Bible history has an importance and significance far transcending that of profane history. It illustrates the development of God's purpose with man, and, at the same time, typifies His future intentions. For example, Paul declared that the history of God's dealings with Israel revealed important lessons for the guidance of all those who would approach Him in truth. He declared: “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scripture might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Again: “All these things (and he referred to the history of Israel) happened unto them for ensamples (or types -margin); and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Therefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).
Such statements show that God has revealed His purpose in the Bible both by direct teaching, and through the dramatic experiences of individuals and the rise and fall of nations.
A knowledge of Bible history, therefore, is important to a correct understanding of the character and purpose of God. The Gospel itself is a national hope, connected with Israel. The Scriptures declare: “God at the first did preach the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, `In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed' ” (Galatians 3:8). The promise made to Abraham formed the basis of a national hope, so that Paul, in defending himself before his accusers, claimed: “I stand, and am judged for the hope of the promise, made of God unto our fathers, unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come” (Acts 26:6). Later, as a prisoner in Rome, he told the elders of the Jewish community in that city: “For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain” (Acts 28:20).
Some knowledge of Bible history is therefore necessary for a complete understanding of the Gospel, and the hope that Paul embraced, and, of course, such understanding is essential to salvation (Romans 1:16).
(9) From Creation to the Flood
How Enmity Developed Between The Two Seeds.
The introduction of sin (considered in our previous section) was followed by the ejection of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Religion (which signifies “a re-binding again”) was then introduced that mankind might have hope, and a system of worship at specified times (Genesis 4:3-margin) was set up.
In course of time, sons and daughters were born to Adam and Eve, including Cain and Abel.
In the birth of Cain her firstborn, Eve had hoped that she had been blessed with the promised seed (Genesis 4:1-margin).
How wrong she proved to be was revealed when he grew to manhood.
Instead of the promised seed who would conquer sin and redeem mankind from death, Cain was conquered by sin, and in hatred committed the first murder.
Unfortunately, this all arose out of a false conception of religion. Cain became jealous of the favor that God showed towards his brother, and in hatred slew him.
Thus Cain and Abel typified the Seed of the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman. The bitter enmity of Cain for his brother erupted into violence, and by slaying Abel, be typically “bruised” him “on the heel.” We say this because Abel is yet to rise from the grave to life eternal (Hebrews 11:4), and this was revealed to Eve in that God gave her another son instead of Abel, whose name was called Seth, meaning appointed. “God,” she said, “hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew” (Gen. 4:25).
In a figure, the risen Abel was seen in Seth, pointing forward to the resurrection of Christ Jesus who was slain by the antitypical Cain (see Matthew 23:35), and, significantly, also as the result of a religious quarrel!
A Form Of Religion Is Not Enough.
It is important to recognise that both Cain and Abel were religious men. Both desired to serve God; both brought their offerings before Him. But God accepted Abel's offering and rejected that of Cain. Why? Because the former took the trouble of seeking out what God required of him; whereas the latter worshipped according to his own conscience or idea.
Cain's worship, therefore, was like that of the serpent: the emanation of fleshly thoughts. Abel, on the other hand, reverently sought out God's way, and recognised the need of a slain offering in atonement for sin.
So Cain brought of the fruit of his own labor: the fruit of the field; and Abel offered an animal of the herd, shedding its blood in acknowledgment of the fact that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” of sins (Heb. 9:22).
God bad respect unto Abel's offering, but rejected that of Cain, thus revealing that something more than the mere desire to worship is required, and that Cod desires a person to do so “in truth” (John 4:23). It might be reasoned that Cain's motives were sound, even if he did not apply principles that Cod bad revealed, but Cod's rejection of his offering shows that motive is not sufficient, a person must offer “in faith.” Paul makes the point that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6), and that “faith cometh by hearing the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). It is recorded:
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he being dead speaketh” (Heb. 11:4).
What is faith? It is a manifestation of a way of life founded upon a “confident anticipation of things hoped for, a full persuasion of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1-margin). Abel looked forward to the consummation of the Divine purpose, and so presented his offering. Without this faith, this confident anticipation of things hoped for, his sacrifice and worship would have been in vain.
So would ours also be today. Paul declared:
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
Abel's faith stemmed from his understanding of God's revelation; Cain's failure resulted from fleshly thinking which caused him to reject Divine instruction. In these two sons of Adam, therefore, there was revealed the Seed of the Sepent in opposition to the Seed of the Woman, an enmity such as God bad declared would exist between these two diverse ways of thought.
In the murder of Abel, there was foreshadowed the murder of Christ (Acts 7:52), whilst in the appointment of Seth to take his place, there was typified the resurrection of Christ to newness of life.
Thus, at the very epoch of history, in this incident in the family of Adam, there was dramatised the enmity that has ever sincc existed between the way of God and the way of the flesh, and the ultimate triumph of the former over the latter.
Meanwhile Cain was driven away from fellowship with God, to dwell in the Land of Nod (or Exile, as the word signifies), there, with his posterity to build up his own form of civilisation based on the flesh (see Gen. 4:7), whilst Seth and his posterity remained to worship God.
The Antediluvian World.
Some 1656 years are briefly covered from Genesis 3:6. The population of the earth rapidly increased. Mankind was divided into two groups. men of the flesh and the sons of God. The first were the descendants of Cain; the second sprang from Seth.
Cain and his posterity built up their own civilisation independent of that of Seth and his descendants. They progressed in material wealth, so that soon a sophisticated, Godless society arose which made rapid progress in commerce, pleasure and power (Gen. 4:19-24).
This gradually became the envy of the “sons of God,” who were attracted by the seductive forms of pleasure and power that were displayed before them by their contemporaries. They began to question the need for separation between the two ways of thought, and soon began to imitate what they saw, and so were drawn “into the way of Cain” (Jude 11).
Godly men protested against this spiritual decline, and warned that it could only end in disaster. They reminded the sons of God of the Divine purpose to be ultimately manifested in the earth, and exhorted them to stand aside from a generation that would inevitably be overthrown (Gen. 5:24; Jude 14-15).
But in vain; the protest went unheeded by the majority.
The state of the world worsened spiritually; mankind became completely abandoned in its pursuit of materialism at the expense of God's requirements. Crime increased; violence became more common; principles of morality were held up to scorn.
A hard, brittle, godless civilisation arose very similar to that which is in evidence today. The “wickedness of man was great” (Gen. 6:5); the “imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (v. 5); God's way, was “corrupted” (v. 12); the “earth was filled with violence” (v. 11).
That evil, adulterous, violent, Godless age became a type of that which Christ warned would exist at the epoch of his second coming. He taught his disciples:
“As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37-39).
The antediluvian world was destroyed by a flood, evidences of which have been found by archaeologists throughout the world.
The present civilisation faces a similar crisis which shall destroy its political, religious and social structures, and replace them with a Divine Kingdom set up on earth. The Apostle Peter, writing of these matters declared:
“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in an holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God … ” (2 Peter 3:11-12).
This present age of wickedness has no more hope of survival than that which existed before the flood. The antediluvian world, however, was noted not only for the widespread wickedness of the descendants of Cain, but the folly of the line of Seth whose posterity eagerly sought the pleasures and powers of a world from which they should have separated themselves. The record declares that the “sons of God”* intermixed with the “daughters of men”† instead of keeping separate from them (2 Cor. 6:16-18).
The flood that God sent upon the earth at that time completely destroyed civilisation, blotting out of existence all mankind with the exception of the family of Noah who had been found righteous in His eyes.
When the waters finally receded, a new world was revealed. Mankind, washed clean from the pollution of the past, started anew in the family of Noah. A new way of life was commenced that honored God (Genesis 8:20).
At that stage, God proclaimed a promise that has a far reaching effect upon the future destiny of the world; He declared that He would never again destroy civilisation so completely as He had then done. His words are:
“I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done” (Gen. 8:21).
The words “again curse” in the Hebrew are lo asiph: “I will not add to curse the earth …” God had “cursed the earth” when Adam and Eve sinned (Gen. 3:17-19), in consequence of which, it produced thorns and thistles, and made productivity more difficult. He now promised Noah that he would never again add to that curse so as to destroy every living person, as He had moved to do in the days of Noah.
That means that this earth will never be destroyed. Elsewhere He taught that “the earth abideth forever” (Ecc. 1:4); that He “created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited” (Isaiah 45:18), and that ultimately “the whole earth shall be filled with His glory” (Numbers 14:21).
Will The Earth Be Destroyed?
What of that doctrine, so persistently taught, that announces the impending destruction of the existing heavens and earth, to be replaced by new ones?
It is completely false, and is based upon a wrong interpretation of certain symbolic passages of Scripture, and mainly 2 Peter 2. This passage certainly speaks of the “heaven and earth” being overwhelmed by fire, and this is frequently interpreted as relating to the literal heavens and earth.
But why should God destroy His creationd-and especially the heavens? There is nothing wrong with the literal heavens and earth; in fact, they testify to the glory of the Creator and show forth His handiwork, as the Psalmist teaches (Psalm 19:1-2). Why destroy them?
We have seen that God has declared that He will not destroy them; that the earth abides forever, and is formed to be inhabited.
Does Peter's teaching contradict this?
It does not!
He was referring to symbolic “heavens” and “earth,” as his own words reveal. For example, writing concerning the Flood, he declared:
“The world that then was, being overflowed with water, Perished …”(2 Peter 3:6).
Did the literal “world” perish in the days of Noah?
No, it was civilisation upon the earth that was blotted out, so that basically the literal heavens and earth were left as they were.
And it will be the civilisation of today (such as it is) that will perish in the future.
The Bible uses the terms “heavens” and “earth” in a symbolic as well as a literal sense, and it is obvious that Peter was using them in a symbolic sense in his 2nd Epistle. The rulers and the ruled in Israel were described as “heavens and earth.” Hear the words of Isaiah:
“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth … ” (Isa. 1:2).
To whom was he speaking? Listen:
“Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers … and give car unto the law of our God, ye people … ” (v. 10).
The heavens were the rulers; the earth constituted the ruled. See also Deuteronomy 32:1; Isaiah 13:10. Consider, also, the following statement of God's future intentions:
“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind.” (Isa. 65:17).
What do those words mean? The very next verse tells us:
“But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy.”
These words show conclusively, that the new heavens and the new earth which God will create, are new political, social, and religious orders on earth “in which will dwell righteousness.” In that day, Jerusalem will be called “the throne of the Lord” (Jeremiah 3:17), the nations will ascend there for worship (Zechariah 14:16), and the conditions that will then be established on earth will reflect to the glory of the Father (Isaiah 61:11).
The new heavens and new earth, therefore, refer to a new way of rule, and a new order of society, and have nothing whatever to do with the literal heavens and earth.
The Flood As A Symbol Of Baptism.
The flood washed away the old world with all its widespread evil and wickedness, and in the preservation of Noah and his family, laid the foundation for a new order in which God was worshipped.
Peter, in his 1st Epistle, likens it to baptism:
“The long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls were saved by water. The like figure, whereunto even baptism does also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:20-21).
As the Flood swept away the record of past wickedness, so through baptism there is granted forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). As Noah under those new conditions commenced to worship God anew, so also does the person who is baptised. But, unfortunately, as the postdeluvian world soon reverted to ways of wickedness and apostasy, so do those who are baptised. However, there is forgiveness of sins in Christ (1 John 3:1), and for the person who conscientiously strives to obey God in word and deed, the assurance of ultimate deliverance from the nature of flesh (Phil. 3:21 ), to the glorious Divine nature of immortality (2 Peter 1:4).
The lesson of salvation was thus illustrated by the Flood.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 9
1. Name two sons of Adam and Eve who represented the “seed of the serpent” and the “seed of the woman”.
2. What is the meaning of the word “religion”?
3. Who, in Biblical language, are “sons of God”?
4. Why did Jesus Christ liken the days of his second coming unto the days of Noah?
5. How can we know for certain that the apostle Peter uses the words “heaven” and “earth” in a symbolic sense, when he speaks of heaven and earth being “dissolved”?
6. Whom only did God find righteous in the days just prior to the flood?
7. In which book of the Bible is the flood referred to as a symbol of baptism?
8. By what means can man be saved from the destruction that is to come upon this civilisation?
(10) The Call of Abraham
His Importance In The Divine Purpose.
Abraham figures largely in the Divine purpose with humanity. In Romans 4:11 he is called the spiritual “father of all those who believe,” the “father of us all” (v. 16), and his experiences are set forth as typical of those who would walk in faith towards the Kingdom of God (vv. 23-24).
On another occasion, when Paul was arraigned before his accusers, he declared: “I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers” (Acts 26:6), and by the latter, he meant, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
He also taught that whereas Israel after the flesh are enemies of the gospel, they are “beloved for the fathers' sakes” (Romans 11:28), and once again, he had Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in mind.
Abraham is referred to over seventy times in the New Testament alone, and Paul taught that the Gospel was proclaimed to Abraham in the important promises that God made unto him (Galatians 3:8).
Some knowledge of the circumstances of Abraham, and the wonderful promises that God made to him, is absolutely essential if we would understand the truth of the Bible.
The Post-Diluvian World Drifts From God.
Though righteous Noah and his family were saved from the destruction of the Flood, their posterity, in common with humanity in every age, failed to learn the lesson of that disaster, and soon drifted from God. Man followed the “evil thoughts of his heart” as eagerly as before, and the worship of God in truth was soon forgotten.
It was not long before complete spiritual darkness prevailed.
Bible history records three important events of that time, all of which are recorded in Genesis 11.
There was the building of the tower of Babel by a people who had apostasised from the worship of God, and who resisted His will that they should go forth and subdue and replenish the earth.
There was the confusion of tongues which God imposed upon them to defeat their attempt to defy Him.
There was the call of Abram from out of Ur of the Chaldees.
These three interventions of Providence resulted in:
The peopling of the earth, as the people were scattered from the one centre that they desired.
The preservation of the true religion by the call of Abram.
The continuance of the line of descent through which the promised Seed of the Woman, the Redeemer of mankind, would come.
The Gospel Is Preached To Abram.
Abram dwelt in Ur of the Chaldees, a city whose ruins can be seen today not far from the River Euphrates in Iraq. It was a city of idolatry, and it was from this environment of spiritual darkness that Abram was called to separate himself (Joshua 24:2-3).
God made certain promises to him, conditional upon him severing himself from his idolatrous surroundings, and migrating into a new country which would be revealed unto him.
Paul, in commenting upon this, states that in these promises, the Gospel was preached to Abraham (Galatians 3:8), and that they involved the purpose of God in Christ (see v. 16).
These promises having been made unto him (Acts 7:2-4), Abram left Ur of the Chaldees, and moved to Haran (Genesis 11:31), about 800 miles northwest of Ur of the Chaldees, and north of the River Euphrates. Here he remained for a time, and during that period, his father Terah died (v. 32).
The Voice of God again came to Abram, urging him to leave Haran, pass over the river Euphrates, and come into the land that God would reveal unto him.
Before considering the promises that God made to faithful Abram, let us emphasise that Paul has stated that the experiences of Abraham are typical of those of any believer who desires to please God.
Abram turned his back upon Ur of the Chaldees, and migrated to Haran.
Ur of the Chaldees signifies the Light of the Chaldees, and the latter were a religious sect of Babylon. He turned his back upon their teaching, and true believers must do so in relation to much that passes current in the world for religion. Abram literally separated himself from his evil environment, and whilst true followers of Christ are not called upon to literally sever themselves from humanity they are required to stand aside from the evil in the world about them (John 17:15; 2 Cor. 6:14-18).
He “came unto Haran,” which name means “enlightened,” and so they are called upon to come to an understanding of God and His purpose (John 6:29).
As he was urged to pass over the river Euphrates into the Land of Promise, so believers are urged to pass through the waters of baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
As he remained a “stranger and a pilgrim in the land” looking forward to the time when the promised Seed should establish God's kingdom upon the earth (Hebrews 11:9-13), so those who walk in the steps of faithful Abraham do to this day (1 Peter 2:11).
As he died in hope of a resurrection to life eternal (Gen. 13:14-17; Acts 7:1-3), so also do they (Acts 23:6; 26:7-8).
He is described as the “friend of God” (James 2:23). He was called, chosen and faithful, and that is the essential characteristics of all those who will be with Christ in the Age to come (Revelation 17:14).
When Abram left Ur of the Chaldees, he did so in company with his father, Terah, his brother, Nahor, and his nephew, Lot. These four men all had the same opportunity, for all had heard the Divine promises. But only two obeyed. Terah died at Haran; Nahor refused to pass over the river; only Abram and Lot did so, and even Lot, for a time, did not maintain that separateness from the world that God required of him.
These four men are types of those who hear the Gospel sound even to the present time. So many hearken to the Word of God, and come to a state of enlightenment, and act like Terah or Nahor: either delay until it is too late, or are too indifferent (like Nahor-whose name means “a snorer”!) to act upon the instructions of God.
The Four-Fold Promise Of Hope.
But Abram did act on the urging of God. Genesis 12:1 declares:
“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee.”
He was to separate himself even from his kindred to obey God.
Hebraists state that the verb in this declaration is in the imperative mood, signifying a command, and indicating that the person's own interests and advantage lay in following the advice. Thus the declaration can, and has, been rendered: “Go for thyself … ”
Abram acted on that advice.
The biography of Abraham (as he was ultimately named) occupies about twelve chapters of the Bible (Genesis chapters 12-25), and takes less than an hour to read. We counsel the reader to pay himself the compliment of reading this portion of the Bible, carefully noting the various promises that God made to the patriarch.
The first of these is contained in Genesis 12:2-3 thus:
“I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
These promises can be divided into four distinct sections, thus:
A National Promise: “I will make of thee a great nation … ”
A Personal Promise: “I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing … ”
A Family Promise: “I will bless them that bless thee … ”
An International Promise: “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
None of these promises have had their complete fulfilment, for they await the setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Consider the National Promise, for example. Abraham's descendants, the Jewish people, are not a “great nation” as yet, and never have been. True, the nation rose to prominence and glory during the reigns of David and Solomon, but that was for but a short period, and it ended with civil war which divided the twelve tribes into two groups, known to history and Scripture as Israel (the northern kingdom of ten tribes) and Judah (the southern kingdom of two tribes) .
The history of Israel is a record of constant apostasy, failure and defeat, ending in the scattering of Jews among all nations.
Certainly, this history does not reveal them as a great nation at any time. Even during the reign of David, the people rebelled against him, and drove him temporarily from the throne!
When will the promise to Abraham be vindicated?
The answer is, In the future.
Though God scattered Israel (see Deut. 28:64-67), He will yet completely regather the nation (Deut. 30:1-3; Jeremiah 31:10), and restore them to their ancient land (Ezek. 39:25-29). They will be educated in Divine truth, will mourn for their past blindness (Zechariah 12:9-10), will have their sins forgiven them (Micah 7:18-20), and will be established as the “first” of the nations (Micah 4:7-8).
All this will be done on the basis of the promise made to Abraham. The prophet declared:
“Thou wilt perform the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn from the days of old” (Micah 7:20).
“I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the nations, whither ye went” (Ezekiel 36:22).
The Jewish people are returning to their ancient homeland today, and the nation of Israel has come into existence once again, BECAUSE OF THE PROMISE MADE TO ABRAHAM.
The Jewish people, and the nation of Israel, are yet to be disciplined and humbled, in order that they might be elevated in accordance with the purpose of God. God has declared:
“I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all … ” (Ezek. 37:21-22).
In this statement there is promised (l)-the regathering of the people; (2)-the establishment of the nation; (3)-the restoration of the monarchy.
The King referred to is the Lord Jesus, described as “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
Under his firm and righteous rule, the nation of Israel will reach the greatness promised it through Abraham.
Consider the personal promise made to Abraham. Is he blessed today? Is his name great? Is he a blessing in the earth?
The answer is, No! Abraham is dead; his name is far from great in the opinion of mankind, most of whom know nothing of him.
How and when shall it be fulfilled?
By a resurrection from the dead to life eternal at Christ's coming. The Lord, himself, declared this. He told those Jews who rejected his mercy of salvation 1900 years ago, that they would be raised from the dead to be rejected of their Messiah, and to witness Abraham and others enjoy a status that they could have shared. He declared:
“There shall be weeping when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, west, north and south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:28-29).
At that time, Abraham will be both blessed and a blessing, and men will consider it an honor to be associated with him.
And, again, we must look to the future for the fulfilment of the promise.
The Family Promise, has relation to those who embrace the promises of Abraham, and who walk in his steps. They will become his associates in the Kingdom that Jesus shall set up on earth, and shall inherit eternal life.
The International Promise, points to the time when Christ's righteous rule will be set up over all the earth, and mankind shall rejoice in it. Then “the Kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ” who “shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). The Law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, bringing all nations in a state of unity and peace before God (Isaiah 2:22-4).
The glorious administration of the Lord Jesus Christ will solve the problems that afflict humanity today. The poor will be helped; the needy will be assisted; the tyrant will be deposed from the seat of authority, and , “all nations” shall serve the Lord and find him a blessing (Psalm 72:11, 17). There will no longer exist the need to maintain huge standing armies, mighty navies, and vast air-forces to protect the rights of individual nations, when one king reigns over a united world. The wealth of nations, previously expended on war, will be utilised for the benefits of humanity. The result will be the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham: “In thee shall all nations be blessed.”
This, as Paul showed, constitutes the Gospel (Galatians 3:8), and will be fulfilled through Christ (v. 16), the seed of Abraham (Matthew 1:1).
“All This Land Will I Give Thee.”
Genesis records a further development in the promises of God to Abraham. Abraham had prospered with Lot his nephew, to the extent that their combined herds became an embarrassment, causing strife between their respective herdsmen.
They decided to separate, and Abram unselfishly offered Lot first choice of the land. Lot saw the well-watered plain of Jordan, with the prosperous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and was attracted by the prospects of easy living and pleasant communal associations to leave Abram, and elect to go down to Sodom.
He went “down” in more ways than one, leaving to Abram the hardship, the glory, the virtue of the rugged hills of the Land of Promise, and the inheritance of Bethel-the House of God.
After Lot had separated with his herds, God made a further promise to Abram. He was told:
“Look northward, southward, eastward and westward; for ALL THE LAND THAT THOU SEEST to thee will I give it, and to thy seed FOR EVER … Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it. for I will give it unto thee” (Genesis 13:14-17).
We cannot over-emphasis the importance of this promise made to Abram. It forms the basis of the personal hope of every true believer. Notice that Abram and his seed are promised the land FOR EVER, and not merely for life. It is obvious that this promise has not been fulfilled, for otherwise Abram would be alive to receive it.
Either Abraham and his seed must be resurrected from the grave and given life eternal to enjoy this promised inheritance, or we can place no confidence in the promises of God.
What of those who teach that the promised reward is in heaven? They normally interpret the promise to Abram as involving only occupation of the land during his lifetime. But contrary to this, 1900 years after the death of Abraham, Stephen, the first Christian martyr, clearly stated that Abraham had never received the land promised to him. Significantly, also, he based his beliefs upon the promises made to this great man of faith. He declared:
“He (God) removed him (Abraham) into this land (Palestine) wherein ye (Jews) now dwell, and He gave him none inheritance in it, no not so much as to set his foot on, yet HE PROMISED THAT HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM FOR A POSSESSION, and to his seed after him … ” (Acts 7:14).
How is Abraham to receive the land promised him? Previous studies have indicated the answer: through a resurrection from the dead to life eternal (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:1-2; Acts 26:6-8). In the promise made to Abraham, therefore, we see an amplification of that made in Eden. The Edenic promise of redemption is now channeled through Abraham and his seed.
But can Gentiles become the seed of Abraham? Certainly, listen to the instruction of Paul:
“As many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ … and if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and HEIRS ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE” (Galatians 3:27-29).
The hope set before all true believers is an eternal inheritance upon earth through a resurrection from the dead, if they die before Christ's coming (see 1 Cor. 15:51-54).
The Confirmation Of The Promise.
In due course Abram's name was changed to Abraham, signifying, “The Father of Many Nations” (Genesis 17:1-8), pointing forward to the fulfilment of the promises made to him. In addition, he was told that he would have a son, through whom would come the promised Seed, the Redeemer of mankind (Genesis 17:15-16; 18:9-14; 21:1-2).
The rite of circumcision was given as the token of God's covenant (Genesis 17:9-14), pointing forward to the need for a true worshipper to deny the flesh to serve God (A believer is spiritually circumcised when he does that (Romans 2:28-29).
Genesis 22 records a great trial of faith to which God subjected Abraham. Sarah, his wife, had given birth to Isaac, concerning whom God had declared: “In Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Gen. 21:12). When Isaac was about 17, Abraham was told to offer him as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:1-2). This was a tremendous challenge to Abraham's faith, but he was equal to it. Paul, commenting upon the incident, declares that Abraham's faith was such, that he knew that even though he did offer him as directed, God would restore him again, in order to vindicate His promise (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Thus, although Abraham went with the full intention of fulfilling the command of God, he told his attendants: “I and the lad will go yonder and worship and (we-in the Hebrew the plural is preserved throughout the sentence) will come again to you” (Gen. 22:5).
This proved to be the case. just as the knife was poised in Abraham's hand to administer the fatal blow, God intervened. He commended Abraham for his faith, and directing him to a ram caught in a thicket by the horns, ordered that it be offered in the place of his son (v. 12-13). Thus, to use Paul's words, Isaac was, “in a figure raised from the dead” (Heb. 11:17) by the Lamb of God's providing (see John 1:29).
Accordingly, Abraham named the place: “Yahweh Yireh” which signifies: “He who will be manifested will provide.” He saw the incident as typical of the provision of God in supplying a Redeemer who would make atonement for the sins of humanity, and thus become the token of “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
Abraham Saw The Two Advents Of Christ.
A careful consideration of Genesis 22 reveals that the two advents of the Lord Jesus are inferred. The angel of God spake to Abraham twice (v. 15). On the first occasion, he directed Abraham's attention to the ram caught in the thicket, and instructed him to offer the animal instead of his son. This dramatized the work of Jesus at his first advent, when on Mount Calvary, he was offered as the Lamb of God for the sin of the world.
The second proclamation by the angel, however, predicted the coming glory of the Lord Jesus, and the ultimate blessing of Abraham at the second coming of Christ. God reiterated the promises of Genesis 12:1-2, but now unconditionally, emphasizing the absolute certainty in their fulfilment. He declared:
“By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and had not with held thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed My voice” (vv. 16-18).
No more solemn covenant than this is found within the pages of the Bible. God declared in confirming it: “By myself have I sworn … ”, And Paul comments regarding this: “IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO LIE” (Heb. 6:17-18).
Ignore a covenant of such solemn import as that, and it is obvious that a basic teaching of God's word is ignored.
The covenant confirms all that had been promised previously, and provides for:
1. The multiplication of the seed of Abraham as “the stars of heaven, and the sand upon the shore;”
2. The manifestation in power of a single son of Abraham (described as “his” in the phrase “his enemies” and not “their” enemies) who will subdue his enemies and bring blessings upon all subject peoples.
The multitudinous seed is referred to by Paul as all those baptised into Christ who are faithful: “Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise.”
The singular seed points to the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul again comments:
“To Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16).
Abraham was promised that this one would “possess the gate of his enemies.” In ancient times, cities were walled up, and the person possessing “the gate” controlled the city. Abraham was therefore told in figurative language that his seed, the Christ, would control all mankind. He is to “reign till all enemies are under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25). Then will the prediction of Daniel 2:44 be fulfilled:
“The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed; the kingdom shall not be left to other people (for its rulers will be immortal-see Rev. 5:9-10), but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”
This declares more clearly that which was promised Abraham. He was also told, that in his seed “all families of the earth shall be blessed.” Once Christ has set up his power on earth, and compelled by force all nations to submit (Isaiah 60:12), he will extend the blessings of his administration to all nations. This was the vision of Isaiah. He declared that “out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; ”
“And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:2-4).
Thus, in Abraham and his seed, the Christ, shall “all families of the earth be blessed.” The “Lord shall be king over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:9), and the fullness of the Gospel message will be seen in the Kingdom that Christ will have established in the earth.
This constituted the national hope of Israel, to which Paul made reference, when he declared: “For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain” (Acts 28:20).
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 10
1. Where in the Bible is Abraham's biography recorded?
2. Give a brief outline of the promises that God made to this patriarch.
3. Have these promises already been fulfilled?
4. Which incident in Abraham's life shows us that he believed inresurrection from the dead?
5. What does Gods most solemn covenant promise to Abraham?
6. Can God lie? (Give Bible proof, please.)
The life of Abraham is recorded in Genesis, Chps. 12 to 25. In studying it, his biography presents him progressively:
1. As an idolator under condemnation with the world;
2. As a believer of the Gospel preached by the angel of the Lord;
3. As justified from all past sins by faith in its promises, and
4. As justified by works unto eternal life.
The “articles” of Abraham's faith were these:
1. That God would multiply his descendants as the stars of heaven for multitude and make them a great and mighty nation;
2. That at that time his own name would be great;
3. That out of his posterity should ONE arise, in whom all nations would be blessed.
4. That he, together with this personage, should have actual possession of the land of Canaan for ever;
5. That they two, with all the faithful multitudinous seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:26-28) should possess the world;
6. That the seed, or Christ, would be an only begotten and beloved son (Isaac being the type); that he would fall a victim to his enemies; and in his death be accepted as an offering by being raised from the dead, after the example in the case of Isaac;
7. That after the resurrection, or at “a second time”, Christ would possess the gate of his enemies in triumph, and obtain the land of Canaan, and the dominion of the world according to the promise; and
8. That at that time, he (Abraham) and his faithful multitudinous seed would be made perfect, receive the promises and “enter into the joy of their Lord” (Heb. 11:40).
In short, Abraham was promised a resurrection from the dead unto life eternal through the redemption of the Lord Jesus, whose “day” he beheld in faith. In the promise to Abraham, therefore, and in the national hope of Israel, there is seen an amplification of the covenant made by God in Eden: “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent on the head.” This was now to be channeled through Abraham and his seed, outside of whom there is “no hope” (Ephesians 2:12).
(11) Israel Called Out of Egypt
Following the death of Abraham, the covenants of promise were confirmed with Isaac his son (Gen. 26:3-4), and Jacob his grandson (Gen. 28:13-16).
These dwelt in Palestine (or Canaan as it was then called Gen. 46:5-7), until famine drove Jacob and his sons to Egypt to obtain food (Gen. 42:1). In Egypt, the children of Israel received great kindness, and gradually grew into a numerous people. As Abraham had been told (Gen. 15:13-14), his descendants remained there for some hundreds of years.
The record of this is contained in Genesis 37 to 50. This section of the Bible is full of interesting detail, woven around the life of Joseph, the beloved son of Israel. In a wonderful manner, Joseph's experiences prefigured those of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was loved of his father, but bated by his brethren; he learned the depths of suffering and tragedy but also rose to the heights of happiness and glory. In all this, be typed the Lord Jesus himself, so that in his life the children of Israel bad foreshadowed the life of their Messiah, the Redeemer of humanity.
This was all summed up in a remarkable prophecy (Genesis 49), in which the future of Israel was outlined, and the glory of the latter end of the nation was clearly predicted.
Moses The Deliverer.
Hated by his brethren, Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt, but through the providence of God, he was elevated from this humble state to become ruler in the land.
In that, he foreshadowed the Lord Jesus.
His skill and wisdom in administering the affairs of Egypt in times of both plenty and famine, saved the nation from disaster, and, as a result, he and his brethren, the children of Israel, were treated with great respect and kindness by Pharaoh (Gen. 45:17-20).
For a time, the Israelites prospered in the land of Egypt, and grew into a numerous people.
But there arose a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph (Exod. 1), and who viewed with greatest concern, the growing power of Israel in Egypt. He withdrew the privileges that had been granted the people, and reduced them to abject slavery and hardship. In their misery, the Israelites cried unto God, and He sent Moses to deliver them (Exodus 3:3-12).
Egypt was afflicted with ten great and dreadful plagues, at the conclusion of which, Pharaoh agreed to let the people go. The last plague brought death to all the first-born in Egypt, but Israel escaped this affliction by obeying the commands of God.
How Israel Was Delivered From Death.
Israel was strictly warned that unless the people observed the commandments of God they would likewise suffer the death that was threatened against Egypt.
Each family was required to select a lamb without blemish; to slay the lamb in sacrifice; to sprinkle its blood on the side posts and lintels of the doors of their homes; to shelter in the house all night; to eat the Lamb with “loins girded, shoes on feet, and staff in hand,” ready to depart, at the call of God.
The circumstances are outlined in Exodus 12. The lamb was called the Passover Lamb, because through it the angel of death “passed over” the Israelites, and it pointed forward to the offering of the Lord Jesus Christ who is described as our Passover Lamb (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7).
The lamb had to be without blemish-and Jesus was without sin;
Its blood was splashed on the door posts and lintels, but not underfoot-and believers are warned not to “tread underfoot” the Son of God (Heb. 10:29);
It was eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs-speaking of sinlessness and the bitterness of trial.
It was eaten in haste in readiness to depart-and believers should likewise recognige the urgency of their need, and live in constant expectation of Christ's coming;
The people were warned to remain in the house all night-and we must shelter in the “house of God,” among His children,
It saved the people from death and Christ's offering can do likewise.
The Passover Lamb in Egypt thus pointed forward to the work and offering of the Lord Jesus. Through it, the people escaped the death that afflicted the firstborn of Egypt. But they were not completely saved as yet Under the leadership of Moses, they were taken out of Egypt, and separated from that land and people by passing through the waters of the Red Sea (Exod. 14:21-22).
As in the case of Noah, water saved the people of God. This deliverance is described by Paul as a baptism: “They were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:2). They saw Pharaoh's army (representative of the powers of darkness and sin) overwhelmed and destroyed; they found themselves delivered from the slavery in Egypt to worship God in truth.
It is all representative of baptism. Through baptism past sins are blotted out (Acts 2:38); a person rises to a newness of life (Romans 6:4); being delivered from servitude or slavery to sin (Romans 6:18).
All this was typified and dramatized in the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt.
The Mosaic Covenant.
But though delivered from Egypt, the people of Israel were not yet saved. The wilderness lay before them, separating them from the land of Promise. They had left Egypt, but they bad to learn to worship God.
Accordingly, Moses led them down to Sinai where a Divine law was delivered them, and the nation entered into covenant with God to obey that law (Exod. 19:5-8).
This law and covenant is based upon the Ten Commandments (see Exod. 34:28; Deut. 4:13-14), and made provision for the civil, religious and domestic life of the nation. But it warned that the penalty of sin is death, and as all broke the law, it impressed the reality of sin and the inevitability of death.
It could not give life, because of the nature of flesh.
It emphasised the need of a Redeemer, one who could take away sin in forgiveness. Therefore, it was a schoolmaster leading to Christ (Gal. 3:24). Discerning Israelites recognised that the Law revealed them to be sinners (Romans 7:7), and thus led them to look to that one whom God had promised to provide to take away the sins of humanity (Hebrews 9:26).
The effect of Christ's offering, therefore, is to deliver mankind from the curse of the law. In Christ it is done away, and replaced by the Law of liberty (not of licence) styled also “the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:20-21).
Therefore, all the experiences of Israel at that time, and the very enactments of the law and covenant to which they were related, emphasised the reality of sin and death, and the need so of one who can lead mankind away from its influence.
Thus the Passover Lamb and Baptism did not save Israel, even nationally, for the people had to yet reach the Promised Land. And so real was the very sin that the Law revealed, that the generation that was taken out of Egypt and so readily accepted the covenant of Moses, perished in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:5).
They believed God, they were baptised, but they did not remain obedient.
Moses: Mediator And Prophet
In bringing Israel under the covenant that God made with them, Moses acted the part of mediator between God and the people (Gal. 3:19). He was also a prophet, and bad no false illusions as to the future of the nation that be led (Deut. 9:6, 13; 31:16-18, 29).
In a remarkable chapter of Scripture (Deut. 28), he listed the calamities that would overtake Israel because of their disobedience, and then predicted that the people would be scattered among all nations.
He foretold that they would be subjected to invasion and siege:
“The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far … a nation of fierce countenance, and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high walls come down … ” (Deut. 28:49, 53).
This predicted siege came to pass some 1500 years later, when Vespasian and Titus, the military leaders of Rome, attacked Jerusalem in a.d. 70.
The war was disastrous for the Jewish nation. The state was overthrown, Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people were scattered into all parts as Moses predicted:
“The Lord shall scatter thee among all people … and among those nations shalt thou find no peace … the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes and sorrow of mind; thy life shall hang in doubt before thee” (vv. 64-66).
The history of Jewry since Christ shows how literally all this has been fulfilled. The Jewish people have been scattered among all nations, and have been subjected to fearful persecution during the course of their wandering. At the same time, the land they once inhabited fell into a condition of desolation, as Moses likewise predicted it would (Deut. 29:24-28).
But Moses' prophetic vision enabled him to see beyond the scattering of Israel to its regathering again, and its ultimate glory. Abraham had been promised that the Jewish people would develop into “a great nation”, and Moses revealed how this would be brought about. He declared:
“It shall come to pass when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee … that then the Lord will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee” (Deut. 30:1-3).
We are witnessing the beginnings of this today. The Jews are returning to their ancient homeland after 1900 years of wandering, and have reestablished their State once more. This is all as a basis for the future purpose of God when the Lord Jesus shall return to reign from Jerusalem as king (Isa. 24:23). It is a feature of God's purpose that is very clearly enunciated throughout the prophetic word. Over 100 years ago, long before the current return commenced, a Christadelphian writer on Bible prophecy declared:
“The pre-adventual colonization of the Holy Land will speak in unmistakable and infallible terms to the believer. It will be surely a certain sign of the speedy appearing of the Son of Man in power and glory. No one need expect that appearing to be manifested until the Jewish Colony be lifted up `as an ensign upon a hill'; for to snatch that ensign out of the hand of Gog (Russia) is the proximate cause of the Lord's appearance again.” (From “The Herald of the Future Age” by J. Thomas, 1852.)
The Jewish colony made its appearance in the Holy Land some time back; the state of Israel has since come into existence, and these are sure signs that we are living at the time of Christ's second coming:
“Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion; for the time to favor her, yea, the set time is come … When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in His glory” (Psalm 102:13, 16).
Moses: Type of Christ.
Both the Edenic and Abrahamic covenants promised that one would arise who would conquer sin and death, would lead the way to a resurrection unto life eternal, and subduing the nations, would reign as monarch, bringing blessings to all mankind.
Moses looked forward to the coming of this one. Paul wrote that Moses: “Esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt because be had respect unto the recompense of the reward” (Hebrews 11:26).
Moses had been brought up in the luxury of Egypt as son of Pharaoh's daughter, and as such had tremendous opportunities of great advancement in the world. But the prospects of worldly glory faded in comparison with those of eternal glory on earth, such as God's promises reveal. In confident anticipation of this time yet to come, when he will inherit eternal life with Abraham, Moses preferred to endure temporary reproach with the “people of God” rather than jeopardise his future with Christ.
Moses was Deliverer, Lawgiver, and Ruler in Israel, and as such typed Christ. He told the people:
“The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him shall ye hearken.”
God added these words:
“Whosoever will not hearken unto My words which he (the Christ) shall speak in My name, I will require it of him” (Deut. 18:15, 18, 19).
Christ, in fulfilment of this, “spake the words of God” unto the people (John 3:34), and when they refused to hearken unto him, God “required it of them.” He will yet require it of all those who knowingly reject His word, for they will be raised to condemnation and the second death (John 12:48; Rev. 20:6).
From Moses' description of Christ, as a Prophet whom God would raise up from the midst of Israel, as one of the people, it is obvious that he did not subscribe to the current doctrine of the Trinity, or consider the Lord as a pre-existent angel. He recognised that he would be the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, and as such, though acknowledging Divine parentage as far as his Father is concerned, would be of a nature identical with all mankind.
This is the consistent teaching of Scripture. Many years later, Peter taught:
“Jesus of Nazareth, a MAN APPROVED OF GOD among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you” (Acts 2:22).
God is consistently set forth as the God of Israel in both Old and New Testaments; and the theory of the Trinity finds no expression in Scripture.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 11
1. In what land did the children of Israel settle in the time of a severe famine?
2. Which of the sons of Jacob, or Israel, was loved of his father and hated by his brethren, and yet preserved their lives in the time of famine?
3. Who did God raise up as deliverer when Israel was afflicted in Egypt?
4. By what means was Israel saved from death at a time when Egypt's firstborn were slain by the angel of God?
5. Who is likened unto a lamb “without spot and blemish”, and how can we come under the protection of his saving power?
6. Why did the people that had been delivered from Egypt die in the wilderness?
7. What did Moses predict in regard to the future experience of the children of Israel?
8. Which words of Moses do clearly indicate that Christ was of the nature of Adam and not God Himself or a pre-existent angel?
(12) Israel Becomes The Kingdom of God on Earth
God Becomes Israel's King.
In this study we want to show that when God called Israel out of Egypt, He ultimately constituted the people as His nation. This means that references to the Kingdom of God have relation to a literal Kingdom on earth, as tangible as any other nation, with its King, country, people, laws, religion, and even its history.
Thus when the Bible speaks of the future setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth, it relates to the restoration of that which existed in the past, though in the future it will be world-wide, whereas in the past it was limited to Israel.
Under Moses, the children of Israel were taken out of Egypt, baptised by going through the Red Sea, and conducted down to Sinai, where God invited them to enter into covenant relationship with Him. He promised, that if they did so, He would establish them as His nation upon the earth:
“Ye shall be unto Me a peculiar treasure ABOVE ALL PEOPLE; for all the earth is Mine. Ye shall be unto Me a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND AN HOLY NATION” (Exod. 19:5-6; Deut. 10:15; 14:2).
Israel thus became the Kingdom of God on earth!
Consider the following expressions used in relation to that nation:
“Israel was His dominion” (Psalm 114:2).
“The Lord your God your King” (1 Samuel 12:12).
“Solomon sat upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord, over Israel” (1 Chronicles 28:5).
“Thine is the kingdom O Lord, and Thou art exalted as Head above all” (1 Chronicles 29:11).
“Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him” (v. 23).
“The Lord delighted in thee (Solomon) to set thee on His throne, to be king for the Lord thy God: because thy God loved Israel, to establish them for ever” (2 Chron. 9:8).
ChristRecognised The Earthly Kingdom Of God.
Israel's status as the Kingdom of God on earth, was recognised by the Lord Jesus, as is obvious from the expressions that he used. He told the unrighteous leaders of his day that their faithless attitude disqualified them to exercise authority over such a nation, and in consequence it would be taken away from them and given to his disciples (see Matthew 21:43; Luke 12:32; 22:29-30). On another occasion, he told the disciples:
“Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).
It was undoubtedly in anticipation of that time, that the disciples enquired of Jesus Christ after his resurrection: “Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).
They realized that it was the purpose of God so to do, and they looked forward with keen anticipation to the re-establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, when a disciplined, educated, rejuvenated Israel with Christ as its king, will reflect glory to its Maker, even Yahweh the God of Israel (Jeremiah 33:8-10).
The “Kingdom of God” is a Scriptural term, therefore, that denotes a divine, political kingdom, as real and tangible as any nation today. It once existed on the earth in the Kingdom of Israel. It was broken up and scattered among the nations because of the wickedness and rebellion of its leaders and people; but it will be restored again as the basis of God's purpose in all the earth.
The Kingdom of the future will be different from that of the past, however, for its authority will be vested in immortal Kings with Christ as chief. Thus the redeemed are promised:
“To him that overcometh, will I give power over the nations” (Rev. 2:26).
They are represented as singing:
“Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall REIGN ON THE EARTH” (Rev. 5:9-10).
Moreover, the Kingdom of the future will not be limited to Israel who will nevertheless occupy the “first dominion” (Mic. 4:8), but will incorporate all nations (Rev. 11:15; Isaiah 2. 2-4). Then Jerusalem will reassume its ancient status, and will again constitute the “throne of the Lord” on earth. The prophet Jeremiah declares:
“They shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all nations shall be gathered unto it; neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:17).
Israel Inherits The Land Of Promise.
The generation of Israelites that left Egypt proved faithless, and were not permitted to enter the Promised Land. For forty years they wandered in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses, until they all perished, and then, under Joshua, the succeeding generation passed over the river Jordan into the land where Abraham had wandered as a pilgrim.
Under the leadership of faithful Joshua, they were settled into their possessions, and during the period of his control and that of the elders associated with him, the nation was wisely and firmly guided (Joshua 24:31).
Before his death, Joshua gathered the people together, and reminding them of the benefits they had enjoyed under God, recalled the solemn covenant into which they had entered, and exhorted them to “cleave unto the Lord.” He promised that Divine blessings would be theirs if they obeyed God, but warned them of the awful consequences of disobedience.
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve,” he declared. “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua's stirring speech is recorded in Joshua chapters 23, 24.
The nation was thus established under a theocratic form of government. God was king, and the priests were the officers of His realm. The symbol of God's presence was the Tabernacle where the people worshipped, concerning which He had declared to Moses: “There will I meet with thee (Exodus 25:22). Success or failure, as far as the nation was concerned, depended upon how firm the High Priest was in enforcing the divine law, and how co-operative the people proved in obeying it.
Such a form of administration demanded the manifestation of faith, and here Israel failed. Human nature being what it is (Gen. 8:21; Jer. 10:23; Rom. 7:18), the absence of a visible king caused the disbelieving to forget that the eye of God was on them, so that they pleased themselves. Thus, if the High Priest proved weak, the nation did also, and as both Moses and Joshua had warned the people, it suffered in consequence.
And generally the High Priests proved weak.
Therefore, for a period of about 450 years, from the death of Joshua until Samuel the prophet, Israel's history is a record of alternating obedience to, and rebellion against, the Divine authority; and of punishment in time of disobedience, or of assistance when they turned again to God.
Whenever this occurred, “the Lord raised up judges (temporary rulers) who delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them” (Judges 2:16-19). The general conditions during this period are summed up in the book of judges thus:
“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
These chaotic conditions emphasised the need of the coming of that one who as the Seed of the Woman would bruise the bead of the serpent power of sin (Gen. 3:15), or as the Son promised Abraham, would rule over his enemies (Gen. 22:17), or as the leader promised through Moses, would compel the people to hearken (Deut. 18:18-19).
The righteous always looked forward to the time when this one thus promised would be manifested, and human nature will be thoroughly disciplined. Of him it is recorded that he will “reign in righteousness”, “rule with a rod of iron”, “magnify the law and make it honorable”, “shall not fail nor be discouraged till he has set judgment in the earth and the isles shall wait for his law” (Ps. 72; Rev. 2:26-27; Isa. 42:4, 21).
Though Israel constituted the Kingdom of God in the past, it was the Kingdom in a very imperfect state. When it is reestablished under Christ, it will reveal the glory to which it was originally designed (Jeremiah 13:11).
Where Israel Failed.
Israel failed mainly through the weakness of its priests. Established over the nation to act as shepherds to guide the people, they lamentably failed in their duty. Time and again God sent prophets to condemn the wicked practices of both priests and people (Jer. 5:31; Ezek. 34; Micah 3:11), and to warn them of the inevitable punishment that would follow their evil ways.
But, so great is the mercy of God, that these words of indictment were always blended with messages of hope to the righteous. God promised to send a righteous priest to Israel (Psalm 110:4), a true shepherd to feed the flock, “even my servant David” (or The Beloved-a title of Christ-Matt. 3:17), who would guide the people in wisdom (Ezek. 34:23-26). This one, yet to be manifested to Israel, shall “turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26), and will “destroy the veil that is over all nations,” and which prevents them comprehending the truth in Christ Jesus (Isaiah 25:7).
This was the prophetic message of all those whom God sent to Israel warning and pleading with them, and promising them hope if they would but turn to Him.
But, declared the prophet Jeremiah, “they would not bear” (Jer. 13:11). They turned a deaf ear unto God, and so the threatened punishment ultimately came upon them.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 12
1. In what place did the children of Israel receive God's laws and commandments after their delivery from Egypt?
2. What did God declare Israel to be, once they had entered into covenant relationship with Him?
3. Was there at any time in past history a “Kingdom of God” on earth?
4. According to the Biblical record the sons of David are represented as “sitting on the throne of the Lord”. Can you name one of the sons of whom this was said?
5. Quote a Bible passage where Christ's disciples indicated were waiting for the restoration of the Kingdom of God with Christ as king.
6. Who led the Israelites into the Promised Land after the wilderness wandering, and gave the tribes their portions in the land?
7. Which form of government did Israel have at this time, and for some time afterwards, and who had the duty to enforce the Divine laws?
8. Where in the Bible do we find reference made to a future high priest who shall not fail to enforce the law rightly and with power, thus effectively restoring peace and righteousness?
9. Will there at that time be a Divinely appointed centre of worship, and where?
(13) The Promise made to King David
Israel Demands A Visible King.
Previous studies have briefly covered the early history recorded in the Bible. It includes:
Creation, the Flood, and the selection of Abraham and his posterity as the channel of the Divine purpose (Genesis).
The deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and the covenant God made with the nation through Moses (Exodus to Deuteronomy).
The occupation of the Land of Promise by Israel (Joshua).
The period of the rule of the Judges (Judges and Ruth).
This brings us to the two books of Samuel, in which is recorded how that a visible monarchy was established over Israel.
This was made necessary to correct the anarchy that developed during the period of the Judges. The judges were heads of tribes set up in authority during times of emergency. They were neither hereditary governors, nor rulers chosen by the people. They were established in their positions by God, and therefore were His deputies.
Whilst they ruled, the people prospered, but in their absence, the nation declined and suffered, for authority was relaxed, and the people did as they pleased. The record states:
“There was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
This pin-points the cause of failure, for there should have been a King in Israel. Men should have recognised the royal status and authority of God, and submitted to His rule (cp. Judges 8:23). They failed to do so, however, and thus periods of anarchy were common.
The last judge appointed over Israel, and the most successful of them all, was Samuel. He united the whole nation, and brought it under complete control. God's law was elevated, and under his wise administration, the nation prospered (1 Samuel 7:15-17). Men of discernment began to dread the time when his control would be relaxed, and when his death would bring an end to a regime that had proved so successful in every way.
They saw that his sons did not manifest the virtues of their father, and recognised the need of some form of permanent authority to maintain the unity of the nation, and guide it for its good.
The solution, they believed, was in an hereditary king, a visible monarch to symbolise authority and to exercise it as did Samuel.
They made request for this to Samuel, a request that deeply disappointed him. He could only view it as lack of confidence in the system he had established over the nation. He took the matter in prayer to God, and it was revealed to him that the fault was even more deep-seated and serious than he had realized. The demand for a King expressed dissatisfaction with God's rule.
“They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me,” God told Samuel (1 Samuel 8:1-9).
Nevertheless, because experience is the greatest teacher, God granted the people their request, after solemnly warning them of the oppressions that could result from such a king (1 Samuel 8:10-17). Representatives of the nation were gathered together, and Saul of Benjamin was anointed first king of Israel.
Saul was accepted by popular acclaim of the people. He had all the external qualities to commend his appointment. He was well-built, of striking appearance, with a commanding aspect that earned the respect of those under him (1 Sam. 9:2; 10:23-24).
But he lacked the essential qualities for rulership in a theocracy: the virtues of faith and obedience. In a Kingdom where God was the real, if invisible, King, the absence of such qualities was fatal.
Saul commenced well, but his failure to carry out the will of God, proved that be was unsuited to the position, and he was deposed (1 Sam. 13:13-14; 15:11. Though of Israel, he had revealed himself to be a man of the flesh, a seed of the serpent, a progeny of Cain. He revealed this by his deadly determination to destroy his God appointed successor: David, the man after God's own heart. Saul's reason was swamped by anger and jealousy, and he became dominated by a murderous intent towards David, such as Cain had shown towards Abel.
But for the protection that God afforded David, he would have been destroyed by Saul. It was the enmity of the two seeds manifested once again (Gen. 3:15).
David Selected By God To Replace Saul.
The aged Samuel was given the sad task of telling Saul that he had proved a failure, and that God was about to replace him with a better man (1 Sam. 15:28). He was then sent to anoint the shepherd boy David, as king over Israel (1 Sam. 16:11-13; Psalm 78:70-72).
David's appointment was made secretly in order to protect him from the anger of Saul, and at first was not recognised by the people. His victory over the giant, Goliath, brought him into prominence before the people (1 Sam. 17, 18), and gradually it became known that he was the appointed successor to Saul.
This aroused the bitter antagonism of Saul who set out to destroy his rival. David was driven into exile, and was forced to live in constant jeopardy of his life throughout the remainder of Saul's life.
On the death of Saul, however, David was accepted by his own tribe of Judah, and, seven years later, was proclaimed king over all the twelve tribes (cp. 2 Sam. 2:11 with 5:3). His skill in war won for him victories in every direction, and soon his kingdom had extended into an empire, with the surrounding nations made subject unto him.
In all this, David typed the Lord Jesus Christ.
As Israel eagerly acclaimed Saul and only reluctantly accepted David (who proved by far to be the better king), so men readily put their confidence in the arm of flesh rather than in God. They will acclaim an Alexander, an Augustus, a Napoleon, but not the Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest leader of all time.
As Saul, the man of flesh, sought to slay David, so the Jewish people, as men of flesh, did slay the Lord Jesus.
As David was not at first accepted as king by Israel, so the natural seed of Israel continues to reject Christ to this present moment of time.
As David was first accepted by his own followers in exile, then by his own tribe when be came to power, afterwards by the rest of Israel, and finally by surrounding nations, so Christ is today accepted by his followers, will be first acknowledged as king by the Jews in the land at his return (Zech. 12:7), will be afterwards accepted by the rest of Israel who will then be restored to the land (Ezekiel 39:25-27; 37:22), and will finally extend his power over all nations (Zechariah 14:9; Isaiah 60:12).
By such incidents has God dramatized his future purpose to be worked out by the Lord Jesus at his coming.
David sinned, as all men sin, but despite his failings, he was pre-eminently a man of faith, always seeking to obey God's will. His great ambition was to attain unto the future Kingdom of God when the promised Redeemer and Messiah of Israel shall rule over a regenerated world at peace. He declared:
“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His Temple” (Psalm 27:4).
“I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (v. 13).
Many of the Psalms which he composed breathe forth his ardent hopes for the future. In common with Abraham and other worthies of faith, be looked forward to a resurrection from the dead unto life eternal. Here is a typical expression, revealing his hope to that end:
“Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side” (Psalm 71:20-21).
David was Israel's greatest king. Despite his weaknesses, he was a man of superb faith and courage who inspired men both then and since. He constantly sought God's help: as a youth when he was called upon to protect his flock from ravaging lions and bears; as a young man when he battled with Goliath in single-handed combat; as an exile when be fled from Saul in jeopardy of his life; as king when he sought Divine wisdom and guidance to rule the people.
His strength and his weakness are both faithfully recorded in the Bible. In a merely human document, the sins of Israel's most illustrious king would be carefully edited down in the national records, but the Bible being what it claims to be the Inspired Word of God depicts the character of David with ruthless frankness. We can thereby learn from his mistakes as well as by his example Of faith, courage and love of God.
God's Promise To David.
After David had been established in power, and all his enemies bad been subdued under him, he desired to express his gratitude to God by building a permanent Temple at which Israelites might assemble for worship.
The existing place of worship was the Tabernacle. It was but a temporary building, described as “a tent,” and therefore was a contrast to the palace which David had built for himself.
The king felt that it was incongruous that he should dwell in such splendor, whereas the symbol of God's “dwelling place in Israel”, should be so humble.
But God refused the request of David, on the grounds that he had been a man of war, and had shed much blood in battle (1 Chron. 28:3). The building of the Temple was reserved for a man of peace, who would foreshadow the ultimate peace of Messiah's reign. This was fulfilled when Solomon, the son of David, built the first Temple in Jerusalem.
David's request is recorded in 2 Samuel 7. Though God rejected it, He did appreciate the motives that moved him to make it; and in response thereto made promises to David of far reaching significance. The king was told:
“I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and MOVE NO MORE; neither shall the children of wickedness AFFLICT THEM ANY MORE” (v. 10).
“The Lord will make thee an house. And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom” (v. 12).
“He shall build an house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom FOR EVER” (v. 13).
“I will be his Father, and he shall be My son” (v. 14).
“Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever BEFORE THEE: thy throne shall be established FOR EVER” (v. 16).
The promise to David thus incorporates:
(1)-The re-establishment of Israel in the Land of Promise, never again to be removed nor afflicted (v. 10).
(2)-The setting up of a King upon the throne of David FOREVER who will be both Son of God and son of David (vv. 12-14).
(3)-The building of a House or Temple for God by this king (v. 13).
(4)-The manifestation of a faithful “house” or posterity In the line of David (vv. 11-12).
(5)-The death of David (v. 12) after which the seed would come, and his resurrection to life eternal so that he might see these things established forever “before him” (v. 16).
This promise follows in natural sequence the other two great covenants of promise made in Eden and to Abraham.
The first promised LIFE.
The second promised an earthly INHERITANCE.
The third promised AUTHORITY.
The son promised to David was the Lord Jesus Christ. This is established beyond all doubt by the words that Gabriel uttered to Mary before the birth of her son. She was told:
“Thou shalt conceive, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).
The fulfilment of these words demands the return of the Lord Jesus to this earth, to raise David and all like him, from the dead to life eternal; to restore Israel in its fullness; and to reign from Jerusalem as King.
David recognised that God had spoken “of Thy servant's house for a great while to come” (2 Sam. 7:19); he viewed the solemn promise of God as an “everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure” (2 Sam. 23:5).
The fulfilment of the promise to David became the great theme of the prophets, and is referred to in many passages of the Bible in relation to the future purpose of God. The following is a typical example:
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice IN THE EARTH. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called: The Lord our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-6. See also Jer. 33:15-17; 9:7; Amos 9:11).
The same covenant of promise is set forth in the New Testament as epitomising the mission of Jesus (Luke 1:31-33; 68-70; Mark 11:10; Acts 2:30). It was taught by the Apostles as a foundation doctrine of the Gospel (Acts 2:29-31). James declared:
“Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up; that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My name is called, saith the Lord, Who doeth all these things” (Acts 15:14-17).
Notice the principles involved in this declaration of the Gospel.
First, as to personal responsibility:
Visitation-God visited the Gentiles by arranging for the Apostles to preach the Word.
Invitation-The design was to take, or call to Him a people.
Separation-Those responding were to be taken “out of” the Gentiles.
Dedication-The purpose of their call was to constitute them a people for “His name” or character and purpose.
Second, as to His purpose:
The present call-To bring a people unto Himself.
The return of Christ-“I will return …”
The restoration of Israel-“will build again the tabernacle of David …”
The world-wide extension of Christ's rule-that “the residue (rest) of men might seek after the Lord.”
David To Witness The Fulfilment.
There are two significant features in the declaration made to David that are of profound importance.
First, he was told that be would die before the covenant was fulfilled: “Thy days shall be fulfilled …” (2 Sam. 7:12). Second, he was told he would see the ultimate fulfilment: “Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever BEFORE THEE”-or in your sight.
How are those two apparently contradictory statements to be reconciled? Certainly not by teaching that David ascended into heaven, because Peter was specific that “DAVID IS NOT ASCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS” (Acts 2:29, 34), and as we have seen, the theory of an immortal soul is false.
No, David's confidence was in a resurrection from the dead, as we have already shown. He declared: “God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave” (Ps. 49:15).
Like the Edenic and the Abrahamic covenants, the one made to David, is not limited to him, but is open to all who accept Christ in the way appointed. In fact, God invites us to associate with that covenant. He declares:
“Incline your ear, and come unto Me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David” (Isaiah 55:3).
This everlasting covenant is open to all who accept Christ through knowledge and baptism (Ephesians 2:11-13). Those who embrace it can anticipate a time of glory upon the earth when they shall be clothed upon with immortality, and shall enjoy the authority that was promised David. They will be able to sing the song of the Redeemed:
“Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10).
The Developing Purpose Of God.
Now notice the gradual development of God's purpose through the three great covenants of promise.
• The Edenic Covenant-Promised man redemption from sin and death, and set before him that which he had lost, namely the hope of life eternal through the coming of One who would triumph over sin and death and open the way to redemption for mortal man.
THE PROMISE TO DAVID ANALYSED
“When thy days by fulfilled” (v. 12)
After the death of David.
A long while after, see Luke 1:32-33.
“I will set up thy seed…”
God will provide a righteous decendant from David.
Jesus was the son of David (Matthew 1:1).
“I will be his Father, he shall be my son” (v. 14)
The birth of this Son would be by Divine intervention.
Jesus is the Son of God as well as the Son of David (Luke 1:35; Heb. 1:5).
“If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men” (v. 14)
This has been rendered better (see Adam Clarke): “In suffering for iniquity, I will chasten him the rod of men, and with the stripes due to the children of Adam.”
Though Christ did not sin, He inherited the effects of sin by coming in the mortal nature of all mankind. In this sense, He was chastened with the stripes due to the children of Adam, who first brought sin into the world (see Gen 3:17-19; Isa 53:3-12; Heb 2:14; 4:15; 5:8).
“He will build a house for my name.”
David wished to build a temple, but was not permitted to do so; the promised son would accomplish this.
Christ will complete a Spiritual Temple of living stones, made up of the resurrected and glorified faithful (1 Pet 2:5-9), and will, at his second advent, cause to be erected in Jerusalem, a house of prayer to which men will turn, and which will become a spiritual rallying point for all nations(Zech. 6:12; Isaiah 56:7; Isaiah 2:2-4.
“I will establish the throne of his Kingdom forever.”
The present state of David's Kingdom shows that this has not yet been fulfilled.
Both Old (Dan. 2:44; Zech. 14:9; Ps. 22:28) and New Testaments (1 Cor. 15:23-28; Mat. 25:31-33; Rev. 11:15) speak of the Kingdom of God upon the earth.
“It shall be established forever before thee” (v. 16)
Established in the sight of David forever.
By the resurrection of David from the grave, and the bestowal of immortality (Titus 1:2-3) at the return of Christ (2 Tim. 4:1, 8).
“I will ordain a place for my people Isreal, and will plant them, and they shall dwell in their place, and shall be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more.” (v. 10 cf. also 1 Chronicles 17:9)
This statement anticipated the scattering of Isreal and their ultimate regathering to the land again. The beginings of this today, show that the time is at hand for the vindication of the Davidic promise.
Isreal will be established as the head of the mortal nations, over which will be established Christ and his immortal associates (Isa. 32:1; Jer. 30:3, 24; Ezek. 37:21-22; Amos 9:11-15 ets.)
• The Abrahamic Covenant-channeled the work of redemption through Abraham and his seed (Gal. 3:28). It showed that the Redeemer would be a son of Abraham; that he would (after the type of Isaac) be also a Son of God; that he would be put to death, would be raised therefrom, and would open the way for a resurrection to life eternal to the true seed of Abraham, and bring blessings to all mankind through his rule. It promised to Abraham and his seed an earthly inheritance for ever; a place where the life promised in Eden could be lived, and granted Abraham for an eternal inheritance that which he gave up when he left Ur to obey God.
• The Davidic Covenant-Offered everlasting earthly authority to David and his seed over the inheritance granted by the promise to Abraham. By this means the seed of Abraham will reign upon the earth, bringing the blessings of a divine administration to all peoples.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 13
1. Whom did Israel fail to recognise as their king when they demanded Saul to be king over them?
2. Who was the last judge over Israel when they demanded a visible king?
3. Who was anointed as successor of Saul, and became the greatest king of Israel.
4. Give Scriptural proof that king David believed in the future resurrection of the dead.
5. Give 5 significant facets of the promise God made to king David according to 2 Samuel, Chapter 7.
6. Where do we read in the Bible that Jesus Christ is the “son” promised to king David, and the ruler who shall sit upon the throne of David “forever”?
7. For what purpose is God calling out a people from among the nations?
8. What are the “sure mercies of David”, mentioned by Isaiah (Ch. 55:3)?
SUMMARY OF BIBLE TEACHING ILLUSTRATING THE COVENANT MADE TO DAVID
The Lord Jesus will return to the earth visibly and personally:
“This same Jesus … shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11. See also Acts 3:19-20; Rev. 1:7).
The resurrection will take place, and the faithful will be granted eternal Me. They will be associated with the Lord Jesus to reign with him over the mortal populations of the globe.
“Many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life … ” (Daniel 12:2). “To him that overcometh will I give power over the nations” (Rev. 2:26. See also Isaiah 26:19; 1 Cor. 15:21-23, 53-54; Rev. 11:18).
The complete restoration of Israel will take place, and the nation (mortal subjects under immortal rulers) will form the first dominion to the world wide empire of Christ.
“I will make them one nation in the land upon the mount of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all” (Ezek. 37:21-22. See also Micah 4:8; Romans 11:26-27).
All nations will be disciplined, educated in divine principles, and brought under Christ's control.
“All nations shall call him blessed” (Ps. 72:17. See also 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Micah 4:1-4; Isa. 61:11; Rev. 11:15; Isa. 60:12).
Jerusalem will become the throne-city of the Lord.
“Jerusalem, the city of the great king” (Matt. 5:35. See also Jeremiah 3:17; Isaiah 2:2-4; 32:1).
A glorious Temple (a centre of universal worship will be erected In Jerusalem to which mankind will make periodical pilgrimage.
“It shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship” (Zech. 14:16. See also Zech. 6:13; Haggai 2:9; Isa. 56:7; Mark 11:17; Isa. 60:10-11).
Christ's millennial reign will embrace all nations.
“The Lord shall be king over all the earth” (Zech. 14:9. See also Psalm 72; Dan. 2:44; 7:27).
(14) The Kingdom Overturned: “Until He Come”
Civil Dissension Rends Israel Into Two.
David's reign over a united Israel was followed by that of Solomon his son (1 Chron. 29:23). Under his wise administration, the nation reached a pinnacle of power and prestige which will only be exceeded when Christ “the greater than Solomon” (Matt. 12:42) restores again “the Kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6; Matt. 19:28) and reigns as king.
The record declares:
“Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king instead of David his father, and prospered, and all Israel obeyed him” (1 Chron. 29:23).
He built up the commercial and political prosperity of the nation. Many of the cities were rebuilt, impressive palaces were erected for himself and his multitudinous wives, and a magnificent Temple was set up in Jerusalem dedicated to the worship of Yahweh.
The seeds of decay, however, were evident even in this glory. Although Israel had become a wealthy and powerful nation so that “silver and gold became as plentiful as stones, and cedar trees as sycamore trees for abundance” (2 Chron. 1:15), these riches had been wrung from the people by such oppressive measures of taxation as to cause them to remember the warning counsel of Samuel (1 Sam. 8:10-11). Moreover, with his increasing prosperity, Solomon's heart was lifted up in pride, so that he forgot the responsibilities that he owed unto God.
In the face of this spiritual decline, God proclaimed that He would rend the greater part of the Kingdom from. the control of Solomon's sons (1 Kings 11:26-34), and give it unto others.
The close of Solomon's reign found mounting difficulties on every side, and increasing resentment on the part of the people. A deputation was sent to his successor, Rehoboam,-demanding some relief from the oppressive taxation. Rehoboam, however, influenced by the headstrong advice of the more inexperienced and irresponsible counselors, refused this reasonable request, with the result that the nation was almost plunged into civil war. This was only prevented by the warning of God, and with growing tension, ten of the tribes seceded and formed a separate kingdom under Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:9-17).
Thus arose the distinction between Israel (ten tribes) and Judah (two tribes), referred to so frequently in Scripture (e.g. Ezekiel 37:21-22).
The Northern Kingdom Taken Into Captivity.
The spiritual condition of the divided nation continued to deteriorate. In mercy, God sent prophets to warn the people of the punishment that would inevitably fall upon them if they continued in the way they were proceeding, but the admonition fell on deaf ears. It is recorded:
“The people despised His words, and misused His prophets until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chron. 36:16).
The ten tribes proved to be the more wicked of the two kingdoms, and were the first to be punished. Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, marched against Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, about 700 b.c., and after a siege, the city fell (2 Kings 17:5; 18:10). In accordance with Assyrian policy, the people were taken into captivity and transplanted into different foreign parts.
Where Are The Lost Ten Tribes?
The theory is sometimes advanced, that these tribes migrated west through Europe until they reached England where they settled, and the claim is made, that Britain, America etc. are the “lost ten tribes of Israel.”
There is absolutely no true Scriptural support for this theory, and usually the very context of the references advanced to prove it, is sufficient to overthrow it.
The ten tribes were never “lost” in the sense advanced by this theory; they were “lost” spiritually (see Jer. 50:6). It is true that Jesus declared: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24; 10:16). But Jesus limited his preaching to Palestine, and this comment was made to a Gentile who pleaded his help. Therefore, the very action of the Lord illustrated that these “lost sheep of the house of Israel” were to be found in Jewry in the days of his preaching.
The Apostles used the term in the same manner. When Peter preached at Pentecost, he declared:
“Let ALL THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
He addressed them as “men of Israel,” and “elders of Israel” (Acts 3:12; 4:8), thus identifying Jews and Israelites as one and the same.
In like manner, when James wrote his epistle, he wrote it to the “twelve tribes scattered abroad” (James 1:1), showing that at that stage, the political identity of all the tribes of Israel had been retained.
The political status of the ten tribes, after being taken into captivity is described in the prophecy of Hosea:
“The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, without a prince, and without a sacrifice … afterward shall they return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days” (Hosea 3:4-5).*
Such a description as this cannot apply to the British which have had a long succession of kings and a political entity, but it can and does apply to the people of Israel (the Jews), which have been scattered among all nations, but are now returning to their land in fulfilment of the prophecy. God has a wonderful future for the Jewish people, after they have been humbled by reverses.
Fall Of The Southern Kingdom.
The southern kingdom did not heed the warning manifest in the punishment poured out upon the northern kingdom. Jeremiah sadly noted:
“For all this Judah hath not turned unto Me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord” (Jer. 3:10).
It was a time of spiritual chicanery and hypocrisy. Though the Temple services apparently flourished, the heart of the nation had turned completely away from God. During the period of the last king to sit on David's throne (Zedekiah) conditions sharply deteriorated, and the counsel of God's prophets and faithful priests were completely disregarded. The time came when God would bear it no more. A message was sent unto guilty Zedekiah as the responsible figure-head of the nation:
“Thou profane, wicked prince of Israel whose day is come when iniquity shall have an end. Remove the diadem, ad take off the crown; this shall not be the same … I will overturn it (the throne of David) and it shall be no more UNTIL HE COME WHOSE RIGHT IT IS: AND I WILL GIVE IT HIM” (Ezekiel 21:26-27).
This was a direct reference to the King promised David, the One who would establish his throne and kingdom for ever (2 Sam. 7:13). The declaration, therefore, stated that the throne of David would be completely overthrown, and never restored, until the Messiah comes to build it up once more.
This was the hope of the early communities of believers. Therefore, James quoted the words of the prophets applying them to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ at his second coming:
“After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David which 6 fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up” (Acts 15:16).
Because of God's purpose with Israel, the nation has never been destroyed, nor ever will be, though David's throne has been temporarily “in ruins.”
Judah was overthrown by Babylon in b.c. 606. Under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon had recently developed into a world power, and Judah was swallowed up with other nations in his march of conquest.
Nebuchadnezzar's policy in regard to conquered peoples was similar to that of the Assyrians before him. He took them into captivity, and dispersed them among his dominions, in order to prevent them rising against him. The Jews were treated in that way, and among those taken into captivity at that time was Daniel the prophet (see Dan. 1).
His prophecy makes exciting reading, particularly upon the background of his experiences, and in view of the fact that God's Kingdom on earth had then been broken up. Consider such declarations as the following:
“The God of heaven shall set a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people (i. e. its ruler shall be immortal), but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Ch. 2:44).
“The kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom UNDER THE WHOLE HEAVEN (notice-not in heaven) shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and all dominions shall serve and obey him” (Dan. 7:27).
Daniel gave an outline history of events from his day until the setting up again of the Kingdom of God (Dan. 2:28-44). He predicted the crucifixion of Christ (Dan. 9:26), and his ultimate glory (Dan. 8:25; 7:27), and showed that the faithful would be raised from the dead to inherit everlasting life (Dan. 12:2), and an inheritance upon earth forever (Dan. 12:13; Dan. 7:27).
His prophecies have had remarkable fulfilment to the present time, so that every confidence can be placed in the vindication of everything predicted.
Restoration Of Judah.
Jeremiah predicted that the Babylonian captivity would last for seventy years, after which the people would return (Jer. 25:12; 29:10-12). In fulfilment of this prediction, Babylon was overthrown by Persia about seventy years after Nebuchadnezzar, and in b.c. 536, a decree was issued by Cyrus the Persian, permitting Jews to return to their land (Ezra 1).
A small regathering of Jews was organized under Zerubbabel and Joshua, and ultimately a Jewish State came again into existence as recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Contemporary prophets, however, revealed that this was not the promised restoration, for that still awaits the future (see Haggai 2:7-9; Zechariah 1:14-17; 2:4-5; 6:12-13; 8:3-8, 20-23; 12:7-14; 14:9).
The Shadow Of Rome.
Some 450 years after Cyrus, a new menace to Israel's independence arose in the West. The Roman legions were on the march, extending the boundaries of the empire in all directions. The shadow of Roman rule stretched menacingly towards the east, and soon the tramp of its legions was heard.
Daniel had predicted that the nation of Judah would be swallowed up by Rome, and so it proved to be. Under the Herods, Judah lost its independence. It became but a province of the Roman Empire, with a resident governor to see that the orders of the Emperor were carried out.
Thus, at the birth of Christ, Herod the Idumean (Edomite) reigned in Jerusalem under the authority of the Roman power. Judah had lost its independence and was under the heel of the oppressor, or, as called in the prophecy of Daniel, “the desolator” (Dan. 9:27 marg.)
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 14
1. Who was the first successor of David that “sat on the throne of the Lord as king”?
2. Did the kingdom of God exist in the past, and where?
3. In which way were the 12 tribes of Israel broken up after Solomon's reign?
4. Why did God permit the people of Israel to be taken into captivity by other nations?
5. Until what time is David's throne to be overthrown, according to God's decree?
6. Which powerful nation dominated Palestine politically prior to and in the days of Christ?
7. Where in the Bible do we read that God will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down?
A BRIEF SYNOPSIS OF ISREAL'S HISTORY
The Call of Abraham.
Promises to Abraham.
Gen. 12:1-4, 13:14-17, 22:15-19
Promises confirmed in Isaac.
Promises confirmed in Jacob.
Jacob and his children in Egypt.
Gen. Chp. 46
Israel slaves in Egypt
Exodus Chp. 1
MOSES - his preparation and call.
Exodus Chp. 2-4
Contest between Moses and Pharaoh.
Exodus Chp. 5-12
Israel flees from Egypt.
Exodus 12:41, 13:18
Israel constituted the Kingdom of God.
Wandering in the Wilderness.
Number Chp. 10-26
Joshua chosen as successor to Moses.
Nb. 27:18-23, Josh. 1:1-9
Death and Burial of Moses.
Joshua leads Israel against Canaan.
Joshua Chps. 1-4
Subjugation of Canaan.
Joshua Chps. 6-12
Death of Joshua
Israel under Judges.
Book of Judges
Birth of Samuel.
1 Sam. 1:20
Samuel as Prophet and Judge
1 Sam. 7:15-17
Israel demands a visible King.
1 Sam. Chp. 8
Saul elected King - the people's choice.
1 Sam. Chp. 9-10
1 Sam. Chp. 13
David anointed King.
1 Sam. 16:13
Death of Saul.
1 Sam. Chp. 31
David, King over Judah.
2 Sam. 2:4
David, King over united Kingdom.
2 Sam. 5:3
God's Covenant with David.
2 Sam. 7:5-16
Death of David.
1 Kings 2:10-11
Revolt of Ten Tribes under Jeroboam.
1 Kgs. 12:16-20
Judah and Israel as independent Kingdoms.
1 Kgs. Chp. 13
2 Chron. Chp. 10
THE PROPHETS begin to record their prophecies!
Deportation of Ten Tribes (Israel) to Assyria by Shalmanezer approx. b.c. 700.
2 Kgs. 17:5-6
Judah continues under Hezekiah Manasseh, Josiah etc.
2 Kgs. Chps. 18-24
THE PROPHETS continue their warnings!
Nebuchadnezzar overthrows Judah, b.c. 606
2 Kgs. Chp. 25
Cyrus conquers Babylon and decrees, that Jews can return home. b.c. 536.
2 Chron. 36:22
Ezra and Nehemiah sponsor further Jewish return.
Ezra 7:7, Neh. 2:1
Victories of Maccabees consolidate Jewish State, B.B., 180.
The four Gospels
Rome extends her power eastward and eventually controls Palestine, b.c. 65.
The Apostles establish the early ecclesias.
The Acts of Apostles
Jewish Revolt against Rome and Destruction of Jerusalem, a.d. 70.
(15) The Ministry of the Lord and the Call to the Gentiles
Conditions In Palestine At Christ's Birth.
The Lord Jesus was born when Rome dominated Palestine politically, a foreign governor exercised control over Jerusalem, and a cold formalism robbed the worship of God of its power.
It was also a time when many Jews were looking for the coming of the promised Messiah (Mark 7:1; Luke 2:25-26, 36-38; John 1:45-47.) But they were looking for a powerful leader, and mighty warrior, who would overthrow their enemies, and bring to reality the visions of glory concerning which they read in their prophets.
Actually, the Old Testament prophets “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Pet. 1:11), but the Jews ignored the first, and concentrated on the second, so that when the Lord did appear as predicted, they rejected him.
They were not incorrect in looking for glory, but only in the time-setting at which it would be brought about.
The prophets had clearly predicted that Christ would come as the Lamb of God to be offered for the sins of men in fulfilment of the Edenic covenant (Isaiah 53). They had prophesied that be would die as a sacrifice (Daniel 9:26), that his executioners would “pierce his hands and his feet” (Ps. 22:16), and that this would be at the instigation of the Jews themselves (Zec. 12:10; 13:6-7).
But they also predicted his resurrection and second advent (see Acts 2:29-36), and they proclaimed the glory and greatness that will accrue to Israel when its Messiah-king shall reign upon the throne of David (Jer. 3:17; Isaiah 2:2-4; Amos 9:11-12; Psalm 2).
The Lord Jesus was the personification of all these promises and prophecies. He was the Word which bad been proclaimed from the beginning (John 1:1) “made flesh” (v. 14). He was the Seed of the Woman destined to bruise the serpent's head (Gen. 3:15), the Son of Abraham who will bring blessings to all nations (Gen. 22); the Prophet like unto Moses (Deut. 18), whose words the people will ultimately be compelled to accept (Acts 3:22-26); the King promised David who was to be both Son of David and Son of God (2 Sam. 7).
In Jesus Christ there was seen the Law and the Prophets walking in the midst of the people, and proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
The Jews Are Disappointed In Their Messiah.
But Jesus, who proclaimed that the time was not then ripe for his manifestation as the promised mighty leader, and taught that the cross must come before the crown (see Matt. 16:24-27), was a complete disappointment to the Jewish people.
They desired a powerful military leader capable of breaking the shackles of Rome, not a carpenter preaching that “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5); they looked for one who would destroy their enemies, not one who taught the doctrine of non-resistance to evil (Matt. 5:11-12, 25, 39); they were impatient for immediate power and glory, and were not prepared to set about conquering their own inclination whilst they waited for the Kingdom so long in the future.
Even his disciples failed to understand both him and his mission. The shame of his crucifixion finally convinced them that they had made a mistake in following him. “We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel,” they declared (Luke 24:21).
The Crucifixion of Jesus.
“Wicked hands” finally nailed Jesus to the stake, but it was nevertheless by “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of Cod” (Acts 2:23). He died, as a sacrifice for sin. On the cross he dramatized what is necessary to render perfect obedience unto God.
His flesh was crucified, so that he died. But figuratively he had crucified his flesh day after day, as he put to death its desires and refused to submit to them (Luke 22:42). He taught that sin came from within (Mark 7:21-23), and is therefore used as a metonym for the flesh, so that it is said, “He died unto sin once” (Rom. 6:10). In that crucified body, the desires of the flesh were rendered inactive, teaching his followers what they must do figuratively: “For they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections (passions Revised Version) and lusts” (Gal. 5:24).
His blood was poured out, as a symbol of a dedicated life. The Law taught that “the life of the flesh was in the blood” Lev. 17:11). and in sacrifice this had to be smeared upon the altar, as a token that the person's life would be dedicated to doing God's will.
In the ordinance of the Last Supper, Christ set forth the significance of his sacrifice (Luke 22:19-20). The unleavened bread represented his body that bad never sinned; the wine represented his blood (or life) that had been given in complete dedication to God. Now both were to be offered in sacrifice for the redemption of the family of God.
The one (the bread) was the token of a negative offering, the denial of flesh; the other (the wine) was the token of a positive offering, the manifestation in life of the principles of God.
Those who come unto God through baptism into Jesus Christ, are baptised “into his death” (Rom. 6:3), in that it is a public declaration that they will seek to follow Jesus in the sacrifice he offered.
They do not do so perfectly, but in Christ, there is “forgiveness of sins” and upon the mercy of God they can lean in confidence (1 John 1:9).
The charges laid against Jesus by which his accusers procured his death were two: a charge of blasphemy, and a charge of political insurrection.
The charge laid against him by the Jews was that of blasphemy, because he claimed to be the Son of God (Luke 22:70-71). For this they condemned him to death. But Pilate, the Roman governor, ordered him to be crucified, not on account of blasphemy but because he claimed to be the king of the Jews (John 18:37; 19:14-19). This was the accusation placed over his cross: Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.
The Lord Jesus Christ will yet return to the earth to vindicate the truth of his claim.
The Return Of Christ.
The Jews crucified Christ saying: “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” In a.d. 70 those words had terrible fulfilment. The Jews had revolted against the Romans, and the legions marched against them, inflicting great cruelty upon the people. Jerusalem was besieged and conditions within the city reduced to a terrible state. Internecine strife and bloodshed had broken out within the walls, whilst the enemy without inflicted terrible losses and awaited the inevitable end of the most terrible siege in history. Over a million Jews bad been destroyed, and the remnant were scattered throughout the world. Jesus had predicted this. He bad declared:
“They (the Jews) shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, UNTIL the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).
It is of the greatest significance that in recent years, Jerusalem has been cleared of foreign domination, and after 2000 years of such, that Jews today occupy it. Though this is not the restoration spoken of in the prophets, it is a token pointing to that time.
Three days after Jesus was crucified, he was raised from the dead, and forty days later, he ascended to the Father in heaven (Acts 1:3; Mark 16:19). Those days were spent in instructing his Apostles in divine truth. Among other things, be explained that God would restore the Kingdom to Israel at the time appointed, whilst meanwhile the Gospel must be preached that a people might be taken out of the Gentiles for God (Acts 1:3, 6-8; 15:14).
Then came the time that he must leave them. As they conversed together on the Mount of Olives, he was taken up from them into heaven. As they stood watching him ascend, two angels stood by them, and declared:
“Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, in like manner, as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
The Establishment Of Ecclesias.
With a thrilling message of hope to take to the people, the Apostles commenced the work of preaching. They proclaimed the message of a risen Christ who would return again to the earth and set up thereon his universal reign. They called upon men and women to believe this message and to be baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus they fulfilled the mission be had delivered unto them to do:
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel; he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved …” (Mark 16:16).
Gradually communities of believers were established throughout the world. They were organized into Ecclesias, a word that has been rendered “church” in the Bible, but which signifies when properly translated from the Greek, “called out ones.” These answer to the description of Acts 15:14: “God did visit the Gentiles, to take OUT OF THEM, a people for His name.”
The Ecclesias were exhorted to live so as to have Christ as their example (1 Pet. 2:21-25), to live in anticipation of his return (2 Thess. 3:5), when they would reign with him (2 Tim. 2:12). They were taught that they were spiritual Israelites (Gal. 6:16), having embraced the national hope of Israel by baptism into Christ (Eph. 2:11-13), and constituting the heirs of the promises made from the beginning (Gal. 3:26-28).
They were taught that outside of this “one faith” (Eph. 4:5) there was “no hope” (Eph. 2:12), and that natural Jews bad forfeited their claim to the title of “Israelites indeed” by their rejection of Christ Jesus (Rom. 11:7).
The Coming Of An Apostasy.
But the Apostles also warned, that as Israel had drifted from God, so also could these Gentile believers. In fact, they predicted an apostasy from the one faith. Paul warned:
“I know this, that after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).
“The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
These warning words have had sad fulfillment. In course of time truth became submerged by a flood of error. The Ecclesias lost their distinctive character, and though the churches that arose claimed to be Christian, they were found denying the doctrines of Christ. Christendom today is astray from the Bible. Such ideas as the immortality of the soul, the trinity, heaven going as a reward, an immortal devil, and other theories, are completely erroneous. A personal responsibility rests upon every individual to seek out the truth for himself if he would be saved (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:1-2).
The Truth Today.
But God has never left Himself without a witness in the earth. And down the centuries little communities have arisen holding aloft the torch of Truth, proclaiming their hope in the return of Christ and the setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth. And as again and again, these communities have drifted into error, so fresh ones have arisen to proclaim the old truths. We claim that today the torch of Truth is held by the Christadelphians-a word signifying “Brethren of Christ” (see Hebrews 2:10-11). This community, like all the other communities down the centuries, proclaims its belief in the return of Christ to set up his Kingdom on earth, with this difference; the signs of the times show there is a greater urgency in the message today, for they reveal that the world is on the very eve of the most dramatic event in all history-the personal visible return of the Lord Jesus in glory.
The Apostle John was the last of the Apostles to die. Before his death the Lord appeared to him and gave him the book of Revelation-the last book in the Bible. In its closing chapter we hear for the last time, until it will be heard again in the future, the Voice of Christ: “Behold, I come quickly (or suddenly, as the word in the original implies): and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” And to these words, the Apostle added his own, which all true followers of the Lord will endorse: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Rev. 22:12-20, 21).
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 15
1. What did the Jews expect of their Messiah at his coming?
2. Why did they reject him?
3. Why was it necessary for Christ to die?
4. Where do we read that this same Jesus shall come again in like manner as the disciples saw him ascend?
5. Where is it recorded that the Truth would be perverted?