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The Highway of Holiness and the Tree of Death
Pilot Smith: You know, Bill, that leaves behind us the Land of Irrationalism, a Riot of Radioactivity.
Pilot Jones: Yes Robert, and good enough. If you don't handle it right, it doesn't go right.
Pilot Brown: Hey, you two, look ahead - it's the Land of Verification. I'm glad the wind is blowing the other way. That radioactivity we left, as we knocked out Irrationality Land, doesn't belong here. Man, look at that sky, it's like everlasting light!
Pilot Smith: Look, this is
no place to bomb, not here. Let's land. See - there it is ! The HIGHWAY
OF HOLINESS, you know, the one Isaiah is talking about in Chapter 35. I
can hardly get there fast enough! The wayfaring men, 'though fools', it
says, will not go astray there.
2) For the present however, we have a task of simple introduction, to enable the full flavour of prophecy to be savoured, without such extensive treatment of predestinative matters. To this end, we proceed with the following recommended step: though Section 1 may be omitted by those seeking simple verification.
This then is a preliminary task that is fitting before we turn to that formally presented challenge from God: PROPHECY. That starts on p. 643 infra.
3) Prophecy! what a beam of heavenly light this is; how outrageously disruptive of the quiet dreams of deists, the nebulous vaporisings of secularists and the obvious escapes of the delinquent. It has provocatively precise proportions and exhibits a conceptual 'invention' of the state of things in advance of their occurrence. Biblically, this means that situations are seen in complex perspective inclusive of novel elements, in a complete work of dispositional, directional and detailed FORECAST exposing divine foreknowledge with a vast and seemingly effortless ease. Forecast-fulfilment comes like the throb of a motor.
How could God know such things in advance if we have any freedom, at all... men ask! And if we have none, how are we responsible ? And if we are not, is not God, it might be urged superficially, Himself responsible ? And if He is, firstly what is wrong with Him to allow such things as so often 'adorn' the earth ? Thus the carnal mind roves and growls.
It may continue. Secondly, why does
He blame us ? Is He then no better than the Communist Russian government
in this; for they condemn the very concept of a God-created personality
with its logically derivable and valid responsibilities, only with
comical seeming inconsistency to become world-famous experts in casting
on millions perishing under their variously directed wraths. Are the Chinese
Communists the slightest bit better! Blame ? yes they blame them acrimoniously
who allegedly, at the same time, have no freedom of soul, or indeed soul
to be free!
Thought of the Architect: That plate glass window has all the specifications of style ... a technical marvel. I'll just look out and see the view on past the third fairway on the home golf course. Hmm! Truly remarkable!
You know, this is so good I'll think of building it for Stan Smith. I can already see him relating to it like a combination boy-scout, Jules Verne, William Wordsworth and Hilaire Belloc. Although, you know, why build it at all, it's simple to enjoy it this way; and anyway, now it's mine!
Voice of Smith on the Telephone: I say old chap, those plans, they're overdue you know! ...
Voice of Architect: Oh yes... All right, Mr Smith, I KNOW you'll enjoy this and I can just see you in it. In fact, I could as well walk about the ground with you now, without even building it. However, for your part, I guess you'll want it made.
They usually do, and well I like to give you all your opportunity. Strange thing, you know, I can see it all as if it had already happened, without in the least disturbing the premises. Think how much more God does it in creating lives He knows to the very heart, before they ever even begin: planning to perfection without a whisper of difficulty. Foreknew whom He predestinated, knew His sheep.
Marvellous thing, creativity - especially His ... !
And why does God select some people for bliss in heaven (even if admittedly, they often suffer great things - to be sure, with joy - for Him here first) ? And if He does not love all, how is He called love ? Wouldn't it be better, the scoffer might continue to urge, to say,'God is preference' or something a little more narrowly defined ? And if He selects sovereignly, how are men responsible anyway ? and if He does not, why does Romans 9 say that He does ? And why is there so much controversy in the area?
Thus we pose queries from of old, in order to answer them from the Bible to the glory of God.
You see, it is important, before the naked verificatory glory of prophecy, to clear our minds of the excesses of many unbelievers, and yes, perhaps, the unchastely chosen words which may come forth at times, from the mouths of some who are apparently believers. Not adequately aware of all the Bible says, or overlooking it, they may invent imaginary problems, and fail to solve real challenges from that omnicompetent source of answer, the word of God.
I have specialised a little here in putting the often felt problem, taking from here and there ingredients, in order to make more emphatic - in the answers which will follow - a vital truth. It is this: How excellent is the word of God, which alone in all thought can respond coherently and completely to all the challenges (or cavils as the case may be) put to it! It meets any systematic challenge, of course, not timidly like some examinee, but with robust rationality and authority, as might be expected from One who, after all made us, produced our power to think and indeed, as we shall see more and more, has done more for us than anyone ever did for anyone.
It is that continual reposeful authority that is a constant verification.
In sum, we have reasoned for the necessity of freedom, the impossibility of autonomy (a god-like licence from all restraint external, or imposed), and the infinitude of God's understanding. As well we considered the distinction between seeing what IS to happen, and the divine penetrating to the heart and kernel of what a person is - if you like, loosed from sin in the divine envisagement of that person: God thus, or in other ways, knowing whose that person is. To whom does omniscience relate a particular sinner, in spirit and in truth, beyond the deformities of his/ her crippled condition; and to what with this before Him in His divine knowledge, does God consign that person ? To such end as seems fitting to the God who is love and not force; who has power yet is not a worker of casual predilection, but of absolute truth; who is no respecter of persons, but knows who are His.
It is explicitly stated (Romans 8:29) that God predestines (fixes the destiny of) "those whom He foreknew". He did not predestine those whom He did not know!... unknowns: that would merely be a flat contradiction of scripture, as well for what it is worth, of common sense. Nor did He predestine them because of what He simply foresaw they would do; for that would contradict Romans 9:11. Nor did He predestinate on the basis of what they would believe in 'real life', for that would contradict the sequence of thought in Romans 9:11 (as well as John 15:16 and 10:26 - it is written that they do not believe because they are not His sheep - not - they do not form part of His flock because they do not believe).
Yet again He did not predestinate them in sovereign (relevant) disregard of those not chosen, for that would contradict I Timothy 2:4-5 where we learn that "God... would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth". Notice here that you have the topic - salvation; the eventuation - coming to a knowledge of the truth; and the disposition of God, this is what He would have. It is useless to call that Biblical theology which ignores what is written; for that is similar, in the field of science, to ignoring the data. These things integrity cannot permit, if the Bible is the topic, and its meaning (exegesis), not the philosophy of the reader (eisegesis), is in view. In terms of this apologetic, we are seeking for verificatory evidence, and that is to be found, of necessity, in the laboratory of the Bible as it is, with no change of the data, any more than a scientist would falsify what is found in his test tubes.
The Bible, then, does not state, though pugnacity from some may almost seem to push such words into God's mouth, that He sovereignly decides to save all; neither does He say, and others might almost, on this other side, be tempted to take the same false liberty as the opposite 'wing'... that He is indifferent to their non-salvation! It does not even say that He has a certain yen, if you will, a slight wish, but does not really give it serious thought... that He is not exercised in the dimension of salvation for the lost. Not at all. It actually says that dispositionally speaking, He would have them to be saved. Why do some seem to hold some scriptures more dear than others? Limitation from such a cause is all wrong. "The whole counsel of God" means all of it (Acts 20:27).
Certainly it is made clear that the decision of the judge is final (Romans 9); it is made as clear that He does not take counsel on the matter (Isaiah 40:13-14), that in general, the way to life is rejected (Matthew 7:13-14) with the direst results, and that this is by no means at all, a matter of small moment to the Almighty.
For this, see I Timothy 2, Ezekiel 33:11, 18:20 -25, Matthew 23:37, Romans 9:1-3, Jeremiah 9 with II Peter 3:16 and I Corinthians 2:9-13, Matthew 18:11, II Peter 3:9... The matter is given extended treatment in Appendix B, infra, Addendum on Will. Further, Colossians 1:19-23 tells us most explicitly with great force, this datum: It "pleased the Father" that Christ should be incarnate with all the divine fulness in His Person, that He should die in the plenitude of love as a sacrifice (disposed to aid the lost in the dimensions shown explicitly in I Timothy 2:6 and I John 2:2).
What are those dimensions of
the Father's pleasure, concerning this prodigy of loving provision in sending
forth Christ ? "By Him to reconcile all things", is what the Bible
says. Does it hide it ? Far from it; it continues, "Whether things
on earth or things in heaven" ? But what is the nature of this reconciliation
? Again the Bible is categorically clear, as in 1 Timothy 2, also dealing
with God and man: [to p.
The REALM OF THE PICTURE (below)
"WHOM HE FOREKNEW HE ALSO PREDESTINATED ..." Romans 8:29
Below - an ANALOGICAL perception of an actual reality: CHRISTIANS were "CHOSEN IN HIM (Christ) BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD", Ephesians 1:4 tells us. This is neither in view of things foreseen of the soul, as able to be or to do, or to believe, or for any virtues of its character or composition, we learn from Romans 9 and Ephesians 2:8. It is God's choice, and is in terms of God's will for His love to be what it is, and to be realised in the way He desires. HE IS LOVE and that love is fulfilled both in what He does and does not elect to do: He never does violence to the soul, and never fails to be what He is, the Bible telling us He would have all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Christians are chosen without being created first, and without reference to our created works, God sovereignly implanting salvation from sin, at its time, in the way He, without our aid or counsel, desires.
NONE is lost for a lack of love; each is responsible. Disbelief is irresponsible. ANYONE may come to Christ, none is barred, all are invited, but God FOREKNOWS those whom He predestinated. The door is there to enter; it is shut in this time of salvation, in nobody's face.
It is as if, before all time, the uncreated, visualised and wholly understood soul - held in mind as a building may be, by an architect (we speak by analogy) - is analysed. Here we must leave the image for reality. No processive elements are needed.
God knows and foreknows without limit; yet we are for simplicity of visualising, 'seeing' it thus. It does not affect the point. God's divine form is not in the least necessary for us to know, in any intrusive sense, beyond the principles He states, for this apologetic point. His divine form is not scrutinisable: His stated principles however may be analogically illustrated for analysis and understanding, in this way. The apologetic value is that this readily intimates, in this field of revelation, the unique consistency provided, with a majesty that is so singular as further to verify God's word.
This much is general. Now let us resume with the visualised but uncreated soul, as appears for impact, in the drawing opposite. This soul is, as it were, being interrogated (though this is not in the least necessary, it helps to 'show' the point in the style to which men tend to be accustomed).
It is seen as a pre-creation, ultra-psychiatry .. by God. Of course it is far more than that. This however allows us to feel the impact of the issues and expel 'antinomies'.
It is as if the question would be ...
Q. Do you want to be with Me in heaven ?
A. Of course: I hear the standard of living is very high in heaven. Who wouldn't!
Q. That is not the point. Do you desire Christ crucified for your sin-bearer: to be dependent on the blood of another, and in particular on that of the Son whom I enshrined in the flesh as a propitiation, available for all ?
A. Not quite so fast. The RESULT is glorious: the means I abhor. Why, for no standard of spiritual living would I be a fake, a bought-up product, a leaner on another ...
Q. Even if that 'other' were God ?
A. So I think.
Q. If God Himself, then, is not the One you depend on, who amends you, expends you, grants you grace and gives you pardon, makes and remakes you: you know nothing of reality; and heaven would constitute not only a hollow night-mare to you, but a violation of all you think you stand on. If the truth seems a fake, because of your idolatrous self-sufficiency, this reflects on your style of creative imagination which would make you what you, in fact, are not.
A. You can take it or leave it.
It is as if the divine fiat then were: 'I never loved you!' (for neither temporal process nor human limit is in fact requisite for God) - see Romans 9:13,16, 8:38, Luke 1:37, Mark 10:27.
END of THE REALM OF THE PICTURE
Preferred darkness, the basic criterion of scripture, as shown elsewhere in this work (cf. Appendix B, Vol. 3, infra), and expounded from the word of God, limits the 'operation'; but it does not frustrate the reality of love, which Biblically differs from the world's deployment of force and mere self-gratification. Love has its own seemliness, and is divinely fulfilled without lust or mere lordliness, with a sovereignty both singular and sure. Thus seeing how prophecy can be made without violating freedom, in passing has led us to see the resolution of the problem of the reticence of (divine) love and the horror of preferred darkness in its end. Hence in Christ ''lovingkindness and truth have met'' and ''righteousness and peace have kissed'' (Psalm 85:10). Only the BIBLE thus provides the harmony of (divine) predestination and (human) responsibility (cf. pp. 424-427 supra), simultaneously resolving two further features: the splendour and sincerity of divine love - focussed at Calvary - and the abhorrent reality of hell. Love operates unmolested within its own pure parameters, which project from its very character, never lustful, never frustrated, always alert, beautiful in grace.
[from 637] ...it is "to Himself". That is the nature of the reconciliation in view.
At once we must seek clarity and care. It is not that this sacrifice is effectual for, or accepts the sins of all - for how otherwise would He indicate that some are not His sheep and therefore do not believe, while He died for His sheep (10:1,4,11,26): if this were so ? And how would He be said 'freely' to give 'all things' to those with a destiny in everlasting exclusion from Him (Romans 8:32) ? Such would not be other than a contradiction of the Bible, also. Nothing is not all things. Yet Christ was delivered up, it is there written, for those to whom He accords all things!
The atonement, the extent of the sacrificially substitutionary offering, is for those who receive Him, precisely as in the case of the lamb (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18 ff. - with the circumstance that the lamb would be appropriated, and sins confessed by the sinner seeking this). What then ? It follows that the love is as broad as the sacrificially offered but slenderly received Lamb; and that the receiving of Him marks out the extent of the atonement.
Well then, some might ask: How is God almighty if He does not fail to love, what He does fail to gain ? The terminology here however is provocative in that it is not precise. Fail ? In this sense, that He would have them reconciled ? and they are not? The fact here is true but not the inference. That is not really the case: for the reconciliation relates to a disposition, not a decision. A person can have goodwill and make good preparation to do good to someone, and yet have certain standards which will be kept, so that if these be breached, genuine as was one's love, it finds no repository and is neither fulfilled nor activated into vital reality, in such a setting as that.
Thus in Romans 9, one can see the meaning. Esau was hated - and yet God would not see the wicked lost ? What, says Paul, what if God spared with much patience... first (Romans 9:22)! For an eternal and omniscient Being, it is, is it not, rather foolish to assume He thinks as do we, in mode. Christ was in the form of God (says Paul in Philippians 2), before becoming man. He has made us in basically important ways, cognate to Himself, but not the same!
Knowing all things from before time, analytically, essentially, immediately knowing all, God is not limited to sequential movement in this way. Knowing always the situation, He has also responded appropriately before time was! It is difficult to understand these things, certainly, if one makes or presumes to make God in one's own image. But that is to deny and falsify not only endless scriptures, but the very essential nature and character of the infinite God! Put a lake in a key-hole, and you would attempt wisely, compared with seeking to read into the eternal form of God, the form of man.
Formatted and given a spirit with which to relate intimately to God, we do not thereby become intrinsic possessors of eternity; not yet do we know as we are known. Grace does not make the redeemed to be God, but children of God.
Is God to be condemned (even if this were not ludicrous), because His heart is loving and He is love ? Or for this: that though His heart is loving, He does not pretend that men lack responsibility and so must be brought into the kingdom, so that their basic freedoms would be essentially rescinded ?
That would be to deny the very heart of the creation: ''Why will you die ?'' He protests in Ezekiel 33:11. No wonder his prophet, Jeremiah (in 9:1 and Lamentations 1:12) speaks of wishing his head could be a fountain for weeping on and on, for the foolish and the lost among his people, and asks all who "pass by" - "Is it nothing to you ?" Is not God deeply loving ? who says through the prophet Isaiah in 63:9 - "In all their afflictions, He was afflicted...", who wept over Jerusalem, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes," (Luke 19:42), proclaiming again: "How often I should have gathered you under my wings..." (Matthew 23:37), and displaying a prodigious restraint and profound concern for Nineveh, in correcting the more flashy notions of Jonah (Jonah 4:10-11, cf. Luke 9:55), even for Babylon indeed (Jeremiah 51:9); and of course it was nothing less than the command to repent before the Almighty that reached Nineveh at the hand of the disgruntled Jonah, to whom God gave a lesson in concern and a course in compassion.
God is both the Father of our freedom (it is neither unreal nor unlimited) and the source of His own sovereignty. It is not sovereignty in the abstract; not a philosophic fudge, far less is it a director of the divine heart, but rather the personal prerogative of the directing divinity Himself. Sovereignty does not run God; God runs sovereignty; it springs from Him, accords with Him, and with all His characteristics.
In sum: We, then, as human beings, have freedom but not autonomy; and we have through sin lost our capacity to exercise a freedom towards God in essential levels. Man outside Christ is called ''dead in trespasses and sins'' - Ephesians 2:1, ''alienated from the life of God'' (Ephesians 4:18), and this through ''the ignorance'' that is in him; and indeed as unspiritual (I Corinthians 2:12-14), he does not deem wise those things which are in fact spiritual, in the real area of the one true God. As a result, men do not actually choose God, in this condition (it could almost be compared with 'choosing' fine music when drunk, though this disturbance is far deeper). Indeed, one is reminded of some patients who, in fever, may desire just what is not best for them; and who are 'not themselves'.
Thus God as we saw, chooses us (John 15:4, Romans 9:16). He does so sovereignly and without consultation (John 15:16, Romans 9:15-22, Isaiah 40:13,28, Proverbs 15:11); without admiration for our works or for our faith (Romans 9:11, Ephesians 2:8). In love, He seeks and is disposed; and in truth He does not violate the texture of His own creation. When He does not save a soul, it is not that He did not do all that He deemed loving and true and self-sacrificial (II Chronicles 36:15-17, Isaiah 5:1-4, John 3:17, Mark 12:5-6, I Timothy 2:1-3) ... with reality, with integrity and with discretion. What MORE than Christ ? What more than the Cross? What more than freely bearing sin for all who believe, and leaving those who reject this redemption to die in their sins which they prefer! - a fact that He Himself cites (John 3:18-19).
This last aspect appears for example
in John 8:24; but note how in John 10:38 even after more
fearful and lusty provocation by intemperate mockers, He urged them yet
the more to believe, saying: "But if I do, though you do not believe
Me, believe the works: That you may know, and believe that the Father is
in Me, and I in Him..." Anything more dispositionally
loving to the lost, not forcing but showing utmost and intense concern,
it would be impossible to imagine. Predestination merely preserves
in pre-world certainties, the realities of the desires of God's
heart, which He fulfils to the uttermost. (Cf. *7, pp.
1163A-1164, and *1,
1174B-D; 1186 infra.)
Thus there was a work of continuing patience and kindness to constrain but not to coerce. How wonderful that God should plead in Christ the Lord! And if in the end they elect to die in their sins, despite all, then justice has not conquered love; but love unmet, yields to its occasions, being when fulfilled in its own thrust, satisfied. So the Lord acted; and so it is. He did not become man so that we should be ignorant and not see and hear the words and works He spoke; but so that we might find Him and know Him, and knowing Him, be saved (John 17:3), through His blood (Colossians 1:14, 22, Ephesians 1:7, 2:13-15).
Thus in all this He does not force. He endures force; He does not deploy it as the criterion at the level of salvation. It would be a criticism for sure, if He did, to which man might resort. God does not force or fail. All Christ was to obtain, He did - all - John 17:6,12. He is Almighty, but not a ruffian! The Lord knows who are His!
The poignancy and the protestation is not (such blasphemy!) a pretence or a public presentation; it is made by Him who is the Truth, to appear poignant because of the only possible reason: that it is! Freedom's lament is not lust's abortion ... nor empty.
God is loving, neither seeking rice-Christian products, nor desiring denatured degenerates, but men, women and children, persons, in His image! Knowing all - and gaining whom He forknew - He does indeed blame if men, in the end abscond, refuse Christ ... will not. He so interprets it in poignant, monergistic splendour; and both clear and vast is man's responsibility. (Cf. John 3:19, Matthew 23:37 - p. 426 supra, Appendix B, esp. pp. 1132-1134 infra - I Timothy 2:1-3, II Timothy 2:19, Romans 8:29, John 15:21-23, II Chronicles 36:15-17, Luke 19:42-44.)
It is important to realise the principles here. God is not subject to examination (Romans 9:14,20-23), harassable or censurable; but His principles cohere and He keeps them. He invites man to 'reason together' with Him, exposing the realities. If anyone reject Him, His attitude is love, and His arm has power, so that human rejection is sure to be real, true and ultimate (whether or not we know the divine 'technology' He uses, to apply a provocatively analogical term for covering the point). God has no 'technical' failure ... reaching in Christ when He will; and His attitude is as stated. It is fulfilled; and in the end, love spurned is lost in the lostness of the loveless.
Hence (I John 4:7-8), God is called love not least because of His restraint on the one hand and His pursuit of the lost on the other. His word is the assurance that He would have all men to be saved. In (His) sacrifice, there is no restraint; in His non-violation (of us) there is much restraint: but in method, in principle, in procedure, He is His own. He accepts no counsel. So He sovereignly selects to satisfy His universal love with particular sagacity, He who knows all things; and some of our problems here seem to derive from a crude failure to even begin to realise the extent of longsuffering He shows (cf. Romans 8:22, II Chronicles 36:15 ff., Hosea 12:10). It is all not really too hard if you recall three things: First, follow all the scripture. Second, do not presume to dictate to God His 'technology': trust Him to do wholly effectually JUST what He says in ALL respects (not just in your own chosen and selected segment of what He says!). Thirdly: do not read into God your own limitations. Knowing all things, He readily can predestinate all things, without the slightest violation of essential freedom; or, through lack of forethought, violation of His own principles. Time for pondering as it were, knows no limits if time were needed, but time itself, as shown, is God's creation - cf. Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:38-39.
Predestination is the guarantee of
meaningfulness; sovereignty is the assurance of sincere salvation; omniscience
is the certainty of no mistakes in plan, and omnipotence of no mistakes
in execution. Time is His captive, eternity His palatte, action unharassed
at His pleasure... Even a novelist can know his/ her characters,
and script them without feeling in the least free to violate who
they essentially are. Are we going to imagine that the creativity of the
God, who made the creators of literature, is less than this!! It seems
at times almost as if the only problems in this area are problems of effrontery.
How lovely and charming it can be, when something is duly proven from this and that aspect (as here Scripture has been shown to be the word of God by initial necessity in Chapter l); and when it is confirmed both by further elements and the defeat of assault on it: then at length to come to this next step. And that ? To quietly taste and see how good it is! One may now verify in somewhat serenely considered detail, step by step and point by point, the force of what has been shown already to be so.
It is then time to prepare ourselves for the joy of seeing the verificatory punctiliousness (Isaiah 34:14-16 gives this concept), of divinely inspired scriptural prophecy from the only God there is. This He declares positively (as in Exodus 20, Ephesians 4:4, Isaiah 43:13, 14:27), as well as negatively (Isaiah 43:11, 44:6-7; and in 45:21-23). In the last noted verses, He employs both words for God, el and elohim, excluding all other beings, while in 45:24, the absolute term 'LORD' is used in the same declaration by that one Being. He moreover makes it clear that He will not have His words confused, misused or abused, but will fulfil them (cf. Matthew 5:17-19).
In Isaiah 34:14-16, not satisfied with delineating the ruin, the desolation and the judgment on Edom, God depicts minor events including jackals, brambles and thorns, insisting that all will be there: none shall lack its mate, He declares, after adding the arrow snake and the hawk to the wilderness scene: "For my mouth has commanded it, and His Spirit has gathered them." The words and that to which they refer are alike commanded, gathered and assured in their sovereign fulfilment. This is the God, of whom there is no fresh or other One, for whom no competition: of divine beings the only one.
To Him we read, all will bow (Isaiah 45:23), and to none else (45:22); to Jesus Christ, God's expression will they bow (Philippians 2:10) as Lord. To both they will bow, for God is one and triune. They will bow to the expression and to Him who expresses; to eternal speaker and eternal word; to unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16) and to His outshining (John 14:1-14). It is one only God, consisting as we have seen at length, as a trinity. Much of prophecy is concerned with the advent of this Christ, His works and ways and witness and wonders, as more than plenipotentiary, as Son; but it concerns also the particular predictions concerning man and his ways, not only as obeying, but as fretting and upsetting and forgetting both who he is and who God is... acutely astray.
introduction has led to some of the thoughts which Prophecy may arouse;
but now there must be an awareness of God
as personal, a personal (and triune) Being,
who in love and conscientiousness,
in resolute grace and kindness has
False prophets both in the Old and New Testaments are depicted, rejected and despised in their confusedly heartless mimickings (II Peter 2:1-3, Deuteronomy 18:15-20). Indeed in the law of Moses, they are given the death penalty, like chemists resolutely mixing arsenic with aspirin (Deuteronomy 18:20-22, cf. Jeremiah 23).
To true prophets who convey what the Lord wishes to communicate, whether historically, morally or predictively, they are in stark contrast. This contrast is seen not only in the enduement forecast to be given them (Deuteronomy 18:15-23, Psalm 45:1-5, Isaiah 44:26, Jeremiah 1, 47:2,6-7), but also in the realised and obedient history which in this world will follow just what these prophets, speaking in God's name, have to say (cf. Jeremiah 23:16-29). What, God asks, concerning alternative means, false prophets and their words, delusively standing as if to challenge what He has said: ''What is the chaff to the wheat!'' (Jeremiah 23:28).
The words of God's servants the prophets (Jeremiah 7:25) do indeed provide a definitive performance, as we shall see. Isaiah 41:21-24 stresses this with portentous irony. Further it is notable that the epochal Deuteronomy 18 refers to the coming of the Messiah, the epitome of prophets, the incarnate word, whose credentials are multiply specified - as will be amplified - by the Jewish prophets. This occurs in verses 15-19, while verses 20-23 proceed to the topic of false prophets. Psalm 45, meanwhile, further etches for us Messiah the man (45:7), whose status is that of deity (45:6), and in whose mouth (Isaiah 11), are ultimate and undeterrable words, a point also given impact in the noted record of Moses.
We are now ready to consider and appreciate these prophetic words.
In this, we will first concern ourselves chiefly (Chapter 8) with that category of prophecy which came from the lips of Jesus Christ Himself, of Him who here as always did all things well. He both allowed test of Himself and His words, and declared that if one did not believe Him for Himself, then one should believe Him for His works (John 14:12). Amongst these are His predictions, focussed in Mark 13:23 - "But take heed; see I have told you all things beforehand."
These predictions then, are not only some of His words, but because they have been caused to be fulfilled in detail, they are as much part of His works, as are other miracles at His hand, such as divine healing in His day on earth in the flesh. Here we have the advantage that all may readily see the prophecies first-hand! Then, we proceed in the later Ch. 9, to a wider reference and more detailed coverage of scriptural prophecy. In Ch. 9 will be both expansion of some elements found in Ch. 8, and the development of new material. In the former case, as in any more advanced study, the groundwork of Ch. 8 will allow more freedom, facility and surefooted speed in Ch. 9. For any needing clarity on 'Israel', see Appendix A, pp. 1089 ff., and Intro. Vol. I p. xxviii-xxix: for completeness.
After the main body of the text of this Chapter, there are seven EXTENSIONS, to which reference will be made in the text, with endnotes, which they precede:
EXTENSION A: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Pollution
EXTENSION B: On the Prediction of Jesus Christ: Unless Those Days were Shortened, No Flesh could be Spared (Matthew 24:22)
EXTENSION C: On the Predicted Falling Away
EXTENSION D: On the Delusive Dignity of the War Syndrome
EXTENSION E: On the 'Eighth Day'- The Second Darkness
EXTENSION F: On the Work of God's Word on the Gentiles in the Past
G: On Predicted
Fears and Distress.
First: notice that the prophecies from Christ, rather like His miracles, are the work of a shepherd, not a showman. They occur amongst His moral and personal teaching, like Jewels indeed around someone's neck; but then the neck is greater than the jewels. Secondly, observe that we are now concerned here with four main topics, for convenience' sake: The Jews, Jerusalem, The Gentiles (that is, all the other nations such as our own), and The Church. The introduction will give what seems best as a preliminary in each case to the detail of Chapter 9, and what is given less space here will receive more there.
He noted that the Jews: would lose their city of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-2, Luke 13:34-35), that it would be utterly destroyed but later regained (Luke 21:44); that it would be occupied and controlled by Gentile nations, but after an Age return to the Jews (Matthew 24:6 ff., with Luke 21:44). In fact, Moses (Leviticus 26:33,44-6, Deuteronomy 28:64-67, 31:27,29, 32:26-27,39-43, Deuteronomy 30:3) predicted their age-long dispersion and their return. To the earth they would be sent in dispersion; from the nations, as we see stressed in Isaiah they would be restored; and each department would be consummated throughout the earth. The affair would be large, international and highly visible. It has been so, in history! (See pp.735-836 infra.)
As to their return to Him, it was predicted that this would first be accomplished, despite divine displeasure (Deuteronomy 32:27,36,41-43). It is given in detail by Ezekiel (36-37- see Ch. 9 also), by Hosea (3:1-5) and Isaiah (42; 49; 66): all these prophets predicted the return of the Jews after long separation from their land, and a suffering so monumental, so world-wide and so famous among men (Leviticus 26:31,33,36-38, Deut. 29:24-28, 32:21-36, 28:37,65-68) as to make of this people a byword.
All the noted predictions have so far already happened, or their process is already in action. The suffering reached a climax under Hitler - but hundreds of years of pogroms and statelessness preceded it. Thus 1941-5 was a crucial fulfilment period, under the Nazis, but the Jews' suffering continued under the British, limiting or even blocking their return to Israel after World War II (as they had once helped it greatly, between the wars).
In 1948, for the first time in nearly 2000 years, despite all their experiences, precisely as predicted, the Jews took back their land. They gained it back from the Gentiles with amazingly successful warfare (as predicted in Zechariah 12:3-9).
The country has duly "blossomed as the rose" (cf. Isaiah 35), with staggeringly successful horticulture, using methods exported to the world. There have been exports of roses quite literally, as well as of orchard production. From a vast number of nations they have come back to their freed land, just as the Bible so often predicted (cf. Isaiah 49:22, 35:1, 55:13). More recently, they are even pouring back over that last great barrier of oppression, now more relaxed, the Russian frontier, while Time at the end of 1991 is reporting the Jewish exodus from part of India, the young departing as if drawn by a magnet breaching all other bonds.
They have, therefore, over time: lost their land as predicted, suffered exactly as predicted in great detail, for long lacked their sacrificial system as predicted (Hosea 3:1-5), and this for reasons we shall discover more particularly in the next chapter; they have returned to their land, still disbelieving in Christ, as predicted. Thus Ezekiel 37 has the 'dry bones' symbolising Israel, first assemble, and then come to life - life unruptured and undispersible in the presence of their Prince - 37:22-26: cf. Ezekiel 36:22-25:
I will take you from among the nations... and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be clean. (See infra pp.761, 794 ff., 800 ff., 810-822, 1089-1097.)Already their land abounds with millions of trees newly planted (cf. Isaiah 55:13; and for detail Ch. 9, pp. 790-794 infra). Already this land, blossoming like the rose, has become a market for the Mediterranean, in hard, simple economic terms. Said Ezekiel of the time of their return to go no more (Ezekiel 36:36-38), on the highway to the Lord:
And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities ... are inhabited.And so it is: in detail both as to horticultural, arboreal, psychological and international fact.... now! It is all predicted. It is all fulfilled. That is the order of quality of which God speaks, challenging us to identify Him:
I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass. Because I knew that you were obstinate, and your neck was an iron sinew, and your brow bronze, even from the beginning I have declared it to you; before it came to pass I showed it to you, lest you should say, My idol has done them... my melted image has commanded them (Isaiah 48:3-5).Not only did God predict these things, but He also predicted the Jewish unbelief when predicting it, and gave His reason with this! Moreover, in Isaiah 43:9 ff., God throws down the gauntlet, making it clear that His predictive provisions are incomparable; and unduplicable, as indeed they are; and that challenge none can match either. God speaks as God, and acts as God. Such is the nature of the word of God.
The intriguing prophecy of Christ here is found in Luke 21:24-27: Jerusalem was to be "trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles" were finished..."fulfilled": until all that was said of them was in place, their innings done, their special time concluded. This was said of Jerusalem, that it would be so trodden down, occupied. It was. It was freed (half of it only) in 1948, as predicted with precision in Zechariah 14:1-2; and entirely taken by the Jews in 1967, as predicted. An Age was to pass before this; it has done so - about 2000 years. Then the Jews were to be back in business - they have been, much of it!
Escaping from slaughter and captivity, oppressed as God said they would be, and for so long, Israel - despite this treatment, seemingly sufficient to make an end of it - has been delivered from the brink of death. Israel again has its place while wars rock the world. That is the focus of this prophecy: Luke 21, set amidst all the other ingredients of divine predictions to which the reader is increasingly being directed.
The circumstance that Jerusalem would be 'trodden down' by foreign occupying powers until, of course implies that upon this time being reached, no longer would this be so. It would then be entirely in Jewish hands. It is important to notice that the Moslem mosque on the site of the old Temple (or very near it) is scarcely what the Jews would wish; but having already had their Messiah, the murdered victim, the sacrificial saviour to end sacrifice, Jesus Christ (see further Chapter 9 in detail), they have no need of such a sacrificial temple as theirs was, before the Saviour came. As that was a model of the work of the Messiah, now done, God has no provision to guarantee it to them; though in the temple the antichrist is to operate as if deity, scarcely a desirable development! Meanwhile, it is therefore entirely fitting that this alien, external, architectural feature, contrary to all their worship, should sit there as a reminder that Christ does not yet sit enthroned in their hearts. God IS almighty, and what He says is what is done!
Thus both the glamorous seeming marvels of their return, safety, victories and productivity, all predicted, and the irksome seeming horror (to them) of an infidel mosque on or by the former temple sacred site, represent fulfilments. They are, as Hosea put it of their long period: astray (3:1-3) without a sacrifice. If it is not Christ, then it may not be animals! If they will not accept the final divine sacrifice which, as with Abraham, the Lord Himself provides, then their own prophet has told them of this period, "many days" in which they shall abide without the sacred paraphernalia, having been unfaithful to their God.
The completion of their deliverance, so wonderfully begun in their predicted restoration and victories (of which more anon), awaits their return to the Lord with their whole heart, as indicated in Deuteronomy 30:2-3. As you will see, this is given splendid and graphic coverage in a quite amazing way, in Zechariah 12:6-14. It will happen when they are assailed by the Gentiles, to whom we now turn.
As to wars (*l): since World War II (not to go back to World War 1 or forward to World War III, as Solzhenitsyn styled the cold-war period - or indeed to World War IV, as the Gulf War of 1991 threatens at least to stimulate), many wars have flared up in our time... a legion of them. They are rather like mines in the track of history, virtually impossible to avoid, at nearly every point on the way, often multiple at one moment. One result : Since World War II ended, 23 million are reported killed in wars; in 1992 alone 1, 29 wars occurred.
Listed, they appear amazing for so short a period as the last 75 years and especially the last 50. If we consider the Boer War and then the Balkan wars, the World War and its regions of wars, the naval wars and the ground wars, the trench wars and the tank wars, the missile wars and their anti-missile components; the satellite enlistment of space, and the submarine use of the depths, gas war and radiation war, third world wars and second world wars and first world wars, and combinations, aids, blockades, assaults, terror warfare, depopulation wars like that against Biafra or perhaps Afghanistan or the Kurds; Middle East wars, religious wars, Communist wars, South East Asian wars, Cambodian crushing wars, Baltic nation harassment wars as in Lithuania; cold wars, hot wars, medium wars, long wars, six day wars, 100 hour wars, trade wars; revolting, vexatious and disgusting blasts of evil and obscenely motivated, hate-ridden cannibalism, as attested by the Chinese patriot, Zheng Yi of the violation of the counties of Guangxi (Reader's Digest, August 1993); internal wars as in 1991 amongst Russians, external wars as against poor Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1956, 1968; wars on youth as in China (Red Army), wars by youth, as in China earlier (Red Guard), wars of liberation that suppress, as in South East Asia, wars of starvation as in Ethiopia, even willing, it seems, to use aid to further the purposes of war; propaganda wars as of the Nazis, the Russians, North Korea; intelligence wars as in the code breaking by the Allies in World War II; technical wars, as recently against the insatiable Iraq, nerve gas wars, chemical wars, wars that ruin lungs, excoriate nerves, that remove cities, that transplant nations: If, I say, we consider wars, we have had a swag of them.
There shall be wars, Jesus said in specifying the build-up of human inhumanity and inadequacy without the Lord, before His return. This too was to be a distinctive sign, nation rising up against nation: a time of turbulence, specific instability and hostilities (... a seething spirit of war cf. pp. 579-580 supra, 707-708). There is more.
It was, this prelude to His coming, assuredly data to be fulfilled, as predicted: moreover it was to be a time of "rumours of wars" also (Matthew 24:6-7).
As to rumours of wars: arms specialists and politicians treat us to ever new variants of possible programs of the military, the space or oceanic terror through various adaptations of nuclear bombs, the danger of missile gaps, or intelligence gaps, or technical leaps, or fifth generation computer break-throughs and so on. The popular media provide novel scenarios of possible wars, when actual ones lull for a little; or of developments in which more nations, perhaps very many nations - for this reason, for that reason, religious, irreligious, economic, defensive, precautionary, predatory - will be drawn into war. It is so now in 1992. Revelation 6:4 so predicted.
Memoirs now published show that Churchill was impressed with the concept of bombing out Russia's nuclear potential in 1948, while there was argument, it seems, in Russia, according to a very high ranking Russian defector, about bombing out China's nuclear strength (Shevchenko, Time magazine, p. 22, 11/2/85). Rumours and fears, scenarios and possible scenarios: these are not always without the spice of reality; but whatever the cause, they abound. They abound: exactly as predicted. Wars and rumours of wars as well: both characteristically abound. The character predictively given the Age for its terminal time, is the character it exactly bears.
Page 650 continued in the next section
1. The Adelaide Advertiser, Nov. 11, 1993. World Priorities survey, Washington, is cited.
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