, of the "abundant
life" which is our birthright as believers, is always involving us in spiritual
conflicts. There is, even for us, a Battle For Life.
Of the much that could be said concerning Jeremiah's Word of Life, two
prominent ideas must be stressed; they are that what God offers is an entirely
new life and is also resurrection life. We take them in this order.
Entirely New Life
It was, perhaps, at an advanced stage of his life and ministry that Jeremiah
was entrusted with the great revelation of the New Covenant. The whole of
the second volume of the Bible is called 'The New Testament' -- but we may
not [43/44] have realised that one of the chief messengers
of the word of this life was the much reviled Jeremiah.
As with all the prophets he spoke of course first of all to his own generation.
The duration of the captivity was clearly announced by him as being only
for seventy years (25:11-12). It was an end but not the end! So unequivocal
and emphatic was this prophecy that it forced Daniel to his knees and produced
his great confession and prayer for restoration (Daniel 9:2). And Jeremiah
was right. There was a new day coming for Jerusalem and its people, a new
life for the nation and a release from captivity and, when it occurred, we
are told that it was in order that "the words of the Lord by the mouth of
Jeremiah might be accomplished" (Ezra 1:1).
So Jeremiah spoke truly of a new life for his own nation. This new phase
of blessing was a sweet prospect for him in the dark days (31:26) and we
cannot but be thrilled by the glowing picture which he gives us in the earlier
part of this chapter 31 as also elsewhere. For instance, he tells us that
while he was yet shut up in prison, the Lord offered to show him "great and
fenced-in things" which were beyond his imagination (33:3), when God would
"cause the captivity of the land to return as at the first" (v.11). While
the stories of Ezra and Nehemiah by no means fulfil all the glowing prospects
described by Jeremiah, the reading of them brings a glow to our hearts as
the vision did to the heart of Jeremiah.
How much, therefore, of Jeremiah's visions was realised at the return
from captivity, how much may be happening today in Israel, and how much may
yet await literal fulfilment is not the subject of this present study. We
do know, however, on the authority of God's Word, that Jeremiah spoke better
than he knew of our own dispensation, of this Christian era of the latter
days and of the New Covenant which we portray every time we drink from the
Communion cup (Matthew 26:28). If we ask if there is any word from the Lord
for us today, the answer is that yes there is, and it is supremely the word
of life, new life.
The need for something new was made apparent by Jeremiah's prayer: "O
Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that
walketh to direct his steps" (10:23). He proves that he includes himself
in this generalisation by adding, "O Lord, correct me ..." (v.24). What is
more, he gives the verdict that "the heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick", asking, "Who can know it?" and making it a strange
sequence but a very realistic one to his previous words about the blessings
offered to the man who trusts in the Lord (17:7). Can this heart condition
be true of such a man? Can it be true of Jeremiah? Of Paul? Of you and me?
Yes, for the Lord who searches the heart tells us that we can only find our
answer at His throne of grace (Hebrews 4:12-16). The natural man needs more
than a new start: he needs a new heart.
This is precisely the full import of Jeremiah's promise of the New Covenant.
His words are quoted twice in the Letter to the Hebrews. There we are told
that the primary outworking of this new covenant by the shed blood is total
forgiveness (Hebrews 8:12). This is indeed a marvellous blessing, but it
is not in itself the full answer to our unsatisfactory condition, for what
we need most is an entirely new life which can build on the blessing of forgiveness.
This is fully provided for in the positive promise of the divine indwelling.
Jeremiah foresaw the day when each individual covenant person -- "from the
least to the greatest" -- would have a personal, first-hand knowledge of
the Lord and an inward renewal of heart and mind by divine life (Jeremiah
31:31-34). The renewed quotation in Hebrews 10:16 makes it clear that the
essential and lasting meaning of Jeremiah's words could only be realised by
Christ's offering of Himself on Calvary and the application of that work by
the sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit. It was not given to Jeremiah
to speak directly of the Holy Spirit but we leave consideration of this phenomenon
to a later study.
This, then, is the word that there is from the Lord, the word of an entirely
new kind of life which He undertakes to provide. The people of Israel could
know nothing of this life for various reasons, not least the one that they
put their trust in tradition and human reasoning rather than in the promises
of God. They relied on their outward association with divine things. When
Jeremiah challenged them about their behaviour, their answer was a fallacious
threefold claim that the temple founded on the law of Moses and erected by
the devotion of David and Solomon was the guarantee for them of a successful
future: "Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the
temple of the Lord, the [44/45] temple of the Lord
are these" (7:4). In other words, "we belong to the great historical church".
This was no passing delusion for, right to this day, there are many Christians,
of varying persuasions, who find their confidence in past tradition.
The people also listened with pitiful credulity to the smooth words of
their professional preachers who spoke "visions of their own hearts and
not out of the mouth of the Lord" (23:16). These men are accused of stealing
the Lord's words (23:30), which presumably means that they retailed the Scriptures
(2 Corinthians 2:17), selecting out of them suitable extracts which profited
their views at the expense of the full context of the Word of God -- a common
enough tendency till this day of those who are adept at using selected passages
from God's words to substantiate their erroneous ideas.
Under the terrorising threats of a Chaldean invasion, there was a general
move towards God's law as it related to the freeing of their fellows whom
they held in bondage, but when there was a temporary lifting of the threat,
this reform was abandoned and the same old selfish evils returned (34:16).
It is not for many of us to condemn these Jews, for our hearts are naturally
as perverse and selfish as theirs. Once again we repeat, the only hope for
all of us in an entirely new and different spirit as provided by the New
The Bible is not a handbook for self-reformation: it is a message of
a totally new life provided by Christ for the penitent believer. It is an
unpopular message. Jeremiah found it so, and the apostles had his experiences
repeated in their own case, for they too were beaten and imprisoned by the
religious leaders of that day in their revived and God-dishonouring temple.
Like him, however, their bold answer was to continue to proclaim "the words
of this life", the eternal life of the risen Christ who mediates the New
This brings us to the other aspect of the Word of Life, which discloses
that it is essentially resurrection life. In his own experience Jeremiah
provides illustrations of this for he was a man whose life was constantly
threatened and yet just as constantly restored. He even sank up to his armpits
in a foul pit but was rescued by the intervention of an Ethiopian eunuch (38:12).
How much nearer to death can a man get than that?
Jeremiah lived his whole life under a threatening cloud of death. For
him the peril began not in Jerusalem but in his own home town where the people
of that priestly city of Anathoth plotted to destroy him (11:21). He was
forced to flee to Jerusalem but there he was put in the stocks and threatened
by priests resident there, led by the chief of them (20:2). King Jehoiakim
was so enraged by his written message that he threatened to destroy the writer
and had his writings burned. Just before Jerusalem finally fell, he was
accused of falling away to the enemy and almost executed (37:14). Like Paul,
Jeremiah was "in death oft" -- and yet he was still alive when his book
ended. So far as the Scriptural record goes, he was a miracle of survival.
Our previous study dealt with the Word of the Cross, so logically the
message of life which follows must deal with resurrection. Is there any word
from the Lord? There is, and it comes from the lips of the Lord Jesus Himself:
"I am the resurrection and the life ...". To return to Jeremiah, however,
we find that his story begins with an illustration of resurrection life.
His initial vision was the first of the many visual aids which occur from
time to time in his ministry. He was taught by some, and he used this means
of conveying his messages to others, but the first, and perhaps the most
striking, was given to him by God on the occasion of his call to the ministry.
"What seest thou?", the Lord asked him and the reply was "I see a rod
of almond". Again the second time the Lord asked him, "What seest thou?"
and this time he reported that he could see a pot boiling over its contents
from the north" (1:11-13). The seething cauldron foretold the impending judgments
which would boil over on to Judah from the North, but the first vision of
the rod of an almond tree revealed the purpose behind those judgments, the
aim and end which God had in view from the beginning and which He would watch
over to perform. It spoke of the nation's future, of course, but it also
had a special personal message of re-assurance for Jeremiah himself. The
lesson seems to be that God will always vindicate His servants, however much
they may be rejected by others, and however weak and inadequate they may
feel themselves to be.
Jeremiah came from a priestly family; he was a direct descendant of Aaron,
the first High [45/46] Priest. This meant, of course,
that he inherited a divine anointing and commission, but it also foreshadowed
the fact that he would have to face opposition from those who wished to repudiate
his authority. Numbers chapter 17 describes how Aaron was withstood in this
way and how God Himself took up the challenge and made answer for His priestly
servant. By means of the rod of an almond tree, the Lord revealed that His
power is expressed in His servants, not by natural life or status, but by
supernatural life -- life out of death.
Aaron and the heads of the other tribes were each commanded to choose
a rod, presumably of an almond tree, to mark it with his own name and to
present it to the Lord. In due course the rods were selected, duly inscribed
with the twelve names, and given over to Moses that he might leave them in
the Tabernacle to await the divine verdict. What a salutary experience for
those who claim to be the Lord's servants, to have their claim tested in
His presence and to receive direct from Him the verdict on the true value
of their claims!
The twelve rods spent the night alone with God, while their owners waited
until the morning to discover what God really thought of them. They had been
seeking a place of prominence, had been claiming to be something in themselves
(all except Aaron who refused to assert himself), and now, one by one, they
were to receive God's answer to their pretensions. It was unmistakable and
most humiliating for the eleven princes who received their rods back, dead
sticks, fruitless and lifeless, without beauty or value. On each rod its
owner read his name. So that was what God thought of them!
The twelfth rod was the one which belonged to Aaron, the Lord's anointed.
This was startlingly different from the rest. It was profuse with flower
and fruit; no longer a dry stick, but a living branch. In one brief night
the whole life-cycle had burst into amazing expression: buds and blossom,
leaves and fruit, all proclaimed the glories of life, abundant life, life
from the dead. No-one needed to seek on this rod the name of its owner, for
the name of the God of resurrection was written large all over it. The rod
had not been placed in water: there was nothing to feed it. It had not been
exposed even to the light but passed the night without any outside aid at
all. By nature it should have been as barren and lifeless as the other eleven,
but it was energised by a new power, the power of resurrection life.
This had been past history, but God gave the vision to Jeremiah with
His verbal assurance that He would still fulfil it. At his first call Jeremiah
felt himself to be as unpromising as the dry rod. He had neither the ability
nor the strength to face the inevitable challenge which his ministry would
involve. In Aaron's case there were murmurings on a large scale against him
(Numbers 17:5) but poor Jeremiah was destined to be opposed by "the whole
land" (Jeremiah 1:18). It was for this reason that he was given the vision.
It was as though the Lord said to him, "Jeremiah, the temple has lost its
meaning, the sacrifices are useless and unacceptable, the priesthood is
corrupted, but I have not changed. Even the ark of the covenant may
have gone, but I am still here. All that I was to your great ancestor, Aaron,
I will still be to you, for you share the same anointing. The budding almond
rod is more than a thrilling story of the past in your family album -- it
is a living experience for your own diary."
This is a spiritual fact for all of us who are "in Christ" and sharing
His anointing. We may live in the power of His resurrection today. We are
not to think of that resurrection only as an event of past history, for
its power lives on today. The rod still buds for the man of faith. Not that
it was easy for Jeremiah to maintain his faith walk with God. He was a patriotic
man who loved his sacred city of Jerusalem. It would have been easy to compromise
and modify his message and indeed it seems that his family urged him to do
so in a subtle way by speaking "fair words" to him (12:6). From time to
time he had great encouragement through God's words but at other times there
seemed nothing to support him but only promise of further and fiercer trials
as when the Lord asked him: "If thou hast run with the footmen and they have
wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with the horses? and if in the
land of peace thou art secure, yet how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?"
(12:5). There is nothing glib and easy about an experience of resurrection,
for this only comes after the one concerned has gone down into the depth
with God. We do not have to strain to keep ourselves alive. Every fear has
to go down into death; every clinging to what is selfish, every attempt to
grasp or fight for our own position; but when our trust in God brings us
face to face with the impossible, we may rest assured that all
[46/47] is well, for our God is certainly the Giver of resurrection
It perhaps remains to be said that this divine life is a shared life
-- shared not only with the Eternal Son but with brothers and sisters in
Him. Of all the prophets, Jeremiah seems most to have been a loner. For
some special reason connected with his ministry he was actually forbidden
by the Lord to marry and have a family (16:2). But he was not quite alone,
for occasionally we are given information concerning a colleague of his,
Baruch the son of Neriah (32:12; 43:6) who was once even blamed for egging
Jeremiah on (43:3) and must therefore have been more than just a servant.
This is little enough in all conscience, but it does at least suggest the
New Testament "two by two" procedure.
Apart from that, though, Jeremiah's ministry, extremely personal as it
often was, always kept in view that God's purposes are bound up corporately
with a whole people. As he grieved over the dividing up and scattering of
God's people, he always kept before him the promise and prospect of a gathering
from the uttermost parts of the earth under God's shepherd hand (31:7-10).
Like Isaiah before him, he focused his message on the future of the "remnant"
but always with a view to the full expression of national life. It was a
remnant in which these promises were first fulfilled at the return from the
captivity. It was only a remnant of Israel which formed the basis of the New
Testament Church. It may seem to us in our day that only a remnant of God's
people are enjoying the full values of the New Covenant, but this remnant
can be made a basis for recovery of life.
The great promise with which we are all so familiar, "Call unto me, and
I will answer thee ..." (33:3) relates to this very matter. It was not an
open invitation for Jeremiah to pray for what he liked, but the Lord's challenge
to him, in the darkness which then surrounded him, still to believe that
his life's vision and ambition were to be realised. It seemed difficult and
even impossible. Its spiritual equivalent may often seem impossible to us
now. All the more reason for us then to call on the Lord in faith that scattered
and earth-bound saints should be gathered together in a life which is glorious
with His presence and mighty with His authority. If eternal life begins now,
then that life ought to be expressed in the true fellowship of all God's
Is there any word from the Lord? There surely is. It calls us to practise
as well as to proclaim "all the words of this life".
(To be continued)
MARK'S VISION OF THE KING
(Four messages from Mark 10 to 16)
J. Alec Motyer
2. THE KING'S COMING GLORY (Mark 13)
THIS is a privileged interview with the Lord for we are told that four
of His disciples "asked him privately ..." (verse 3). For the second time
in this Gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ entered into a private place to give
private instruction to those who were His very own. On the former occasion
we are told that "He expounded all things privately to his own" (4:34).
Mark's use of Greek gives a lovely rhyming effect, so that the English could
read like this: "On their very own to His very own". Just twice in the Gospel
we have that rather special and privileged situation in which the Lord put
His own private fence around His Church, saying that this was something just
for their ears, something for them on their very own because they were His
very own people. On the first occasion He spoke to them in parables, and
on this occasion in prophecy. The Lord is careful lest we should be overtaken
by unbelief because of the seeming purposelessness of things and confusion
about what is happening, so He brings us into a private place, in order to
assure us that things are going according to God's plan and that the end
will be glorious.
Reassurance by Parable and by Prophecy
Mark 4 tells us how the Lord spoke to His disciples in parables concerning
the triumph of His Word. In his Gospel Mark is very sparing so,
[47/48] in that private teaching session, he only brings us three
parables, that of the sower, the seed growing secretly and the mustard seed.
Notice that all three are parables of the seed which is the Word of God as
it begins, grows and matures, and so triumphs.
The parable of the sower stresses beginnings -- the sowing of the Word
and how it is resisted and then received; the parable of the seed growing
secretly stresses the growth of the Word -- the seed grows of its own vitality,
the sower does not know how; and the parable of the mustard seed shows the
maturing of the Word, when the great tree comes into being and all the birds
of the air take grateful shelter under its branches, the tree having reached
its full maturity and become a place of rest and of safety.
In this way the Lord Jesus faces us with three situations which are so
common to daily on-going life. There is the situation where nothing seems
to be going right, when the Word seems to be resisted more often than it
is received, and to come to nothing more often than it seems to bear fruit,
and He says: 'It's all right; the Word will triumph'. Then, He faces us with
the situation where nothing seems to be happening, the seed having disappeared
into the ground and showing no further sign of itself. The temptation may
be to dig it up and see if it is all right, but the Lord Jesus says: "Though
it tarry, wait for it. It is going to be all right; it will grow". Finally
the parable of the mustard seed comes to us at the moment when we get frightened
because everything seems to be changing. A tiny seed was planted and, as
it grows, it suddenly becomes a great tree. Everything is changing and very
different, but He says: 'Don't worry; it is all the maturing process of the
Word, and the end will be glorious.
So it is that he speaks to us in these parables giving us reassurance
at all points when our spirits would become fretful under the pressures of
the age. And by His prophecies, in the chapter now under consideration, He
takes us privately into His own company, speaking to us now not so directly
of the triumphs of His Word, but of His own triumphs, the triumphs of His
kingship, the sure coming of the King's great Day. As we shall see, He speaks
of a situation of opposition and challenge in which the people of God are
threatened by the structures of the times in which they live. For the disciples
it was the structure of the Jewish Church and synagogue, the structures of
the empire and the imperial court in its challenge and opposition to the
Church. It was a situation of opposition and challenge, of waiting for events
concerning which our Lord said, "but the end is not yet", a situation where
nothing seemed to be happening and there was no glimmer of the approaching
It was a situation for holding on and persevering; "he who endures to
the end shall be saved", not that his endurance is the road to salvation,
but rather the assurance that he belongs to the saved. Endurance, perseverance,
but at the end a glory, a gathering together, and an eternal security. It
begins with the sowing of the Word (Mark 13:10), it calls for perseverance
when the going is hard (v.13) and it ends with a homecoming to the King (v.27).
You see how the two great teaching sessions belong together! They fit
together and come to us powerfully with the identical message of the beginning
of the gospel, the perseverance of the saints, and the homecoming of the day
of maturity and glory. Such is this message of the Word for us today.
The Setting of the Discourse
The Lord Jesus spoke, as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple,
in a setting of threatened and inevitable judgment (vv.1-3). It is as if
Mark wrote those first three verses in that way so as to relate them closely
to each other, noting particularly where the journey began and ended. It began
as Jesus was on the move through and out of the temple. It ended as He arrived
opposite the temple on the Mount of Olives and sat down there.
The Old Testament often helps us to understand the New, for the Bible
is one covenantal document, and it seems that here Mark reaches back to one
of the dramatic high points of the Old Testament in Ezekiel 9 to 11, where
the prophet was given an awe-inspiring vision of the glory of God and saw
the glory moving. In Ezekiel 9:3 the glory of God is on the threshold of
the temple, He has left His temple and is standing at the door; in 10:18 the
glory of the God of Israel moves from the threshold to the East Gate, God
being on His way out of the temple; and in 11:23, the glory of God passes
through the East Gate and takes its station on the mountain to the east of
the city. It is as [48/49] though Mark makes the parallel
between this and the Gospel story. The God of Israel is leaving His house,
and is taking up the position of one pronouncing an inevitable judgment.
The blighting of the fig tree is about to be realised in the blighting of
that to which the fig tree pointed -- a house and a city and a professing
people of God who showed all the leaves of their profession but had no fruit
beneath their leaves.
The answer that Jesus gave to John and Andrew's question (v.4) was wider
than the question that was asked: "Tell us: when shall these things be, and
what shall be the sign that these things are about to be accomplished". There
can be no doubt what was the import of their question. Jesus had walked with
them through the temple, they had pointed to the magnificence of the buildings
and the stonework, and Jesus had said: "The day is coming when it will all
be thrown down. And these stones, magnificent and huge as they are, will
not be left one stone upon another".
So the question concerned "these things" -- the foretold destruction
of the Jerusalem temple. Jesus answered this, saying, "Take heed; I have
told you all things beforehand" (v.23). They had asked what the sign was,
and He was able to reply, "Now I have told you all things". Further they
had asked Him: "When shall these things be?" (v.4) so in verses 29 and 30
He told them when. They had asked Him about the temple, and He answered with
His prediction concerning it. But He went beyond that answer. He furnished
more than they had asked. He alerted them to a process which had a beginning
and an end, a first and a last. In verse 7 He speaks of an end; in verse 8
of a beginning. In verse 10 He speaks of a 'first' -- "the gospel must first
be preached" -- and in verse 13 He speaks of a consummation, of the end to
which the saved endure.
What is this end of which Jesus spoke? Is it the destruction of the temple?
Is that the consummation? No, it is not; the process which has a beginning
and an end is a wider process within which the temple and its affairs were
enfolded but which was not exhausted by the history of the Jewish temple.
There is a distinction made. "I have answered your question" said Jesus,
"but ...". He looked on and beyond. There is something else, and that something
else is "those days" -- the end. In verse 29 He told them that when they
saw those things coming, then they could know that it -- the great judgment
day -- is at the doors. His answer to their question went on to speak of a
first and a last, a beginning and an end. The beginning was the preaching
of the gospel; the end will be the coming of the King.
So the answer was wider than the question. It spoke of that which alarmed
the disciples, the temple being thrown down, and went on to speak of that
which would elate them and give them the characteristic upward and onward
perspective of a believing Church. We look for the Coming of the Son of Man
and our gathering to be with Him.
The Introduction of the Answer
Verses 5 to 13 form a general background introduction. The Lord Jesus
did not come to the actual answer to the question, but begins by standing
back from it, painting in a background and giving it a context. We are alerted
to this by the words, "He began to say ..." or, as we might put it, 'He began
by saying ...'. Later He would answer the disciples' question, but first
He wanted them to know something else. He began by showing them the state
of the world (5-8) and then the experience of the Church (9-13). In both
these sections, as can be seen, there are the key expressions about a beginning
and an ending. When He spoke about the state of the world, He was speaking
about something that continues right from the beginning to the end. When
He spoke of the experience of the Church, He was speaking about something
that would start with the preaching of the gospel (v.10) and will go right
on to the point where true believers will endure to the end and enter into
salvation. We may say that this background stretches right from the first
coming of the Lord Jesus to His second Coming.
The state of the world (13:5-8)
He spoke of the world's religious state, its political state and its
natural state. Its religious state -- the world will always be preoccupied
with false religion and false messiahs. Its political state -- the world
will always be beset by wars and rumours of wars. The state of nature, the
world's natural forces -- there will be earthquakes and famine ... "These
are the beginning".
The experience of the Church (13:9-13)
The Church was to experience opposition from the structures of this world
-- "They will deliver you to councils, and you will stand before
[49/50] governors and kings". By false religious institutions,
by the power of the state and its structures, the Church will be opposed;
not all the time, not incessantly, but it is characteristic of the experience
of the Church between the first coming and the end, that it will encounter
opposition. This will extend (v.12) to opposition not just from structures
but from people, and very intimate people at that, for brother will deliver
up brother to death, fathers will deliver up their children, and children
will rise up against their parents.
The divisive element, which comes in when there is a true hold on Christ,
will take tragic effect. But within this situation there are two things which
are equally characteristic of the Church between the two comings. Firstly
there is the presence and operation of the Holy Spirit of God (v.11). There
is a lovely thought here which appears if you compare the Gospels. In Luke,
Jesus says, "I will give you a mouth and wisdom"; in Matthew there is the
promise of "the Spirit of the Father". So the Church is garrisoned by the
Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit. Secondly, the Church is called to
endurance, perseverance, persistence (v.13). Let me repeat that endurance
is not a ladder to salvation, but it is the hallmark of the reality of those
who are saved, a confirmation to their spirits that they are in Christ and
will be secure in the day of His Coming.
The Heart of the Answer
In verses 14 to 23 the Lord came to the meat of His reply, speaking of:
The coming tribulation in Judea
Now it may be that in these verses we have a little preview of what other
Scriptures speak of as times of tribulation particularly associated with
the return of the Lord Jesus. It may be that they are so associated, but I
want you to see, apart from what other Scriptures may indicate, three things
that the Lord was speaking of here. It was to be a local tribulation (v.14)
which was going to happen in Judea. It would be possible to flee from it --
"flee unto the mountain's ...", and it would be later followed by other tribulations
-- "such as there hath not been from the beginning of creation ... until
now, and never shall be" (v.19). The implication is that there would be other
tribulations which would be comparable but which would not reach the same
pitch of severity.
There is much in this passage which is mysterious. What does "the abomination
of desolation" mean? I don't know and I am not sure that anybody else knows
either. Part of the excitement of having an inexhaustible Bible is that Scripture
is full of mysteries. It is 'safe enough for a child to paddle in, yet deep
enough for an elephant to swim in', as somebody has remarked. Of course
there are mysteries. Some say that the abomination of desolation was fulfilled
in A.D. 70 when the Romans set up their legionary standards in the temple
at Jerusalem in the Holy Place. That doesn't make sense to me, because by
then it wouldn't have been a sign to flee but rather a sign that it was too
late. Luke tells us that Christ said: "When you see Jerusalem surrounded
by armies" but how could people flee if the city were already under siege?
The historians do say that allied armies came to the aid of Jerusalem and
(quite ineffectually) ringed the city with their forces before the Romans
arrived and that this may have been the sign which Jesus gave. The reference
to this abomination standing where it ought not to stand may have been in
relation to some of the Jewish people themselves, the zealots, defiling the
Holy Place by making it the headquarters of their resistance. I don't know.
The Lord Jesus was speaking of something that would be a clear sign to the
Church then. "Watch for it," He said, "and when you see it, flee", for it
will be the severest trial in the whole course of creation history. The disciples
had asked "When will these things be" and now the Lord answered: "... I have
told you all these things beforehand" (v.23).
There was a part of the question which is not mentioned by Mark but which
is recorded in Matthew, and Mark now gives us the second part of Jesus' answer.
What is it that upholds a believing Church through days of great grimness
and travail? The answer is:
The expectation of a coming Lord
Having indicated a mountain peak of tribulation which was to appear,
the Lord told them to look just beyond it. If they did so they could see
an even greater peak, one alight with the glory of God, for "Then shall
they see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory" (v.26).
He spoke of an immediacy of expectation. Now He will come. The foolish ones
of the earth say, 'Ah, but He didn't come. He was mistaken, and the New Testament
Scriptures were wrong'. That is not so. The Lord Jesus spoke of that
[50/51] which was then true and is now true and always will be
true until He comes again, however long in the providence of God that Coming
may be delayed. He Himself has uttered the one word 'now'. He will certainly
The Church is waiting to be gathered, and the Church will be gathered
in those days. They will be marked by unmistakable, creation-wide foreshadowings:
"the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the
stars will fall from heaven" (v.24). Again, I don't know what all that means.
Could it be that those who are alive in the great and terrible Day of the
Lord will have the awesome experience of seeing the universe brought into
a new configuration; that people will ask, 'What is coming?' and the Church
will answer, "The Son of Man is coming; are you ready for Him?" They will
be unmistakable events -- no hole-in-the-corner Messiah, nothing in secret,
but that which the universe itself rushes to proclaim. It will be a visible
and glorious coming -- "And then they shall see the Son of Man coming".
Do you notice the word 'they'? The Lord Jesus had been speaking to people
who would live through the other tribulation ("This generation shall not
pass away") (v.30); but when He looked forward to that Day, He said "they".
He knew what He was talking about. It is an immediate coming for which the
Church must live on tip-toe; but He knew that it was not for those to whom
He was then speaking but for the final glorious and universal gathering unto
The Conclusion of the Answer
In verses 28 to 31 the Lord enfolds the whole of His great talk to His
private ones in a conclusion. "From the fig tree learn a parable." How marvellously
He reached back to that object lesson from which the whole talk began, saying
that they should learn from the dread parable of the fig tree which was all
leaves and no fruit; it was a portent of judgment to come. It was as though
He said, "This will happen -- Jerusalem and its temple will be brought to
an end. It is a course of events which can be discerned; the ominous sign
of the fig tree, the day of blighting, is drawing near -- it is even at
the doors" (v.29). In verse 30 He said "Watch for it; you (this generation)
are going to live through it", in this way speaking in direct answer to their
question and enforcing His lesson upon them. They needed to learn from what
He had said, for it would surely happen and they would need His words: "Heaven
and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (v.31). What
a lovely calm certainty this verse brings us all!
Alongside that discernible course of events, however, there will be a
day without a date (v.32). We may well be astonished by this statement that
"of that day 'and of that hour no-one knows". The angels do not know, and
even more surprising, neither does the Son know. Here is something that is
mysteriously within the Holy Trinity locked away in the counsels of the Father
-- the Day when the Lord Jesus Christ will be manifested in all His glory
to a wondering and shocked world and an admiring and rejoicing Church. We
cannot know the date, so the proper attitude for the believer is one of
watchfulness and working, of waiting and praying, of staying alert (13:33-37).
The People of the Coming King
I focus my final thoughts on the people of the coming King for this is
the spiritual emphasis of the chapter. They are:
1. The elect people.
It is a beautiful, glorious, lovely, gentle word, this word 'elect'.
It refers to those who are the chosen beloved ones in whom the Lord's soul
rejoices. Look at verse 20. Did you know that the whole of world history
is run in your interest? The elect are at the centre of the historical workings
of God. They are in secure possession of the truth from which they cannot
be moved (v.22). Verse 27 tells us that "He will send forth his angels and
he will gather his elect ...". The elect are the possessors of a certain and
a glorious hope, that of meeting with the coming Lord. The people of the
coming King are His very elect. He chose them because they were the ones He
2. The gospel people.
The elect people are a gospel people; they are the ones who know and
possess the truth. The words "that they may lead astray if possible the
elect" contain the assurance that this is not possible; the world will always
try to lead them astray from the truth but they cannot be detached from
it. What is more, their privilege is to be in the world so that they can
share gospel truth with others. That is what they are there for -- "the
gospel must first be preached" (v.10). [51/52]
3. The praying people.
Look at them in the midst of the severest tribulation that creation will
ever know; what are they doing? They are praying (v.18). They are not sending
out relief organisations, though that is a good thing to do. By praying they
are doing their own distinctive task. They are called to contribute that
which no-one else can contribute to the history of the world, which is interceding
prayer. The King's people should not detach themselves from relief aid or
from every other involvement in the welfare of the world in which they are
placed, but they should never forget that the one ingredient which they
can contribute and which no-one else can, is that of being a praying people
in the midst of the world's tribulation.
4. The obedient, watchful and committed people.
We look back from this chapter to the end of chapter 12 and there we
find the story of the widow and her two mites. I have already said that
nothing in the Word of God is there by accident. Everything is chosen and
deliberate. When the Lord Jesus had looked around the temple and seen all
the leaves with no accompanying fruit, His careful and loving eye lighted
upon this widow who, in the midst of all the falsity, was a mirror of the
truth. "He called his disciples and said, Verily I say to you, this poor
widow has cast in more than them all. They all cast in of their superfluity,
and she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living" (12:43).
What a marvellous bridge she made from the falseness and hollowness and fruitlessness
of the temple to the people of the coming King described in chapter 13, the
fruitful people of God waiting for His Coming. This people are modelled on
the widow; they hold nothing back; they give, not because their gift is worth
anything in itself but they give to Him and give just for the sake of giving.
As to their future, they rest trustfully for that upon the One to whom the
gift is given -- their Coming King. Their hope is not just the hope of an
event but of the personal appearing of their Saviour and King.
(To be continued)
THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD (3)
THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM
Reading: Revelation 20:1-10
OUR subject is the Millennial Kingdom, though in fact this is a man-made
phrase which can nowhere be found in the Scriptures. There are some wonderful
descriptions of the kingdom in the New Testament. There is, for example,
The Kingdom of Heaven, which is a gracious name for God's kingdom.
Then there is The Kingdom of God, which stresses that in this kingdom
God alone is Lord and King. Further, there is The Kingdom of Jesus Christ
, concerning which we gladly affirm that we could not wish for any better
Lord over our kingdom than He. There is also The Kingdom of the Son of
Man, which directs our thoughts to the book of Daniel, where the Son
of Man is described as coming to the Ancient of Days to receive from Him the
kingdom to which all other kingdoms will be subject. It is said that this
Son of Man rules together with the saints of the Most High in the eternal
The Kingdom Has Come and Is Coming
The kingdom came with our Lord Jesus, and we who have entered it by the
door, having been born again by the Spirit of God, raised from our death
in sin in Christ, are already citizens of this kingdom. It is our experience
now that Jesus is Lord. Christ's kingdom does not consist in formal rules,
such as what we eat or do not eat, but in righteousness, and peace and the
The strange thing is that in this kingdom where Christ rules, the citizens
do not continually speak of what is right or wrong; the mere letter of the
law has no part in this kingdom. The letter of the law seems to make men
tremendously interested in what is 'right' or 'wrong' -- specially when it
is used in judgment on others. It is strange how some of God's children are
endlessly occupied with whether people are doing right or wrong. Is this the
essence of the kingdom of God? There [52/53] are many
prejudices and criticisms about small things which are not worthy even of
discussion. I say this in my introduction because I so regret that which is
holy and heavenly being dragged down to matters which are trivial. Where love
reigns, where the Spirit of God is written on our hearts, there is true power
and not just words. Where Christ is Lord, we are free. This does not mean
irresponsibility or superficiality, but that the citizens of His kingdom joyfully
follow the Lamb wherever He goes. That means that no-one is superior, for
we are all saved by grace. For ourselves, it is part of the gospel to take
up the cross and follow Him daily, but that is personal, and not to be obligations
which we lay upon others.
Throughout history we encounter kingdoms of many forms. In Daniel we
find kingdoms one after another, rising up to power and then terminating
with the great confrontation with God as to who shall take over the government
of the universe. We are dealing now with an eternal kingdom, and we are to
speak of it in the present tense. When the kingdom finally comes, in a sense
that will mean that what has already been here will come. Of course it cannot
come visibly and in perfection except at the Coming of Christ, but this does
not mean that the kingdom which we now know in the Spirit, by faith in Christ,
is different in nature from that which will appear visibly at the Return
of the Lord Jesus.
It is important for people to come into the kingdom of God now, and not
to wait. Yet in that kingdom of God, strangely enough, we still pray, "Thy
kingdom come!" The Lord Himself told us to do so, for it is the will of God
that the whole universe may be governed by the risen Lord, and that all
opposition should cease and every enemy be put under His feet. It will be
then that the kingdom will come visibly and universally, in accordance with
the sighs and longings which the Church has always had and the prayers she
has prayed, whether or not the actual words "Thy kingdom come" have been used
The kingdom will come when the King comes. "... the Lord, our God, the
Almighty reigneth (has taken over the kingdom -- Danish). Let us
rejoice and be exceedingly glad, and let us give the glory unto him" (Revelation
19:6-7). This is co-incidental with the resurrection from the dead when those
who are asleep will rise from their graves and we who are alive will be changed.
This is essential because we are told that flesh and blood cannot inherit
the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50). This means that as we are now,
even as saved people, we cannot inherit the kingdom in its fulness when it
is visibly manifest, for if we did that now, we would bring in the old Adam
with us. 'Flesh' denotes the fallen man. Even we who are born again still
have this aspect of flesh in us, as is evidenced by the fact that we know
what it is to have the flesh striving against the Spirit, and the Spirit striving
against the flesh when we have not crucified the flesh with its desires as
we ought to do. No such conflict can enter the kingdom of God, so a radical
transformation must yet take place.
Such transformation involves a new creation; it is not that certain improvements
take place in our old nature, but that the old nature is to disappear completely,
with all things becoming new. Believers will then have bodies which are resurrection
bodies and called spiritual bodies in the New Testament. This phrase means
that these are bodies which in everything will be governed by the Spirit
of God, the fallen nature of the flesh having no place at all. We look for
the transformation which will make us resurrection people, having nothing
left at all of our old fallen nature and with no longer any possibility of
being tempted or of falling into sin.
Peter even goes so far as to speak of how "according to his promise,
we look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness"
(2 Peter 3:13), pointing us on to a new universe which not only embraces
saved mankind but the whole creation of God. Heaven and earth, the whole
creation, is to be set free from any and every influence of the Fall. This
is fulness of glory, but we do not really know the full implications of that
word 'glory', because of the limitations of our earthly nature. Glory is
not just a multiplying of our ideas of what is glorious; it is much more
radical than that. It is God's own glory. This is what the Church is looking
for. This is what the Church is preparing herself for. This is also the
goal of our individual lives as Christians.
The Millennial Kingdom
Since our subject is the Millennial kingdom, it is important that our
thoughts should be liberated and subordinated to those thoughts of God which
are infinitely higher than ours. I venture to say [53/54]
that the Millennial kingdom is not actually mentioned in the Bible, at
least directly, for we always have to remember that the book of the Revelation
begins with the words, "He sent and signified (i.e. showed in pictures) what
must shortly come to pass" (Revelation 1:1). When we reach Revelation 20
we have to admit that here some pictures, or illustrations, are used. None
of us imagine that Satan, who is a spirit, could be, or needed to be, bound
with a chain of iron or locked up with a key. It is a meaningful picture.
Nor, for instance, do we think that the seven Spirits of 5:6 can be taken
literally, for they signify or represent the Holy Spirit. What the reference
in Revelation does state is that Satan could not deceive the nations any more
for a thousand years and that he would be released when the thousand years
were ended. The actual phrase "Thousand-year-kingdom" has been made up by
man but is not actually found in Scripture.
Our Lord did not mention it. However we must pay full heed to Old Testament
Scriptures, and in them we can perhaps find hints of what we have come to
call the Millennium. There is the reference in Isaiah 11:1-10 with its well-known
predictions of the wolf dwelling with the lamb, and the leopard lying down
with the kid and no hurt or destruction in God's holy mountain. Nothing,
however, is said about this being the Millennium and we cannot know directly.
One thing we do know, and that is that when Isaiah says: "And it shall come
to pass in that day, that the root of Jesse, which standeth for an ensign
of the peoples, unto him shall the nations seek" (Isaiah 11:10), he is using
words which are quoted by the apostle Paul, not about the Millennium but
about this age of grace (Romans 15:12). It is meant to a wonderful description
of those who are saved of Israel and those who are Gentiles praising the Lord
now in this dispensation.
Let us look at Isaiah 65, which is often quoted in connection with the
Millennium. "There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old
man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall die an hundred years
old" (v.20) and "the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion
shall eat straw like the ox ..." (v.25). Here again there is not a word about
this being the Millennium; rather a reference to the "new heavens and a new
earth" (v.17). Over-hasty conclusions are always dangerous. We are all so
inclined to impose our own opinions on what we read. Rather than claim these
as dogmatic proofs of there being a literal Millennial kingdom, we should
be quiet and say that we do not know precisely. These and other Scriptures
in Amos and Micah have already been applied by the New Testament to the present
time in which the kingdom has come in Spirit and truth.
An Earthly Kingdom
We cannot, however, disregard the references in Revelation 20, so we
are entitled to ask, 'If there is a Millennial kingdom, what will it be
like?' One thing is certain, and that is that it does not represent the
destiny of the Church. If the Millennium comes, it may be something for Israel,
but even so, not for a resurrected Israel nor what the New Testament describes
as a spiritual transformation. It will be an improvement, and while that is
desirable it is not God's real goal, for He plans a lasting transformation.
Living for 200 years may be an improvement on the present but it will not
be the great transformation, for it will mean that death still reigns.
Quite clearly this refers to an earthly kingdom for sin is also present
in it. We can perhaps say that the whole world culture will be subject to
the gospel which will be wonderful. It will still, however, be an earthly
kingdom where even nature is not thoroughly transformed but only improved,
since death will still be present. This therefore does not represent the
goal of the Bible, nor is it the goal of the Church. Nowhere in the New Testament
does it suggest that the Church is waiting for the Millennium. No, we are
waiting for Christ; we are waiting for the resurrection; we are waiting for
the eternal glory.
Unhappily Christians are all too prone to quarrel, especially in this
connection as to who has the right interpretation concerning the Millennium.
How unimportant is this point in comparison with the kingdom which is coming
when Christ, the King, comes! Evangelical Christians tend to divide into
two groups which at times are fighting groups. We know that there are many
who feel that Revelation 20 -- like very much more in that book -- must only
be interpreted spiritually. To them the "thousand years" is a symbolic number
and Satan has not yet been loosed. Some say that the first resurrection has
already taken place because all those [54/55] who
are born again have risen from their death in trespasses and sins. They
do not expect a Millennial kingdom. I hope that no words of mine will encourage
an unkind conflict in this matter.
For my part I am inclined to think -- without daring to assert it too
strongly -- that God will yet give Israel the experience of an earthly kingdom.
Those who feel this way think that when Christ comes again, the Church will
meet Him and be changed by a perfect putting-on of immortality and a putting-off
of what is mortal, but that this will not yet be the end. The following period
will not be marked by resurrection or transformation to full glory, but
it will feature the restoration of Israel as the central nation in an earthly
kingdom which will last for a thousand years. In that period Israel will
evangelise and many be won for the Lord, but sin will not be abolished. So
it will be that when the thousand years are finished, Satan will be released
and it will be seen that even ideal conditions do not produce a true change
in natural man nor give him that deep respect and fear of God which would
enable him to resist Satan's tempting power. Apart from the generating power
of the Holy Spirit, natural man is hopeless and cannot be improved, however
great the improvement in his outward conditions.
We might say that it would be better for Israel to be incorporated into
the Church and to inherit the kingdom of "the ages of the ages" rather than
only to have this thousand years of an earthly kingdom. I think that God
will give them this kingdom, but not for their sakes but for the sake of the
whole human race and the creation as a whole, though no-one knows whether
the period described will literally be a thousand years of 365 days or not.
Our Concern Is Spiritual and Not Political
It would be a great victory for love if God's people could avoid fighting
about this for, in the real perspective, the millennium is only for one day,
since in God's eternal world a thousand years, like one day, is an exceedingly
short period. This is not what the Church is waiting for nor what the Church
preaches; we are involved in the new creation in Christ and new heavens
and a new earth where righteousness dwells not just for one day or a thousand
years, but throughout the ages of the ages.
It is not our ideas but the will of God that is important, and if it
is His will to give to His created humanity a period of ideal conditions
which is distinct from the transformation of resurrection, then we accept
this, telling Him that His wisdom is infinite and His ways unsearchable,
but we thank Him that we can still pray "Thy kingdom come!" knowing that
our hope is eternal. Is not this why so very little is said about the Millennium
in the New Testament? The Lord Jesus did not preach about it, nor did His
apostles, for they looked forward all the time to the ultimate goal. We know
that if what we call death should overtake us before the Coming of Christ,
we will arise not to the Millennial kingdom but to that eternal kingdom
in which we shall be for ever with the Lord, reigning together with Him as,
in principle, we are already doing even now.
We have already said that we must watch against all thoughts which are
coloured by politics. The idea of a Millennium can so easily become a political
matter, as it were to redress Israel and give them something of which to
boast. If there is a Millennial kingdom it will be because God has thoughts
for the present creation which can only be realised in such a period. If
there is not, no disappointment or loss will be entailed, for a contrite
Israel will have a share in the resurrection at once when they look on Him
whom they pierced.
It is the Coming of the Lord which is our hope. We look to the end, whether
that end takes a thousand years to fulfil completely or whether it comes
finally all at once. So far as we are concerned, we just say to the Lord,
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" and are content for Him to
work that out in His own way. God rules over history, and the Church must
surrender its own thoughts -- right or wrong -- to the Sovereign Lord for
"If any man thinketh that he knoweth anything, he knoweth not yet as he ought
to know". God has bound Himself to His Word, but this does not mean that He
is bound by His Word, for His Word is divine and therefore beyond our human
limitations. God is God! It is for the kingdom of God that we eagerly look.
(To be concluded) [55/56]
THE APOSTLE PAUL AND HEALING
IN this enquiry as to what the Scriptures have to teach us with regard
to healing in relation to the experience, teaching and ministry of Paul,
I propose to avoid the narrower concept of illness in favour of the total
area of physical affliction.
1. The Experience of the Apostle
The whole story of Paul begins in a shattering fashion, for his ministry
began with a miraculous intervention of God in which his physical eyes were
literally opened, as well as the accompanying spiritual revelation. And this
was not the only experience which he had of God's miraculous healing power.
At Lystra he was stoned to the point where even those who were most interested
in making sure that he was finished left him for dead. Yet he got up and
walked away from the spot (Acts 14:19-20). We read of another miracle when,
on the island of Malta, a snake came out of the firewood and fastened on
him. Everybody there knew the results to be expected from that kind of attack
and was surprised when he did not fall down dead but was miraculously delivered.
We may certainly affirm, then, that there were miraculous healings in the
experience of the Apostle himself.
As, however, we go through his story in the book of the Acts and glean
other facts from his Epistles, we discover that medical healing also played
its part in his experience. We take hints from here and there and to some
they may not appear very compelling hints, but they must be given due consideration.
Paul obviously suffered from poor health in some shape or form. I think,
for example, of the reference to the fact that the Galatians had been ready
to pluck out their own eyes to give them to him (Galatians 4:15). This seems
to refer to his own poor eyesight, an indication of which is found in his
words: "You see with what large letters I am writing to you" (Galatians 6:11).
Along with that we have the hint on the other side that his constant companion
for much of his ministry was Luke. He himself describes Luke as "the beloved
physician" (Colossians 4:14). Paul was not a Christian Scientist and so
does not write with regret that his friend Luke is a physician. Far from
this being unfortunate, it was a very happy thing for him and he describes
Luke as a beloved doctor whom he was very glad to have with him. These points
may not be convincing, but at least they seem to be hints that Paul was by
no means averse to availing himself of medical help when he needed it and
when it was to be had.
So in the apostle's experience we are told of miraculous healings and
medical healings and then sometimes of no healing at all. This is highlighted
in the remarkable passage in 2 Corinthians 12 which concerns his "thorn in
the flesh". Whatever that thorn may have been -- and there are all sorts of
ideas as to what it may have been -- we imagine that it was some kind of
physical affliction. It seems reasonable at least to bracket it with illness,
for Paul informed them that he found it such an infirmity that three times
he pleaded with the Lord for it to be taken away. Each time the Lord said
"No", so this seems to be a case of that for which no healing was given.
2. The Ministry of the Apostle
With that as a background, we turn now to his ministry to see what happened
in that sphere. In certain accounts in the Acts of the Apostles and also
in the writings of Paul himself, we find a preponderance of one kind of healing,
and that is miraculous healing, in Paul's encounters with physical affliction.
We can consider a few examples of this. On his first missionary journey we
read how a crippled man was healed in Lystra, and find that this was so
miraculous that it moved the people there to say that the gods had come down
to them in the likeness of men (Acts 14:11). On the second missionary journey,
he and Silas arrived at Philippi and Paul healed the girl who was possessed
by a demon -- an affliction which for the purpose we include with physical
afflictions (Acts 16:18). On his third missionary journey we read of Paul
actually involved in spectacular healings: "And God did extra-ordinary miracles
by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from
his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out
of them" (Acts 19:11). One might think that Luke was deliberately underlining
the fact that many miracles were done at this time in the ministry of Paul.
On his final journey, the voyage to Rome, Paul arrived at Malta to find that
the father of the chief man of the island was sick and was able to bring
him [56/57] healing (Acts 28:8). The narrative goes
on to speak of many other healings there.
It is clear, then, that such miraculous healings did occur in the course
of Paul's ministry, though we must not fail to notice that he also mentions
other kinds of healing. There is the famous advice about wine to Timothy
(1 Timothy 5:23). There are those who suggest that the wine was not taken
internally but only applied externally, but in any case this would seem presumably
to be some sort of medical aid for Timothy's frequent infirmities. Paul is
found not just accepting this but actually recommending it. So we cannot rule
out the fact that in Paul's ministry there were occasional medical healings.
There were also occasions in his ministry when there was no healing at
all. "Trophimus I left at Miletus sick" (2 Timothy 4:20). Here was Paul,
a man as gifted as any at that time with the gift of healing, making no apology
for the fact that he had left this friend of his at Miletus, and had left
him ill with no apparent thought of intervening and acting on his behalf.
We may well ask ourselves why this was, but it is clear that it happened
and the matter was not hushed up.
This brief survey of the matter of healing in the ministry of Paul shows
that frequently he was able to deal with physical affliction by miraculous
healing. On the other hand we are not allowed to make blanket claims which
cover every case, nor are we allowed to say that it is invariably the will
of God that physical afflictions should be healed. Indeed there were occasions
in the life and ministry of Paul when the whole machine goes into reverse.
He arrived at Cyprus on his first missionary journey and, far from giving
sight to a blind man, he encountered a sighted man and was able to strike
him blind. No doubt this experience which came to Elymas of being made blind
had a spiritual significance because he was withstanding the gospel, but
it certainly happened. What is more, this may remind us that while we may
rejoice at Paul's receiving his sight (Acts 9:18), we have to remember that
it was God who took away the sight in the first place. So here there was a
man who was perfectly well and perfectly sighted as he travelled on the road
to Damascus when God, for His own purposes, first struck him blind and then
opened his eyes. Both of these were acts of God.
Clearly, then, it is not true to say that right across the board it is
always God's will to progress from bad to good in an automatic way. This
may well give us some clue as to why there was such a great stress on healing
in the ministry of Paul as it is recounted in the Acts of the Apostles.
It seems to me that these miracles were always related to some deeper spiritual
lesson. We may well ask ourselves why God acted as He did. Why did He sometimes
heal and sometimes do just the opposite? What did He mean? What lies underneath
it all? It seems to me that just as in the Gospels we read of healings which
carried a spiritual significance, so also in the ministry of Paul, the miraculous
healings were all part and parcel of the apostolic teaching of the gospel.
For example, we read that "They remained in Iconium for a long time,
speaking boldly for the Lord" with Luke's comment that God "bore witness
to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their
hands" (Acts 14:3). So it is that the signs and wonders that Paul performed
in Iconium are directly linked to their speaking boldly for the Lord and
His bearing witness to the word of His grace by the miracles. The two things
are directly connected. You will find the same sort of thing in the account
which Paul and Barnabas gave to the council of Jerusalem: "All the assembly
kept silent and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what
signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles" (Acts 15:12).
In a sense the reference to miracles might seem to have been out of place
there, for the council was not met to discuss miracles but to come to terms
with the fact that the preaching of the gospel had proved to be effective
among the Gentiles. Could this be true? Or is it not possible? It was in
that context that the two apostles stood up to talk about miracles. This
was part and parcel of the apostolic preaching of the gospel; it was the
I have already referred to Paul's experiences in Ephesus, where it was
in the preaching of the gospel that God did those extraordinary miracles
by the hands of Paul, and the whole matter is summed up in verse 17 of chapter
19 when it says that "it became known to all residents of Ephesus, and the
name of the Lord Jesus was extolled". Then there is the final comment: "so
the word of the Lord grew and mightily prevailed" (v.20). If we ask ourselves
why there was this great emphasis on miraculous healing as
[57/58] distinct from medical healing or no healing, it all seems
to be bound up with the apostolic preaching of the gospel.
3. The Teaching of the Apostle
Having dealt with Paul's own experiences and his ministry, we now turn
to his teaching on the subject. Here, I suggest, we shall find quite a different
emphasis. It is true that he does write about the gift of healing: "to another
the gift of healing, by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles
..." (1 Corinthians 12:9-10), but if we wish to know more of Paul's actual
teaching on the subject, we need to focus on 2 Corinthians rather than on
the first Epistle, so we must pay great attention to what he wrote in 2 Corinthians
4. As I read that great chapter, two truths concerning physical affliction
and indeed any kind of affliction stand out to me, namely the fact of Paul's
many afflictions and the explanation of them. As to the fact, he affirms
that he was afflicted in every way (verse 8). That affliction included a
great deal of hurt, a great deal of betrayal, a great deal of persecution,
but since Paul insists that the affliction was "in every way", we may conclude
that it also involved physical affliction and illness.
Note that the context of this verse is in the previous paragraph: "We
have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power
belongs to God and not to us" (v.7). This was the explanation of his sufferings.
This, I suggest, is the possible deduction from the evidence that while in
Paul's ministry narrated in the Acts we find that the power of God was shown
again and again by miraculous deliverances from affliction, when we look at
the teaching of his epistles, we find that the power of God was shown by
his experience of the power of God in afflictions and not from
them. This is a very striking truth and appears everywhere in this second
At the beginning of 2 Corinthians we find that the Father of mercies
and God of all comfort "comforts us in all our afflictions" (2 Corinthians
1:3 ff). He doesn't deliver us from our afflictions and He doesn't take
them away from us, but He comforts us in them, and He does so with the purpose
that we may convey the same comfort to other tried souls. This is the divine
explanation which goes on down to the end of verse 7.
We move on to chapter 6, where we find Paul stating that they sought
to commend themselves as servants of God in every way (verse 4). When we
ask what appears at the top of the list in this commendation, we find that
the answer is "through great endurance in afflictions, hardships and calamities".
Paul pointed out that he was not spared those things but came to the Corinthians
in the midst of them and that his method of coping with them proved that
he was a true minister of Christ. He goes on to write, "When we came to Macedonia,
our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn -- fightings
without and fightings within" (7:5). The passage goes on to explain that in
the midst of those afflictions, God came and demonstrated what a great God
He is by comforting His tried servants. In the next chapter the apostle stated
that what was true of him was equally true of ordinary Christians for, in
the churches of Macedonia, a severe test of affliction only produced an abundance
of joy as their deep poverty overflowed in a wealth of liberality (8:2).
No-one would have noticed what was happening if they had not been afflicted
people, but the glory of their generosity was its background of affliction.
In chapter 11, Paul dealt with the case of the claims of the false apostles
by asking, "Are they Hebrews, are they Israelites, are they descendants of
Abraham?" and in each case answering, "So am I". He goes on, "Are they servants
of Christ?, well, I am a better one" (v.23). I may be talking like a madman,
but I can tell you what sets me up as a better servant of Christ than they,
for it is the sufferings I endure for His sake. Paul claimed that it was
his afflictions which demonstrated his apostleship.
We then come to chapter 12 with its well-known reference to Paul's thorn
in the flesh. Nobody knows exactly what this thorn was, but Paul recognised
that it had a satanic element and so three times over he pleaded with the
Lord that it might be taken from him. The divine answer was, however, "My
grace is sufficient for thee, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (v.9).
There was to be no deliverance from, but a wonderful experience of
deliverance in the trial. This all ties up with the passage in chapter
4 with its reference to the treasure in earthen vessels. This is the context
for all that the apostle had to say about the afflictions which came to
him. He recognised that there was a divine purpose behind them all, and
this same purpose [58/59] governs all our afflictions,
physical and otherwise. It is that there may be a striking proof that the
transcendent power is not to be attributed to us but only to God's grace
being manifested in us. Afflictions, then are not regarded as unhappy misfortunes,
but rather as God's means of bringing blessing first to the sufferer, and
then through him to others.
The further explanation of the reason for afflictions is given in 2 Corinthians
4:17: "This slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight
of glory beyond all comparison". Here we find Paul teaching us that the real
end to which God is working is not a temporary wholeness but the complete
healing of eternity. This is referred to in such passages as "this perishable
is to put on imperishability" (1 Corinthians 15:53) and also what is described
in Romans 8 from verse 19 onwards where it is recognised that this world
and life in this world is full of futility, mortality, bondage and decay,
and that God's remedy is not a temporary alleviation but the final completion
in glory. We are told that the whole creation groans in travail, waiting
for the revelation of the sons of God.
Until we reach that glorious end, it may from time to time be God's purpose
to stem that tide, as it were, to stop the rot, putting this and that right
just as it suits Him, but even as He does so, He and we know that those newly
sighted eyes will soon be closed again in death and those crippled legs
which have been healed will one day stop walking. The real aim in God's mind
is surely the final healing of the world to come. So when people say that
surely God's will is that we should be whole, the answer is that of course
it is; He wants us to be whole, and He plans to make us whole, but it will
never in the full sense be true while we are in these mortal bodies.
This seems to be the whole weight of evidence so far as the actual teaching
of Paul is concerned, and we have to balance it against the weight of evidence
in his ministry; both are important and both are true. We may say that it
is in his teaching that Paul lists the gift of healing with other spiritual
gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. There are times when God can be glorified in a
miraculous healing. It may equally be, however, that God is glorified in
an illness in which there is no healing and the one concerned finds grace
to endure and to triumph. One thing is certain, and that is that the Lord
plans to get glory for Himself in every experience of ours down here on the
earth and that He uses all those experiences to prepare us for what He calls
"a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" as we look "not at the
things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen" (2 Corinthians
CROSS AND CROWN
"He turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art
a stumbling block unto me; for thou mindest not the things of God, but the
things of men." Matthew 16:23
IN the space of a few verses Matthew reports that Peter had the great
gratification of being described by the Lord as "Blessed", and the extreme
mortification of being addressed by Him as Satan, the Adversary. One wonders
at the suddenness of this complete change of Christ towards His well-meaning
Poor Peter! He had had no intention of being a stumbling block to his
beloved Lord. He meant well. His trouble -- as Jesus explained -- was that
he who had been blessed by revelation from the Father now began to be governed
by human reasoning.
In the next chapter we find him making the same error. Having been granted
a vision of his transfigured Lord, he then offered to provide booths both
for Him and for His two honoured companions. This time it was a voice from
the Father Himself which silenced him. He had repeated his mistake. As they
later descended the mountain, the Lord Jesus resumed His teaching as to the
relationship of His sufferings and [59/60] resurrection
to the prospect and possibility of glory (17:9-12). In fact He commanded
the disciples to tell no man of what they had seen until that resurrection
Poor Peter! How much more agreeable was the sight of a glorified Saviour
with two saintly companions at His side, than the prospect of a suffering
Saviour in the midst of two common criminals. But in fact Peter was representative
not only of the other apostles but of the rest of us too. To our natural
reason it seems most desirable that the way to glory should by-pass the cross
as much as possible. Peter continued in this same mentality right up to the
garden of Gethsemane, for it was there that he drew his sword and showed himself
ready to crack the skull of one who wanted to take Jesus prisoner. Mercifully
he only succeeded in cutting off the ear of Malchus and still more mercifully
the Lord Jesus immediately healed that (His final miracle!), but Peter's
mind was to avoid the cross at all costs.
This, however, was not God's mind. He was offering His beloved Son the
cup of sacrifice, and the Lord Jesus informed Peter that He was determined
to accept it: "Put up the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father
hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11).
So we have this striking contrast between human mentality and the mind
of God. By the former, Peter was making himself a stumbling-block to the
Lord whom he so truly loved, and was unintentionally allowing himself to
be a means of satanic temptation to the Saviour. If we are to be true disciples,
we must disown the reasoning of men (even the best of men) and pay heed to
the mind of God.
Immediately after His rebuke of Peter, the Lord Jesus went on to explain
that not only must He go the way of the cross but all who would follow Him
must go the same way: "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would
come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me"
(Matthew 16:24). This is a vast subject which cannot be dealt with here,
but at least we can register the divine principle that those who are destined
for God's glory must be ready to be led along the way of the cross.
Dear Peter! How well he learned the lesson! How readily he denied himself
and took up his cross daily when once the Holy Spirit got possession of him.
I marvel that he never used his subsequent spiritual authority to deter the
four Evangelists from recording his many blunders and especially this charge
of acting as an agent of Satan. Perhaps he even encouraged all four of them
to be frank in telling the stories of how he misunderstood and tried to
pressurise Christ to renounce the cross so that we might learn the lesson
and be saved from the same follies. Was it not he who wrote: "Christ also
suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps"
(1 Peter 2:21)?
I imagine that this was a moment of acute suffering for the Lord, for
He loved Peter and would find it hard to charge him with complicity with
Satan. The fact remains, though, that when Satan has exhausted his efforts
to deter us from the will of God by threats and criticisms, he will sometimes
gain his ends by using the kindly and well-intentioned advice of our friends.
Unlike our holy Lord we must never presume to use His language, but we do
well to recognise that the Tempter can use our friends as well as our enemies
to draw us aside from the path of absolute committal to the will of God.
And we ourselves must beware of thinking as men instead of advising others
according to the mind of God. With hindsight we know that Peter's affectionate
advice was contrary to God's will, but at the time we would probably have
felt and spoken very much as he did. Well, we cannot always help our feelings.
What we can do, though, is to check our tongues; rather to pray for our friends
than to shower our advice upon them, and always to be ready to learn the
spiritual lessons which are made so clear to us in the Word of God. What Jesus
lacked, and perhaps what He would so have appreciated, was sympathetic support
in His hour of trial. In Gethsemane He had to ask, "Simon, sleepest thou?
couldst thou not watch one hour with me?" (Mark 14:37). That was what the
Lord wanted, not Peter's slashing sword. And that is what our brothers and
sisters want from us in their hour of suffering. That is "minding the things
of God". [60/ibc]
[Inside back cover]
OLD TESTAMENT PARENTHESES (3)
"(I am the LORD)" Numbers 3:41
WHY is this dignified claim of Yahweh placed here in brackets? It can
be found often enough in the Scriptures, so much so that we tend to take
it for granted. Here, however, the sudden interpolation of the great name
must have some special importance. Perhaps the context will help us to appreciate
GOD had been giving instructions to Moses about the setting apart of
the tribe of Levi to substitute for the firstborn of all the tribes which
He had claimed as His own when Israel came out of Egypt (Exodus 13:11). At
this later date, however, the Lord indicated that instead of making this
a literal choice, He proposed to substitute the men of Levi, being careful
to cover the difference in numbers by receiving redemption money for those
who exceeded the total of the Levites (Numbers 3:49).
WITH that the arrangement was to be finalised and from then onwards the
Levites acted instead of the firstborn sons of all Israel. "Thou shalt take
the Levites for me," God said to Moses, and explained that they were to be
"instead of all the first born among the children of Israel", but right in
the middle of this command, He inserted the statement "I am the LORD". Why?
I SUGGEST that this was meant to stress the finality of the divine decision.
Moses might have other ideas; the men involved might feel that they were
being deprived; but this parenthesis had a peremptory note about it, as though
the Lord would permit neither question nor argument. His very name denotes
that when He makes a decision it is final.
THIS arrangement was doubtless very pleasing to the Levites, though in
some ways it had its disadvantages, for the Levites had to forego the inheritance
that others enjoyed (Numbers 18:23). There is always a price to pay for the
privilege of serving the Lord.
IT may well have been most displeasing to the first-born of Reuben and
the other tribes, "Why", they might ask, "should we be set aside in favour
of those brothers of ours?" Why indeed? There were some very good reasons,
and in the end the Levites justified their calling, but the only answer
which God gives to any such questions is simply, "Because I am the LORD!"
WHY was Matthias chosen as twelfth apostle instead of Justus? (Acts 1:26).
Why did Barnabas have to yield seniority to Paul? And why was James, the
older of the two brothers, cut off suddenly in the early days of the Church
while his younger brother, John, lived on for so long and wrote so much inspired
Scripture? Why do most of us have to endure experiences when we are set aside
in favour of others?
THERE is only one answer to those questions -- "I am the LORD". If we
know anything at all of that name -- as Moses certainly did -- that will
be sufficient for us. We bow to His sovereign wisdom, and we always find
blessing in so doing.
A GLORIOUS THRONE, SET ON HIGH FROM THE
BEGINNING, IS THE PLACE OF OUR SANCTUARY.
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