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BLOWN CHAFF IS THE LIMIT!
There used to be a delightful old idiom, “YOU ARE THE LIMIT!”
This meant that you had reached that degree of oddity,
provocativeness or ‘difference’ from the norm,
or expectation, which meant that there was not really much further you could go. You had reached the limit already.
It might be varied, You ARE the limit! Or HE is the LIMIT!
It gives to the personal as distinct from the measurable side of merely material kind of things, the concept of the limit.,
There is so far you can go, and past that, there is no more.
The concept is prominent in mathematics, in the form of the calculus. You APPROACH a limit, and this is much used in determinations of dynamic variables of one kind and another.
It is true also of racial errors, national ones, cultural and personal ones. It is also true of this world’s conduct as one whole. It is approaching the limit.
Christ made this clear as we see in Matthew 24, when He indicated these words:
"All these are the beginning of sorrows.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you,
and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.
And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."
This shows a BEGINNING of sorrows which has a sequence in status, to the middle and then of course the end. End ? Yes, for "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." The END DOES COME! It comes after a beginning, with the rigours that equip it for its arrival.
Nor is this all.
"For then there will be great tribulation,
such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time,
no, nor ever shall be.
"And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved;
but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
"Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’
do not believe it.
For false christs and false prophets will rise
and show great signs and wonders to deceive,
if possible, even the elect.
"See, I have told you beforehand.
"Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out;
or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.
For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west,
so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together."
These are the words of Christ as recorded in Matthew 24:21-28.
Here we find that there is to be a terminal tribulation.
Secondly, it is so not merely in chronology, in sequence, but in this, that it has to be terminal, since were it not so, man would be terminal anyway; and since he was the earth appointed for him, terminus of the Age it assuredly is (cf. Psalm 8).
Thirdly, we find from these words of Christ, that UNLESS there were a divine intervention to shorten the time of such tribulation, trial, horror and catastrophe as the Lord at some length describes in Matthew 24, as also in Luke 21,then the end would supervene, would come as it were, of its own accord. God has to act in order to prevent the end rushing in and swallowing man up. Such is his evil, his immorality, his folly, his provocation, his following of what is mere imagination, his substitute array of gods, his hatefulness and his misused power that the end sweeps up like a steam-roller over a patch of snails. Unless the driver diverted a while, THAT WOULD be the end.
There is in other words, a LIMIT.
There is so far that you can go, and when you have gone there, nowhere else remains to travel. You have found the limit which no sphericity can banish this time, for there is the end of the oblate spheroid called earth itself, en bloc, which comes near; and it comes in its time.
Accordingly, the Age has an end, and judgment is its result, while it comes rushing, panting for its prey; and God intervenes to prevent the limit arriving too early, or man remaining too late, and in particular, He does this FOR THE ELECT's SAKE. In other words, there is to be an intervention specifically for them, and what that is, He spells out a little later.
In Matthew 24:28-31, 38ff., Christ shows that He will actually arrive to secure to Himself His own spiritual family and that in a most dramatic manner. People in twos, will end in ones, one taken, one left. Angels will reap, and take the wheat, leave the chaff (cf. Matthew 13:30). Indeed, it has its own specialised destiny for rubbish removal (cf. Mark 9), where pollution lives and dies.
There is on this earth, therefore, to be a selective intervention as the limit is being reached, and before that, God will secure His people to Himself, just as He secured Israel for Himself on the terrestrial plain, in the days of the Pharaohs of Egypt, opening the Red Sea.
This time, it is exodus indeed, and again. Yet it is not from an imperial oppressor, but from an international one, as Revelation 13 makes clear, and indeed Daniel 7, II Thessalonians 2 and Daniel 2. The empires in the last named chapter, are like a statue, we read. and a vast stone which becomes a mountain and fills the earth strikes the last member of a sequence of empires, so that the Christ reigns (as seen with Daniel 7), whose kingdom has "no end".
Thus the persecution of the saints which is to come, has a limit. It will be rough, but it is terminated by abstraction, removal of the saints by the God-who-knows; and these leaving the earth, it writhes in its belligerent odium, gathering against the Lord (Revelation 19:19). With the completion of its last in the days of Gospel liberty, this having been preached by this time (as in 24:12) through all nations, there is nothing left but the judgment which those qualified to receive it by SIN (1) and by REJECTION OF REMEDY (2), duly inherit.
In terms of Revelation 19, God removes the 'bride' of Christ, to the 'marriage' conducted celestially, in heaven, before Christ comes with all His saints (I Thess. 3:13), and judges the earth and its works. It is only subsequently that “the earth and the works that are in it, will be burnt up” (II Peter 3).
There is thus a limit to the wickedness of the earth. It is not so much in its extent or ferocity, though this is limited or applied in various ways as the Author of life on earth determines in arranging the dynamics of man’s chosen evil (cf. Ezekiel 21:21ff., contrast Matthew 23:37, Jeremiah 31:20ff.), to restrain, expose or manifest its nature in this way or that, as it is equipped through its internal explosive force. What is in mind here is rather the limit in its TIMING. Things overall go so far, like an old car; and then comes the limit for the totality. The time comes.
You can stretch an elastic band to a limit, and unless you want it to break, that is as far as it goes, quite simply. You can do the same with the wings of an aircraft, or a bank account.
The world is reaching that limit. This is seen not only because (Answers to Questions Ch. 5) the signals for this end of the Age (just as Jonah was used as a SIGN for the beginning of it), have come to pass now. It is descried also because when evil uses levers to magnify its force, then manifold destruction, devastation, ruin and horror is the end, just as is the case with cancer, with organs being distressed, or displaced, ruined in function, by misplaced cells and growth, the time comes when living function, continued operation is no longer a unitary possibility. Death arrives.
To its limit then comes POWER in the hands of evil. It can be partly the fouling of radioactivity, of the ocean, even in the Arctic North, by Russia, of the atmosphere, of the genes by damage and dynamics that increase wastage, by financial manipulation, freedom's control by bestial belligerence and spiritually supine follies, war on God and hence on the soul of man which He made, by the energies of hatred and the confusion of the same with the love of God. The case grows like a grocer's list; and it is not pretty but insufferably intolerant, except where pleasure and comfort, rebellion and irrationality, will and obstinacy in recklessly seeking to confront God, are concerned.
This is per courtesy, or more aptly through discourtesy of distorted man in the image of God, now restlessly, illegally, now with appetite and arrogance, applying his spirit to ultimate ends that can begin, but not continue.
Man may imagine that this could now really substitute for wisdom (like a youngster in dad's car, ignorant of the dangers to cerebration, coming from sudden impacts, in the form of decerebration). It both can and does, but not with continuity or security; and then it comes to its limit. Its movement is down, and its end is the bottom. Thus fear and frustration, terror and evil sights, even beheadings (cf. Luke 21:11), as well as sea and waves raging and earthquakes, famines and war as the name of the game: these things come not only with figurative tempestuousness, but with literal tempests!
Thus now instead of simply saying, as the idiom used to have it, YOU ARE the limit! Or HE IS the limit! It is to this Age: Age, you have reached the limit. You are the limit! This is what is coming and Christ calls it ”the end of the Age” (Matthew 13:39, 28:20).
It is God who delimits and determines the end and its approach and signals. As to the end, He shows the grounds for its assured arrival in various ways.
Firstly, He STATES what is the limit for goodness, and what transgresses that, is sin. Then He states the limit for life; and death is the end of that. Next, He declares what is the limit for irrevocable judgment, and rejecting His mercy, presented in the incarnation of the Christ, is the way for that. John 3:19 shows that if you insist, and this is your part at the end, then that ends it.
There is thus a limit to the outreach of mercy, and that is the name of Christ who made it applicable by bearing the sin which insists on the death that is its due. This is of course presented to judgment, according to truth (Romans 2). From this, ONLY mercy can exempt, and ONLY Christ is the infinitely costly provision for that (Acts 4:11-12, John 14:6).
If you do not want that, you do not want God, and where is there or could there be mercy, for that! Whose mercy, after all, is it that applies to the creation but that of the King, Author, Creator and God who made it. It is according to truth, but arrested by mercy, a mercy which is invested in Christ and not found beside Him.
Chaff is by its nature flammable, and it is readily blown. This is to be gathered up and burnt. Weeds are in this bin. Chaff is its nature: light, without the proper substance and what is left when the proper seed is abstracted (cf. Jeremiah 23:28ff.). It is blown without comfort, Psalm 1 shows us, as what matches such a destiny.
What however of the wheat ? Wheat is to be gathered in the bin, rescued and used; for it is for that purpose that the crop was grown. What is the chaff to the wheat ? It is unnourishing, light, stubbly and scattered without sorrow, except in this, that it can obscure the atmosphere and pollute with its dust. So it is burnt. It is not nothing; but it is … not wheat.
How can it come ? The ignorant misuse in guesswork of the power of God, where only this or that phase is known, is like gambling. It is done with DNA, it is done with morals with frank rebellion from the source of life and wisdom which has attested itself inveterately and inviolably, as we have seen in the opening chapters of this volume, with its references. It is done with spiritual reality and vitality, and with destiny. Gambling without God, and with an arrogance unsurpassable about life distantly understood, and cast in any case in deep shadow by the absolute refusal of the light of this world, Jesus Christ (John 9:4).
So be it. You cannot bet your fortune and lose, and expect to have it again.
There is only one good thing to add, concerning this limit, which may be encouraging to some, who seeing this world in detail and in type reaching its limit, as foretold and perceptible, and having bet their lives foolishly on inept culture, chaff of the day, have lost. There is in Christ Jesus the Lord, the only un-destabilisable truth, the only enduring reality, the only testimony which nothing changes and which changes everything according to His word. This, described as 'unsearchable riches' in Ephesians 3:8, is FREELY available. Now is the time, the day of salvation (I Corinthians 6:1ff., Isaiah 55). Let us hear the latter.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
‘For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
‘For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace …’ ”
Christ did not die in vain but to make free exemption from judgment, access to grace, regeneration of the heart and spirit, washing of the life available. If it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all, it is far better yet, having lost, to be found by the source of what love is, and so to live as designed, and with the destiny which matches life, as wheat matches the bin, perfume matches flowers and salt the meat.
It is good to be in place, and where this is not so, to find that place and stay there. Outside, this really has in the end to be said, You are the limit! and yes, without redemption, beyond the limit is only an ugly destiny of evil... and its judgment.