DAY OF CHRIST STUDIES
FELLOWSHIP AND THE SPIRIT OF
TRUTH AS IT IS IN JESUS
By John Aldworth
John 16:13-15 and Eph. 4:21.
To know God is to know fellowship, for God loves fellowship. 1 John 1:3 states: “... truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”.
And in Eph. 4:21 we learn that from his position in glory the Lord Himself seeks to personally teach one of us “the truth as it is in Jesus”.
Fellowship is more than exchanging information, which is mere knowledge; true fellowship is sharing one’s heart. It is sharing truth, that is, full understanding acquired through experience (Col. 2:2). And the means of exchange as the writings of both the Apostle John and the Apostle Paul declare is love and faith (see Eph. 2:4, 1 Tim. 1:14, Eph. 4:15).
If you would understand the heart of God you must understand his desire for fellowship, in love, in truth, with all his purposes, both for now and for the future, in mind. How deeply God longs to impart the truth of his ultimate plan. Almost the entire Bible is full of it. As to the strength of his will in this matter, consider the words of Jesus in Luke 22:15. “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”. Deep desire, because, as vs. 16 implies, he would not eat Passover with the disciples again until the Day of Christ 2,000 plus years later.
Since God is a sharing, loving, fellowshipping God, it should be no surprise that Adam was made to be a sharing, loving, fellowshipping man made “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:26-27). He was made to have dominion, to rule over nature but only in fellowship with God. Today true happiness and fulfilment in life is found only in fellowship with God.
Gen.3: 8:10 records the rupture of the fellowship in which God had communed with our first parents in the Garden of Eden. Study of verse 8 discloses that the nature of this fellowship was spiritual. They heard “the voice of God” and elsewhere “voice” is translated “footsteps”, the “sound of a going” (2 Sa. 5:24, 1 Ki. 14:6). The first man and wife did not see Elohim’s form; they heard his “going”, sensed his “footsteps” in the “cool” (breeze of the evening) in the garden. Also God spoke directly to Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:28-30, 2:16-17).
What did God talk to Adam about? Clearly from Gen 1:26, 29-30, 15-17, 19-20 and 21-25 the discourse concerned how man should rule over his earthly kingdom, keeping the garden, dressing it, naming and ruling animals, eating the right food and reigning with his wife Eve as consort. But did God impart something of his future plans before sin entered? It is hard to imagine God having real “fellowship” with the un-fallen Adam if He did not answer the basic questions every person, every sentient creature has:
Who am I?
Who rules this world?
What is my purpose?
What must I do?
What is my role and relationship to God?
What happens in the future?
For example, did God explain why in Gen 1 He perfectly created the heaven and the earth in verse 1, only for it to become waste, empty, darkened and covered with water in verse 2? Is it between these two verses that Christ the Creator (Elohim) saw Satan “fall as lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:17-18)? Was Satan the original ruler of Earth until his fall (Ezek. 28 and Isaiah 14) and was Adam created to take his place? Was the earth marred and submerged as penalty for the archangel’s transgression and the sin of his kingdom (2 Pet. 3:5-7).
Did this calamity take place in a first flood which would make Noah’s flood the second? (Notice that the “world that then was” comprised both the “heavens of old” and the “earth standing out of the water and in the water”. Noah’s flood involved only water flooding the earth, not the destruction of the heavens as well.)
HOW GOD HAS SOUGHT FELLOWSHIP WITH MAN SINCE THE FALL
Let us study Psalm 19. In verse 7 there is a change of subject that baffles most Bible students and teachers. From talking about the glory of the heavens for the first six verses the psalmist suddenly switches to talking about the written word, the Law, meaning the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. What is the connection?
Answer: The psalm declares that the glory of the remade heavens (see Gen. 1:7; 8,14-16, etc), on one hand, and the written word of God on the other. are God’s TWO APPOINTED MEANS of fellowship with man.
The Pentateuch was written by Moses about 1490BC. That means that for 2500 years, from Adam’s creation (around 4000BC) to Moses’ writing, mankind at large could only know of God through his revelation through the sun, moon and stars, since no written record existed. Indeed it appears God had created the heavenly luminaries for this very purpose (Gen. 1: 14-18).
Psalm 19: 1-6 explains how this heavenly revelation of the Creator works. Note that the heavens “declare” (vs 1), they “utter speech” and “shew forth knowledge” (vs 2). The firmament “sheweth his handy work” (vs 1). Tongues were divided in Gen 10 at the tower of Babel but vs 3 declares there is (was) “… no language nor speech in which their message was not heard.” Furthermore:
“Their line (inheritance) is gone out throughout all the earth (i.e. erez, the created earth) and their WORDS to the end of the world (the inhabited earth)” (vs 4).
The revelation of God was contained in the course of the sun and the moon, which rule day and night and are “for signs and for seasons and for days and for years”. Also there was truth in the movements of “the stars also” (Gen. 1:
How could this message in the heavens be rightly understood? Corrupted elements of the godly message of sun, moon and stars remain in the pagan tradition of every people. Today the New Age movement sees the evolution of a new “more spiritual” race as the Age of Aquarius replaces the Age of Pisces. And a form of the Zodiac was indeed known and understood by the ancients. The grand precession of the equinoxes as the sun in its minutely changing orbit around the earth moves through various “houses” of the starry heavens is of course the basis of the Zodiac and, yes, it depicts the great changes God makes in his dealings with man from the Creation through to eternity. There are 12 signs of the Zodiac, just as it held by some there are 12 dispensations in all. The following are tentatively suggested for consideration:
The pre-chaos age or world of angels
The Dispensation of Innocence
The Dispensation of Conscience
The Dispensation of Human Government
The Dispensation of Law
The Dispensation of Grace
The Day of Christ
The Day of the Lord
The Day of God
The Dispensation of the Fulness of Times
The Age of the redemption of angels
No less a person than Jehovah refers to the Zodiac for our attention in Job 38:32 asking Job if he can “bring forth mazzaroth in his season? The King James Bible margin note says “or the twelve signs” that mark the path of the sun through the heavens. The Zodiac also appears in Gen. 37:9 where the sun, moon and eleven stars make obeisance to Joseph, the twelfth star.
Of course, the Zodiac, God’s message in the stars, can only be understood if one knows where to begin to read the story, which according to the Companion Bible entails Satan’s first rule and fall, man’s creation and fall, the promise of redemption, Noah’s flood, the coming of the Redeemer, his rejection, death and resurrection, his coming again, the redemption of men and angels and the final remaking of a righteous heavens and earth. But in a circle of signs – and God says the sun moon and stars are for signs - how would one know which sign to begin with?
ENTER THE SPHINX
The name Sphinx is derived from sphingo, a Greek word meaning to “join”. The huge stone monument in the Egyptian desert shows clear signs of water damage for two thirds of its height. Was it submerged in Noah’s flood? Some believe so. Importantly, the Sphinx has the face of a woman and the body and tail of a lion. It therefore told the ancients that the right way to “read” the Zodiac was to begin at Virgo and end with Leo. Then God’s redemption message in the stars could be read aright. Doubtless long before the Sphinx’s construction Satan perverted understanding of the heavenly message, just he perverts and obscures the written word of God today – But “we are not as many which corrupt the word of God” (2 Cor. 2:17). Yet to this day the Sphinx stands, a massive monument to God’s heavenly truth. The Zodiac is also in view in Gen. 11 when God judges mankind for corrupting his message in the stars. The Companion Bible notes that the words “may reach” in verse 4 are in italics and therefore not in the original Hebrew. The verse should therefore read:
“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower and its top with the heavens.”
This means that at its top the tower of Babel would have had a zodiac, as found in the ancient temples of Denderah and Esneh in Egypt. God’s judgement, confounding tongues for the one language speakers was succinct, effectively telling them: “Confuse my words and I’ll confuse yours.”
MARK THE SUN
Ps. 19:4 states: “In them (i.e. the heavens vs 1) hath He set a tabernacle (i.e. a dwelling place, or series of ‘houses’) for the sun. Like “a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, (he) rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race”. The meaning for us is that just as the sun daily completes his circuit around the earth, so God will unfailingly and perfectly bring about the different ages and dispensations he has fore ordained for man and the angels.
Note verse 6: “His going forth is from the end of heaven and his circuit to the ends of it.” The sun goes round a stationary earth, not the earth round a stationary sun – and the whole timetable of God’s past, present and future purposes and dealings is described in it. No less than 10 time measurements hang on it, each beginning in Gen. 1 and marking out in different cycles all that is to come (see Dan. 9:24 for example). Believe the science fiction story of a heliocentric solar system instead of the biblical truth that the sun circles the earth and the entire prophetic time structure of the Bible is lost.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE PSALM
In them the sun (verses 1-6)
The written words of God
In them thy servant (verses 7-14).
Just as the sun and moon orbit the earth, precise in their cyclical movements, and the pattern of the stars foretell times past and times to come, so God’s word spells out the story of the God “who was and is and is to come”. Just as the sun’s precession foretells changing epochs, so the word of God exactly indicates differing dispensations.
Just as, in the case of the sun, nothing on earth is “hid from the heat thereof” (vs. 6), so the word, new in each dispensation, shines out to the whole world (see Col.1:6, Titus 2:11).
Proof that this is so and that all mankind has “seen (the stars) and heard (the word)” is found in Rom. 10:18 where Paul quotes from Ps 19: 4 applying it to the word of God’s good news. Sadly he has to report in Rom. 10:16 that despite “their sound going into all the earth”, all have “not obeyed the gospel”.
(To be continued).
HAVE YOU FOUND YOUR CALLING? - Part I
By John Aldworth
Published 3 August 2012
Without a vision the people perish, and without a calling a man is lost. So may I ask: Have you found your calling? Have you heard an inner voice matched by a strong inner desire telling you what should do? Is your life focussed on it?
Without a calling a person is like a ship without a course to steer, sailing at whim of wind and wave. In fact finding your calling answers important questions like: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?
I’m grateful to God a calling came early in my life. At the age of nine, a lonely, only child born of wandering parents, I fell in love with a typewriter and knew I would be a writer. This was confirmed at grammar school by high marks in English Language and Literature, and mediocre or poor results in other subjects. Also by my teacher who said: “Go be a writer, you’re not fit for anything else.”
Now finding one’s career is a great thing; discovering who you are in God quite another. Not until my thirties did I realise being a hard-shelled newspaperman wasn’t everything and certainly not enough to keep a wife happy. In the lonely aftermath of a crashed marriage I had to ask again: Who am I? What am I here for? The answer, unexpectedly, came years later from a woman with whom I had an uneasy and not lasting relationship. “This is not working,” she said. “I need to go back to my roots.” That got me thinking. What were my real roots? What was my real identity?
Some time later the answer broke through my depression with surprising warmth. “Shouldn’t you be a preacher like your father? Wouldn’t that really satisfy the longings of your heart?” a voice whispered.
At any other time I would have given such a suggestion short shrift. My life to date had been built on making my own way, being my own man. Being a servant of Jesus Christ like my Dad was the last thing I wanted to do. I knew all too well what it had cost him. Years of seemingly fruitless toil joined with rejection even by those he ministered to. Arguments with church deacons and, worse of all, constant bitter carping from my mother who felt Dad had deliberately abandoned her to go out preaching. As a small child I also felt left behind. I had just got to learn to play cricket with my Dad when the preaching took over. From then on every weekend he was off preaching and cricket was forgotten.
I also knew what Dad had suffered. Years in and out of hospital, years of poverty, all necessary, Dad said, to bring him to crisis point. When his pride finally broke he cried out to the Lord to save him. Like Jacob, Dad often wrestled with God. Even as a preacher he always visibly squirmed with tension before preaching. “Often I really don’t want to preach but I have to,” he explained. No way, I vowed, was I going to suffer such difficult subjection.
But many years later there I was with an inner call urging me to follow in Dad’s footsteps. Well, I wasn’t ready for that, but I knew that I needed saved. However, that miracle only happened after much fruitless attending of church services, responding to altar calls, even asking ministers to pray for me. When peace finally came it did so quietly in the home of my cousin and her husband as they prayed and an evil spirit was broken from me.
So have you heard God’s call in your life? Has he spoken to your heart? It is God’s will that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). What truth? Why, that Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins and to deliver us from this present evil world (Gal. 1:4).
The call to get saved is a general call to all men. Once saved, of course, believers receive a further call, this time to serve Christ as their Lord and Master. “You mean that once saved I have to obey Christ at all times and do what He says?” I hear you ask. Exactly so and, if you’re like me, you will spend the rest of your life learning how to do just that.
But God’s callings in the Christian life don’t stop there. There are calls to specific areas of service and there is the question of which church you have been called to. No, I don’t mean whether you choose to attend the Baptist, Anglican or other church in your neighbourhood. I mean which church in the Bible you have been called out to be a member of.
You see, the very word “church” means a company of called out people and for sure there are different churches in the Bible, each with a different calling. For example there is Israel, the “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:44) and there is the “church which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). Both are very different.
In Mt. 16:18 we see Jesus saying, “…upon this rock will I build my church”. The “rock” was the revelation given by the Father to the Apostle Peter that, “Thou art the Christ (i.e. Messiah to Israel), the Son of the living God”. Indeed every church found in the Bible is built on the foundation of a revelation of new truth.
So once you have responded to the universal call to be saved, God will make known to you his other callings on your life. As always, of course, you are free to accept these calls or to reject them. But know this: your choices have eternal consequences. Indeed they will both shape and determine your eternal destiny. More on that in the next part of this series.
HAVE FOUND YOUR CALLING? Part II
By John Aldworth
Eph. 2:5: “Even when we were dead in trespasses and sins hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved).”
2 Tim. 1:9: “(God) who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. But now is made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ who hath abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”.
This is the second study in the series, What Is Your Calling? The first paper pointed out the importance of being personally called by God, of being truly saved from sin and its consequences by the Lord Jesus Christ. It was suggested that once he is converted God then presents the believer with a further calling as to the church he will join. I am not talking of whether you become a Roman Catholic or join the Presbyterian, Baptist or Anglican Church or whether you become a Pentecostal or join the Brethren. Actually no denomination or church organisation today can be found by name in the Bible If you think you are “called” by God to join anyone of them, may I suggest that you are sadly mistaken.
The issue is whether you want to be called by God or by men. You see, the “gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:29); they are holy and spiritual. By contrast the callings of men are fleshly, worldly and carnal. They are temporary, misleading and lead to spiritual shipwreck. This is because the organised church operates on worldly wisdom, which scripture describes as “sensual and devilish”; it is run like a business.
Often newly saved Christians feel “called” to a particular church, perhaps because of its attractive music, huge numbers, ancient ritual or charismatic pastor but usually they don’t ask what the church believes and whether it stacks up against the Bible. Nor do they study the Bible to learn the calling of God and follow that. Congregations also “call” ministers unto them as pastors and those who accept say they feel “called” to accept such paid positions. While such “callings” may seem a quick way to find fellowship or to serve the Lord in my experience they come at the expense of true fellowship with God.
You see, these are the callings of men not of God, just as there is an Israel of men which is not of God. Thus the present state of Israel exists as the Israel of man, while the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16), which ceased to be in the first century AD, has yet to re-appear. It will only do so in the yet future “times of refreshing” and “times of restitution of all things” promised by God through the Apostle Peter in Acts 3:19-21. Likewise there is a “day of man” (1 Cor. 4:3 and see KJV margin note) and a “day of God” (2 Pet. 3:12). We are in the 6,000th year of history and this is man’s day. Thus religion in the form of what man can do abounds while that which God alone can do through the “grace which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1) is held of little value.
Importantly, God’s several and different callings are clearly and separately named as such in scripture. All are sovereign and some are unique. God called only one Abraham and one Paul, for example. God’s callings are not popular and usually few follow them. Consider this: When God called Abraham how many followed him? Answer: Very few. Lot and Ishmael soon parted company with him. Had the “Father of faith” hung out a shingle to announce a weekly service meeting only Sarah, Isaac and perhaps servant or two would have comprised his “church”. And in their lives Isaac and Jacob fared no better. And, after three and a half years of the most gracious and loving ministry ever seen the disciples fled at Jesus’s arrest and only 120 waited for the outpouring of the Spirit in the upper room. Again, thousands were converted under the Apostle Paul’s Acts period ministry, yet when he wrote Second Timothy only Luke was with him – a prison cell church of just two.
Were the “churches” just mentioned above in existence today, so called “Christians” would shun them simply because they lack the “numbers”. Yet when it comes to his callings numbers aren’t God’s priority. Finding a heart truly willing to follow Him is.
What’s more, like it or not, God chooses whom He will call. Hundreds of scriptures attest to this fact. In Eph. 1:1 and 4 the “faithful in Christ Jesus” are told they were “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world”. It is true as Jesus said that “many are called but few are chosen”. It is also true that many are called who refuse to respond. Sadly many have no idea what the true calling is and choose a works-based, man-made religious vocation instead.
I’ll write this large: TODAY GOD’S QUICKENING IS HIS CALLING.
What’s more his calling today is into one church and church only. It is the “Church which is His Body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). Today God is not saving people to become grafted into the olive tree of Israel as He was in the Acts period, He is not calling people to be water baptised into the “Church of God”, which began on the Day of Pentecost and was the true and only calling of God throughout the Acts period.
As to the means of God’s calling today, the Apostle Paul, writing at the Spirit’s behest, makes plain that this is the quickening and the quickening alone. Eph. 2:5 says bluntly that:
“Even when we were dead in sins (God) hath quickened us together Christ (by grace ye are saved).”
Do you get it? There’s no repentance involved here, there’s no receiving Jesus Christ as your Saviour, no inviting Him in, no confession of sin, no altar call and certainly no water baptism. All those are things man does to supposedly get right with God and today none of them get anybody right with God as the powerlessness of an apostate Christendom attests.
True calling today is entirely an act of God. And it is instant. There you are dead in trespasses and sins when suddenly “for the great love wherewith He loved us” Eph. 2:4) God quickens you “together with Christ”.
Proof that this quickening owes nothing to orthodox means of getting people “saved”, is that not a single evangelist I know of would dare to suggest that going forward on an altar call, repenting, “giving your heart to Jesus”, inviting Him into your heart” or any other would result in one being instantly “...raised up together and made (to) sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). Yet this is what scripture says.
It is vital to understand that this calling, this quickening is unique to the dispensation of grace and the Mystery given to the “prisoner of Christ for you Gentiles” (Eph. 3:1-2) after closed the book on Israel and sent salvation to the Gentiles in Acts 28:28.
If God’s word be true and it is, then sinners today are not being saved by the means of conversion set out in the pre-prison Acts period epistles of Paul, the gospels or the Old Testament. The quickening while we are dead in trespasses and sins is part of the “mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4) “which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit”. It is God’s calling of those people He has chosen to be members of the “…Church which is His Body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.”
This why the Apostle Paul stresses: “For by grace ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Of course, it still remains true that it is “… the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity …” (Titus 2:14) but the way in which His dying for our sins is applied to effect our salvation has changed. Back in the Acts period those who would be saved were told: “Be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor.5:20). Now in the prison epistles dispensation of grace they are told they have been at one stroke quickened out of death in sin to life in Christ.
Rather than “be ye reconciled unto God” believers in this new dispensation are told that “…you that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the Body of His flesh through death to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight” ( Col. 1:21-22).
It is a different calling. So different in fact that the hope of this new calling is to appear with Christ in glory (Phil. 3:3-4). That is that at resurrection we should bodily join Christ in the heavenlies, that realm above the heavens in which we are already spiritually and positionally “seated together with Him” By contrast the hope of their calling was for Acts period believers that of being resurrected into the Lord’s kingdom on earth at his second coming. We will study that more closely in the next paper in this series.
(To be continued).
UNDERSTANDING THE HEREAFTER
by John Aldworth
There are many things we do not know in this life. And there is much in the Bible that we will only fully understand in the hereafter. But we should grasp them by faith now. You see, a true understanding of what God has is saying to believers in Pauline present truth today is impossible unless we take account of life to come in the hereafter.
For example Jesus told the disciple Nathaniel that “in the hereafter” he would see “...the heavens open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of the Man” (John 1:51). But when did that happen for Nathaniel? The only clue bible reference systems and commentaries offer is to refer the reader to Gen. 18:12-22 which records Jacob’s dream of:
“…a ladder set up on earth and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.”
But that doesn’t really help because Jacob didn’t see the Son of the Man in his vision and nowhere in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Acts or the rest of the Bible are we told of the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise to Nathaniel.
So will the Lord keep his word and will Nathaniel one day see the heavens open and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man? Yes indeed, but evidently only in the hereafter. And Nathaniel won’t be the only one to see it. Even the Lord’s enemies will see Him in the hereafter. In fact everybody will. We are told in Rev. 1:7 that:
“Behold He cometh with the clouds and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.”
Is that in the hereafter? Absolutely it is. Consider the words of Jesus in Mt. 26:63-64 when at his trial before the Sanhedrin He was adjured by the high priest to say whether he was the Christ:
“Jesus saith unto Him: Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
Jesus’s trial took place in AD33. Within days He was crucified, then rose again. Everyone that he spoke to during his lifetime on earth died within the next few decades, including those present at his trial. The death rate is still 100 per cent. To date no one has been resurrected saved the Lord Himself. Nor has anyone yet seen the Lord coming in the clouds of heaven.
Clearly then the hereafter refers to a time yet to come. So, to speak of “the hereafter” is to talk of life after death. Thus Collins Dictionary defines the hereafter as “a future state, a future existence”.
In Scripture the word has a special meaning with regard to the Christ’s coming again. It is used in the gospels exclusively, not of the time of his personal bodily arrival, but of the blessed day when He will be seen to be coming (Titus 2:13). The Bible holds out the thought that Christ will first be revealed in power and majesty in the heavens, then seen “coming in the clouds”, all long before his actual arrival on earth in personal bodily presence. Scripturally, it is one thing to see a person coming from afar; quite another to hug them on actual arrival.
In just such a way the Bible distinguishes two comings of the Lord, even employing different Greek words to describe them, using erchomai for the seeing, or sign, of his coming and parousia for his coming in personal, bodily presence. Perhaps you remember it was “the sign of his coming” that his disciples asked Jesus to disclose to them in Matt. 24:3. That sign is his erchomai, the revelation to all of his coming into full kingdom power and glory in the heavens.
At his erchomai all on earth will see the heavens opened and Jesus will be seen “coming in the clouds” with power. A separate later event will be his parousia, his actual bodily arrival on earth. Importantly, a long interval of time, perhaps as much as 1,000 years separates these two events. Doesn’t Scripture say “a day is with the Lord as one thousand years” (2 Peter 3:8).
It is important to see that in Mt. 24 and elsewhere hereafter is used of future events that all earth dwellers will come to see and know. Thus in Daniel 2:29 Daniel tells king Nebuchadnezzar that in his night visions…
“…thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter and He that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.”
Many hold that the king’s dream of a great image with head of gold, chest and arms of silver and belly, thighs of brass and legs of iron mentioned, the object of his dream, has already been fulfilled in the earthly empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. But the king’s questions concerned the hereafter not the near future, and in verse 28 Daniel makes that clear, saying that God “…maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.”
The latter days describes the end In fact with one exception all Daniel’s recorded visions and dreams concern this time period which is also described as the hereafter and the time of the end (Daniel 12:4). It is the same period of time that Jesus spoke of in Matt. 24:14 when he said that after the gospel of the kingdom is preached as a witness to every nation “…then shall the end come”.
And if the end is yet to come in the latter days and the time of the end, then both they and the hereafter lie in the far future. That means fulfilment of the great image dream didn’t come to pass in the centuries preceding the Lord’s first coming as Messiah to Israel. Therefore it can only come to pass as the Bible says it will in the hereafter.
Getting back to the two different future comings of the Lord, note the different Greek words Scripture uses to describe them. Parousia (meaning: actual presence with) is used to describe the Lord’s physical return to earth while other words such as erchomai (apparently meaning to be seen) , apokalupsis (a revealing) and epiphaneia (a shining forth) are variously used to denote his appearing as opposed to his actual physical coming. No wonder, in his later epistles the Apostle Paul urges believers to be:
“…looking for that blessed hope and the appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
We should understand that this wonderful appearing of Jesus Christ has a twofold purpose. Firstly, it is to show Himself as the king of heaven ruling over all spiritual powers. Secondly, he appears in glory to show that, though still in heaven, He is also king over all the earth. Note well, in neither appearing does the Lord descend to physically come to earth. That only comes much later at his Second Coming when he will come bodily to rapture believers, usher in the Day of Lord and then personally rule from Jerusalem i
However, it is the manifestation of his heavenly rule that is first on his agenda after the close of the present Dispensation of Grace. Thus we are told in 1 Tim. 6:14-16 that the “appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” is that which:
“…in his times He shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality dwelling in the light no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see, to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.”
As to the appearing of his power to those on earth Matt. 24:30 states:
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all of the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with great power and glory.”
Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus.
HIS APPEARING - Part One
By John Aldworth
2 Tim. 4:1: I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and kingdom.
Titus 2:13: Looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
2 Tim. 1:10: (God) who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling ... (which) now is made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
We are told to look for his appearing. Indeed, according to Titus 2:11-13, the very reason we are saved by grace is so that we can look “… for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”.
But just how can we look for it? Should we peer daily into the blue sky to see if He will appear? Should we plunge into the Book of Revelation to see how the Lord shows up there? One place we can look is within our heart to ensure we truly believe the “blessed hope” which is his appearing and to prayerfully look for it. But what then? How can we, how should we, intensify our gaze for that which we long to see?
As always the solution is found in the word of God. However, it is not just a matter of looking up concordance references to appearing. It is also a matter of “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). We should not read back into the truth of an earlier time that which has only been revealed in a later dispensation, nor should we confuse, by running them together, truths presented in scripture as separate parts of a progressive revelation, such as the Mystery. Failure to heed that latter injunction when reading 2 Tim. 1:9-10, for example, can lead to the mistaken conclusion that the great appearing has already taken place. The verse says:
(God) Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Careful reading makes clear that it is not in person but in “his own purpose and grace” that the Lord is appearing. What’s more He is appearing in a new gospel which brings “life and immortality” to light. The “gospel” mentioned here is news – good news. It is truth that has never been revealed before. That’s why it’s news, and why it’s good.
Right now “life and immortality” are being brought to light as a spiritual reality that now can be experienced by faith through this new gospel for the first time since Adam lost them through sin in the garden of Eden. Thus the gospel referred to here is not a reference to some earlier gospel, as though a portion of that gospel’s truth had been hidden, but now is revealed. No, this is a new gospel in its own right. It is mistake to take new truth revealed by the Lord and inspired in scripture by the Holy Spirit and read it back into earlier truth.
Because of wrong church teaching when we read the word “gospel” we don’t think, as we should, of it being “news”. Rather we think of it as history, supposing that it refers backwards to a gospel outlined in time past, some details of which were “left out” when it was announced and now need to be filled in. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. The gospel always brings salvation, the minute it is believed (see 1 Thess. 2:13 and Eph. 1:13). It doesn’t need bits added to it. We should “study” to shew ourselves approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15). And, if we study the word “gospel”, we find it is always related to the “present truth” which God dispenses to people at a particular time. For example, in Mark 1:15 Jesus came into Galilee saying:
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye and believe the gospel.
The gospel then was that the kingdom was at hand and that they should repent of not believing it. Later in Acts 2:38 a different message was preached. No mention now of the kingdom nor of the need for belief in it; Jews were urged to “…repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”. For those guilty of the Lord’s death this was indeed the gospel, the good news for them at that time. It meant that they could be forgiven for their awful crime of crucifying their Messiah.
Consequently, we should realise that in 2 Tim. 1:9-10 a new gospel appears. It is also important to see that the verses do not speak of the Lord’s actual physical, personal and official appearing (Gk: parousia) in the throne of his glory in the heavenlies. That is yet to come. Rather they speak of the Lord’s appearing to us in the gospel of the grace of God. The actual official appearing, yet future of course, is our Lord’s grand unveiling as “…the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”, when he will rule from heaven, as disclosed in Titus 2:13 and 2 Tim. 4:1.
Thus scripture teaches that the Lord’s appearing in grace, bringing to light the good news of life and immortality, is a necessary precursor to his appearing in his full heavenly glory. This is also made plain in Titus 2:11-12 where we are told that “… the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and Saviour Jesus Christ”.
Now the blessed hope is the truth that we will remade as immortal beings when our life, now hid with Christ in God, is revealed in glory (Col. 3:3). This unveiling will see our “vile body” is changed and refashioned to be like his body of glory. It is marked out as especially “blessed” because it those saints who, like the Apostle Paul, pursue the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus”, will be the first to attain to immortality.
Obviously, the glorious appearing is the Lord’s own appearing in glory which will bring in the most blessed and wonderful event to date on God’s event calendar. This is the much forgotten and overlooked Day of Christ (Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16, 2 Tim. 4:1) when the full majesty of Christ Jesus as the great God and King over all in the heavenlies will be made known to all the world and, I believe, personally to every creature.
Careful Bible students will realise that his appearing in glory with his chosen saints draws to a close the unprophesied Mystery dispensation (Eph. 3:1-4) which “…in other ages was not made known to the sons of men”. Consequently, they will also realise that the Mystery truth of the Day of Christ now links up with prophetic truths that have been on hold, as it were, throughout the Mystery age. Consider, for example, the thrilling prophecy of Numbers 14:21:
“But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord”.
Surely, this glorious event still awaits fulfilment. Certainly it has not come to pass in the nearly 2,000-year duration of the current dispensation of grace. However, in the coming Day of Christ (mentioned seven times in the prison epistles) the Lord will reveal Himself so fully that every creature on earth will be personally shown the glory of His Majesty.
(To be continued).