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THE MYSTERY (NOTES):
Additional notes on the subject from different writings of Dr. E. W. Bullinger.
From his Editorial "God’s Building”, Things to Come, 11(8):86-88, 1905.
…The Apostolic Commission in 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:17-3:2 and in 1 Cor. 3:9-4:16) is led up to, by the "Divisions” in the "Church of God which is at Corinth” (see structure below).
a(1:10-4:16). Ministerial Reproof and Teaching.
a/e/ 1:10-12. "Divisions.” (Paul, Apollos and Cephas).
f/ 1:13. Questions.
g/ 1:14-16. Answer.
h/ 1:17 - 3:2. Apostolic Commission.
e/ 3:3,4. "Divisions.” (Paul, Apollos and Cephas).
f/ 3:5. Questions.
g/ 3:6-8. Answers.
h/ 3:9 - 4:16. Apostolic Commission.
These carnal Divisions destroyed the truth of the One Body. The carnal and corporate unity of these bodies destroyed the spiritual unity of the One Body. This is the evil which is dealt with, and which constitutes the whole subject of this member. All that is said and taught in it has reference to this; and nothing else must be introduced into it, or be allowed to divert the words to any other subject.
Immediately after the reference to the Mystery at the end of Romans comes this Reproof, at the beginning of Corinthians, of the Divisions in Corinth which destroyed its fundamental truth.
This appears to have been the very earliest evil introduced into the Church of God; preceding even the introduction of other doctrinal error (compare 2 Tim. 1:15 carefully with Acts 19:10). The first sin was the making and setting up of separate corporate bodies; thus destroying and losing the truth of the ONE Spiritual Body of Christ.
These "Divisions” were connected with baptism, as is clear from ch. 1:11 and ss. That is why Paul thanked God that he had baptized only two or three of them. Every one of them belonged to some separate sect, and spoke of themselves as being "of Paul,” or "of Apollos,” or "of Cephas,” or "of Christ.” Even the latter was wrong, for it was knowing Christ "after the flesh.” We are not "of Christ” as one among other Men, or as a Teacher; but we are "IN Christ” as risen from the dead, and made the Head over all for His Spiritual Body, the Church (Eph. 1:20-23).
It was to meet these carnal Divisions that Paul asserted and exercised his Apostolic Commission: Reproving and Teaching concerning these very things (ch. 1:17-3:2).
If we "open the book,” and read for ourselves from 1:17, we shall see at once how he sets forth his Commission.
Five times he speaks of the fact of his preaching and speaking; and each time, in order to emphasize it and to explain it, something negative is put by way of contrast, relating either to the manner, to the subject, or to the effect of his preaching.
h (ch. 1:17 – 3:2). Paul’s Apostolic Commission.
h/ i1/ 1:17-. To preach the Gospel.
k1/ 1:-17-22. Not with the wisdom of words (v. -17) of the wise (v. 19), or
of this age (v. 20).
i2/ 1:23,24. We preach Christ, "the power” and "wisdom” of God.
k2/ 1:25-31. Not many great ones called to do this.
i3/ 2:1-. Paul’s preaching in Corinth.
k3/ 2:-1,2. Not the Mystery: i.e., not Christ risen, and made the Head of
the Body; but limited to Christ "crucified.”
i4/ 2:3. Paul’s preaching, in human weakness, but spiritual power.
k4/ 2:4,5. Not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
i5/ 2:6-16. Paul’s preaching the Wisdom of God, even the Mystery.
k5/ 3:1,2. Not revealed to them, because they were carnal.
[In our human chapter divisions, this last member (k5/ 3:1,2), which is the fifth and concluding negative contrast, is unfortunately torn from its place and made the commencement of a new chapter (ch. 3.)]
This brings us back to the "Divisions” again, (ch.3:3,4), which marked these Corinthian saints as being "carnal” or "fleshly” in their actions and aims, because they were working for a corporate unity in different bodies. They are thus shown to be not to have been in a fit spiritual condition to have the truth as to the One Spiritual Body revealed to them.
That is why Paul tells them, in writing this Epistle (ch. 2:1), that, when he came to them before, he could not declare to them the "Mystery” (this is the correct reading in ch. 2:1, "musterion,” mystery or secret; not "marturion,” testimony. All the Critical Greek Texts agree in this. See the R.V. texts, and note below.) with the excellency of word or wisdom (of which he had spoken in ch. 1.).
They were so carnally minded that he says, "I decided to know nothing among YOU, except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (ch. 2:2). He could not go on to declare to them all the precious truth involved in Jesus Christ and Him risen, and exalted, and glorified, and made the Head of the One Body (as in Eph. 1:20-23).
But now, when he writes this Epistle to them, he enlarges on the Mystery which he was silent about when with them. It is in the member "i5,” ch. 2:6-16, that he does this. We must, therefore, look more closely into it in order to learn more about it ourselves, and give an expansion of those ten verses.
i5 (ch. 2:6-16). Paul’s declaration of "wisdom” or "the Mystery”, to the initiated*.
i5/ 1/6-. Speaking.
m/s/ -6. Not the wisdom of this age. (Neg.)
t/ 7. But the wisdom of God. (Pos.)
n/u/ 8-. The Princes of this age. Ignorance.
v/ -8,9. Reason. Insensibility.
o/p/ 10. Spiritual Revelation.
q/ 11-. Spirit of a man. Question.
r/ -11,12. Spirit of God.
m/s/ -13-. Not man’s wisdom. (Neg.)
t/ -13. But the wisdom of holy spirit. (Pos.)
n/u/ 14-. The Natural Man. Incapacity.
v/ -14. Reason. Insensibility.
o/p/ 15. Spiritual Judgment.
q/ 16-. Mind of the Lord. Question.
r/ -16. Mind of Christ.
Here we have a wonderful and special revelation about the Mystery.
*"Initiated,” this is the force of the word teleioi, perfect, here (v. 6). In heathen literature "teleioi” was thus used of those who, learning the secrets of The Greek Pagan Religion, had reached the last or highest order or degree.
This "Wisdom” or "Mystery” dates from "BEFORE the World unto our glory” (v. 7). This proves that it is the Church, the One Spiritual Body of Christ, which is the subject. This we may see by comparing John 17:24, Eph. 1:4, 1 Pet. 1:10, where it is "BEFORE the foundation of the World.”
All that relates to the Kingdom is "FROM the foundation of the World” [an expression which occurs seven times and always relates to the Kingdom and the Earth (Matt. 13:35, 25:34; Luke 11:50; Heb. 4:3, 9:26; Rev. 13:8, 17:8).]
All that relates to the Mystery, whether to Christ the Head of the Body, or to His People, the members of it, on earth, is "BEFORE the World.”
The natural man knows nothing of this. He may be able to speak about the churches; he can sing about the death of Christ; but he knows nothing about "the POWER of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10).
Natural men can make Parties, and Sects, and divisions, and call them, like their lands, "after their own names.”
They can cut off and cast out those who refuse to acknowledge their particular body apart from the One Body.
But such men are incapacitated thereby from receiving the spiritual things relating to the One Body: for these can be revealed only to spiritual men and can be discerned only by them (ch. 2:13,14; 3:1,2) [the Greek is not comparing with, but declaring to: "declaring spiritual things to spiritual persons.” The verb sungkrino is used for the Hebrew parash in Num. 15:34, where it is rendered declared, and Neh. 8:8, distinctly.]
After again referring (ch. 3:3-8) to the great evil of these "Divisions” and corporate unities, the Apostle once more refers to the subject of his Apostolic Commission in ch. 3:9-4:16.
h (ch. 3:9-4:16). Paul’s Apostolic Commission.
h/ Y/ 3:9-17. Illustrations. Husbandry and Building.
Z/ 3:18-4:16. Application.
If we expand the Illustration (Y) we need not give the expansion of the Application (Z): for the latter consists of series of Injunctions and Warnings. The Injunctions are:
3:18. Let no man deceive you.
3:21. Let no man glory in men.
4:1. Let a man so account of us.
4:5. Let no man judge.
4:6. Let no one be puffed up.
The Illustration is the important point, and its Structure must be given:
Y/ w/ 9-. The fellow-labourers.
x/-9. God the builder.
w/ 10-15. Paul and the labourers.
x/ 16,17. God’s building.
Here we have the distinction between the human and the Divine: between what is of man, and what is of God.
The planting and watering are human and are nothing in themselves. It is God that giveth the increase.
So, the fellow-labourers in the building are nothing. It is God that buildeth. It is God’s building. It is God that "maketh increase of the Body” (Eph. 4:16). It is this One Body which "increaseth with the increase of God” (Col. 2:19).
Christ is the "foundation” (1 Cor. 3:10) and "the chief corner-stone” (Eph. 2:20). Paul and the New Testament Apostles and Prophets made known the great Mystery. But it is "in Christ” that the whole building is "fitly framed together” (in Eph. 2:20 it is the same word as in Eph. 4:16, where it is used of the One spiritual Body, and is rendered "fitly joined together.”) and "groweth unto an holy temple in (or by) the Lord.” It is in this Body that Paul and Apollos and all the saints of God are "builded together for an habitation of God through (or by) the spirit” (Eph. 2:22).
It is this "building of God” which is the subject of this illustration. It is this "building” which is the temple or naos, the holy place, that part of the Temple where the Divine presence was manifested. If anyone builds on that foundation any other building he spoils and does away with the one building, so far as he is concerned; and God will spoil and do away with his work (ch. 3:17). It is not the personal Pronoun autos, he ("him”), but it is the demonstrative Pronoun houtos, this. Not necessarily this man or this builder, but this work which he builds. The man himself is to be "saved” (v. 15) and brought through the fire which destroys his work: so how can he be destroyed and yet saved! It is the same verb translated "defile” in the former part of the verse, and "destroy” in the latter part. And the order of the words in the Greek is very marked so as to put all the emphasis on the destruction, and not on the man. "If anyone the temple of God destroy, destroy this [temple] will God.” That is to say, if anyone builds up anything else, any other temple or body, upon this foundation, he destroys or does away with God’s building, and God will destroy or do away with this temple, or work, by consuming it with fire. But the man himself, the builder, shall not be destroyed with his work; "he himself shall be saved” and brought through that fire.
The Illustration, here, of the Church of God, is not a Body (as in ch. 12); but a Building (Naos), as in Eph. 2:20-22, where the saints are represented as being "built upon the foundation of the (i.e., laid by the) Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone. In whom the whole building fitly framed together (or joined as in Eph. 4:16) groweth or maketh increase (as in Cor. 3:3), unto an holy Shrine (Naos), in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the spirit.”
This is the Temple or Shrine referred to in 1 Cor. 3:16,17. It is "the unity of the spirit” (Eph. 4:3) which God has already MADE (and is making) in Christ, and which He tells us we are to endeavour to KEEP.” This is God’s own spiritual Building.
Now if any man erects any other building on God’s foundation, Christ, he destroys God’s building (so far as the builder is concerned – not in reality of course: but so far as his work is concerned it is a destructive work, and not a constructive work). No matter how imposing, or grand, or how humble such work may be: No matter what the materials may be used – "gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble” – the one holy building is vitiated. The One building is a spiritual building, and God is its builder. Material things can have no place in it. Other buildings may have material gold and costly stones, as Babylon and all her daughters have (Rev. 17, 18); but they vitiate "God’s Building” by the setting up of other buildings instead of the One holy Temple of God.
By the use of the word "buildings” we do not, of course, mean the architectural structures, but the ecclesiastical or corporate "divisions.” These are what are meant; the world "buildings” is only used by way of illustration.
It is not doctrines which are in question here, but actions: though doctrines are necessarily included, in so far as they are the causes of any of the "divisions.” It is the substitution of the Material for the Real; the Carnal for the Spiritual. It is the erection of man’s building and the ignoring of "God’s Building.” It is labouring for other corporate bodies instead of for the One Spiritual Body.
It is the action of the builders which is condemned. They may build on Christ the one foundation, but "if ANY man build upon this foundation” – no matter what it is (gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble) – it is man’s building and not God’s.
The expression "if any man,” is not emphatic. There is no separate word for "man” in the Greek, it is merely tis (in Greek), anyone, anybody. It included Paul himself, as well as Apollos and Cephas, and all others. There is no exception. It includes all who, from that moment to this, are labouring to build up anything material, or corporate, however beautiful and imposing, or however common and humble it may be.
Two things are stated with regard to all such visible human "Divisions”: (1) They mar the truth of the One Body, and thus "defile” or vitiate this "temple of God” (v. 17; Eph. 2:20-22). And (2) They will all be burnt up.
It is worthy to notice that, in connection with these "divisions,” the same names are three times repeated – "of Paul,” "of Apollos,” "of Cephas” (see ch. 1:10-12, 3:3,4, and 3:22). Hence it is that the solemn exhortation goes forth, "let no man glory in men” (v. 21). Why? "For all things are yours. Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas… all are yours.” Ye are not theirs. Ye do not belong to them and their bodies; they all belong to you, and you belong to Christ – to the One Spiritual Body. Ye are "God’s Building,” for "Christ pertains to God” (ch. 3:21-23).
The Church of God does not consist of an aggregate of corporate assemblies, but of individuals, called "living stones.” These assemblies may be called "churches,” but none of them, separately, not all of them together form "the Church of God,” or "the Body of Christ,” or "the Temple (or Shrine) of God.”
The word "of” in this connection implies corporate union, and if it is wrong and is condemned in connection with the names "of Paul,” "of Apollos,” or "of Cephas (which is Peter),” then it is to be equally condemned in the case of countries or cities, or individuals, whether Luther or Calvin, or Wesley or Huntingdon, etc., etc. All these are "divisions,” and they are destructive of the spiritual unity of Eph. 4:3, breaking it up instead of keeping, guarding and preserving it. Not only are they destructive of the only real unity, but they are the one great source of "strifes” and "envyings” (1 Cor. 3:3); whereas the keeping of "the unity of the spirit is the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). But requires (v. 2):
"all lowliness (comp. Phil. 2:3),
forbearing one another in love.”
This is "the work of the ministry” (v. 12). This is why Apostles and Prophets, and Evangelists and Pastors, and Teachers are given by the Head of the Body. Not to form their own separate "divisions,” but for "the perfecting of the saints, for the building up of the Body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love may grow up into HIM in all things, who is the Head, even Christ, from whom the whole Body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part maketh increase of the Body to the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:11-16).
Yes! Love is the outcome of spiritual unity; while strife is the outcome of attempted corporate unity. In 1 Cor. 12, which is full of this spiritual unity, we have the same gifts of ministry (vv. 27-31), and the result is the same, viz., the love which is the grand outcome of it all in that wondrous thirteenth chapter which follows. This indeed is the "more excellent way.” This is work which will "abide” (1 Cor. 3:14), for it is this love which will "abide” when faith shall be exchanged for sight, and hope shall be done in possession (ch. 13:13).
If any man’s work abide he shall receive a reward. The only work which will "abide” is that which ministereth to the "increase” of this One Body. It is the planting and watering. It is the declaring the truth of the Mystery, and watering it by the Word of God. It is the declaring of spiritual truths to spiritual persons (1 Cor. 2:13, 3:1). It is the feeding the members of this One Body not merely with "milk,” but with "meat” (3:2), and making themselves absolutely nothing. "So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (ch. 3:7).
The knowledge which is to be imparted to the members of this One Body is stated in ch. 3:16. This knowledge these Corinthian builders of "Divisions” did not possess. Hence he asks them "Know ye not?” "Are ye not aware?”
This is the question we may ask ourselves, "Know ye not that ye (collectively) are the Temple of God?,” the one building of God – "God’s Building?” If we know not this, no wonder we go on with our own separate buildings with materials of varying value, not knowing that ALL will be burnt up, and that we shall have to make our escape out of the conflagration. As to these materials, it is perfectly gratuitous for anyone to assume or suggest that there is any difference between them in God’s sight; or that any of them will escape the fire, and not be burnt up. Not a word is said to this effect. They are all classed together. There is no "and” or "or,” but we are hurried on to the emphatic conclusion "each man’s work shall be made manifest.” Their number is six: the number which specially associates them with man, and man’s work. They are all alike wrong, and will all be burnt up, for none are indestructible.
Thus the Scripture of the whole passage furnishes us with its scope: "the Temple of God; which temple ye are,” "God’s Building.” Christ being its one foundation; and Paul being the chosen vessel to lay this foundation of the One Body by declaring the Mystery and thus revealing the great Secret. It is this that he speaks of as "MY Gospel” (Rom. 16:25). The Gospel "committed to ME” (1 Cor. 9:17). "The Gospel which I preach” (Gal. 2:2), "The Mystery of the Gospel” (Eph. 6:19).
In Rom. 2:16 Paul speaks of "the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to MY Gospel.”
He could not declare this Gospel of the Mystery at Corinth, because of their carnal Divisions. And in 1 Cor. 1:10 – 4:16 he exercises his Apostolic Commission, and reproves them, and warns all Division-builders of the corruption they are working.
This defilement of the One Body, "God’s temple,” "God’s building,” leads up to and ends in the corruption of the whole earth and to the destruction which awaits all their works, and all the bodies which they have so carefully built up and "decked with gold and silver and precious stones” (Rev. 17:4). All will be in the great burning which will consume Babylon and her daughters; but the builders, so far as they are themselves built on the one foundation, though they shall indeed suffer loss, will themselves be saved and brought through the fire which will consume their works.
May the consideration of this Scripture lead us to a closer apprehension of its teaching; that we may value more highly the precious truth of the One Body, and may rejoice in the wondrous truth that we are indeed:
From "The Use and Usage of pneuma in the New Testament”, Things to Come, 11(8):91, 1905.
2 Tim. 1:14.
"That good deposit (all the Critical Greek Texts (with R.V.) read parathēkēn, deposit) guard by pneuma hagion that dwelleth in us.” This deposit was the wondrous Secret or "Mystery” received by pneuma hagion (holy spirit, no article, no capitals), and specially committed in the first instance to the Apostle Paul. In 1 Tim. 1:11 he calls it "the gospel of the glory of the blessed God which I, even I, was entrusted with.”
In 2 Tim. 1:12 he declares his faith that God "is able to keep guard over my deposit (parathēkēn), mine because He has committed to me, with a view to that day.” There is nothing about "I have committed unto Him” in the Greek. The R.V. margin says, "that which he hath committed unto me. Greek, my deposit.”
Those who had heard Paul had turned away from him and his teaching, as he tells Timothy in verse 15, "All they which are in Asia turned away from me.” Those very persons, who for two whole years had heard more about it than any others (see Acts 19:10), had given it up. But he says in verse 12, "I know whom I have believed; and am persuaded that He is able to take care of that precious deposit that He hath committed unto me. And now, Timothy – do you, in your turn, guard it.” He thus solemnly exhorts him:
"O Timothy, guard the deposit (all the Critical Greek Texts read this precisely as they do in 2 Tim. 1:14, as noted above. And the R.V. puts in the margin "Greek, the deposit.”) committed unto thee, turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some, professing, have erred concerning THE faith.”
Then again in 2 Tim. 1:14 (the verse we are considering) there is the same exhortation to guard this deposit, the revelation of the Mystery or Secret concerning "Christ and the church.”
These are the only three places where the noun parathēkē, deposit, occurs. (1 Tim. 6:20 and 2 Tim. 1:14, in the Critical Greek Texts; and 2 Tim. 1:12, according to these and the Received Text as well). The very confusion in the Greek Text over the passages which have to do with the Mystery is a sad proof of the fact that it was given up in the Apostle Paul’s own life-time (as is stated in 2 Tim. 1:15).
The revelation of the "Mystery” was by pneuma hagion, or "power from on high.” It was "the deposit” entrusted to Paul, and by him to Timothy and others, who were solemnly charged to guard it with all care.
From his Editorial "The New Theology and the Mystery”, Things to Come, 2(8):141, 1896.
Under the heading, The New Theology, The Daily Chronicle, reviews Dr. Horton’s new book, which is entitled The Teaching of Jesus.
It is indeed "New,” but it is the inevitable outcome of ignorance concerning "the Mystery” – God’s secret purpose concerning the Church. Not knowing this blessed Secret, Dr. Horton, with all the modern Preachers, goes to the Gospels for Church-Teaching, instead of to the Epistles, which are specially given to convey this Truth to the Church.
"St. Paul (he says) does not allude to Christ’s teaching except in the most casual way.” Of course he doesn’t because that was Kingdom-Truth and not Church-Teaching.
"Unfortunately (he adds), the Church, to which Theology has sometimes been dearer than religion, has paid more attention to Paul than to Jesus.” Without noticing the dishonour to God, the inspirer of all the Words of Scripture, we are impressed with the witness which is borne to a fact which is stated but not understood.
Dr. Horton’s Creed as drawn from the Gospels, is "They who humbly strive to live the Christ-life – who respond to the command ‘If ye love Me, keep My commandments,’ these are the elect.” This is the creed which will re-unite Romanists, Theosophists, and indeed all Arminians; but it is not the Church-Creed as taught in the Epistles! Dr. Horton bears witness to this. He says: "In the Church the stress is laid on things which have no place in the teaching of Jesus at all… With Him the whole stress is laid on such matters as being reconciled with your brother before you draw nigh to worship,” etc.
Those who receive our articles on the "Mystery,” will have the key to all this false teaching, and will see in it that which proves the truth specially spoken of this Mystery that "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
From the Editorial "The Foundations of Dispensational Truth”, Things to Come, 19(10):109-112, 1913.
The Three Spheres of Future Glory.
There is still something more to learn concerning the dispensations before we can rightly understand the unique position and wonderful teaching of the later Pauline Epistles written from the prison in Rome.
These dispensations are commonly spoken of as two, the Old and the New (Testament), but we must bring them, as all else, to the bar of the written Word to see whether we have learned from man or from God, from tradition or from revelation.
To some extent we shall all agree.
1) We shall all be agreed that the great subject of the Old Testament prophecies is a restored Israel and a regenerated earth (Matt. 19:28). It is surely unnecessary to quote the many prophecies which tell of the time when the earth shall be full of the knowledge and glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Num. 14:21; Ps. 72:9; Isa. 6:3. 11:9; Hab. 2:14).
We are at one with all our readers in taking these prophecies in their literal meaning; and in not attempting to explain them, or rather fritter them away by any spiritualizing interpretation which deprives them of all their truth and power.
We all look forward also to the time when "He that scattered Israel will gather him” (Jer. 31:10); when they "shall all be taught of God” (John 6:45; Isa. 54:13); when "the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our LORD, and of His Christ” (Rev. 11:15); and when the earthly Jerusalem shall be restored in more than all its ancient glory.
That kingdom and sphere of blessing and glory will be on the earth; and the new Israel with a heart of stone changed to a heart of flesh and with a new spirit, will bring forth "the fruits of righteousness” (Ezek. 36:24-36; Matt. 21:43). This will be the regeneration (or Palingenesia) when the Apostles will be seated "on twelve thrones judging the tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28).
This will be the first and lowest sphere of blessing. It will be on earth, and under the whole heaven. These are the "people of the saints of the Most High” (Dan. 7:27).
All the nations of the earth will share in this blessing according to God’s original promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:3,4, 17:4; Ps. 22:27,28, 67:4; Isa. 2:4, 11:10,12, 42:1,6, 49:22, 52:5, 603,5,11, 66:12, etc.)
2) But Abraham and his spiritual seed are "the saints of the Most High” as distinct from "the people” (of these saints) on the earth (Dan. 7:18,22,25), and occupying a distinct place in the heavenly sphere of this same kingdom. These, according to the Lord’s words in Luke, are "equal to the angels,” "sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:34-36), raised in the "first resurrection” before the thousand years of earthly blessing for Israel and for the nations "under the whole heaven” (Deut. 4:19; Rev 20:4-6). These belong to "that great city the holy Jerusalem,” which John saw "descending down from heaven, having the glory of God; and her light like unto a stone most precious.” This "holy Jerusalem” is fully described in Rev. 21:9-27. It is the "city which hath THE foundations” for which Abraham had been taught to look (Heb. 8:56), for, as "faith cometh by hearing,” Abraham must have heard; and this "hearing” must have come "from the [spoken] word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
This is the "inheritance” of those who, as Peter declares to the believers of the Dispersion, "have obtained like precious faith with us.” That "inheritance” is "incorruptible, and undefiled, and fadeth not away, reserved in HEAVEN for you.” The Greek by the figure Homoioteleuton, emphasizes this "inheritance” as being not earthly, but aphtharton, amianton, amaranton (1 Pet. 1:4).
The inhabitants of that heavenly city are declared to be "the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev. 21:9).
From the call of Abraham there have ever been these two seeds, the earthly and the heavenly.
The one was likened by Jehovah to "the dust of the earth” or "the sand of the sea” (Gen. 13:16, 22:17); and the other was likened to "the stars of heaven” (Heb. 11:12, Gen. 15:5).
Both expressions suggest multitude, but the former is specially associated with earthly blessing, while the latter points to "the partakers of a heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1).
These latter, like the father Abraham, looked for a heavenly portion and a heavenly blessing, for the city "which hath the foundations.”
"Heb 11:13: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Heb 11:14: For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
Heb 11:15: And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
Heb 11:16: But now they desire a better country, that is, an HEAVENLY: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Heb. 11:13-16, KJV).
Where, and what could that city have been if it was not the city which John was shown "descending out of heaven from God,” the foundations of which are specially described in Rev. 21:19,20.
All through the ages, from Abraham’s day to the present, these "partakers of a heavenly calling” (Heb. 3;1) may be traced.
They formed "the congregation of the Lord,” and are continually spoken of as such (Deut. 23:1-3, 8; 1 Chron. 28:8; Micah 2:5; Neh. 13:1; Ps. 22:22,25, 26:12, 35:18, 40:9,10, 68:26; 149:1; Num. 16;3, 20:4; Matt. 16:18; Acts 7:38, 2:46,47).
This is the usage of the same word in the Gospels when the Lord said:
"Upon this rock will I build My ekklēsia” (Matt. 16:18).
He did not, when addressing Israelites, use the word in the new, exclusive and special sense in which it was afterward to be used in the revelation of "the secret” in the Prison Epistles; but in the larger and wider Old Testament sense which His hearers would understand as embracing the whole assembly of Jehovah’s believing and worshipping people who were "partakers of a heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1).
Those who were kept secure "under the shadow of the Almighty” during the 38 years of penal wanderings in the Wilderness, see Pss. 90 and 91...
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