Monday, September 30, 2013


The Ten Virgins
Matthew 25:1-13
      Chapters 24 and 25 constitute one great whole in the teaching of our Lord, occasioned by a prediction that He had made about the destruction of the Temple, and the question then raised by His disciples, as the result of that prediction. This unbroken discourse of Jesus was uttered, not to the promiscuous crowds, but to His own disciples.
      The first word of this chapter is important, "Then." There was no break in His discourse. What He now said in this parable followed immediately upon what He had been saying before, when He had used the illustration of the householder, and the wise and faithful servants therein, and those who were unwise and unfaithful in the household. He had ended that illustration by saying those unfaithful and unwise were to have their portion appointed with the hypocrites, "there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth." "Then shall the Kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins." Jesus selects a particular time in the marriage ceremonial, to illustrate the uncertainty of His Coming, and the consequences of heeding or not heeding the cautions He already had given respecting it. It is the time after the wedding at the house of the bride's parents, and after the wedding festival there (which lasted several days, we are told seven for a maid and three for a widow), when the bridegroom, with the nuptial guests, conducts the bride to His own house or to that of his father, that is chosen.
The procession generally started in the evening or night with great pomp, having torches, songs, and music. This company with the bridegroom, was met by another, friends of the bridegroom and bride, which, at or near the bridegroom's house, waited, ready at the first notice of approach to go forth, meet the procession, unite with it, enter the house, and participate in the entertainment or marriage supper. This last company (friends of the bridegroom and bride) not knowing precisely the hour or time when the procession would come, made preparation and watched for its arrival, so that it could enter in with the bridal party, its union with the other and privilege of admittance, being indicated by the bearing of lamps, or burning torches, thus showing that they were friends, and as such could properly be admitted as guests at the marriage feast. After the procession entered the house with those who actually participated in the escort and manifested their friendship and respect for the bridegroom and bride, the door was shut and admittance refused. Now Jesus takes this parabolic representation from actual life, and shows from the uncertainty of the bridegroom's arrival with his bride and the preparedness of the company awaiting him, how it will be (as the word "then" implies) at His future Advent, and, consequently, enjoins watchfulness.
Some of the versions expressly indicate the time. Thus the Syriac, Vulgate, Coptic, the Cranmer Bible, and also Van Ess, Alioli, Knapp, three mss., etc., read, "the Bridegroom and the Bride." This, of course, locates the period to be when the Bridegroom is going to His own house with the Bride.
"Then," when the Lord shall come to deal with His people anxiously awaiting His return concern­ing their communal responsibility, as was revealed at the end of the previous chapter, "Then shall the Kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins." What was the subject which our Lord was illustrating? He was looking on to the consummation of the age, created by the coming of the Bridegroom with His Bride. The warnings given by Jesus respecting the condition of parties at the Second Advent are here realized in the position of the Ten Virgins. We are told that there will be a judgment "of quick and dead," Acts 10:42, “of the quick and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom,” 2 Tim. 4:1; 1 Pet. 4:5.The figure employed is very simple, and Eastern. This Eastern scene was commonplace. Everyone who heard Him would understand it. Moreover we must not strain it in exposition.
There is no mention of the bride in this account. That may give some pause. It is interesting how many people have tried to find the bride in the account, and have said that the wise virgins were the bride. There may be an element of truth in it. But the figure here is not of the bride, but of the bride­ groom (although she comes with Him). Such an undoubted scholar as Trench and others interpret this whole parable as referring to the homecoming of the bridegroom with his bride. But the procession picks up the friends to take to the prepared home He has made for her.
We need not go into the particulars of the Eastern picture, because it is so simple and familiar. It is significant that Jesus does not take the bridegroom and his friends as they proceed to the wedding, but in coming from the wedding, which is fully enforced by Luke 12:35-38, "Let your loins be girded about and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when He shall return from the wedding; that, when He cometh and knocketh, they may open unto Him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He Cometh shall find watching; verily I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if He shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants."
This then, while the main idea of watchfulness is of general application (as the context and analogy of Scripture show), is specially designed for a class of persons who await the Lord's return from the wedding. Who these are will appear. Some assume a "modification of the usual custom and a procession of the virgins to meet the bridegroom on his way to the house of the bride." But this is against the general usage (comp. Trench, Notes on the Parables), Lange's Com. loci says: "It was the custom among the Jews and Greeks that the bridegroom accompanied by his friends, went to the house of the bride to lead her to his own house, and was joined by the virgins, the friends of the bride, not on his going to fetch the bride, but on his returning with her to his own house." (Comp. De Wette, Meyer, Lightfoot, Wetstein, etc.). Such a custom prevails even to this day in Sicily (Hughes's Travels in Sicily, vol. 2, p. 20). Hence it is that some of the old readings add to the first verse "and the bride," which Trench (On Par., p. 237) thinks the sense requires.
The parable being prophetic, and thus delineating what shall truly take place when the Lord Jesus shall return from His wedding, it must accord fully, be in perfect agreement, with all the other predictions relating to the subject; the unity of the Word, the integrity of Scripture, the truthfulness of Jesus as a Teacher, demand such a harmony. It must, e.g. accord with Rev. 19, in which is foreshown that the marriage of the Lamb, and the calling to the marriage supper, is something that appertains to His Second Advent and the commencement of His glorious reign on earth. But it must do more than this; it must correspond not merely to the general statements on the subject, but to the exact order of fulfillment pertaining to that future period. Thus the Second Advent, like the First, is expressive of a period of years; that its beginning is characterized by a thief-like, concealed Coming and its end by an open Advent.
The question, therefore, is with which stage of the Advent does the parable best correspond? To this there can be but one answer: it pertains to the last stage, the open Parousia. Let the following considerations be regarded.
(1) It does not relate to the thief-like Coming because that period, and the events connected therewith, do not correspond with the parable in the following particulars;
(a) There is no public Coming of the Bridegroom with open pomp and splendor;
(b) the resurrection of the first-fruits and the sudden translation of the little flock do not accord with such a public manifestation being secret and invisible in their nature;
(c) there is no return from a wedding, the first stage preceding it;
(d) believers in Jesus do not at that time all even profess to look for the Advent, much less go forth to meet the Bridegroom-the great lack of faith evidencing the contrary;
(e) the midnight cry (however applied by some to the past and the present) has not been sounded, as shown by its effects both on the wise and the foolish virgins, who recognized it, and all arose and trimmed their lamps, and it will not be true at this stage that the cry, "Behold the Bridegroom Cometh" will cause all believers, wise and foolish, to arise and indicate a looking for the Bridegroom, as seen e.g. in the predictions relating to the faithlessness of the Church;
(f) the cry is not raised by any of these virgins, for it comes outside of them, and hence the incongruity of persons representing themselves to be "wise virgins" and raising the cry, whom the Savior represents with the foolish to be drowsy and asleep, being themselves aroused by the cry; it follows that the illustration does not fit the particulars of the first stage;
(g) the parable does not express the condition of the Church in general as composed of believers and mere professors, or of two parties, but the image is drawn from a party who expected the coming of the bridegroom (took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom"), made preparation for his coming (with lamps and oil in them), and when his coming was announced acted in response to their previous expectation ("then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps"), and simple analogy requires that it should be fulfilled in such a body of persons.
(2) But it does apply forcibly to the second stage of the Advent and to the events connected therewith as predicted:
(a) the open parousia of Jesus with His saints is after the wedding at Mt. Sinai-the figure of marriage being used to indicate the intimate Theocratic relationship of the saints with the King, or the inauguration of the saints there as co-kings and co-priests with Him in His Kingdom.
(b) the procession of the bridegroom after the wedding to his own house to have the marriage publicly consummated by a marriage supper, finds its exact parallel in Jesus Coming with His saints and the holy angels from the celebration of a Theocratic inauguration at Mt. Sinai;
(c) the bridegroom comes after the wedding to his own house, and his friends await him there to receive the procession and participate in the proposed marriage feast, finds its precise fulfillment in Jesus, after the Theocratic ordering instituted at Mt. Sinai, taking His course to His own inheritance, to Jerusalem, where He meets a body of His "own" people;
(d) those who thus waited all professed affection for the bridegroom, and thus this remnant of Jews, after experiencing the merciless persecution of the last Antichrist (whom they as a body had received in preference to Jesus) which restores them earnestly and longingly to the nation's hope of Messianic deliverance (as evidenced by the cordial manner in which they hail His Coming and yield obedience), turn their minds (influenced by Elijah) to a looking and waiting for the Messiah;
(e) those who wait expect the coming of a bridegroom (not themselves to be the bride) and a participation in the marriage feast in the bridegroom's inheritance, which indicates a marked change in their views (i.e. of the Jews), viz., that the terrible persecution endured, the proclamation of the truth by the Christian Church during the interval, the precise realization of the prophetic announcements in their own experience, the culmination of their tribulation as foreshown by the Spirit in connection with Jesus of Nazareth, has at length caused this remnant at Jerusalem to decide favorably to Jesus of Nazareth, and to await His Coming as the promised One, even as the bridegroom the entering in with the bridegroom and participating in the marriage festivities, finds a precise fulfillment in the announced predictions that the Jews shall at the personal Coming of Jesus experience the special favor of the Messiah, and be restored to Theocratic nearness to God, having an assured supremacy over the nations;
(g) the reception of some and the rejection of others, owing to that of preparation and attitude occupied, finds its exact parallel in the verifications of the predictions that a portion of the Jews will be accepted and another portion be rejected that a sifting and separation will ensue;
(h) the midnight cry, uttered by the escort with the bridegroom's procession or by believing Gentiles, so arrests the attention of the Jews, that they, in their extremity, begin to believe in Him whom they have pierced, exemplified by their willingness then to accept of Him;
(i) the posture occupied by the virgins is indicative of a belief in a Coming, expected Messiah, and this is in accord with the Jewish position then occupied, for seeing the accurate fulfillment in the distress accumulated upon them by the last Antichrist, they will also believe in the promised deliverance (as e.g. shown in Zech. 14), and some will be suitably prepared (morally) while others will neglect preparation;
(j) the prophecy preceding (comp. Mark 13 and Luke 21) had a special mention of the Jewish nation, of its long-continued tribulation, etc., and it is reasonable that in the final result Jesus should illustrate the condition of the Jews, addressing Himself to them;
(k) the Second Advent of the Messiah has a twofold specific relationship, first, to the Church which is associated with Him in the highest Theocratic relationship, in rulership, etc.; and second, to the Jewish nation which occupies a subordinate, but as to other nations a supreme Theocratic position; in view of this, it is reasonable to suppose that the duty of watching and being prepared would be enjoined upon both;
(l) the virgins are invited guests, specially called to participate in the marriage feast ushering in the Millennial Era, and so numerous predictions call and invite the Jews to that "feast of fat things," and we are assured of a response;
(m) the virgins who joined the bridal procession evidently congratulated the bridegroom on his marriage and expressed their wishes in his behalf and that of the bride, as implied by their attitude, by honoring the coming with their union with it, etc., and this finds a realization in the joy of the Jews, their honoring of the Messiah, their triumph and glory at the open Parousia of Jesus, the Christ;
(n) the time of Christ's Coming, at "midnight," i.e. at the very close of this dispensation, just when the glorious "day of the Lord Jesus" is to be ushered in, with which "day" the Jews, as we have shown, are inseparably connected, in view of their covenanted Theocratic relationship.
Other points might be presented, but we doubt the propriety, as already expressed, of pressing every part of the parable. That "they all slumbered and slept" is certainly not taken in a bad sense (as some suppose, who make it to denote being "cold and careless," "careless and insensible," "diminution of watchfulness, fervor and activity," "spiritual declension," or even "pre-occupied with the secular pursuits of life, " "engrossed with pleasures and cares," etc., for this would prove too much for their own application, showing that no one, for all slept, watched for the coming of the bridegroom), because the Savior does not criticize them for being asleep, a natural result of long waiting, but for the lack of previous preparation, so that they were not ready when the bridegroom, whom they all anticipated, came.
The imagery is drawn from actual life and natural sleep is not rebuked in the wise or the foolish, but the lack of oil, the neglect in laying in a suitable supply. Therefore the sleeping is not criticized, and the reason lies in the simple fact that the figure is derived from what actually transpired in usage at so long a delay, viz., when the parties had made suitable preparation, if the bridegroom was long delayed, they then deemed it not unsuitable, in view of their subsequent wakefulness at the coming of the bridegroom in the lengthy festivities, to snatch a little refreshing sleep. The watching that the Savior inculcates is not a self-denial of natural sleep, required to repair our strength, but a state of the mind which anticipates the Advent and makes previous preparation for it.
If an analogy should be pressed, then it might resolve itself simply in weariness and flagging of interest at the long delay. Storr (Diss. on Parables) says that the sleeping of the wise virgins is "introduced not as a defect in the wise virgins, who, on the contrary, are an example of vigilance and prudent circumspection; but on account of its being necessary to the order of the narrative."
It evinces the extreme carelessness of the foolish, who deemed their preparation ample enough for the occasion. Trench also (to which Nast, Com. is inclined) regards the falling asleep a circumstance required by the parabolic narration. To make this sleeping the universal condition of the Church (as some do because all slept) at the period of the first stage of the Advent, is virtually to declare that none are then found occupying the posture of watching, which is forbidden by declarations and the translation of the watching; if thus applied to the Church during the interval between the two stages, it is also forbidden by the preaching during the interval, the resistance against the Antichrist even to death, the multitude that come out of the great tribulation, etc. Dr. Seiss (Parable of the Ten Virgins, p. 41) makes the sleeping to be that "their enthusiasm on the near Advent of their Lord had abated. Their expectation had lost its ardor." To bring out an analogy, he has recourse to a history of our doctrine, its decline and revival, thus making the parable illustrative not of the period "then" to which it refers, but of the entire period of the Church's history. Our view avoids this and other (as midnight cry, by whom given?) incompatibilities.
This speaks not of the church but after its removal from this earth and the state of affairs in this world which many attempt to apply to the supposed church they have in their mind today with so many professing but not watching and praying. These verses lend no such support.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Parabolic Illustrations
Matthew 24

In the parabolic illustrations and parables which remain to be considered in this Gospel again we find ourselves in a changed atmosphere. The illustrations throughout the three previous chapters have moved in the realm of judgment and of denunciation. In this 23rd chapter our Lord had left the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, never to return until He was taken back as Prisoner.
As they passed out of the Temple, His disciples drew His attention to the buildings. I wonder why they did so, for He surely knew them. Note His immediate reply. He said, "See ye not all these things?” Im­mediately before this, before they left the Temple, He had declared, "Your house is left unto you desolate." As they went out, the disciples said, Lord, let us show you these buildings. It was unthinkable to them that that house should ever be desolate; but within a generation from that time it was literally true. He now said, "See ye not all these things?" Take a good look at them, because they are going. "There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Remember the Temple as it then was, for material magnificence there had been nothing like it. The temple of Solomon had been wonderful, but the temple of Herod, from the standard of material magnificence far outshone the glories of Solomon's temple. It was a wondrous structure, and He said, "Not . . . one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
Then they went down from the city. Follow them in imagination along the way they took, across the Kidron, and up the slopes of Olivet. When they came there, He sat, and the disciples came to Him privately, and they said, "Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?"—the consummation of the age. I resolutely change that phrase, "and of the world," and adopt the marginal reading, which is correct. They were not asking when the end of the world would be, in the sense of the break-up of the material structure, as some people seem to imagine, even now. No, it was the consummation of the age. Their question really resolved itself into three: first, when shall these things be? Second, what shall be the sign of Thy coming? Third, what shall be the sign of the end of the age?
They were three perfectly natural questions. I do not think they meant to ask three, but one. They had heard Him say the things that were coming to pass. They had heard Him in denunciation declare the tribulations that were coming. Now they said, when is it all going to happen, when? It is interesting how all down the ages men have been busy asking that futile question, when? These men started it. They said, when? And they linked up the things He had foretold with His presence, the sign of His coming, His Parousia, His presence again in the world. They felt that His prediction of the consumma­tion of the age involved the winding up of all things, and they believed it would be brought about by His presence; but what they wanted to know was, when? It was a plain question that they asked.
Our Lord answered them. I take now only the beginning of His answer. When they had asked their question, He said, "Take heed that no man lead you astray." We are interested now only in the two things. They said, when? And they did not understand what the things were to which they were referring. They thought they did. They still had their material conception of a Kingdom that was to be set up, that at that time the Roman power was to be destroyed, and the Messiah would reign there, materially. They had no correct vision of the future. I am not criticizing them. We are trying to see how they looked at things. They believed He would bring all this about. They wanted to know how long they and the world would have to wait. To that the first answer of Jesus was, Be careful, lest you are led astray, for many will come, claiming to be Christ.
Jesus then answered their question. That answer occupies the whole of this and the next chapter (25). To that question asked by the disciples our Lord gave a longer and fuller answer than He had always given before, or ever did again, showing there was vital importance in what they asked, even though they were mistaken in their out­look. He showed that there would be a consummation, that these things were to come to pass, showing, moreover, in the course of His answer that they would be connected with His own coming again, His own Parousia, His presence. He sat there upon the slopes of Olivet as Teacher, and with that group of men, honestly perplexed, He sur­veyed all the coming centuries. In this prophecy He uttered definite predictions, looking on down the centuries, all connected with the nation of Israel.
While it is not our subject now to deal with the prophecy, it is difficult to look at the illustrations He used without having the background in mind. As we study carefully we find He broke their question up into three parts, and showed when "these things" would be, that they would not be immediate; and then what should be "the sign of His coming"; and finally showed clearly what would be the nature of "the consummation of the age." This Olivet dis­course moved wholly within the realm of prophecy. He was looking on to things beyond His departure. He knew He was going to Jerusalem, to be killed; He knew He was going to rise again; and He was in no perplexity as to the course events would take. He was making no speculation as to the future. He clearly marked the course of events all down that period after His Cross and ascension until the present hour, and beyond it.
Does anyone wonder, when will the end be? I recommend to all such the answer Christ gave to His own disciples, and pray that we may always put upon the things of God the measurements of His own outlook, in which there was an utter absence of dates, seasons, but nothing for the fixing of an hour. Processes, events are marked, the consummation is revealed; but there are no dates from first to last.
The illustrations have to do with that period, and principally with the consummation of the age. We find then in this 24th chapter five illustrations. The first was that of lightning. The second was that of a carcass with eagles gathered round. The third was that of the fig-tree. The fourth was that of a master of the house, and the thief, the burglar; and the last was that of the lord presiding over his household. Let us take each briefly, following our usual line.
Verse 27, "For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of Man.” Our Lord had foretold definitely the destruction of Jerusalem. What He had said about the Temple is involved in what He said, "When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place." Compare Luke 21:20-24. The passage in Luke refers in express terms to a destruction of Jerusalem which was fulfilled by Titus in A.D. 70; the passage in Matthew alludes to a future crisis in Jerusalem after the manifestation of the "abomination." As the circumstances in both cases will be similar, so are the warnings. In the former case Jerusalem was destroyed; in the latter it will be delivered by divine intervention. He here is warning His disciples of the day of wars and rumors of wars, and the actual "abomination of desolation standing in the holy place" and other signs of His advent. And all these are now true in the Middle East all around Israel. He foresaw all these things, but they did not signify the nearness of His advent; and in that connection He used the figure of the lightning.
The figure is so simple that there is no need of interpretation. Lightning is seen from one arc of heaven to the other. It is obvious and self-evident, and He was insisting upon this in connection with His coming, that it will be as clear and as obvious as the flash of the lightning across the sky from the east to the west. His coming will have a universal manifestation. We must not forget that the figure is used to show that the fall of Jerusalem, and the trouble immediately coming on the generation, was not the sign of His coming at all. So 70 A.D. was not the sign. When that hour comes, it will be something self-evident to the whole world. Of course the figure He used took in a hemisphere. If we watch the lightning, we only see it in a hemisphere. It goes from east to west, and from the point where it ends as to our observation, it goes on again. This figure, showing that His coming, when it takes place, will be universal, known and self-evident, needs no proof either than its own manifestation.
Immediately following it, we have the words, "Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together." The Old Ver­sion reads, "For wheresoever." It should read as in the Revised Version. He had talked about the lightning. Then, "Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together." What did He mean by that? What was He illustrating? This illustration is in exactly the same realm as the former one, but here with a judgment application. The coming of the Son of man will be as obvious as flashing lightning across the sky, but what will it mean? He was referring now to the judgment that was going to fall.
Take the figure of speech in all its simplicity. Vultures, carrion birds, swift birds, detecting the presence of a dead thing, fasten upon it for its complete annihilation. He was looking on to the condition of death that would obtain at His second advent.
Do we really believe that? Our Lord distinctly said, "When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" Will the nation at last believe in Him as their Messiah? Twelve thousand males from each tribe are believers. But there will be a terrible condition of affairs, and however much we may be perplexed by some of the details, if we carefully read the book of Revelation, we see some of the awful conditions, and fearful blasphemy against all the advance­ment of goodness, until this culmination in judgment. The world in its final outworking of its choices and inspiration is looked upon as dead; and the vultures represent the last processes of judgment. Where the carcass is, there will they be gathered together.
Pass on to verse 32, to His next illustration, the fig-tree. The coming of the Son of man shall be manifest like the lightning; the coming of judgment when the vultures gather together over the dead, the carrion of a world that has rejected God; and yet notice, from the fig-tree learn this parable. It is interesting to notice in passing that Luke also records the saying, and adds four words Matthew omitted, Char Jesus said, "Behold the fig-tree, and all the trees." So do not lay too much emphasis on the fig tree, although the picture was the symbol of the people and of the nation. Do not imagine the Lord was only speaking of the Jewish people, but of "all the trees." He was taking a simple illustration from Nature. What was it? That there are signs in Nature by which we can know summer is coming. We need not take the fig tree. We can take the balsam tree. Some of us have seen it blossoming. It is a prophecy of what is com­ing. We see the burgeoning of the trees, and we know summer is coming. But does Israel?
Now mark what our Lord says. Lightning, vultures, a carcass; but as a process, leading on to something-summer. "Now is the winter of our discontent," but there is summer time coming; and in a simple and yet beautiful figure of speech, here He returned to the subject of His second Advent, and showed that there would be signs that lead to it, signs that show these things of His own glory manifested, and the things of a sharp act of judgment, destroying the dead carcass, and the sign of Summer. We may know by these things that the summer is near.
Go on to verse 43. "Know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through. Therefore be ye also ready; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh." Our Lord has returned to the ultimate idea of the consummation. This portion of His discourse had to do largely with the responsibility of the Jewish people and the heads of the households. To that subject we come more fully in subsequent parables. The subject He was illustrating here was the need for vigilance, alertness, watchfulness; and He took that com­monplace illustration of a man, who had a house. He is the master of the house, and the thief may dig through—that is the actual word,—and break in upon it. Now if the master of the house had known when the thief was coming, he would have prevented his breaking through. Therefore watch, for ye do not know when the Son of man is coming.
This is an illustration by contrast, the Lord Himself in contrast with the thief. The idea is that if a man knew when the thief was coming, he would watch. They are warned to watch, because they do not know, and because they do not know, and in dire need of His return, there is all the more necessity for watchfulness. The Master added three words here, "at every season," marking the necessity for watchfulness. Obviously the threat has been going on for quite a while.
Then the last of these illustrations is in close connection. "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath set over his household?" This marks the responsibility of those who are watch­ing. It is difficult to get these illustrations placed in relation to the great mosaic of the discourse. We are now looking to the consumma­tion of the age. We do not know when it is coming. There will be signs that mark it near, and those are the signs of judgment, clearing the way for the glory that is to be revealed. We do not know when that event will take place nor does the nation, hence the necessity for watch­fulness, alertness, diligence; all which words may be expressed in another;—readiness.
How are they to be ready? Our Lord took the figure of the household where the lord is absent. The servants are left, responsible for the things of that household and this subject illustrates the responsibility of the watchers. What is their responsibility? "Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing," watching. How? Giving to each in the household his "food in due season. Verily I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he hath. But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord tarrieth; and shall begin to beat his fellow-servants, and shall eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in an hour when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the hypo­crites; there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth." That is not the judgment of the believers in the church for none loose their salvation.
What an august majesty of outlook. At the consummation of the age appalling things are going to happen; and there will be the judg­ment of wickedness. His charge to the Jewish nation is that they shall watch, be diligent, alert, and be ready. Then this little illustration shows that the true test of vigilance for the absent Lord, and expectation of His coming, is right behavior within that nation. In the world in which He first came, the Jewish household was organized around the head, and solidarity was expressed in a common religion. The religion and belief of the household head became the belief of the others within that household. There must be the watchfulness, true fellowship and behavior within the household, until the Lord might come and their need at that point is soon. Many in that day will not be looking for His appearing as was so at His first appearance, but many will.
If when He comes, He finds these things have not been so, then mark the almost terrible word, "In an hour when he knoweth not," He shall come, and "shall cut him asunder," put him out, "appoint his portion with the hypocrites," where there shall be sorrow, and perpetual rebellion, in other words, "weeping and gnashing of teeth."
All these illustrations need the context perhaps as none other we have considered. Let us note the vision of Christ, the interpreta­tion of Christ in answer to the questions of His disciples, as He said to them, Take heed, do not be led astray. Do not imagine that the Advent is so near, or that things are coming to a consummation as speedily as you imagine. Many will arise, false Christ’s, and claim that they have come for fulfillment of all things. Do not believe them. Do not go out to the wilderness to them. Watch and wait, know­ing that we do not know the hour, but that we know the fact, and are living in the power of it by true relationship with each other within the household, and so hasten the coming of the Day. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Friday, September 27, 2013


The Problem of Religious Freedom

It must be evident that the final and perfect union of church and state in the coming Kingdom will also put an end to what we call "freedom of religion." The American policy of complete separation of church and state, which most sensible men fully approve under present conditions, is not however the ideal policy. It is rather a policy of precaution in a sinful world, where political and ecclesias­tical power too often falls into the wrong hands, and the result is intolerable oppression. But under the personal rule of the Mes­sianic King the union of church and state will not only be safe; it will also be the highest possible good. For, if religion is of any es­sential value in human life, and if there is some one true religion, and if there is coming a time when both political and religious author­ity will be exercised by a wise and loving God acting supernaturally in human affairs — it follows logically that in that day what we call "religious freedom" must come to an end. Today men are allowed to rebel against the true God, but there is no freedom to rebel against the State! In the days of the coming Kingdom, both political and religious rebellion will become high treason against God and hu­manity.
Therefore, as we might expect, the prophets take cognizance of this problem. After asserting that in the Kingdom the various na­tions shall come up to Jerusalem to worship the Mediatorial King, Zechariah discusses the possibility of dissent. "And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jeru­salem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain" (Zech. 14:17). In the case of lands like Egypt, there will be a "plague" to smite the nation (Zech. 14:17-19).18 In other words, the divine procedure will simply be to deprive the dissenters of the Kingdom blessings of food and health. The divine King who controls all the factors of physical environment will need no armies to rule the nations. The sanction of hunger alone would be a sufficient deterrent to all rebellion.
The idea of sin and rebellion in the future Messianic Kingdom has been severely criticized by anti-millennial writers. How to account for such things in an otherwise perfect millennial state? The answer should be obvious: Since human life will proceed under the natural laws of procreation, children will be born with a sinful nature and with sinful tendencies. Such a state of affairs should not trouble the anti-millennial theologians who believe that Messiah's Kingdom is already now established on earth! And if, according to the premillennial view, the same sinful tendencies continue to exist in the future Kingdom, there will be one great advantage: Such tendencies will then be under divine and supernatural control. For that matter, even in the eternal state when God will rule over all, sinners will continue to exist in the eternal prison-house of the lost. The curious objections raised by some anti-millennialists against the idea of sin present in the coming Kingdom might make one wonder whether they believe in the reality and eternity of hell. If a loving God can tolerate hell in the eternal future, is there anything irra­tional in the divine toleration and strict control of sinful tendencies for a thousand years in Messiah's Kingdom on earth? Or do they suppose that there can be sinners in hell without sin?
Some have objected to such a method of control, arguing that in God's Kingdom He rules by love and spiritual influences; that the use of force is the mark of "carnal" ideas of the Kingdom. A suf­ficient reply to such objections is (1) the heavy hand of God in the material world where there is no forgiveness for violators of its laws; and (2) the reality of a future and final place of punishment for the lost. For hell is a place where the naked force of Deity will be applied without reserve to all incorrigible rebels against the goodness of God. If the doctrine of hell is consistent with the idea of divine goodness, then there can be nothing unreasonable about a kingdom on earth where righteousness is enforced among the nations. And in the latter case there will still be mercy available for all, but in hell there will be no mercy.
There is a great deal of intellectual confusion regarding the place of religious freedom in the Kingdom of God. Some of this is the result of wrong notions about the nature of the Kingdom itself. Several years ago the Baptist World Alliance, meeting in London, adopted a five-point statement on the subject of religious freedom. With much of this statement, in its application to the present age, all religiously inclined men of goodwill should agree, regardless of their affiliations. Religious freedom is properly defined as "not only freedom to worship privately and publicly, but the right to teach, preach, publish, and advocate, openly and without hindrances, the Gospel of Christ or other religious convictions." But the statement concludes with an irreconcilable conflict of ideas: "We will not rest content until we witness the achievement of religious freedom and individual liberty throughout the world. We believe this is an es­sential part of our contribution to the thought of the church, as well as to the establishment of Christ's reign on the earth." Certainly these churchmen are right in battling for complete religious liberty on behalf of all men here and now. On the other hand, according to both Scripture and reason, the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ on earth could never make room for liberty on the part of false and degraded religions to propagate and practice their iniquitous delusions. If it is the business of the Christian Church to establish "Christ's reign" on earth, as the Baptist World Alliance seems to assume, then it ought logically to enter the field of religious preferentialism and suppression. But if the Church of the present age finds its greatest good under the political rule of full religious liberty, as it indubitably does, then such liberty must be an interim policy, useful only until the Kingdom of Biblical prophecy arrives; and that Kingdom will not be realized on earth until God in Christ comes to set it up.