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Christendom Astray Contents

Christendom Astray
From The Bible
  Christendom Astray 9-2

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It will be observed that Abraham's "seed" is joined with Abraham himself in the promises. Paul says that this seed is Christ (Gal. iii, 16), and all who are Christ's (verse 29). In view of this, we are bound to give an application to the promises which may be a little startling to those who have hitherto read the Bible with an orthodox bias, but which is the only application that a rational reading and a child-like belief in the promises can admit, and that is, that Christ and the saints are destined, in conjunction with Abraham, who, in fact, will be one of them, to possess and occupy "the land of Israel." From this conclusion, the orthodox mind will doubtless recoil with horror. This is owing to the perverted condition of the orthodox mind, and not to the nature of the conclusion itself. What is there in the conclusion to justify horror? Is it not a beautiful and a fitting conclusion? If it is the purpose of God to rule mankind by Christ and his people, it is meet that they should have a centre of operations and headquarters somewhere on the earth. And where could a more appropriate spot be found than the land promised to. Abraham?

Palestine is situate at the conjunction of the three great continents of the eastern hemisphere, and can be approached from any quarter on the great oceans. It is the natural centre of universal government; both for commerce and law-giving, it stands in the finest situation there is on earth. In addition to this, it is the locality that has witnessed all God's operations in the past, down to the very crucifixion of His Son, and the sending forth of the gospel; and what more fitting than that it should be the place fixed upon for the resumption of His great and mighty acts? The scene of Christ's humiliation; what more befitting than that it should witness his exaltation as monarch of all the earth? But these considerations pale before the strength of the promise. Nothing is needed after the testimony :--

"The law shall go forth of ZION, and the word of the Lord from JERUSALEM" (Mic. iv, 2).

"The redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing UNTO. ZION; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away" (Isa. li, 11).

"Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her; rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her, that ye may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted IN JERUSALEM" (Isa. lxvi, 10, 13).

"Thine eyes shall see JERUSALEM a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our king; He will save us" (Isa. xxxiii, 20, 22). "He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces .... In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah" (Isa. xxv, 7, 8: xxvi, 1).

"The Redeemer shall come to ZION, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob" (Isa. lix, 20).

"At that time they shall call JERUSALEM the throne of the Lord" (Jer. iii, 17).

"Moreover, when ye shall divide by lot the land for inheritance, ye shall offer an oblation unto the Lord, AN HOLY PORTION OF THE LAND; the length shall be the length of five and twenty thousand reeds, and the breadth shall be ten thousand. (English measurement, 43 miles by 17). This shall be holy in all the borders thereof round about . . . the sanctuary of the Lord shall be in the midst thereof" (Ezek. xlv, 1: xlviii, 10).

"And they (the nations at the end of the thousand years) went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed THE CAMP OF THE SAINTS about, and the BELOVED CITY; and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them" (Rev. xx, 9).

These quotations from the Scriptures illustrate the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham as regards his seed--"Christ and the saints." They show the sense in which the promise is to be understood, and that is the obvious sense, the plain sense, viz., that when the kingdom of God is established, and Abraham inherits the land, his seed, constituting the divine encampment, will be in the land with him, and in a particular part of it, to be allotted for. that purpose. This allotment, which will include the territory of Judah and Jerusalem, will, as we shall see in another lecture, contain an area of about 1,784 square miles, which will be ample enough for the pavilions of the king to be spread on a scale becoming the grandeur and majesty of the kingdom. Abraham's seed--the bride, the Lamb's wife--the totality of those who, being "called, and chosen, and faithful," are "the first fruits unto God and unto the Lamb," and found worthy of reigning with Christ, will be a numerous progeny; but not too numerous for the country allotted. "Many are called; but few are chosen." "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life and few there be that find it."

True, John describes this few as "a great multitude which no man could number" but this must be taken as expressing the aspect which a large assembly of people would present to the eye, and not as the statement of an arithmetical fact. The expression could never be true in the absolute sense, for numbers can be computed indefinitely; but in the sense of a crowd being so large and dense as that a man could not reckon them, it is quite appropriate. How many people does the reader think could be accommodated with standing room in the section of country to be set apart, according to Ezekiel, for "an holy oblation". Nearly half the population of the globe: that is to say, about five-hundred millions. The calculation is very simple; it is easy to ascertain how many people could stand in a square mile; multiply that number by the number of square miles--l,784--and you have the result stated. We make these apparently unnecessary remarks on account of the objection raised to the Bible teaching concerning the inheritance of the Holy Land by Jesus and the saints, on the score of the impossibility of such a little place holding them all.

The objection arises from two mistakes; first, the place is not so little; and, second, the number who will be with Christ is not so great as popular tradition presumes. At the end of the thousand years, there will be a great harvest to be reaped, as the result of the thousand years dispensation of light and knowledge; but at the beginning, the number to be associated with Christ as the seed. of Abraham, to cooperate with him in the blessing of the nations, will be on the limited scale of "first fruits "; they are styled "the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb" (Rev. xiv, 4).

3rd.--That Christ, the seed of Abraham, is to conquer the world.--This is the third feature of the promise made to Abraham. It is expressed in the words "Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies." To apprehend the significance of this statement, it is necessary to remember that in Oriental countries, in ancient times, the gate of a city was the seat of authority. It was the place where consultations were held, decrees issued and registered, and where the rulers showed themselves to receive the obeisance of the people. For an enemy to possess this place, then, was to give evidence of having conquered and deposed the original holders of power.

Now it must be evident that the promise that Christ should possess the gate of his enemies has not been fulfilled. In no sense can an orthodox interpreter make it out that Christ has displaced his enemies from the seat of honour, glory, and power. Ungodly men rule the world. Christ's own country--the land promised to Abraham--is enslaved by the Moslem power, which administers authority and perpetrates its religious abominations in the very city which was called by God's name, and which Jesus is to make the throne of Jehovah in the future age. Instead of Christ possessing the gate of his enemies, the enemy may be said to tread down Christ in the gate. The horns of the Gentiles have lifted themselves up over the land of Judah to scatter it (Zech. i, 21), and all pertaining to Abraham and his seed is now in waste and desolation. But when the kingdom of God comes, this will be changed. God shall speak to the nations in anger, and have them in derision; Christ shall break them in pieces like a potter's vessel (Psa. ii, 9; Rev. ii, 27); He shall come forth as a man of war--as the Lion of the tribe of Judah--to fight the confederated power of his enemies (Rev. xix, 19; Zech. xiv, 3; Ezek. xxxviii, 21-23). He shall punish the kings of the earth upon the earth (Isa. xxiv, 21). He shall put down the mighty from their seats, and send the rich empty away (Luke i, 52, 53). He shall then possess the gate of his enemies. All kings shall bow down before him, and all nations shall serve him (Psalm lxxii, 11). All people, nations, and languages shall serve and obey him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Dan. vii, 14). Then will the proclamation be sounded in loud paeans of joy throughout the whole earth:--


4th.--That all nations shall be blessed in Abraham and his seed.--This is the gospel in a sentence; so Paul gives us to understand in Gal. iii, 8. The attentive reader will be able to discern in it the substance of what Jesus and the apostles preached. They preached "the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts viii, 12; xxviii, 29-31). The announcement made to Abraham is neither more nor less than these "things" compressed into a sentence, for it announces in a general form what the others disclose in particulars. It tells of universal blessing in connection with Abraham and Christ; while these make plain the process by which the blessing is carried into effect: first, in relation to individuals, and then in relation to nations. It must be evident that it is not yet realised. The nations are not in a state of blessing. Not only groaning under misrule, they are in a state of poverty, ignorance, and misery, which is the opposite of blessedness. The world lieth in wickedness. Abraham and his seed are unknown, except as objects of derision. Even in "happy England" unbelief and vice are the order of the day. There is an external appearance of godliness: much church and chapel building, Sunday school teaching, sermon hearing, prayer saying, collection making, bazaar holding, etc; but what is there inside but rottenness and dead men's bones. The people who do these things are either selfish, superstitious, or ignorant. There is little fear of God or regard for His word. There is much fear of man and love of the world. People are befooled and degraded: their brains are be-muddled with Paganism in regard to Christianity, and their hearts eaten out by the exigencies of social caste and filthy lucre.

All nations are not yet blessed in Abraham and his seed: but they will be; for we read :--

"Behold a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment... and the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly" (Isa. xxxii, 1, 3, 4).

"In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book; and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off" (Isa. xxix, 18-20).

"Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; behold, your God will come with vengeance; even God with a recompence; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing" (Isa. xxxv, 4-6).

"From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same My name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts" (Mal. i, 11).

"The battle-bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace unto the heathen, and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth" (Zech. ix, 10).

"Many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord" (Zech. viii, 22).

"Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be My people" (Zech. ii, 11).

"The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. ii, 14).

"They shall fear Thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth. In His days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth . . . He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence; and precious shall their blood be in His sight His name shall endure for ever. His name shall be continued as long as the sun, and men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed" (Psa. lxxii, 5-7: 12-14, 17).

These testimonies illustrate the blessing guaranteed for "all families of the earth" in the promises made to Abraham: they show what the blessedness consists of in its full development. It is not imaginary blessedness; but the bestowal of just those substantial boons which the whole world is yearning after, but knows not how to compass. These, however, will not be realised till the kingdom of God comes. They cannot be attained before that time; for it requires a righteous and resistless despot to eject all other rulers from place and power, before they become practicable. It requires power, wisdom, righteousness, and humanity to concentre in a universal king, before the nations can be made righteous, prosperous, and happy. In a word, it requires Christ, the seed of Abraham, to take the world's affairs into his own hands, before there can ever be "glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." This blessing of Abraham is realised individually, at the present time, in proportion as people lay hold of the promises by faith, and become heirs of future exaltation, through present submission to Christ; but the state of things covenanted to Abraham in the promises, will never be realised until Abraham himself inherits the land, and his seed possesses the gate of his enemies.

In view of the evident conclusion that the promises to Abraham give an unconditional guarantee of "good things to come," it may be asked, why the law of Moses, and the bitter national experience of the Jews, have been allowed to intervene between them and their fulfilment? Paul anticipates and answers this question in Gal. iii, 19: "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made." If we wish to know the purpose it served, we find the information five verses down: "The law was our schoolmaster unto Christ" (verse 24). On account of the almost undisturbed reign of ignorance and sin in the times when the promises were delivered, it was necessary to institute a schoolmaster administration of the divine mind, which should inculcate those first lessons concerning God, without which nothing good could be accomplished, since their existence in the human mind is the very basis of that communion between God and man which honours Him and saves them. It was necessary to engrain those first principles on the mind of the chosen nation, by way of paving the way for the development of the state of things promised to the fathers.

This was done by the establishment of the law of Moses in the midst of Israel--a system which, in itself, was a mere allegory of divine truth, as was meet in the training of children (Gal. iv, 1, 2), but which, by its exactions, severities, and scrupulosities, engraved in deep and lasting characters the estimate of the Deity's relation to mankind, which even now prevails in a mild degree wherever Mosaic tradition has reached. The power, supremacy, and holiness of the Deity were made palpable by it, even to those who were disobedient; and, in the course of centuries, that conception of God was formed which existed in the days of Jesus, as the foundation on which to push forward the operations by which the seed of Abraham (faithful believers) should be provided by the promulgation of the word of faith.

Without the law, there is no doubt that the knowledge of God would have perished from the earth, anti mankind would have been wholly enslaved by foolish and unenlightened speculation, and abandoned to the wickedness which prevailed before the flood; the little light of the promises would soon have been extinguished, and the world. would have been sunk in the darkness of incurable barbarism--ripe for as complete a destruction as that which overtook it in the days of Noah. This great catastrophe was prevented by the establishment of a system which, while (superficially considered) it offered an obstruction to the glorious consummation promised to Abraham, was potently influential in developing the moral situation among mankind which was necessary to the bestowment of the promised blessing.

The promises form the groundwork of what is termed "the Christian dispensation." It was necessary that God should create a title to the blessings of His love, for men to lay hold of; because, as sinners, they were without hope, and could not establish a title for themselves. It was necessary He should make the first advance; and He did so, by bestowing an unconditional promise upon Abraham, whom He selected for his faithfulness. These, by the belief of them, gave Abraham a right to the things promised, and vested in him and his seed the sole title. Hence the necessity for becoming Abraham's seed by connection with Christ before a Gentile can have any hope of a future life and inheritance.

Something in addition to the promise was, however, necessary to secure to Abraham the blessings covenanted: this is styled the "confirmation" of the promises. The precise meaning of this will be apparent on a review of the facts of the case as affecting Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was promised to them that they should possess the land of Palestine for ever. For this promise to be carried out, it is necessary that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob be raised from the dead, and made to live for ever. Hence it may be taken that the promises carry this feature with them; that, in fact, they bear upon the face of them an undertaking on the part of God, that, at the time appointed for the realisation of the promise, He would bring them from the dust of death, and give them eternal life; how else can they inherit the land for ever?

That this was God's intention toward them was made evident by Christ's argument with the Sadducees on the resurrection. He says: "But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. xxii, 31, 32). Christ argued that the circumstance of God calling Himself the God of the fathers who had gone to the dust, was proof of His intention to raise them; and the argument overpowered the Sadducees, who were "put to silence." Thus, the inference that the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob involved the promise of resurrection and immortality, is established beyond question by Christ. This being so, we have to realise the fact that under the circumstances existing at the time of the promise, it is impossible the things promised could be bestowed. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were constitutionally under sentence of death. They were "in Adam "--sinners by descent and individual act, and, therefore, precluded from that resurrection to immortality, implied in the promise. Yet the inheritance was guaranteed by "two immutable things"--the promise and the oath--and as "it was impossible for God to lie," its bestowment was a matter of necessity. How was the impossibility of making sinners immortal to be reconciled with the necessity that God's promises should be fulfilled?

We find the answer in the work accomplished by Christ at his first advent. "He confirmed the promises made unto the fathers." How? By making their fulfilment possible. And how did he do this? By "shedding his blood (which he styled "the blood of the new--or Abrahamic--covenant") for the sins of many." He took away sin by the sacrifice of himself, thereby unsealing the gates of death, and bringing life and immortality to light--opening the way for the fulfilment of all that had been promised beforehand to the fathers. Thus the impossibility vanished, and the necessity was placed on the triumphant basis of Christ's accomplished work. This was the great event shadowed in the sacrifices of the law, which were not in themselves of any value, except as a means of connection between God and His nation, typifying a higher and a more enduring connection to be established over the body of the slain "Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world."

It will be seen that the things declared in the prophets and preached in the aggregate by the apostles as "the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ," are but the elaboration of "the promises made of God unto the fathers," in which they have their legal origin and efficacy. It is important to recognise this fact, so that the position of the saints as "children of Abraham" and "the seed of Abraham" may be clearly apprehended, and that we may see the harmony and completeness of God's plan, as commenced in the days of Abraham, typified in the law, and gradually unfolded through the prophets, and consummated in the proclamation of Jesus and the apostles.

In view of all these things, well may we exclaim with Paul (Rom. xi, 33-36):--" O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out. For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen."


next page Lecture 10 The Kingdom of God The Final Instrumentality
In The Great Scheme of Human Redemption

Lecture 9

The Promises Made to The Fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), Yet To Be Fulfilled In the Setting Up Of the Kingdom Of God Upon Earth


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