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ROMANS 1

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THE GOSPEL DEFINED

Concise Notes on the Epistle to the Romans 

The Epistle to the Romans is a masterly exposition of the doctrines relative to the gospel of God. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the apostle Paul was guided to unfold those truths which it is necessary to know and believe in order to be reckoned right in the sight of God, and also to live a life which is righteous before God and before men. 

Central to this gospel is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, by whom the work of redemption which is the foundation of the gospel was effected at Calvary. It was there that He died for the ungodly, and subsequently rose from the dead and ascended to heaven to intercede for those who believe on Him. 

No preacher should venture to present the gospel to sinners without first gaining a working knowledge of at least the first eight chapters of this epistle. No believer should seek to testify in a personal way without such a knowledge, either. And certainly no unsaved person should dare to enter eternity without first becoming acquainted with the saving truths this epistle contains. Since the moment of departure from this world is unknown to us, it is important to gain this acquaintance as a matter of great urgency.

“Because there is wrath, beware lest He take thee away with His stroke, then a great ransom cannot deliver thee,”  Job 36:18. 

 

Like the rest of the Holy Scriptures, the epistle to the Romans is structured and orderly. We would do well to consider the general scheme of the epistle by way of introduction, for it will help in understanding the truth contained therein.

The epistle as a whole may be divided into three parts, each beginning on a personal note from the apostle, and each ending with a note of praise:-

Chapters 1-8.

GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS IMPUTED. 

Personal note: “I am ready to preach the gospel”, 1:15

Key phrase: “Him that justifieth the ungodly”, 4:5.

Concluding praise: “For I am persuaded”, 8:38.

Chapters 9-11. GOD’S WAYS DEFENDED. 

Personal note: “I have great heaviness”, 9:2.

Key phrase: “His ways past finding out”, 11:33.

Concluding praise: “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen”, 11:36.

Chapters 12-16. GOD’S SERVANTS INSTRUCTED. 

Personal note: “I beseech you, therefore, brethren”, 12:1.

Key phrase: “Him that is of power to stablish”, 16:25.

Concluding praise: “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.” 16:27. 

[Chapters 1-8 may be further divided into two major sections as follows:-

1:1 to 5:11 THE SINS OF THE PERSON

The remedy- the blood of Christ;

The result- redemption and righteousness. 

5:12 to 8:39 THE PERSON WHO SINS

The remedy- Death, burial and resurrection of Christ;

The result- Identification and assurance.]

 

ROMANS CHAPTERS ONE TO EIGHT MAY BE DIVIDED INTO FOURTEEN SECTIONS AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1 ROMANS 1:1-17

The Person of Christ is central to the gospel

SECTION 2 ROMANS 1:18-32

God’s wrath against men as their Creator 

SECTION 3 ROMANS 2:1-16

God’s wrath against men as their Moral Governor

SECTION 4 ROMANS 2:17-3:20

God’s wrath against men as their legislator

SECTION 5 ROMANS 3:21-26

The work of Christ is central to the gospel

SECTION 6 ROMANS 3:27-4:25

God’s grace towards men as their justifier

SECTION 7 ROMANS 5:1-11

The glory of God is central to the gospel

SECTION 8 ROMANS 5:12-21

Christ and Adam compared and contrasted

SECTION 9 ROMANS 6:1-23

The believer’s past and present position

SECTION 10 ROMANS 7:1-6

Deliverance from the law

SECTION 11 ROMANS 7:7-25

Defence of the law and despair under the law

SECTION 12 ROMANS 8:1-17

Life in the flesh and life in the Spirit

SECTION 13 ROMANS 8:18-27

Present suffering and future glory

SECTION 14 ROMANS 8:28-39

Overwhelmed or overcoming

 

There is a great need in these days to recognise that the gospel is God-centred, and Christ-centred, and not sinner-centred. The apostles “ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ”, Acts 5:42. Having taught who He was, they were then in a position to preach that He should be believed in and relied upon. It would be a useful exercise to note the number of verses about sinners and the number of verses about Christ in the gospel addresses recorded in the book of Acts.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS CHAPTER 1, VERSES 1 TO 17:

1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

1:2  (which He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy scriptures,)

1:3 Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

1:4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

1:5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for His name:

1:6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

1:10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.

1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;

1:12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

1:13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

1:15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

 

SECTION 1: ROMANS 1:1-17

THE PERSON OF CHRIST IS CENTRAL TO THE GOSPEL

Structure of the section

The person of Christ in relation to:

1(a) 1:1 Paul
1(b) 1:2 The prophets
1(c) 1:3 The people of Israel
1(d) 1:4 God
1(e) 1:5 People of all nations
1(f) 1:6,7 The people of God
1(g) 1:8-12 Paul’s ministry
1(h) 1:13-15 Paul’s motives
1(i) 1:16-17 Paul’s message

Subject of section 1
Having introduced himself as the writer of the epistle, Paul goes straight into his theme, which is the gospel of God. He shows that this gospel was promised in Old Testament times as the prophets foretold the coming of Christ. He has now come, and is preached as being relevant to all men. Having assured the believers at Rome to whom he writes that he has a great desire for their blessing, Paul then asserts his strong belief in the ability of the gospel of Christ to save those who believe it.

1(a)  The person of Christ in relation to Paul

1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ- as a servant-slave, Paul was captive to Christ’s will, ready to be told “what thou must do,” Acts 9:6.
Called to be an apostle- appointed by Christ’s call, Galatians 1:1; an apostle is a “sent one,” sent out from the presence of his superior to do what he commands.
Separated unto the gospel of God-
commissioned for Christ’s service, and committed to it, Acts 22:21. He was singled out, and single-minded.

1(b) The person of Christ in relation to the prophets

1:2  (which He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy scriptures,)

Which He had promised afore since Christ is the subject of gospel, to promise Him, (as God did through the Old Testament prophets), is to promise the gospel.
By His prophets- because they were His, they spoke for God with authority. As the apostle Peter said, “But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled,” Acts 3:18. And as we read of the Lord Jesus, “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself,” Luke 24:27. See also Luke 1:69,70.
In the holy scriptures- the writings of the Old Testament are holy, for they express God’s holy will, and are completely separate in character from all other writings, being utterly reliable and trustworthy; As the apostle wrote elsewhere, “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” 2 Timothy 3:15,16.

1(c) The person of Christ in relation to the people of Israel

1:3 Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

Concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord- as God’s Son, the Lord Jesus shares the nature of God the Father, as we shall see in verse 4. Jesus is the name He was given when He came into manhood to save His people from their sins, Matthew 1:21. As Christ, He is the Anointed One, the Messiah of Old Testament predictions, see 1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 2:2; Daniel 9:25. As our Lord, He is the One whose will is sovereign, and to whom believers readily submit themselves, Romans 14:7-9.
Which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh-
as One who is of the seed of David, the Lord Jesus is qualified to bring in a future righteous kingdom on earth, see Luke 1:30-33. But the three main principles of that kingdom will be “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”, Romans 14:17, and these also sum up the blessings that come to those who believe the gospel. The apostle is careful not to alienate the Jewish element amongst his readers, so reminds them that the line of David clearly reaches to Christ, as Matthew Chapter One shows. In fact, “according to the flesh” may include the idea that even a unbelieving man might consult the temple records and see this to be true. But Paul is also careful to point out that since Christ has become flesh, He is relevant to all men, not just Israel. He became real man, and as such is God’s Ideal Man.

1(d) The person of Christ in relation to God

1:4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

And declared to be the Son of God- note the change of verb; not made, but declared, for He is ever the Son of God, sharing the Father’s eternal, unchanging nature. The Lord Jesus indicated in John 10:30,36 that to be Son of God was to be one in essence and nature with the Father. If He had meant anything less than this, the Jews would not have tried to stone Him for blasphemy.
With power, according to the Spirit of holiness-
the declaration of Christ’s Deity is a powerful one, and is made in relation to the Spirit of holiness. Views differ as to whether this is a reference to the Holy Spirit, or to the spirit of the Lord Jesus. If the former, then the Holy Spirit empowers the declaration, but if the latter, then Christ’s own spirit, marked as it is by holiness, and by which He communed with His Father, is set in contrast to His being of the seed of David according to the flesh, by which means He associated with men on earth. Note the contrast with the unholiness of the men described in the second half of the chapter.
By the resurrection of the dead-
not resurrection from among the dead, but the resurrection of dead persons, Himself included. See for instance, John 11:4. Every time a dead person was raised by Christ, when He Himself was raised, and when the dead are raised at the various resurrections, there is a powerful testimony to His Deity. See John 5:17-31.

1(e) The person of Christ in relation to the people of all nations

1:5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for His name:

By whom we have received grace- grace is unmerited favour, and believing sinners are shown this when they are saved from their sins; but there is a constant need for the believer to receive Divine favour, in order that the Christian life may be lived effectively. As the Lord Jesus said to His own, “without Me ye can do nothing,” John 15:5.
And apostleship-
grace is the common portion of all the people of God, whereas apostleship was granted to only a few, who must have seen the Lord Jesus personally, 1 Corinthians 9:1. Divine favour was needed by apostles also for the discharge of their responsibilities. Note the incidental testimony to the Deity of Christ in that the grace which elsewhere is said to be the grace of God, 1 Corinthians 15:10, is here said to be from Christ Himself.
For obedience to the faith-
one object of the preaching of the gospel is to bring men to an obedient faith in Christ. The person of the Lord Jesus is presented to men that they may believe on Him and submit obediently to His Lordship.
Among all nations-
the epistle emphasises the universal need of man to hear and believe the gospel. See also verse 13.
For His name
that is, for the good of His name. The object of the apostle’s preaching was not just that sinners might be saved, but that the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord might be honoured.

1(f) The person of Christ in relation to the people of God

1:6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ- the preaching of the gospel is the means by which Jesus Christ calls men and women to Himself, that they might enter into the blessings which He obtained at infinite cost when He died upon the cross at Calvary. The call is not only to Himself, but also away from self and the world.

1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

To all that be in Rome- as is clear from the next statement, this means all the believers in Rome.
Beloved of God-
they were the object of Divine affections. Beloved is a title of the Lord Jesus, telling of the active love of the Father for Him; here it is used of believers. This reminds us of the words of the Saviour as He prayed, “Thou…hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me,” John 17:23.
Called to be saints- this means that they were constituted saints or separated ones by the call of Christ, not that they were called to develop into saints, although it is true that believers are to perfect holiness in the fear of God, 2 Corinthians 7:1. All true believers are saints, or holy ones, as far as their standing before God is concerned, but their current state of holiness varies with the individual.
Grace to you and peace- grace has been described as “the fount of all mercies,” and peace “the crown of all blessings.” Grace (“Charis”) was a Gentile greeting, whereas peace (“Shalom”) was a Jewish salutation. Here they are combined in the apostle’s greeting to all believers in Rome, whether Jew or Gentile. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, Galatians 3:28.
From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ-
a further testimony to the Deity of Christ in that Divine blessings come equally from the Father and the Lord Jesus.

 1(g) The person of Christ in relation to Paul’s ministry

1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Verses 8-10 emphasise Paul’s attitude Godward, verses 11-15 his attitude towards believers.

First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all- the apostle is giving thanks through Jesus Christ for their energetic faith and testimony. Note that even a leading apostle needed the Lord Jesus as mediator between himself and His God.
That your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world-
living as they did in the capital city of the Roman Empire, they were in a good position to spread the gospel, and this they had done diligently.

1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son- the preaching of the gospel is a spiritual activity, and nothing of man or self must be allowed to intrude into it. It is also a priestly activity, as the word for serve indicates, so the preaching must be with dignity and holiness, with God’s glory as the end in view.
That without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers-
it is just as important to pray for converts after they are saved as it is to preach to sinners so that they may be saved. Note the apostle prayed for these believers even though he did not know many of them personally. See 1 Samuel 12:23.

1:10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.

Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto youin the ordering of God he was prevented for many years from visiting them because he was fully occupied elsewhere, see 15:23, with the result that we have the benefit of his epistle to them, in which he sets out what he would have said if he had come. Note he subjected his movements to the over-riding will of God.

1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;

For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift- the gifts he had were for the edifying of the believers, not the advancing of self, Ephesians 4:11,12.
To the end ye may be established- sound doctrine is vitally necessary if believers are to be firmly grounded in the faith, Ephesians 4:13-16.

1:12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me- the apostle is at pains not to elevate himself above them. He would be comforted by evidences of their genuine faith, and so would they be comforted by evidences of his faith.

1 (h) The person of Christ in relation to Paul’s motives

1:13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto)- he had been let, or hindered, from coming to them by his desire to fully preach Christ elsewhere. He was concerned to preach Christ where others had not, Romans 15:20-24. Those at Rome had heard from others, see Acts 2:10.
That I might have some fruit among you also-
fruit means results for God’s glory from the making known of His truth. A tree does not produce fruit for itself, but for its owner, so Paul sought glory only for God in his service. He could only be fruitful through Christ, who said, “He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5.
Even as among other Gentiles-
Paul was commissioned to concentrate on preaching to Gentiles, Galatians 2:9, Acts 22:21.

1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians- it did not matter whether men were cultured or otherwise, Paul was concerned to discharge his debt of obligation to preach the gospel to them, for Christ had died for them all.
Both to the wise, and to the unwise- those who sought God through philosophy, or those who were unthinking, all had a claim on his time and attention. As he said elsewhere, “for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!” 1 Corinthians 9:16. Note that the gospel is for all sorts of men, of whatever nationality, culture, or natural ability. 

1:15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also- as far as it depended on Paul, he stood ready to preach in Rome, for the message of the gospel is urgent, and is also of universal relevance.

1 (i) The person of Christ in relation to Paul’s message

1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ- the preaching of the gospel is foolishness to men, 1 Corinthians 1:18, but those who have been saved know it is nothing to be embarrassed about, for “whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed,” Romans 9:33.
For it is the power of God unto salvation-
the men of the world are perishing all the time they refuse the gospel, whereas believers not only know initial salvation from sin and judgement when they receive the gospel by faith, but are constantly saved from the pitfalls along the way by that same gospel.
To everyone that believeth-
this is the principle on which God acts in His dealings with men. To believe and to have faith mean the same, namely a firm persuasion based on hearing the word of God. See later passages in this epistle, such as 4:1-8; 10:8-13.
To the Jew first-
in the rich grace of God, the very nation which cast out the Son of God and crucified Him, is given the first opportunity to believe in Him. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem,” Luke 24:47.
And also to the Greek- by Greek the apostle here means non-Jew. Since the common language throughout the Roman Empire was Greek, the Gentiles were known as Greeks.

1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed- the expression “the righteousness of God” is used in two senses in this epistle. Here, the phrase means that Divine righteousness which is reckoned, or imputed, to those who believe, see 3:21,22; 4:3-5. Elsewhere, it means God’s attribute, that which He possesses intrinsically and eternally, see 3:25,26. Instead of God demanding that man become righteous by his own efforts, (a thing the apostle will show later in the epistle he cannot do), God is prepared, in grace, to reckon to be righteous those who receive the gospel.
From faith to faith-
literally out from faith (on the principle of faith), to faith (with faith as the expected response). God is prepared to reckon righteousness to a person, provided they come to Him on His terms. The sinner must abandon any idea that he can earn God’s favour, and rely totally on the person and work of the Lord Jesus, who died at Calvary so that his sins might be forgiven, and he might be made right in the sight of God.
As it is written, “The just shall live by faith”-
the truly just or righteous man is he who has spiritual life within on the principle of his faith in God, as is shown by the fact that he lives out that life by the same principle. The apostle had claimed at the beginning of this section that the gospel was promised through the prophets, and now he proves his point as he brings the section to a close by quoting Habakkuk 2:4. He thus disposes of any idea that he is teaching a new doctrine of his own devising.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS CHAPTER 1, VERSES 18-32:

1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

1:19  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

1:20  For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

1:21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

1:22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

1:23  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

1:24  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

1:25  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

1:26  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

1:27  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

1:28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

1:29  Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

1:30  Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

1:31  Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

1:32  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. 

SECTION 2: ROMANS1:18-1:32
God’s wrath against men as their Creator

Structure of Section 2

2(a) 1:18-20 The revelation of God through creation
2(b) 1:21-23 The rejection of the God of creation
2(c) 1:24-32 The recompense from the God of creation

Subject of Section 2

The apostle now shows that the righteousness which is available through believing the gospel of Christ is desperately needed, since the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truths He has revealed to them through creation, and disregard the principles He has instituted for the regulation of their lives on the earth.  Because they flout His laws, God ordains that they see the consequences in their lives even now.

2(a) The revelation of God through creation

1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven- there is a great need for the righteousness of God to be revealed in the gospel, since God is angry with sin and sinners, a fact which He has plainly shown in history.  At the flood of Noah’s time, the confusion of tongues because of the tower of Babel, the overthrow of Sodom, and the sending of Israel into captivity, God clearly demonstrated His hot displeasure against the sins of men. 
Against all ungodliness-
every example of a lack of reverence for God’s glory.

And unrighteousness of men- every evidence of disregard of God’s laws.
Who hold the truth in unrighteousness- hold=hold down, suppress.  Truths concerning God as Creator are known by men as the next verses show, but they choose to suppress them, and thereby incur God’s wrath.

1:19  Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them- by His works of creation God has revealed truths as to His greatness and power. Sadly that truth is suppressed because to recognise a Creator involves accountability to Him. A well-known evolutionist said that his generation was eager to accept the theory of evolution because men wanted to be rid of the moral restraints of religion.

1:20  For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead- best considered as a parenthesis, so verse 21 follows the argument of verses 18 and 19.  From God’s creative act of making the world His invisible attributes of eternal power and Godhood are clearly seen.

These include:
His power, Psalm 147:4,5; Hebrews 1:3.
His greatness, honour, majesty, and wisdom, Psalm 104:1,24.
His gift of life, breath and all things, Acts 17:25.
His providential care, Psalm 104:10-23; Acts 14:17.
His impartiality, Matthew 5:45. 

By Godhood the apostle means those attributes of God that are manifest through creation.  The fullest possible revelation of God is in Jesus Christ, “For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, Colossians 2:9.  The Godhead is God in the totality of His being, essence and attributes.  God’s power is eternal power, for He is not Himself the product of a superior force, but is the great Originating Cause of all effects.
So that they are without excuse- the conclusion the apostle draws from the revelation God has given of Himself as Creator, as verse 19 explains.  There is no real reason why men should not know that there is a Creator-God, for “He left not Himself without witness”, Acts 14:17.

2(b)  Rejection of the God of creation

1:21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Because that, when they knew God- not a saving knowledge, but the knowledge of Him as Creator, which they might have gained from the things that are clearly seen, verse 20.
They glorified Him not as God- the glory that men should have given Him was withheld.
Neither were thankful- the benefits they received from Him were taken for granted, and men thought they were the fruits of their own efforts, and not God’s provision.  This is still true today, with good crops being attributed to man’s cleverness, and bad crops blamed on God.
But became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened- their reasonings were empty of truth and reality, and so their hearts became taken up with things of no account, and darkened as to further light from God.

1:22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools- thinking themselves to be self-sufficient as to the true nature of things, (wisdom is “insight into the true nature of things”), they in fact sank deeper into folly and ignorance. See Isaiah 44:9-25.

1:23  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God- whatever men might do or say, God is not corruptible, for He is not affected by the changing views about Him which men adopt.  They may change His glory in their own imaginations, but not in reality.  “I am the Lord: that is My name: And My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images”, Isaiah 42:8.
Into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things- by degenerating into idolatry man shows himself to be the corruptible one.  For examples of these various forms of idolatry see Daniel 3:1; Isaiah 44:13; Ezekiel 8; Exodus 32:4.

2 (c)  Recompense from the God of creation

1:24  Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

Wherefore God also gave them up- men gave God up, and heaped disgrace upon Him, His response was to give them up by allowing them to heap disgrace upon themselves.
To uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves- the capacity to sin in the way specified in verses 26,27, is within the human heart through the fall of man in Genesis 3.  It is not that God planted the evil there.  In response to their ungodliness in turning to idolatry, God gave men up to vile affections, which would mean they would receive recompense for their sin in their own lives even on earth.

1:25  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator- man refused to acknowledge God’s true character as Creator, rebelling against the principles He has set up for the maintenance of His rule in creation, and began to think of that creation as his god, which is a lie.
Who is blessed for ever. Amen in the midst of his exposure of the gross wickedness of men in refusing God, the apostle feels compelled to break off and dissociate himself from them by blessing God.

1:26  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

1:27  And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature resuming the theme of verse 24, after the apostle has been overwhelmed by the enormity of their sin, and has personally distanced himself from it in verse 25.  God has revealed His anger against homosexuality and lesbianism, not only by condemning it in His Law, Leviticus 18:22-30, 20:13, but also by dramatically destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19:4,5,24; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 7.  So the wrath of God against such evils is already revealed, verse 18.  The apostle says “even their women”, expressing surprise that those who are normally thought of as gentle and loving, should violently rebel against God in this way.
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman- the proper and natural use of the woman is as the vehicle for the bringing of children into the world.
Burned in their lust one toward another- instead of begetting children to love, they rejected child-bearing in lust.  It is surely significant that the word Sodom means burning.  Those who burned in their depraved lust, now burn in everlasting fire, Jude 7.  The apostle does not use the normal word for man and woman in this passage, but rather the words for male and female, which are more fitting for the animal kingdom; those who practice the perversions mentioned here, are little better than the beasts.  This is one of the results of the theory of evolution. 
Receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet-
not only does eternal wrath await these sins, but even now the recompense is known if men break through the barriers that God has set up to regulate human conduct and relationships.  This is clearly evident in the current Aids epidemic. This giving of men up is in a general sense, and does not prevent individuals, even if they are homosexuals or lesbians, being saved, as is clear from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11- “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God”.

1:28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge- recognition of God as Creator and therefore Moral Governor of the universe has a restraining effect on the wickedness of men.  If they choose to deny He has rights over them, God allows men to work out their wickedness and reap the consequences.  “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” Galatians 6:7.  But in wrath God remembers mercy, Habbakkuk 3:2, so He demonstrates to men the folly of their sin before they enter eternity, giving them opportunity to repent.
God gave them over to a reprobate mind- God allowed men to express in action what was in their mind, so that they would find out the result of doing their own will.  A reprobate mind is a way of thinking which God does not approve of, “that which does not prove itself to be that which it ought”.
To do those things which are not convenient- that which is not suitable conduct for those who are under obligation to God.

1:29  Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

1:30  Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

1:31  Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness– a list of sinful characteristics.
Full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity- sinful  tendencies.
Whisperers, backbiters, haters of God- sinful malice.
Despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents- sinful attitudes.
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful- sinful deficiencies.  A catalogue of sins all displaying the result of a mind that is occupied with self, and not God.

1:32  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. 

Who knowing the judgement of God- they know what God’s righteous assessment of their conduct is, through the voice of conscience, which they seek to stifle.
That they which commit such things are worthy of death- those who commit sin deserve to be removed from the earth in death. See, for instance, 2 Samuel 12:13.  It is only through the mercy of God that they are allowed to continue living, and have opportunity to repent.
Not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them- these men know that if they were to condemn others, they would condemn themselves, since they practise the same things.  To try to avoid this, they condone the sins of others  The apostle turns in the next chapter to those who feel they can criticise others without condemning themselves.

REVELATION 11

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Survey of the chapter
As noted in connection with chapter 10, John may have wondered where the nation of Israel fitted in to the things he was being shown.  After all, it is the nation over which Christ shall reign as king, and it is also the nation that will have to pass through “the time of Jacob’s trouble”, Jeremiah 30:7. 
The seal judgements have been inflicted on men indiscriminately, but in chapters 10-15, and 17-19, the emphasis changes, and John is given details which are more to do with persons.  So to prepare for that more specific action, in chapters 10-12 we are informed about God’s ways with the nation of Israel. 

Verses 1-2          Preservation by God of the nation.
John is instructed to measure the temple, and is told that it will be violated by the Gentiles.  But the measuring indicates God has detailed concern for it, and those who worship in it.
Verses 3-14        Provision by God for the nation.
Two witnesses are raised up so as to strengthen the believing Jews to be faithful to God, and trust Him.  The ascent of the witnesses to heaven will assure the believing Israelites of His involvement in their plight, and that He has not left them without support.
Verses 15-18      Praise of God by representatives of the nation.
The four and twenty elders rejoice at the prospect of the millenial reign of Christ, and the resurrection of Old Testament saints.
Verse 19              Power of God ready to be asserted for the nation. 
The chapter begins with a temple on earth, which is about to be trampled under foot, but there is the assurance that this does not affect the temple of God in heaven, the centre of real power.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION CHAPTER 11, VERSES 1 TO 14:

11:1  And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
11:2  But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
11:3  And I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
11:4  These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
11:5  And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
11:6  These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
11:7  And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
11:8  And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
11:9  And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
11:10  And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
11:11  And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
11:12  And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
11:13  And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
11:14  The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.

Verses 1-2         Preservation by God of the nation.

11:1  And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.

And there was given me a reed like unto a rod- John is going to be assured that the things symbolised in chapter 10, (the thin high cloud that the psalmist used to speak of the extent of God’s faithfulness, power and truth in relation to the nation of Israel), and the sun and the rainbow, (God’s evident witness to His intention to bless the nation), are symbols of reality, and not fantasies.
The reed was a measure of length in old times, being standardised at 12′ 9″, or just under 4 metres.  It was a reed like a rod, meaning that it was not a reed unsuitable for measuring with, but straight and strong.  A reed is a symbol of weakness, as we see from Luke 7:24, (“a reed shaken by the wind”), but this is an exception, for it is like a rod, the symbol of power.  God is going to bring the nation of Israel from a position of weakness to that of power, through their Messiah.
That it was given to John shows he is commissioned to do the measuring, whereas in a similar situation in Ezekiel’s experience it was an angel who did so.  Another difference is that Ezekiel was told the measurements of the temple, for it was not then built; nor, indeed has it been built yet, for it is the millenial temple that is in view there.  Here, however, it is the measurement of a temple that will exist during the tribulation period.
And the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein- the angel is standing, for God’s ministers are ever ready to serve Him.  John is bidden to likewise be standing, ready to do this important task that will impress upon him and his readers that God’s interest in the nation of Israel is real. 
This measurement is not just of things, a temple and an altar, but people.  We might think you cannot measure people with a rod, but you can measure the area that a crowd covers, and God is assessing the extent of interest in Himself that the nation is displaying.  To measure the temple is to signify that God takes careful and detailed note of its existence, and the desires for God that its building represented.  To measure the altar is to show that God takes account of the exercises of men towards Him.  To measure the size of the crowd shows that God is aware of them, and will protect them.  There are clearly those who come to the Court of the Gentiles, but who have no offering for God to be placed upon the altar.  These are not His people, and are given over to the power of the enemy.
The sad fact is that this temple is going to be defiled by the image of the antichrist.  The altar sacrifices are going to be stopped by the same person, (see Daniel 9:27), and he will persecute those who believe, so that they have to flee, as the next chapter will tell us. 
Note that although this temple had been built by Israel in unbelief, and they are carrying on the sacrifices as if Christ has not died, nevertheless, it is still called the temple of God.  Even though there was much that was of man in the temple of Christ’s day, He still went there, and called it His Father’s house.  The principle was intact even if the practice was in ruins. 
The religious element in Israel at this time are making preparations for the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem on the site of Solomon’s temple.  At present there is a mosque on the site, but clearly it will have gone by the time John’s vision is fulfilled. 

11:2  But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not- the temple area was divided into the inner sanctuary, then the Court of the Priests, the Court of the Israelites, and the Court of the Women.  It seems that these two courts are being included in the expression “the temple”, even though the word is strictly “inner temple”, the sanctuary itself.  The Jews of Christ’s time regarded the Court of the Priests as part of the “naos”, the inner temple  Surrounding these courts was the middle wall of partition, through which Gentiles could not go.  So the court without or outside of the temple was this outer court, the Court of the Gentiles, where all could come.  This part was not measured, a symbolic omission, to emphasise the difference God was making between those He was mindful of, who were earnest worshippers, (even though misguided, for as yet they had not realised that Christ’s sacrifice had made their rituals obsolete), and the Gentiles in general.
For it is given unto the Gentiles- this unmeasured area becomes a sign of those God is not pledging to protect, for they have no interest in worshipping Him.  The fact that it is given unto the Gentiles shows He is in total control, and is allowing events to unfold to glorify Himself in the outcome, which is the defeat of the Antichrist.  He controls both the believing and unbelieving part of Israel.  The latter side with the Gentile antichrist, and therefore are reckoned as being in the Court of the Gentiles.
And the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months- Daniel was given a vision in which he was told that “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary”, Daniel 9:26.  He had already learnt of one who would take away the daily sacrifice, and cast down the place of God’s sanctuary, 8:11.  This happens at the same time as the image of the beast is set up in the temple, called in Daniel 12:11 “the abomination that maketh desolate”, which is linked in that verse with the taking away of the daily sacrifice in the temple.  The right of the Jews to sacrifice on their altar will be withdrawn.
When the disciples drew the attention of the Lord to the temple buildings, He responded with the words, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down”.  And when the disciples asked when this would happen, He did not mention anything about the Romans destroying the city in AD 70.  Rather, He spoke of things at the end time, and it is then that the city of Jerusalem and the temple shall be destroyed, for the antichrist will attempt to rid the earth of all reminders of God, that he himself might be the supreme object of worship.  He will establish Babylon as the capital city of the world.
So the treading under foot by the Gentiles will extend from the middle of the 70th week of Daniel, until Christ comes to earth to deal with His enemies.  As the Lord said, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”, Luke 21:22. The times of the Gentiles began when world-government was given to Nebuchadnezzar, and will end when Gentile dominion is ended by the coming of Christ to reign.
This period of time is reckoned in terms of months, because that is how the Jews reckoned time for religious purposes.  Month after month will go by, new moon after new moon, and they cannot offer their sacrifices.

Verses 3-14        Provision by God for the nation.

11:3  And I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

And I will give power unto My two witnesses– it is important at this time that a word of instruction from God be available to the nation, so that they might be given the opportunity to believe in the Messiah.  The one hundred and forty four thousand servants of God spoken of in chapter seven have spread out from Israel into the world. 
Malachi’s prophecy marks the end of the first period into which Daniel’s 70 weeks are divided, so there is a connection between his prophecy and Daniel’s vision.  At the end of his prophecy we read, “Remember ye the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgements.  Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse”, Malachi 4:4-6.  Now the two saints that Malachi mentions, Moses and Elijah, were on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Lord, and no doubt the mention of Christ coming in His kingdom, and the presence of Moses and Elijah, prompted the disciples to enquire about the coming of Elijah, for what they had seen on the mount was a preview of Christ coming to reign, and they knew Malachi spoke of those days.  The Lord replied, “”Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.  But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed.  Likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer of them”, Matthew 17:11,12.  The disciples understood by this that He spoke of John the Baptist, verse 13.  For when John was promised to Zacharias, he was told by the angel “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.  And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared of the Lord”.  
Note the fact that the angel does not speak of John turning the children to their fathers, but instead says “turning the disobedient to the wisdom of the just”.  This may well be the interpretation of the phrase, so that John would turn the children, (that is, those who claimed to have Abraham as their father, Matthew 3:9), unto their fathers, (that is, to the prophets, as they foretold the coming of the Messiah, see Acts 3:25).  The disobedient children of Abraham would be turned to the wisdom of the prophetic scriptures, written by just men of old time under the inspiration of the Spirit of God.
But John would also turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.  We should not confuse the fathers who turn to the children, with the fathers the children turn to, in Malachi’s prophecy.  Nor should we confuse the children the fathers turn to, with the children who turn to their fathers.  From the very beginning, God directed men to look for the promised seed.  He had promised that Eve’s seed would bruise the serpent’s head.  The woman’s seed is primarily Christ, for He is the Ultimate Seed.  So all down through the centuries of the Old Testament era, the fathers would be anticipating the child that would be the Messiah.  John, by his preaching, turned the children of his day, (those who had turned out not to be the Messiah, but who were children of Abraham), to what the fathers, (the Old Testament prophets), had to say about the Messiah, for He had come and was ready to be revealed to Israel.
So also the witnesses of a future day will turn future Jews to a reading not only of the Old Testament prophets, but also the writings of Matthew and Luke to show the genuineness of the claims of Christ, and the Epistle to the Hebrews to show His sacrifice is superior.  This will have special relevance given that those in view in Revelation 11 are in the temple as priests, and in the court where the altar was, as worshippers.  Just as in the days of the apostles “a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith”, Acts 6:7, so in the future many of Israel will respond to the ministry of these two witnesses, and distance themselves from a temple-system that is about to be profaned by the Antichrist.  Some at least of these will become the company Daniel spoke of as “they that be wise”, Daniel 12:3, who will “turn many to righteousness”.  These are the Maskilim, or “wise ones”, and the Maschil psalms are especially for them in that future day.  (The Maschil psalms are as follows: Psalm 32;42;44;45;52-55;74;78;88;89;142.  It would be a profitable exercise to read those psalms in the light of the situation in which the Jewish remnant will find themselves).
And they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days- this is the same length of time as forty two months, since the prophetic year has 360 days of 12 months each.  But it does not refer to the same period as the 42 months of verse 2, for that is the designation for the second half of the 7-year period.  The period of the prophesying by the two witnesses is to prepare the nation for that, and therefore must relate to the first half of the seven-year period. 
As prophets they have a two-fold ministry.  To forth-tell the mind of God regarding what Israelites should do, and also to foretell the impending desecration of the temple, and the subsequent destruction of the city.  So the 42 months of treading under foot follows the 1260 days of prophesying, being the two halves of Daniel’s seventieth week. 
That their time of prophesying is measured in days reminds us of the words of God to Israel, “Since the day your fathers came out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them”, Jeremiah 7:25.  Every day for 1260 days He will send forth His prophets to His people.
Clothed in sackcloth- John the Baptist was clothed in a camel-hair garment, for the camel is a creature of vengeance, and God was angry with the sin of the people.  Here, it is sackcloth, the symbol of mourning, for the nation is in a state of spiritual death, and these prophets feel it keenly.  They reflect in their clothing the sadness in the heart of God as He looks upon the nation.

11:4  These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.  

These are the two olive trees- it was in a Maskil psalm that David wrote, “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of my God”, Psalm 52:8.  This would suggest that the two witnesses prophesy in the temple courts, flourishing there as spiritual men amidst the deadness and carnality of the nation, even though they are carrying on their rituals.  The bulk of Psalm 52 concerns, in the first instance, a description and condemnation of Doeg the Edomite, who had seen David go into the house of God to get food for himself and his men.  Doeg had betrayed David to Saul, who had commanded that the priests be slain.  His soldiers would not do this, but Doeg did.  This caused David much distress, that he had occasioned the death of the priests.  But the psalm goes beyond Doeg, for the terms used are very suited as a description of the Antichrist.  David speaks of mischief, deceit, and lying, and these are some of the evil features that will be seen in all their ugliness in the Man of Sin, as Paul calls the Antichrist.  As the old preachers used to say, “the sin of man will culminate in the Man of Sin”.
These two witnesses, however, stand firm in the house of God, and as we shall see in the next verse, are able to devour their enemies with fire.  This means they will be able to protect the priests, and not allow them to be slain.  This David was not able to do, but these will be able.
And the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth- this would be a reminder to John of the situation in Zechariah’s day, when the temple building was delayed.  Zechariah saw a candlestick, and two olive trees on either side of it.  The interpretation was that “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth”, Zechariah 4:14.  These two men in Zechariah’s day were Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest.  Just as the two olive trees supplied oil for the lampstand, so these two men would be used to further the cause of the building of the temple and the full institution of the worship of God.  So it is that in a future day, when the temple is about to be destroyed, God will have His two “anointed ones”, who will encourage the nation to realise that the temple system is doomed, and they should separate themselves from it. 
When Elijah stormed into Ahab’s palace with a word of condemnation for him, he said, “As the Lord God if Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word”, 1 Kings 17:1.  Ahab had begun to stand before an image of Baal, a dead idol, but Elijah represented the God of heaven, and he stood before Him, not only to worship Him, but also ready to receive instructions from Him.  Interestingly, the period of time when there was no rain was three and a half years, as James tells us, James 5:17. 

11:5  And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.

And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies- this is very similar to what Elijah did when Ahaziah the king twice sent a captain with a company of fifty soldiers to arrest him.  Twice over Elijah said, “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume thee and thy fifty”, 2 Kings 1:10.  And fire did indeed come down from heaven and consume them.  In this way Elijah’s life was preserved.  So with the two witnesses, for they will be able to do the same in self-defence, in order that their vital ministry may continue until the moment of God’s choosing.
It is instructive to note the comparison between these two events, one past, and the other future, with what happened during the ministry of Christ.  James and John, (surnamed “sons of thunder” by the Lord), wanted to bring down fire from heaven (in their words, “as Elijah did”), upon some Samaritans who had refused to receive Christ.  He rebuked His two disciples with the words, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.  For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them”, Luke 9:55,56.  This highlights very markedly the difference between the present age of God’s grace, the past age of the law, and the future age of God’s wrath.
Note the fire comes out of their mouths, which is another way of saying that they had power to call upon God to send fire.  That this fire was effective is seen in that the enemies of the truth are consumed, so thoroughly were they dealt with.  The word consumed is used in 2 Kings 2, Luke 9, and this passage, thus linking the three together. 
And if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed- there is an imperative reason why this must happen, for it is highly important that God’s interests, as represented by the two witnesses, should be defended.  It is also important that the worshippers in the temple courts, whether priests or people, should be preserved so as to have opportunity to obey the prophesying of God’s witnesses.

11:6  These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy- since it is not going to rain during their time of ministry, then the absence of rain is for the space of three and a half years, the very period of time in which it did not rain according to the word of Elijah, 1 Kings 17:1.  It is James that tells us how long the period was, James 5:17.  King Ahab had begun to worship Baal, the weather-god, so it was appropriate that God’s control over the weather should be manifest.
And have power over waters to turn them to blood- if the fire and no rain remind us of Elijah, the second two miracles remind us of Moses.  He had turned the water of the Nile to blood.  Now the Nile was worshipped by the Egyptians, so this was an attack upon their idolatry, as were all the plagues brought against the land at that time, for God said, “against all the gods of Egypt will I execute judgement”, Exodus 12:12.
And to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will- Moses was able to plague Egypt, so that Pharoah was eventually forced to let God’s people go.  It is said of Antichrist that “the king shall do according to his will”, Daniel 11:36.  He finds, however, that these two men have a superior will, for they represent the God of heaven. 

11:7  And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

And when they shall have finished their testimony- able to defend themselves for a period of three and a half years, their time has come.  Their testimony has achieved its goal, for when the abomination of desolation is set up in the temple at Jerusalem, then those who believe will flee. 
The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them- this is the first time that the Antichrist has been mentioned in the book.  The Book of Revelation is the revelation of Christ, whereas the Book of Daniel, whilst it speaks of Christ’s revelation, is more the book of the revelation of Antichrist, for he is prophesied in chapters 2,7,8,9,10 and 11, and is prefigured by the kings in chapters 1,3,4,5 and 6.  Note that he is not called the beast out of the sea, as in 13:1, but the beast ascending out of the bottomless pit.  We shall have to enquire what this means at a later point, but suffice it to say at this point that it denotes the Satanic power that is behind him.  It would seem an unequal conquest, two men, and a Satanically empowered beast, but the victory belongs to the righteous.  He may succeed in killing them, but it can only be because their period of ministry is over, and their power to defend themselves has been withdrawn, or at least, is not exercised.  That he makes war shows that there is conflict between the forces of darkness and light, good and evil, and evil seems to triumph.

11:8  And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city- such will be the pent-up anger against these two men, that they will delight to highlight the fact that they are dead.  It is an disgrace in the east to not bury the bodies of the dead.  Their corpses would soon start to decompose in the hot sun.
The Lord Jesus described Jerusalem as the city of the Great King, Matthew 5:35, but it cannot be called that here.  It is only great because it is the focus of great and momentous events.
Which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt- geographically and technically it is the city of Jerusalem, but morally it is no better in character than Sodom or Egypt.  At the end of the book John will describe Jerusalem as the holy city, but he cannot do that here.  The very city in which the holy Son of God ministered, has sunk so low as to be like Sodom with its immorality, and Egypt with its idolatry. 
Where also our Lord was crucified- any city may, sadly, be labelled “Sodom and Egypt”, today, but it is a sad commentary on the low state of the people of Israel in these future days, that those names are appropriate for Jerusalem.  He who is the Lord was crucified there, in order to deliver men from their vice and their idolatry.

11:9  And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.

And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half- no division of humanity will not have access to the sight of their dead bodies.  John may have wondered how that would be possible, but today, with universal media coverage of any and every event, this is entirely possible, assuming, of course, that such things will be able to function during the time of tribulation.
Their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the city for as many days as there were years of their ministry.  Ezekiel was instructed by God to lie on one side and then the other for a certain number of days, each day representing a year.  What Ezekiel did during his ministry, these will do after theirs is over.  Their bodies will be a reminder of what they did during those three and a half years,
And shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves- it seems that there were those who wished to bury these bodies, but they were not allowed to do so.  It seems also that it was “all people and kindreds and tongues and nations” that were insistent on this, showing the universal hatred of the two witnesses.  It was important that they be visible, however, so that the drama of their resurrection might be the greater.  It also ensured that everyone know who it was that had been raised, for the bodies had been visible all the time, so God over-ruled.

11:10  And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another- after Esther had been the means of delivering the Jews from the devices of Haman, two days were set aside “to make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor”, Esther 9:22.  Here it is the enemies of the Jews who celebrate.
Because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth- whilst their ministry was no doubt in the temple courts in order to protect those who worshipped there, the effect of their miracles could be world-wide, especially the lack of rain and waters turned to blood.

11:11  And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.

And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet- the teaching of Scripture is that at death, “then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it”, Ecclesiastes 12:7.  At the resurrection the spirits of men shall be reinstated in their bodies.  Here, however, there is a slight difference, because it is the spirit of life from God that comes into them, a very similar expression to that used when God made Adam, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.  Perhaps the difference is due to the fact that if Moses is one of these witnesses, he has already died once, and been brought back from the dead to a prophetic ministry on the earth again.
And great fear fell upon them which saw them- the whole world is going to wonder over a beast who has a wound unto death, and his deadly wound is healed, 13:3, but this goes far beyond such a thing, and demonstrates the great power of the God of resurrection.  Paul described the revival of the nation of Israel as being like life from the dead, Romans 11:15, and this incident gives a preview of the bringing of the nation of Israel from death to life.

11:12  And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither- this is heaven’s verdict on their ministry being expressed, as well as heaven’s condemnation of the conduct and attitude of their enemies. 
And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud- Elijah had been taken to heaven in a chariot of fire, but now it seems he and Moses are taken in a chariot of cloud.  Isaiah tells us that “God rideth on a swift cloud”, 19:1, so this may well be His chariot, come to transport His faithful servants to heaven together.
And their enemies beheld them- in the case of Elijah, Elisha was promised a blessing if he saw Elijah go, which he did.  It showed where his interests lay.  The same is true of the disciples, who saw the Saviour go into heaven, Acts 1:10.  Here, however, the enemies watch in amazement as those who seemed to have been overcome by them, inasmuch as they were killed and left unburied, now show themselves victorious as they rise in triumph to heaven.

11:13  And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

And the same hour was there a great earthquake- men will surely not fail to note the significance of the fact that the earthquake that rocks the city of Jerusalem comes the same hour as the witnesses rise to heaven.  The party-making described in verse 10 will come to an abrupt end. 
And the tenth part of the city fell- it is a possibility that the Antichrist will not only seek to change times and laws, as Daniel 7:25 says, but will introduce a decimal system, such as prevails in Europe.  It may well be, therefore, that Jerusalem will be divided into ten zones, and one of these zones will be destroyed.  What is in that zone we do not know now, but it will be known then, and will no doubt have great significance.
And in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand- note how exact these numbers are- ‘one tenth’, ‘seven thousand’.  God is showing very clearly that He has precise control over what happens on the earth.  Some commentators seem to think that it is permissible to turn an accurate number into an inaccurate one, and speak of seven thousand as “a great company”.  It should be borne in mind that the Greek text is very clear, for read literally it says, “And there were killed in the earthquake names of men seven thousand”.  So if their names are noted, they must have been counted; and if there were seven thousand names, there must have been seven thousand persons, no more, no less.
And the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven- it is difficult to determine whether this remnant is the believing remnant of Israel, who are just about to flee from the city, or whether it means the rest of those who live in Jerusalem who were not killed by the earthquake.  But it is also difficult to envisage this latter company giving glory to the God of heaven.  When Paul is discussing the fact that there is a remnant in Israel at this present time who know God’s grace, he refers to the situation in Elijah’s day when there were seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal.  The re-occurrence of the number seven thousand, this time of those who were not true to God, may be significant here.

11:14  The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.

The second woe is past- it is easy to lose track of events in this section of the book, because there are passages that give more detail, to make the record more clear.  The last three trumpet-judgements took the form of woes, as 8:13 explains, and the sixth trumpets was the second of the woes.
And, behold, the third woe cometh quickly- it will come quickly as far the fulfilment is concerned, but it will not be recorded until chapter 16, where it is shown that the seventh trumpet involves seven judgements, the seven bowls of wrath.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION CHAPTER 11, VERSES 15 TO 19:

11:15  And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.
11:16  And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
11:17  Saying, We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.
11:18  And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
11:19  And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. 

Verses 15-18        Praise of God by representatives of the nation.

11:15  And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.

And the seventh angel sounded- the sounding of this seventh trumpet will begin the seven vial-judgements of the final expression of the wrath of God upon the earth, as detailed in chapter 16.
And there were great voices in heaven- before the seven final judgements are poured out, there is anticipation in heaven of what the sequel will be, even the reign of Christ.  The temple choir sings a song of triumph in anticipation of the coming of Messiah to reign.  So confident was King Jehoshaphat that the Lord would give him victory in battle, that he sent the singers in front of the army, saying, “Praise the Lord; for His mercy endureth for ever”, 2 Chronicles 20:20,21.  Such is the case here, for the final victory over the forces of evil is assured, and praise is rendered beforehand to God for it.
Saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord- we are told this before ever the rise and conquests of the First Beast are detailed in this book, such is the certainty of his downfall.  He will control the kingdoms of the world, but his power will be broken, and the kingdoms will become God’s again, as the Times of the Gentiles come to an end.  This is why the ark is seen in heaven, because the centre of government since the fall of Jerusalem in 606 BC has been in heaven.  Now all is about to change.  The world of men has been divided by men into more than two hundred nations, but the Divine number is 70, as listed in the table of nations in Genesis 10.  He has set their boundaries, but He did so in relation to the nation of Israel before it even existed.  Moses wrote, “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel”, Deuteronomy 32:8,9.  This happened at the scattering after the building of the tower of Babel, and the boundaries were set according to the language each division of mankind was given by God.  We still talk today about the language barrier.  Immediately after the table of the nations in Genesis 10, we have the record of the Babel incident.  And immediately after the Babel incident, we have the first mention of Abraham, from whom the nation would come.  
And of His Christ- Satan will have his anti-christ, but God has His own Christ, the one who on His ascension was made Lord and Christ in a fresh way, Acts 2:36.  He it is who shall rule mediatorially, so that all things may be subdued to God. 
And He shall reign for ever and ever- whereas the kingdoms of men as depicted by the metals of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-image shall be shattered, and driven away like chaff is by the wind, Christ’s kingdom shall have no end, Daniel 2:44.

11:16  And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,

And the four and twenty elders- after the initial scene of chapters 4 and 5, the elders have not been mentioned again, except in 7:11,13.  Here they express worship to God because the kingdom of the Messiah is about to be established, and that will mean that Israel is prominent in the earth again.
Which sat before God on their seats- as representatives of Israel’s interests, they have a settled position before God, (“sat”), and a place of administration, (“seats”).  It is fitting that they should become prominent again here, for it is said that “the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously”, Isaiah 24:23.  This suggests a double exercise of government.  Messiah will sit on His own throne on earth, which is described as the throne of Jehovah in 1 Chronicles 29:22.  But that does not mean God in heaven has abdicated His throne, for He will continue to sit upon the throne in heaven with His twenty four elders before Him.
Fell upon their faces- this is an attitude of extreme submission and adoration.  We saw in 4:10 that they had cast their crowns before the throne, thus willingly giving way to the superior right of Christ to wear the crown.  Here they show that what they did before, they have not regretted.
And worshipped God- they not only indicate their submission, but they do so intelligently, and to God’s glory, for they grasp the true import of what is happening as God’s judgements proceed.

11:17  Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.

Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty- as representatives of the nation of Israel, they express in heaven the thanks of the nation for God’s intervention on their behalf.  God as the Almighty is first mentioned in the word to Abraham, “I am the Almighty God, walk before Me and be thou perfect”, Genesis 17:1.  The Almighty is the God who is enough, sufficient for every situation.  This He will prove during the time of Tribulation, for no device of the enemy will serve to outwit Him.  God said to Moses, “I am the Lord: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by My name Jehovah I was not known to them.  And I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan”, Exodus 6:2,3,4.  So at a critical point in the history of His dealings with the seed of Abraham, just as He was about to deliver Israel from the bondage of Egypt, He establishes that He is Lord, as well as being God Almighty.  Lord will be the title Israel will give Him, whereas God Almighty had been the title the patriarchs had used. 
It is entirely appropriate, then, that the four and twenty elders should use this title, for it is a combination of the three names.  They are the only ones that do so in the entire New Testament, which goes to confirm that they speak on behalf of Old Testament saints, as will be clear when we come to the next verse.  Moreover, it is not an appropriate title for church saints to use.  It is not a question of whether He has these titles now, but whether it is fitting that He should be addressed in that way now.  The special relationship that believers have is expressed in the fact that they address God as their Father.  As the apostle Paul wrote, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father'”, Galatians 4:6.  So the indwelling Spirit of God encourages the believer to address God as his Father.  The Son of God has come to bring believers of this age into this special and distinct relationship.
Which art, and wast, and art to come- the passage of time does not affect God, but to Him all is one eternal “now”.  What He was in Old Testament times to Israel, He continues to be.  And because He “is”, then He does not forget them in their scattered and cast-off state.  But He is to come, and all that He promised to Israel will surely come to pass.  Indeed, the word Jehovah that God specially singled out for use by Israel is said to be composed of three forms of the verb “to be”, namely, yehi, “He will be”, and hove, “being”, and hahyah, “He was”.  So by repeating this concept, after having addressed God as Lord God Almighty, the elders are emphasising this aspect of His person.
Because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power- speaking in anticipation, the elders celebrate the fact that at last the control of world affairs will be taken from the prince of this world, Satan himself, and his agent, the Antichrist, and God’s will can be done on earth, as it is in heaven.  The Lord Jesus taught His disciples to pray for this to happen, and now the elders rejoice that it has, to all intents and purposes.
And hast reigned- when the nation of Israel was taken into captivity, God’s vehicle for expressing His rule in the earth was gone, and the Times of the Gentiles began.  That period began with Nebuchadnezzar and will extend up to the Antichrist, but then Gentile rule shall be ended abruptly, and Christ shall come to set up the Kingdom of God upon the earth. These are speaking in the same way as the prophets did oftentimes, stating things to come as if they had already happened, such was the certainty of their predictions.

11:18  And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.

And the nations were angry- David asked the question, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us'”, Psalm 2:1-3.  There was a partial fulfilment of this when men rejected Christ, as the believers indicated in their prayer in Acts 4:25-28, but it will be completely fulfilled when men accept Antichrist.
And Thy wrath is come- as David went on to say in his psalm, “Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure”, Psalm 2:5.  Woe betide the world when God shows His anger! 
And the time of the dead- God has not only appointed the time when men die, but He also appoints the time of their resurrection.  The resurrection of the dead will proceed in an orderly fashion, strictly in accordance with God’s timetable.  Daniel was told that after the time of trouble for Israel, the Great Tribulation, “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”, Daniel 12:1-2.  Job said, “So man lieth down, and riseth not; till the heavens be no more they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep”, Job 14:12.  So the wicked lie down in death, and shall not awake until the heavens are no more, which happens immediately prior to the great white throne judgement at the end of time.  John wrote, “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God”, Revelation 20:11,12. 
But Job was different, for he said to God, “O that Thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that Thou would keep me secret, until Thy wrath be past, that Thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!”Job 14:13.  His prayer will be answered, and after God’s wrath is past, at the end of the tribulation period, Job’s set time will come, and he will be raised from the dead.  Martha understood that time to be “the last day”, John 11:24, and she was right, for that is the expression the Lord Himself had used in John 6:39,40.  Church saints will be raised on the last day of the age that relates to them, which is the present one, and Old Testament saints will be raised on the last day relevant to them, the last seven years of Daniel’s vision. So the dead of Old Testament times shall be raised just prior to the setting up of Christ’s kingdom, for which they waited during their lives. 
That they should be judged- no unsaved dead shall be raised before the kingdom is established; their resurrection is to damnation, and is after the first resurrection stages have happened.  As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 15:22-26, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.  But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.  Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”.
So the resurrection of Christ guarantees the resurrection of all men, saved or unsaved.  But the resurrection of the just dead will take place in stages, or as Paul puts it, “in order”.  First Christ, then church saints at the last day of the church age, then tribulation saints and Old Testament saints at the last day of the time of tribulation, once God’s wrath is over.  The word “then” Paul uses in verse 24 means “after an interval”, whereas the “then” of verse 28 means “immediately”.  The interval is in fact 1000 years, and then the end of the series of resurrections takes place, as Revelation 20:5 makes clear.  Christ’s reign over the earth is mediatorial, in other words He reigns as the Firstborn on behalf of His Father, see Psalm 89:27; Hebrews 1:6.  The resurrection of the wicked dead takes place after Christ has subdued everything on earth; it only remains to subdue the power of death completely.
Daniel 12:3 does, on the surface, read as if the just and the wicked dead are raised at the same time.  But the correct sense is, (and the Rabbis understood it like this), that those who awake to everlasting life arise from among the dead, leaving the unjust dead in the graves. 
So if the unsaved dead are not involved in the first resurrection, it must be the Old Testament saints and the tribulation saints who are spoken of here.  The judgement will not therefore be to decide whether they will be in the kingdom; rather, it will be to decide what place they will have in the kingdom, and this will depend on their faithfulness during their lives.
And that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great- there are three classes mentioned here.  First the prophets, given first mention no doubt because of their prominent role in the nation of Israel.  Then the saints, referring to believers in Israel.  They had been separated to God as His special people, and as such were saints, or separated ones.  It is to these especially that the kingdom will be given, according to Daniel 7:22.  Then there are those who believed God before the nation was formed, and these are described as those who feared God.  Whether their fear was large or small, if they believed God according to the light they had, they will be included here, and will be rewarded, like the rest of the just.

Verse 19    Power of God ready to be asserted for the nation.

11:19  And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. 

And the temple of God was opened in heaven- the chapter opens with a view of the temple of God on earth, soon to be profaned by the Antichrist in the middle of the seven-year period.  This event will be the signal for God to withdraw, just as He did when the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.  Ezekiel saw the glory of God depart and return to heaven.  To show that He has thus withdrawn, John is shown it opened, with the ark visible inside.
And there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament- the ten commandments were really the principles on which God undertook to recognise Israel as His nation.  Of course the Lord Jesus taught that those in relationship with God would see that it was not mere outward observance of those commandments that counted, but the doing of them in a spiritual way. 
Not only were the two tables of stone in the ark, but also the Book of the Law that Moses had written, and which was to be taken out and read every seven years at the Feast of Tabernacles, Deuteronomy 31:10.  But that book not only contained the record of God’s dealings with the nation, and His law for them, it contained God’s covenant with them in the plains of Moab, as recorded in Deuteronomy 27-29.   Moses set before them the curses that would follow disobedience, and the blessings that would follow obedience.  The major curse would be to be carried into captivity.  But the promise of God to them was that if they repented, then He would bring them back into their own land.  All this comes to mind as the ark of the testament is seen in heaven.  God is about to make good His promises to the nation, once they have repented as a nation and turned to Him again.
And there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail- these are the things that accompany the sounding of the seventh angel, as described in 16:18,21. 
The lightnings would symbolise great energy, for God stands ready to put forth His mighty power in judgement against Satan and all who side with him. 
The voices speak of intelligence, not now expressing praise to God, as in verses 17 and 18, but calling upon Him to exercise His rights over the earth.  They may also be a reference to the cherubim-army that Ezekiel saw, whose wings made a sound that he described as “like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of a host”, Ezekiel 1:24.  The hosts of heaven are marshalling their forces for the last and greatest conflict, when Christ comes to earth in power and glory, “and all the holy angels with Him”, Matthew 25:31.  As Enoch said, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgement”, Jude 14. 
The thunderings warn of the coming final storm of judgement.  As David wrote, “the God of glory thundereth”, Psalm 29:3. 
The earthquake is well-known as a cause of terror to those who experience it.  God is even yet seeking to bring men to their senses.
The hail is unmistakeably from heaven, and God spoke of it to Job with the words, “hast thou seen the treasuries of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war? Job 38:22.

JOHN 20

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THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN CHAPTER 20, VERSES 1 TO 10:

20:1  The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

20:2  Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

20:3  Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

20:4  So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

20:5  And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

20:6  Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

20:7  And the napkin, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

20:8  Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

20:9  For as yet they knew not the scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

20:10  Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

 

Structure of the chapter

(a) Verses 1-10 Peter and John at the sepulchre
(b) Verses 11-18 Mary Magdalene at the sepulchre
(c) Verses 19-23 The disciples in the Upper Room
(d) Verses 24-29 Thomas and the others in the Upper Room
(e) Verses 30,31 John’s reason for writing the gospel

 


(a) Verses 1-10 Peter and John at the sepulchre

20:1  The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

The first day of the week- in Old Testament times the first day of the week was called “the day after the sabbath”, for the sabbath was the climax to the week.  Now the emphasis is different, for a new era has dawned, and what happened on the very first day of that new era gives character to it.  In the Old Testament, God was working towards the setting up of Christ’s kingdom on earth, when He will be able to rest gloriously with His people, for “there remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God”, Hebrews 3:9, (where the word has the idea of the keeping of a sabbath). The first sabbath was after God’s six days of work in creation, but now a new creation has begun, and the sabbath recedes. 
Cometh Mary Magdalene early- this Mary had stood by the cross before the Lord committed His mother to John’s keeping.  They, no doubt, left the scene before the hours of darkness, perhaps with His mother’s sister.  Mary Magdalene seems to have then withdrawn to be with other women who stood further away, John 19:25; Matthew 27:56.  Then she, with Mary the mother of Joses, watched where His body was laid, as they sat over against the sepulchre, Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47.  Then Mark tells us they bought sweet spices, Mark 16:1.  They prepared those spices and ointments, Luke 23:55,56; 24:1, 10.  They rested the sabbath day, according to the commandment, Luke 23:56.  Now Mary is doing the seventh thing, for she is coming to the sepulchre to anoint His body.  After all, she had been delivered from the domination of seven devils, and now, released from her tormentors, she shows her love and devotion in a seven-fold way.  Mark seems to make this connection when he writes, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils”, Mark 16:9.  Her love and devotion was rewarded, and she showed herself a fit messenger to tell of His rising again. 
Having noted devotion of Mary Magdalene, we should remember that there was one Mary who did not come to the sepulchre, and that was Mary of Bethany.  This was not because of any lack of devotion to Christ, but rather because she had already anointed His body unto the burial whilst He was alive and could appreciate it, John 12:1-8.  It is always good to show our devotion in a way that most pleases Christ.
When it was yet dark- this no doubt refers to when she started out.  The sun was rising when she arrived, Mark 16:2.  We know from Mark 16:1,2 that she came with Mary the mother of James, and Salome, but John only tells us about Mary Magdalene.  Just as Peter is always mentioned first when the apostles are listed, so Mary Magdalene is always first when the women are listed.  John is impressed with her fervent devotion. 
Unto the sepulchre- the word sepulchre has the idea of memorial about it, suggesting that the person within was worthy of remembrance.  The Lord Jesus is indeed worthy of remembrance, but He is remembered as one who has conquered death, and His tomb, whilst important when He was in it, has lost its relevance now.  The question of the angels was, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen”, Luke 24:5,6.  The Living One is pleased to be found amongst the living, those who have eternal life, as we see in verse 19. 
And seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre- she had watched Joseph of Arimathea roll a great stone to the entrance to the sepulchre, Matthew 27:60,61.  But this no doubt was comparatively easy, for the custom was to have a trench cut into rock which sloped towards the entrance to the tomb, and the stone would be like a huge millstone that could be rolled down this trench until it covered the doorway completely.  To roll the stone back uphill would be a different task altogether, and she knew that she, even with her companions, would not be able to do this, Mark 16:3.
We are not told whether she knew that the Jews had obtained permission from Pilate to seal and guard the tomb.  She might have thought that to be a disaster, but in fact it was ordered of God, so that no-one could steal the body even if he wanted to.  God makes the wrath of man to praise Him, over-ruling their schemes to His glory.
It is interesting to see how Matthew interrupts his account of the arrival of the women at the sepulchre, to tell us how it was that the stone was rolled away.  He recounts the actions of the Jews, and then tells us of the actions of the angel.  We could set it out like this:

“So they went” (with authority from Pilate). “the angel of the Lord descended from heaven”, (with authority from God).
“And made the sepulchre sure” (ensuring it was kept closed). “and sat upon it”, (ensuring it was kept open).
“Sealing the stone” (to show everyone that the body was inside). “rolled back the stone from the door”, (to show everyone that the body was gone, but the grave-clothes were intact)
“Setting a watch” (to ensure that none would approach).  “the keepers did shake, and became as dead men” (to ensure the women, Peter, and John could approach).

20:2  Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him.

Then she runneth- without investigating further, she leaves the other two within sight of the tomb, and runs to tell the disciples that the body has been taken.  It is good to be quick to do the Lord’s will, but we should remember the Scripture which says, “He that believeth shall not make haste”, Isaiah 28:16.  We must serve the Lord with careful thought, and not be rash.
And cometh to Simon Peter- he is the one that has most often taken the lead, and his name is always first in the list of the apostles.  It seems that the apostles as a whole, (with the exception of John, verse 8), did not believe Christ was raised until Peter was convinced it was so.  Those who occupy leadership roles should be very careful to maintain a strong faith, lest they hinder others.  Note John calls him Simon Peter here and in verse 6.  Simon was his birth-name, whereas Peter, or Cephas was the name given to him by the Lord Himself, John 1:42. 20:3  The two names tell of what he was by nature, and what he had become by Divine calling.  So in this verse and verse 6 there is something of the old about him.  Here, he is the one who has denied his Lord, and is cowering in fear.  In verse 6 we shall see him still in unbelief, despite having seen more than John.
And to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved- this is usually thought to be the way that John puts his signature on the gospel.  He uses the expression in John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7; 21:20.  We should bear in mind, however, that the expression “whom Jesus loved” is most likely to be applied to Peter as well as to John.  (It is also true that in this place the verb for “loved” is different to the one used in the other cases.
The fact that Mary is said to come to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, rather than coming to Simon Peter and John, suggests that they were in separate places.  The Lord had prophesied that “ye shall be scattered, each to his own”, 16:32.  This had come to pass.  No doubt John would be anxious to keep the mother of Jesus safe in isolation, and not in the same place as Peter, who would be thought of as the leader of the disciples, and the one who used violence in Gethsemane. John was charged to treat her like his own mother, and he is faithful to this charge. According to ancient history, he cared for Mary until her death.
And saith unto them- even if they were in separate places, the message to them both was the same.
They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre- this was, in fact, not true, but her hasty conclusion from seeing that the stone had been rolled away.  This would be the last thing God would allow to happen.  Mary does not explain who the “they” are.  Does she mean Joseph and Nicodemus?  After all, it does seem that they had laid the body in the sepulchre temporarily, for John tells us, “Now in the place where Jesus was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb, wherein was never man yet laid.  There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jew’s preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand”, John 19:41,42.  Notice the “therefore” and the “for”, giving reasons for the choice of sepulchre, namely, that it was nigh at hand, and the body could be laid there quickly, before the sabbath started.  Against this must be set the fact that when Mary later sees a man near the tomb, she does not think it to be Joseph or Nicodemus, but the gardener. 
And we know not where they have laid Him- it does not cross her mind that He might be risen from the dead.  She expected Him to rise with the righteous dead “at the last day”, as Martha said about Lazarus, John 11:24.  Daniel 12:2 speaks of the resurrection from among the dead, when the righteous of Old Testament times shall rise, leaving the unrighteous behind in the grave, to wait for the resurrection to shame and everlasting contempt.  What had puzzled the disciples was the idea of one man rising from among the dead, Mark 9:9,10.  The truth was withheld from them, so that it could not be said that the resurrection was the fabrication of those who had been told it would happen and who believed it would happen.
So Martha is still seeking the resting-place of the body so that she can anoint it.  She is surely not suggesting that the Jews would have removed the body.  The last thing they want to do is make it look as though He has risen.  They sealed the tomb to stop this happening, Matthew 27:62-66.  She says “we” to assure us that she speaks for all the women that came to the tomb.  All the other believers were avoiding the tomb.

20:3  Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple- they are mentioned individually again, as if they come from different places, see on verse 2.
And came to the sepulchre- they seem to join up before they reach the sepulchre.

20:4  So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.

So they ran both together- they not only ran with concern, fearing the body had been stolen, but also perhaps with fear, in case any had seen them start out, and they were being followed.
And the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre- there was perhaps a certain hesitancy with Peter.  He had denied the Lord three times, and had said he would go into prison and death with Him if necessary.  We can well understand that his steps were not quite so eager as John’s.  He would also be more fearful of being spotted, since he had used the sword in the garden.

20:5  And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

And he stooping down- Jewish sepulchres were usually six feet high inside, and had a nine foot by nine foot area upon entry, and then a nine foot by six foot area for the niches for the bodies.  These niches would be seven handbreadths from the ground and six hand-breadths wide.  We could understand how the doorway would be lower than this, so that a person needed to stoop down to gain entry. 
And looking in, saw the linen clothes lying- John does not enter, perhaps being of a more sensitive nature in the face of death, but can see the linen clothes on the ledge within.  Perhaps in the semi-darkness of dawn he cannot see distinctly.
Yet went he not in- even though he could see the linen clothes, he could not see clearly enough to realise their implication.  He is satisfied that the body has not been stolen, for the linen clothes are still in the tomb, and are as if wrapped around a body.

20:6  Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie,

Then cometh Simon Peter following him- Peter now arrives on the scene.  It needn’t be more than a minute or so after John.
And went into the sepulchre- with characteristic and business-like purpose he goes straight into the sepulchre.  Perhaps John told him that he had seen the linen clothes, and Peter wanted to make sure for himself that the body was still there. 
And seeth the linen clothes lie- he now sees close-up what John had seen from the doorway.  The linen clothes are lying as if the body within is outstretched, for this is the meaning of the word used for “lying”.  They are not lying in a heap.

20:7  And the napkin, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

And the napkin, that was about His head- clearly there were two sets of linen clothes, (hence 19:40 speaks of winding the body with linen clothes, plural), and one set was for the body, the other for the head, separately.  Lazarus had come forth from the grave bound hand and foot with grave clothes, suggesting that the limbs were wrapped separately, allowing for enough movement to come forth but still with some restriction. 
Not lying with the linen clothes- the clothes that were around the body showed that they had not been unwrapped.  This would mean one of two things.  Either the body was still within, or it had been raised as a spiritual body.  A spiritual body does not need the grave-clothes to be unwrapped in order to allow it to leave them.  (This, incidentally, shows that Lazarus did not come forth with a body fit for resurrection conditions, but with his body unchanged from when he was alive before.  If he had been given his resurrection body, the stone would not have needed to be removed from the entrance to the tomb, nor would the grave-clothes restrict him.  Christ must be the first of them that should rise from among the dead, with a resurrection body, Acts 26:23; 1 Corinthians 15:23).
The position of the napkin settles which of the two possibilities is in fact the case.  If the napkin had been in its original position, then it would not be evident that the body was gone.  But since there is a space between the body-clothes and the head-clothes, it is certain that there is no body.
But wrapped together in a place by itself- the word for “wrapped together” is the same as is used when Luke and Matthew record the burial of the body. So there are two possibilities. Either that the Lord Jesus, raised from the dead, laid the cloth or napkin that was wound about His head some distance away, to highlight the fact that He had done this, and was therefore risen from the dead. Or, that the “place by itself” means separate from the body, but still in the position it would have been when the head was within. (The other option is that the angels did it, but this would introduce an element of interference, and it is vital that neither man nor angels interfere with the grave-clothes.  The angels say nothing about the napkin to the women, but simply point our where the Lord lay, and not where the napkin lay).
So there are now three indications that He is risen.  One, the clothes which were around His body are undisturbed.  Two, the cloth that was wound around His head is clearly separate from the body-wraps, either because placed at a distance, or because they would be in a place by themselves when the head was within anyway.  And three, because the word John uses for “wrapped together” is the same one that Matthew and Luke used for “wrapped” in connection with the burial, then the head came out of the napkin without disturbing the cloth, for it is still as when Joseph wrapped it round His head.

20:8  Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre- notice these two men seem not to say anything to one another.  They are each having their own thoughts about what they are seeing.  Encouraged by Peter’s entry, John now either joins Peter in the tomb, or goes in after Peter has come out, we are not told which. 
And he saw, and believed- John understands now the implication of the state and position of the grave-clothes, and by this means he believes Christ is in fact risen.  This shows that the state of the grave-clothes was significant, and enough to prove that Christ was risen. 

20:9  For as yet they knew not the scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

For as yet they knew not the scripture, that He must rise again from the dead- they should have realised the meaning of the Old Testament scripture about the resurrection of Christ.  The psalmist wrote about the Messiah as follows,

“I will bless the Lord, who hath given Me counsel:
My reins also shall instruct Me in the night seasons.
I have set the Lord always before Me:
Because He is at My right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore My heart is glad, and My glory rejoiceth:
My flesh also shall rest in hope.
For Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell;
Neither wilt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.
Thou wilt shew Me the path of life:
In Thy presence is fulness of joy;
At Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore”.
Psalm 16:7-11.

In the first five statements, the Messiah speaks of His dependence upon His God, and His determination to have Him foremost in His thoughts at all times.  As a consequence He is confident that after He has died, there will be the same care for Him as was evident during His life.  His flesh will rest in the grave in hope, and that hope is based on three things.  One, that God will not leave His soul in hell.  Two, that His body will be kept free from any external defilement whilst in death.  And three, that the path of resurrection life will open up before Him.  Now on the Day of Pentecost the apostle Peter used this Scripture to show that the resurrection of Christ was foretold in Old Testament scripture, Acts 2:24-31.  But at this point in time it is only John amongst the apostles that has made the connection between the grave-clothes and Psalm 16.  As a result, he believes. 
Luke tells us that God deliberately withheld from the apostles the meaning of the Lord’s words when He said, “‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.  For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:  And they shall scourge Him, and put him to death: and the third day He shall rise again’.  And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken”, Luke 18:31-34.  No wonder Luke next tells us of the blind man in Jericho whose sight was restored.  He was like the apostles, blind to the truth about Christ until the moment of God’s choosing.  There is the added thought that the giving of sight to the blind was one of the features of the Messiah as foretold in Isaiah 35:5; Luke 4:18; Luke 7:18-23.
It seems from what the Lord said to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, that they only believed the glory part of the prophecies about the Messiah.  So that when Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, they began to doubt whether He was the Messiah after all.  And the consequence of not believing what He said about His person was that they did not believe about His rising again.
We have already been reminded from Luke 18:34 that these things were hid from the apostles by God.  This means that they did not preach the resurrection of Christ simply because the believed what He said.  They preached about the resurrection of Christ as those who did not believe at first that He was going to rise, but who had seen with their very own eyes that He had risen.  It was not, then, that their enthusiasm for His words led them to convince themselves that He alive from the dead when in fact He was not.  Their unbelief was turned to belief by evidence, not by wishful thinking.
Now that the apostles have gone through this process, and can personally testify to the resurrection of Christ, then we, nearly twenty centuries later, may have confidence, both in their writings, and also in the Old Testament scriptures as well.  We may come into the blessing the Lord promised when He said, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”, John 20:29.  For the believer today, the scriptures of both the Old Testament and New Testament are the evidence.

20:10  Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

Then the disciples went away again unto their own home- they need time to digest the things they have seen.  They are not hasty in their reactions, but soberly consider what has taken place.  John’s belief  must have been a qualified one, for when the women came to tell what the angels had said to them, Luke tells us that “their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not”, Luke 24:11. And when the Lord Himself appeared to them, He “upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen”.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN CHAPTER 20, VERSES 11 TO 23:

20:11  But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

20:12  And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

20:13  And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.

20:14  And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

20:15  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.

20:16  Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

20:17  Jesus saith unto her, Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.

20:18  Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things unto her.

20:19  Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

20:20  And when He had so said, He shewed unto them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

20:21  Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.

20:22  And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

20:23  Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

 


(b) Verses 11-18 Mary Magdalene at the sepulchre

20:11  But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping- the tense of the verb (pluperfect) suggests that she had been standing at the tomb a little while before she stooped down.  Hence John points out that she was without, to contrast with Peter and John who had been within.  She had been very brave to stand by the cross, and now she is brave as she stands by the sepulchre, for who is to tell when the guards will wake up?  Her love for her Lord was greater than her fear of the guards.
She was standing facing the sepulchre, (such is the preposition used for “at”), and yet was outside.  Her interests lay in the direction of the tomb.  She was weeping, understandably, not only because the Lord had been crucified, but but also becasue is now further grieved, for His body seems to have been stolen, and she cannot pay her respects by anointing His body.
And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre- how true to life this all is.  It takes courage to look into a sepulchre, especially alone, and with guards laying around, who might awake at any moment.  She fears that the body has been taken away, but her fears are going to be relieved.  Not, indeed, with the idea that the Lord is still in the tomb, and His body has not been stolen, but that His body is not there because He is risen.

20:12  And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

And seeth two angels in white sitting- Luke 24:22 records the two on the road to Emmaus saying that the women had seen a vision of angels.  But it fact the women did not see a vision, but the angels themselves appeared to her, and to the other women separately, as recorded in Matthew 28:1-7.  Angels appeared at His birth, and now they appear at His resurrection.  They were not in evidence at Calvary, for their help was not requested, although it was available.  The work of Calvary must be done alone.  In any case, Calvary was a very public place, whereas His birth and His resurrection were private.
There are two angels, enough for adequate witness.  They are in white, for they come from the pure glory of heaven, and sit in a scene of death, but unpolluted.  This tomb is unique in this.  All other burying-places, (even of believers), contain corruption.  The tomb had not been defiled by a previous occupant, (for it was Joseph’s own new tomb, Matthew 27:60, so he could be sure no-one else had lain there, for he had hewn it out, and he was the first and only owner of it, and Luke tells us “wherein never man before was laid”, Luke 23:53).  It had not been defiled by the Lord’s body, for He is “holy, harmless, and undefiled”, Hebrews 7:26.  If He is undefiled in Himself, He cannot defile other things or persons.  Nor has it been defiled by the presence of robbers or those sheltering in it, (lepers for example), for it had been sealed. 
The one at the head, and the other at the feet-  they are guarding the valuable evidence to the resurrection of Christ, His grave-clothes.  He has no further need of them to wear, but they are filling an important role nonetheless. 
Where the body of Jesus had lain- the angels are said to be sitting where He had lain, not where the clothes were still laying, although that was true.  They were either end of the place where He had lain.  Perhaps the glory of the angels, and her tears, caused that she only saw them, and not the grave-clothes.  She does not need the evidence of the grave-clothes, as Peter and John did, for she is about to see the Lord Himself.

20:13  And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.

And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?  To ask a woman in normal circumstances why she was weeping at a grave, would be insensitive.  But this is to encourage her to tell what is in her heart, so they can relieve her sorrow. 
She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him- she is still concerned about anointing Him, and so emphasises she does not know where the body is.  She calls Him “My Lord”, for He had rid her of seven devils, and showed Himself superior to the forces of evil that had held her.  She is about to learn that He is also Lord over death, for He has defeated the one who had the power of death, the Devil Himself.
Mary Magdalene is the only one to speak to the angels.  The other women only listened.  They did not appear at all to Peter and John, perhaps because they were sensitive to the fact that they had forsaken the Lord, and in the case of Peter, had denied Him.  The Lord warned that denial of Him would mean denial in the presence of the angels, Luke 12:9. 
Mary now grieves because of the apparent stealing of the body.  She had not gone into the sepulchre, but had only seen the angels through her tears, and still thought the body had gone.  She had thought that when she saw the stone rolled away, and now she still thinks it.  Perhaps she thought the angels had been sent to tell her that this was the case.
We note in all the visits to the tomb, and also the reaction of the disciples to the news that Christ was risen, a refusal to believe at first.
“Their words seemed unto them as idle tales, and they believed them not”, Luke 24:11.
“And they, when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not”, Mark 16:11.
“After that, He appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.  And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them”, Mark 16:12,13.
“Afterward He appeared unto the eleven, as they sat at meat, and upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them that had seen Him after He was risen”, Mark 16:14. 

Luke tells us that God had ordained that this should be so, for he tells us that when the Lord foretold His death and resurrection, “they understood none of those things,: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken”, Luke 18:34.  So it was not that they were expecting it, and then convinced themselves it had happened. 
So Mary is not expecting the Lord to have risen after just three days.  She thought He was going to rise at the resurrection of the just.  Perhaps she thought the “three days” was figurative, as Hosea uses the term when he wrote, “After two days He will revive us, in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight”, Hosea 6:2.

20:14  And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

And when she had thus said- the angels do not respond to her statement, no doubt because they know the Lord is now present, and defer to Him, for He is Lord of angels. 
She turned herself back- she has not gone into the tomb, but only stooped to look within.  She now turns her head away from the sepulchre, sensing that someone is behind her. 
And saw Jesus standing- this is not only literal, but figurative, for He stands in resurrection, after having fallen in death.  John saw Him in heaven as the Lamb, standing, Revelation 5:6.  He was as one who was slain, with the marks of Calvary upon Him still, but not laying on the altar any more.
And knew not that it was Jesus- it is said of the two on the road to Emmaus, “their eyes were holden, that they should not know Him”, Luke 24:16.  They, and Mary, must know Him in the way He chooses, and that is by Him speaking to them.  So it is for us.  We are to know Him with spiritual faculties, not natural, so we are at no disadvantage to the apostles and those who saw Him in resurrection.  We know Him as He speaks to us in His word, the Bible.

20:15  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?  She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?  He asks the same question as the angels did, no doubt for the same reason.
Whom seekest thou?  Without waiting for an answer, for He saw her distress, the Lord moves quickly to the matter in hand.  Notice He does not say “What seekest thou?”, even though He knew she was seeking a body.  He will not for one moment allow that He is not alive, and is about to prove this to her.
She, supposing Him to be the gardener- John tells us that the tomb was in a garden, 19:41.  It was Adam who was the original gardener, but he failed in that garden, and was defeated by evil there.  The one who is talking to Mary has defeated evil, and is now beginning to show that victory, for He is last Adam.  Cain became a gardener too, and made the mistake of offering to God the fruits of a cursed earth.  The Lord is Head of the new creation, and will remove the curse from creation when He comes.  Meanwhile, His people are in Him, and as such are a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Saith unto Him, Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away- these are very forceful words, and they can be rendered literally, “Sir, as for you, if you carried Him off, tell me at once where you have laid Him, and, as for myself, I will carry Him off”.  The strength of her affection gives strength to her resolve, even if she was mistaken in some things.  She seems to think that the questions of this “gardener” are a distraction from the matter that is foremost in her mind.  His body had been mis-treated enough, and she will prevent that happening again.  If she had answered His questions, she would have realised that He was not the gardener.  Then she would have stopped weeping, and also learned that He was alive in the body, and not lying elsewhere, dead.
How disastrous this would have been if the man was really the gardener, and the body had been removed, and he had known where the body was, and told her, and she had carried Him away.  This was exactly what the Sanhedrin, lying, said had taken place, Matthew 28:13.
This would have been disastrous for another reason, for the place where He lay would have become a shrine, with all the attendant superstition and money-making that accompanies such places.  This is why God did not disclose where Moses’ body was buried, Deuteronomy 34:6.  It was important that where the Lord Jesus was buried should be well-known while He was there, so that after He was risen it could be shown that He was in it no longer.  It is noticeable that the sepulchre did not become a centre of interest for the disciples in the Book of the Acts; they were taken up with their risen Lord.

20:16  Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

Jesus saith unto her, Mary- she does not seem to have recognised His voice when He asked her the two questions.  What alerts her is the fact that He knew her name.  He was not a stranger, as the gardener would be, but the Lord she was seeking.  But she was seeking Him in the wrong place.  As the angels said to the other women, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?”, Luke 24:5.  He is the great shepherd of the sheep, and He has been brought again from the dead by the God of all grace, Hebrews 13:20.  One of His features as shepherd is that “He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out”, John 10:3.  He has carried over into resurrection all the feelings that He had for His own before the cross.  His personal interest, personal knowledge, and personal care for His own, are now to be known in resurrection.  He has laid down His life and taken it again, and as such He has shown ultimate concern. 
She turned herself- we see her first standing facing the sepulchre, verse 11, then stooping to look inside, in which position she seems to have remained until she realised there was someone standing behind her.  At that point she did not turn her whole body around, for she did not expect the Lord to be alive.  The sense of “turned herself back” is to “turn oneself to the rear”, which she could do without turning her body, for she was preparing to concentrate on the tomb again, after she had spoken to the “gardener”.  She no doubt expected some response from the angels to her statement that His body had been taken away.
And saith unto Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master- even though she told the angels she was looking for the Lord, in the intensity of her emotion she calls Him what the disciples had often called Him, their Teacher.  But, again in her intense emotion, she calls Him “Rabboni”, which is a Galilean form of the word Rabbi, meaning “My Great Master”.

20:17  Jesus saith unto her, Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.

Jesus saith unto her, Touch Me not- aware of the strength of her feeling, the Lord pre-empts her touching Him.  It was not that no-one was to touch Him in resurrection, for He invited Thomas to do so a week later, verse 27, (although he does not seem to have actually done this).  The point is that all contact with Christ, as far as John’s gospel goes, must be on a heavenly level.  The gospel is the “burnt offering gospel”, for just as everything with the burnt offering was upward, (one of its names was “ascending offering”), so the emphasis with John is Christ’s link with heaven, and His journey back there. 
In Matthew’s gospel we read of the other women that came to the sepulchre holding the Lord by the feet, Matthew 28:9.  This is entirely appropriate in the context, for Matthew presents Christ as the rightful King of Israel who shall reign over the earth one day.  He does not record the ascension of Christ, although of course he believed it happened.  It is as if Matthew holds Christ to the earth as well, and shows Him to be fit to rule over it.

The apostle Paul made it clear that the link the believer has with Christ now is a spiritual one, for he wrote, “But he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit”, 1 Corinthians 6:17.  The link between the believer’s spirit and Christ is established by the Spirit of God.  Because of this, the apostle can speak of “holding the head”, Colossians 2:19, meaning to grasp firmly the truths regarding the headship and supremacy of Christ.  This is not to say that our hold of Him is what guarantees eternal security; but it does mean that we need to hold to the truth about Christ and not let them go in the face of error.  It is in this way that we touch Him even now.
For I am not yet ascended to My Father- in this way the Lord further emphasises that links with Him are heavenly in character.  It is as an ascended Christ that we know Him.  This is how Paul came to know Him, for he saw Jesus of Nazareth in heaven, and his conversion is the pattern for conversion during this age, 1 Timothy 1:16.  Of course we must believe in Christ as the one who was crucified and rose again, but we must not stop there if we would come into the fulness of Christian things.
This is the third time that the ascension of Christ is spoken of in John’s gospel.  Each of the references is directly from the Lord Jesus.  In His conversation with Nicodemus He said, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven”, John 3:13.  Here the emphasis is on the fact that even as a man upon the earth He has not lost His Deity, for He claims to be in heaven still, God being omnipresent.  In John 6:62 He said, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before?”  here the emphasis is on His coming down in the past.  The manna had come down from heaven from God, yet the people did not understand what it was.  Nor did many of them understand who Christ was.  If they did not understand the meaning of His coming down, how would they understand the meaning of His ascending up? 
Here in John 20, however, the reference is to what Christ will be for His people after He has ascended.  He is returning to the Father, conscious that all He was sent to achieve has been accomplished.  He could say, “I have glorified Thee upon the earth:  I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do”, John 17:4.
But go to My brethren- one day the message came to the Lord as He taught in a house, “‘Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without desiring to speak with Thee’.  But He answered and said unto him which told Him, ‘Who is My mother? And who are My brethren?’  And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, ‘Behold My mother and My brethren!  For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother'”, Matthew 12:47-50.  So it is spiritual relationship which is the most important, and that spiritual relationship is with Him as the ascended Man.  The believer’s link to Christ is heavenly, and does not depend on anything of earth.  Mary had the closest natural relationship to the Lord, yet He said to her, “What have I to do with thee, Mine hour is not yet come”, John 2:4.  In other words, even Mary’s spiritual relationship with Him depended on what He would do in “His hour”, the time between His prayer to the Father in John 17 and His return to the Father spoken of here in John 20.  She would be linked with Him in exactly the same way as every other believer of this age.  The fact that she is His mother gives her no advantage.
Psalm 22:22 had foretold that in resurrection He would declare the Father’s name to His brethren, and He had also pledged to do that in His prayer just before He was arrested.  He said, “I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them”, John 17:26.  He is fully able to declare the Father’s name, (meaning His character), because He shares all the characteristics of the Father, being His Only begotten Son.  He did this upon the earth, but the disciples were not able to appreciate fully.  When He returned back to heaven, however, He would send the Holy Spirit, and they would understand in a much better way.
And say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father- notice He does not say “Our Father”, although both He and His people have relationship with the Father.  His relationship is as the Only-begotten of the Father, who is one with Him in the full possession of Deity.  Believers call God their Father because they have been born again of the Spirit of God, and from that moment share His life. 
No sooner has Mary found the Lord she sought, that He declares He is leaving her!  But as He had said to the disciples in the Upper Room, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you”, John 16:7.  So the Spirit of God would come to make good to them all that the Lord had said, and other things besides.
And to My God, and your God- if having God as Father speaks of relationship, then having Him as God speaks of resources.  The Lord Jesus has known God as His Father for all eternity, but it was only as He came into manhood that He could address His Father as His God.  As “the Spirit of Christ”, (1 Peter 1:11) expressed beforehand in Psalm 22:10, “Thou art My God from My mother’s belly”.  It was as He came into manhood that He needed the resources from Him as His God, so that He could glorify Him in His life in the flesh.  We need resources too, and they are readily available from our all-sufficient God in heaven.  Those resources are released to us because the Son has gone back to heaven, for Paul wrote to the Philippians, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus”, Philippians 4:19.  Well might we add, in the words of the following verse, “Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen”.

20:18  Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things unto her.

Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord- note that John now reverts back to the name by which Mary was known normally. In verses 11 and 16 she was simply Mary, (the only places where she is called by this single name), but when it is a question of being linked to Christ in heaven, where she came from becomes irrelevant.  Magdala was near Galilee, Matthew 15:39.  She was of Magdala by birth, but of heaven by new birth.  Now that she is conveying a message to the disciples, her everyday name is used, being the name they knew her by. 
It is one of the marks of the genuineness of the gospel records of the resurrection, that it is based on the testimony of the women.  Now the testimony of females was not allowed in Jewish courts, so any Jew attempting to write a forged account would carefully avoid giving prominence to the testimony of women.  Not so the writers of the true gospels.  They are confident that what they write about is true, and are very comfortable with telling the facts as they are. 
And that He had spoken these things unto her- so her testimony was two-fold; what she had seen, and what she had heard.  She had seen a living Person, the one who had been crucified on a cross, but who was now alive for evermore.  She had heard His unmistakable voice, and she now passes on what she heard. 
John does not tell the reaction to her words, but Luke does, and he writes, “And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not”, Luke 24:11.  So it was that love and faith found their reward for Mary in the first sight of the Lord, but unbelief on the part of the disciples would soon meet with its rebuke, for Mark tells us “Afterward He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them that had seen Him after He was risen”, Mark 16:14. 

(c) Verses 19-23 The disciples in the Upper Room

20:19  Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

Then the same day at evening- the order in Genesis chapter one was “the evening and the morning”.  Now, however, that is reversed as the new creation begins, for verse 1 speaks of “the first day of the week…early”.  Now we have the same first day, but in the evening. 
Being the first day of the week- it is one of the marks of the great change that Christ has brought in, that it is the first day of the week that is special, not the last day, the Sabbath, as with the Jews.  Certain of the Old Testament rituals took place on the first day of the week, but it was described, not in that way, but as “the day after the Sabbath”, still keeping the dominance of the seventh day, which has to do with the earth, being the day which commemorates the completion of the creation of the world in six days, Exodus 20:8-11. 
There are three things especially connected with the first day of the week now.  The first is, of course, the resurrection of Christ.  The second, the remembrance of Him, for we read that it was the first day of the week that the disciples came together to break bread, Acts 20:7.  The third, the collection for the work of the Lord, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no collections when I come”.
So the remembrance of the Lord in the Lord’s Supper is not on the same day of the week that it was instituted, nor is the shewing of His death on the day of the week He died.  Rather, it is done on the day on which He rose from the dead.  His resurrection gives reality to the Supper, as we look back and remember Him in a state in which He is not now, for He is glorified.
When the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews- they are still fearful.  They have rejected the testimony of the women, and have not yet the confidence which His rising again will bring to them.  In verse 26, a week later, the doors were shut again, but this time John does not need to add “for fear of the Jews”.  We are not specifically told that this took place in the Upper Room, no doubt to prevent any earthly place being made into a shrine.
Came Jesus and stood in the midst- He re-occupies the place He had in the Upper Room.  He must always be central.  The resurrection body is not restricted by closed doors, being a spiritual body.  All physical limitations are absent from it. 
And saith unto them, Peace be unto you- this is just what they needed, the peace He alone can bring.  Fear of the Jews recedes when His peace comes into the heart.  John does not make any mention of His rebuke for their unbelief.  He is emphasising the Lord, and not the disciples.

20:20  And when He had so said, He shewed unto them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

And when He had so said, He shewed unto them His hands and His side- in Luke’s account, the Lord said, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself”, Luke 24:38.  They supposed that they had seen a spirit, but a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as He says in verse 39.  Hands and feet are parts of the body exposed to view when the Eastern robe is worn.  The disciples were used to seeing these, and knew them to be His, totally apart from the nail-prints.  In John, however, the emphasis is on His hands and His side, and later He will invite Thomas to satisfy himself that He has nail-prints, and the wound from the spear-thrust. 
Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord- He had promised that they would see Him again, and the experience would be like a mother who has just given birth to a child, when all the pain of the previous hours is overwhelmed by her new-found joy, John 16:21,22.  So it is now with the disciples.  They forget the trauma they had been through as the find themselves in the presence of their Risen Lord.

20:21  Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you- He had given them peace because of the past and the present, (“fear of the Jews”, verse 19), but now gives peace because of the future, for He is about to send them out into a hostile world.
Who are “them”, since if just apostles, then others do not have power to remit sins, and it cannot happen today.  John is writing a history, so although he was present he writes “them”, not “us”. See on verse 24.
As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you- this is John’s equivalent to the Great Commission.  This is a reference to what he had said in His prayer, “As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world”, John 17:18.  This gives great dignity to going out into the world, for it is following His example.  He came from heaven to the world, we go from “the upper room”, symbolising the assembly, into the world. 

20:22  And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

And when He had said this- this links with His previous statement, so His next act has reference to His commission.
He breathed on them- just as God had breathed into Adam the spirit of life, to enable him to represent Him to the world, so the disciples are given the Holy Spirit to enable them to represent Christ in the world.  “The last Adam was made a quickening spirit”, 1 Corinthians 15:45; that is, instead of being the recipient of the power to live naturally, as Adam was, Christ in resurrection is the giver of the power to others so that they may live spiritually. 
And saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost- is this a symbolic action to represent what would happen at Pentecost, or a special provision for these disciples until Pentecost?  No doubt it has something to do with the next verse.  The Lord is establishing Himself as the Last Adam, who is a life giving spirit, 1 Corinthians 15:45. God breathed into Adam the breath of life; and man became a living soul, according to Genesis 2:7.  The Lord Jesus, however, the Last Adam, gives life to others, such is His superiority to Adam.  And this spiritual life is what will be received by those who believe the gospel as a result of the apostles being sent forth.

20:23  Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them- so as these disciples went forth into the world with the gospel, preaching the remission of sins through Christ, Luke 24:47, they are assured here that may confidently tell men that if they have truly repented and believed, their sins are in fact remitted. 
And whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained- the reverse is the case.  If men refuse to repent and believe they must be told that there sins are still bound to them.  This is not that mere men have power over the destiny of sinners, but that the Holy Spirit gives the needed strength to tell people what the true situation is, whether good or ill. 
This is all we are told about this first meeting.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN CHAPTER 20, VERSES 24 TO 31:

20:24  But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

20:25  The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.

20:26  And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

20:27  Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.

20:28  And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My LORD and my God.

20:29  Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

20:30  And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book:

20:31  But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name. 


(d) Verses 24-29 Thomas and the others in the Upper Room

20:24  But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus- by this time the apostles were eleven in number, but “the twelve” is a technical term for the apostolic band. See 1 Corinthians 15:5.  The name Didymus is the Greek equivalent to the Aramaic Thomas, and would be the name he was known by in Asia Minor where John was writing from.  The Lord does not repeat the giving of the Holy Spirit when Thomas is present, and this goes to show that it was a symbolic gesture.
Was not with them when Jesus came- John 11:16 tells us that Thomas was willing to die with the Lord. John 14:5-7 gives a conversation with Thomas about the way, the truth and the life.  Why did he stay away?  This despite the fact that the Lord had warned them of what was coming, “that when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am He”, John 13:19; see also similar words in John 14:29. The next verse shows he wanted to see to believe.

20:25  The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord- is this the best approach to those who miss meetings?  Thomas has not lost interest, but he is no doubt very depressed by events.  John wrote, “We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world”, 1 John 4:14.  So the gospel is still, “We have seen the Lord”.
But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails- he must have heard that the Lord had been crucified, even though he and the rest of the apostles had fled at the Arrest.  It must have been the accepted idea that a person could be recognised, even to the extent of wound-marks.  The resurrection body is the same body as before, but different.  “It is sown…it is raised”.  But on the other hand, “thou sowest not the body that shall be”, 1 Corinthians 15:37,38.  Christ’s scars were not the result of His own sin, so can be carried over into resurrection.
And put my finger into the print of the nails- he not only needs to see, but also to touch.  John had seen, and his hands had handled, 1 John 1:1, but that was in a spiritual sense.  He saw the miracles and he saw their meaning.  He had handled Divine things by having fellowship with the Lord in His life.  Yet so had Thomas done these things.
And thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe- he must have heard about the soldier piercing Christ’s side.  All such information had devastated him, and his depth of despair was such that it would take a lot to rescue him. 
There were three men in Jerusalem with pierced hands.  Two were dead and buried, so if there was a living person with pierced hands it must be Christ.  There was only one with a pierced side, the solid proof that it was Christ.
To thrust one’s hand into the side of a man recently crucified is a very dramatic thing to do.  It shows the intensity of his feelings at this time.  He is indicating that he is going to take a lot of convincing.

20:26  And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

And after eight days again His disciples were within- we tend to not count the current day when we speak of what will happen in a few days time.  So on Sunday we would think of “eight days”, as meaning week Monday.  But the Jews included the current day in their reckoning. 
It is clear that the first day of the week had already become special to the disciples, even though they were not to observe days, Galatians 4:10.  It was not on the day the Supper was instituted that they met together, nor on the day of His crucifixion.  Nor did they go to the tomb and venerate it.  They are not said to keep the Lord’s Supper until after Pentecost.  It is kept in His absence, and “until He come”.  It would not be appropriate to remember Him when He was present, and had not gone.  There is also the fact that the partaking of the Lord’s Supper is an assembly activity, and there were no assemblies until after Pentecost.  Then “they continued steadfastly in…the breaking of bread”, Acts 2:42.
And Thomas with them- John makes no criticism of Thomas.  He does not say, as we might have done, “Thomas was with them this time”.  Those who fail to come to meetings need to be treated gently, but firmly. We might no know what they are going through, just as we do not know what Thomas was going through.
Then came Jesus- as on His visit before, they immediately knew who it was.  And He was the same Jesus, for He is “Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, and today, and for ever”, Hebrews 13:8.
The doors being shut- this time John omits “for fear of the Jews”.  Have they become bolder since they saw Him the first time?  His peace has kept their hearts.  The fact that He is able to move into a closed room tells us something of the non-physical character of the resurrection body.  Because it is a spiritual body, it is not limited as our body is now.  In the next chapter the Lord will eat fish and honey, showing that some things will continue, even if they do not need to continue for the same reason as before.
And stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you- this word is no doubt particularly for Thomas, as he saw the Lord after his absence.  Those who miss meetings purely out of disillusionment need to be assured of the Lord’s concern for them.  Of course, those who stop coming because of sin need to be admonished.

20:27  Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.

Then saith He to Thomas- the Lord directly addresses the problem.  This shows He knew what the disciples had said to Thomas, c.f. John 1:48-51.
Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands- is the Lord giving him the opportunity of still believing without touching?  It is not “reach hither thy finger and put it into the nail-prints”, but “reach hither thy finger and behold my hands”, and so come to believe without touching.  Can Thomas’ faith be restored even as he stretches out his finger, and before he touches the Lord’s hand?  C.f. Matthew 12:13.
And reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side- does the Lord wait to see the response of Thomas to the first remark, and then when he does not reach out with his finger, as faith is restored, that faith is tested?  It is not now simply seeing, but of thrusting his hand into His side.  But he does not need to do this, for his faith is now totally restored, as the truth of Christ’s resurrection dawns upon him.
And be not faithless, but believing- Thomas was not totally faithless, but faithless in regard to the one issue, that of the Lord’s resurrection.

20:28  And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.

20:28  And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God- there is no record of him reaching out to touch the Lord.  The very fact that the Lord knew what he had said when the disciples went to him and told him they had seen the Lord, convinced him of more than His resurrection.  It convinced him in the same way that Nathaniel was convinced at the beginning of the gospel, by the fact that the Lord knew about him and his situation under the fig tree.  It is the Lord who knows all things, and Thomas did not need to touch now.  As a devout Jew Thomas believed the testimony of Deuteronomy 6:4,5, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord”.  And he had heard the Lord Jesus recite the words, Mark 12:29.  So he believed that there was but one Lord, even the One God of Israel.  Yet he has learned that there is a plurality of Persons in the Godhead, something which is allowed for in the word “one”, which is a compound unity.  Thomas believes Christ is God, for He knows all things, and He is Lord, for He has defeated all His foes and has emerged in resurrection triumph.

20:29  Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed- whilst it is true that Thomas did not need to touch Him, he did need to see to believe.  He should have believed the disciples when they said, “We have seen the Lord”.  This is still the testimony in the gospel, for John wrote, “For we have seen and do testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world”, 1 John 4:14.
Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed- so Thomas is contrasted with those who, all down through the Old Testament era, believed without seeing.  The Lord taught that, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.  For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things which ye see, and have not seen them; and hear the things which ye hear, and have not heard them”, Matthew 13:16,17.  If they were prophets and righteous men they must have been believers.
And the Lord also seems to project Himself to the end of this current age of grace and look back and say, “they believed, but did not see”.  A special blessing is reserved for such.  It is not that we believe without evidence, but that we believe the evidence in the word of God, the testimony of those who did see, and can say, “We have seen the Lord”.
Looking at this incident in another way, Thomas represents the nation of Israel who will actually see the Lord when He comes to earth to judge, for “every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him”, Revelation 1:7.  Paul speaks of himself as seeing the Lord in resurrection, and therefore being a pattern of those who shall hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting”, 1 Timothy 1:16.  He saw the Lord in heavenly glory, and so shall Israel, and believe.  Nathaniel, on the other hand, would represent the godly remnant of Israel in the Tribulation Period, who will believe, and who will wait for the Messiah, remembering Isaiah’s words, “Say unto the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’  Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand”, Isaiah 40:9,10.

 

(e) Verses 30,31 John’s reason for writing the gospel

20:30  And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book:

And many other signs truly did Jesus- John calls the miracles signs, because they have deep significance, and tell us doctrine.  John is sure this was the case, so says “truly”, for he only records what he witnessed himself.  “He that saw it bear record, and his record is true.  And he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe”, John 19:35.  These two verses serve to bring to an end this part of John’s gospel.
In the presence of His disciples- so they could see, and believe.  Nothing was done underhandedly, or behind closed doors.  The Lord worked miracles either in the open air, in the temple courts, or in people’s houses, that in the East were accessible to all.  It was accepted that anyone could enter another’s house and sit on the seats around the outside of the room.  This is what the woman did in Luke 7.  The Lord said to the High Priest, “I spake openly to the world; in secret have I said nothing”, John 18:20.  And Paul was able to say to Festus, “This thing was not done in a corner”, Acts 26:26.
Which are not written in this book- is this a passing reference to Matthew, Mark and Luke?  They record other miracles.  The only miracle common to all four gospels is the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

20:31  But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name. 

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ- Jesus is the historical man, the man of the gospel records.  Christ is the promised Messiah, the man of the Old Testament records. Isaiah wrote of the Messiah, “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 a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing”, Isaiah 35:5,6. The Old Testament finds its fulfilment in the New Testament Jesus.
The Son of God- for He is more than man, and His miracles show it.  It is God who sends the rain which falls around the vine.  Who initiates the process of turning that water into sap, and leaves, and fruit, aided by the shining of the sun, which He is responsible for also.  It is He who controls the process by which grapes turn into good wine.  The Lord Jesus did all this in a moment of time, “and manifested forth His glory, and His disciples believed on Him”, John 2:11.
And that believing ye might have life through His name- John does not simply write that men might believe, but that the consequence of believing might take place, namely, that men receive life through His name.  All He is, as represented by His name, is the means whereby life is granted.  Because He is Jesus He could die to deal with our death in trespasses and sins.  Because He is Christ, He is the man of God’s approval, and therefore all He did was satisfactory to God.  Men were anointed in Old Testament times to mark them out as those approved by God for a certain task.  Their anointing was done with physical oil, the symbol of the Holy Spirit.  The Lord Jesus was anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power, Acts 10:38, showing His superiority to all others. 
It is because Jesus Christ is the Son of God that He has been given to have life in Himself for others, John 5:26.  To know Him believingly is to have eternal life, John 17:3. 

Psalm 22

THOUGHTS ON PSALM 22

Survey of the psalm
The first part of this psalm gives us a little insight into the feelings of the Lord Jesus as He hung upon the cross of Calvary.  We are privileged to learn somewhat of what He was thinking during the hours of darkness, over which the gospel writers pass in silence.  We know the psalm is about Him because He spoke the words of verse 1 about Himself, Matthew 27:46.  The psalmist said elsewhere that “The Lord forsaketh not His saints”, Psalm 37:28, so of none in the Old Testament can Psalm 22 be written; it is unique to God’s Son. 
In the second half of the psalm we are given insight into the ever expanding glories that result from His death  So the psalm can be seen as an illustration of the apostle Peter’s words when he wrote about “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow”, 1 Peter 1:11.  The expression “the sufferings of Christ” does not just mean the sufferings that Christ endured, but more than this, the sufferings that He was appointed to endure, for they pertained to Him and no other.  It was God’s purpose that the Christ, or Messiah, should suffer in a certain way, and so it came to pass.  His unique person gives character to His unique sufferings.  And they yield unique results.
These sufferings were testified beforehand by the Holy Spirit, the apostle assures us, so we learn they were set out in the Old Testament.  In the books of Moses we find the foreshadowing of the sufferings in the sacrifices that were offered, whether it be the sacrifice in Eden, Genesis 3; Abel’s, Genesis 4; Abraham’s, Genesis 12, 15, 22; or the offerings upon the altar in the court of the tabernacle and outside the camp as detailed in the book of Leviticus.  In the Psalms we have the feelings of the sufferings, as in poetic form the trauma of Calvary is expressed.  In the prophets we have the foretelling of the sufferings, in such passages as Isaiah 53.  When we come to the New Testament, we have the fact of the sufferings in the accounts in the four Gospels, and then the forth-telling of the meaning of it all in the Epistles. 
Thus it is no surprise that when He was telling the meaning of Calvary to the two on the Emmaus Road, the Saviour “beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself”, Luke 24:27.  And later on that day He said, “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day”, verse 46.  He also asked in verse 26, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and enter into His glory?”  Many Jews only believed the prophecies about the glory of the Messiah, and ignored the sufferings, hence they did not believe all the prophets had spoken, only some.  The Lord Jesus explained in verse 46 that the Messiah ought to suffer, (meaning He was under obligation to suffer), and only after that to enter into the glory of His kingdom.  What put Him under obligation was the determinate will and counsel of God, Acts 2:23.
It is important to notice that there is no specific notice of the death of the Saviour in this psalm.  It is everywhere implied, but is not mentioned.  It is true He speaks of being brought to the dust of death, but as we shall see when we look at verse 15, that does not refer to His actual death.  The emphasis throughout is on that which prevented Him from giving up His life in the way His Father had commanded.  His appeal for help is not so as to avoid death, but to die in the required way.

Structure of the psalm

The psalm is divided in general terms into two sections, verse 1-21, His sufferings on the cross during the three hours of darkness, and then verses 22-31, His glories, as known by an ever-increasing circle of people.

Verse 1(a)        The defining statement from Christ Himself.

Verses 1(b)-10        Cry for help on the basis of four things:
“Why art Thou so far from helping Me?

(i) Verses 2,3 The constancy of His praying.
(ii) Verses 4-5 The history of Israel at the Passover.
(iii) Verses 6-8 The mockery of the bystanders.
(iv)  Verses 9-9,10 The dependency on God He showed from the beginning.

Verses 11-18        Cry for help because of nine things.
“Be not far from Me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

(i) Verses 12-13 Strong bulls have compassed Him.
(ii) Verse 14(a) He is poured out like water.
(iii) Verse 14(b) All His bones are out of joint.
(iv)  Verse 14(c) His heart is like wax.
(v) Verse15(a) His strength is dried up.
(vi) Verse 15(b) His tongue cleaves to His jaws.
(vii) Verse 15(c) He is brought to the dust of death.
(viii) Verse 16 His hands and feet have been pierced.
(ix) Verses 17-18 He is stripped of His clothing.

 Verses 19-21        Cry for help to overcome four things.
“But be not Thou far from Me, O Lord: O My strength, haste Thee to help Me”.

(i) Verse 20(a) The sword.
(ii) Verse 20(b) The power of the dog.
(iii) Verse 21(a) The lion’s mouth.
(iv) Verse 21(b)  The horns of the unicorns.

Verses 22-31        The glories that follow His sufferings.

 

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN PSALM 22, VERSES 1 TO 10:

To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.

22:1  My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? why art Thou so far from helping Me, and from the words of My roaring?
22:2  O My God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.
22:3  But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
22:4  Our fathers trusted in Thee: they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them.
22:5  They cried unto Thee, and were delivered: they trusted in Thee, and were not confounded.
22:6  But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
22:7  All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
22:8  He trusted on the LORD that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him.
22:9  But thou art He that took Me out of the womb: Thou didst make Me hope when I was upon My mother’s breasts.
22:10  I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother’s belly. 

With these things in mind, let us, with “unshod feet”, reverently consider the words of this psalm.

To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.

To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar- the title of the psalm may not be inspired, (although we should remember that the title of Psalm 18 is, see 2 Samuel 22:1,2), but it is instructive.  We might be surprised to find it is dedicated to the chief musician, who was no doubt in overall control of the temple-music.  But there are sad songs and there are joyful songs, and this is both, for verses 1 to 21 tell of unparalleled sadness, whereas the remainder of the psalm is full of rejoicing.
Aijeleth Shahar is probably the tune to which the psalmist, (who himself was a skilled musician), wished the psalm to be set when it was sung in the temple services.  It is important to sing hymns to an appropriate tune.  A sad hymn to a happy tune is to be avoided, if at all possible.  We are to sing and make melody, Ephesians 5:19, so the tune is important. 
It is said that Aijeleth Shahar means “Hind of the dawn”, and this is fitting.  For in the psalm the gentle hind, (a clean animal, according to Deuteronomy 14:5, and therefore suitable to be used as an illustration of Christ), is hunted to the death, but then emerges into the dawn of resurrection.  It was indeed a new day that dawned when Christ rose from the dead, His sufferings for ever over.  (It is interesting to note that John writes, “The first day of the week, cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre”, John 20:1.  Then he refers to “the same day at evening, being the first day of the week”, verse 19.  So he reverses the natural order, for when God created the earth the order was “the evening and the morning”, Genesis 1:5, etc).  The Lord Jesus is the true Naphtali, of whom it is said that he was “a hind let loose”, Genesis 49:21, and God has loosed the pains of death for Christ, Acts 2:24, and He is set free, never to be hunted or bound again.  Jacob also said that Naphtali “giveth goodly words”, and this was true of Christ as He preached before the cross.  But our psalm says He will declare God’s name to His brethren, verse 22, so the goodly words continue in resurrection.  We remember that the Book of Acts speaks of all that Jesus began to do and teach in His public ministry amongst Israel, Acts 1:1, implying that He continued to do and teach through the apostles as they taught and wrote of Him.
A psalm of David- this means he was the inspired author of it, the Spirit of God using him to tell beforehand the sufferings of Christ.  We should remember that David was not only a king, but a prophet, Acts 2:29,30, and so is enabled to infallibly tell things that would come to pass.
There are some psalms that are of David in the sense that they pertain to David, being his personal experiences.  This one is not, for it concerns sufferings that pertained to Christ alone, as we have already noted from 1 Peter 1:11.  In confirmation of this, we find no confession of sin in the psalm, thus reminding us of one who is completely free of sin in word and deed, 1 Peter 2:22, in thought, 2 Corinthians 5:21, and in nature, 1 John 3:5.
But is also “pertaining to Christ” in a further way, for it is full of personal and possessive pronouns relating to Himself.  There are 52 in the first 21 verses.  So the psalm is intensely personal, the unique feelings of Christ on the cross are being expressed.  Whilst the main part of the sin offering was wholly burnt up, the fat covering the inward parts of the animal were burnt as incense on the altar of burnt offering.  This would represent the strong heart-feelings of the Lord Jesus that He had even as He suffered the wrath of God upon the cross.  He did not complain or rebel, but His trust and confidence in God remained intact.
Psalm 22 emphasises the experiences of Christ as He endured the wrath of God against sin in the three hours of darkness upon the cross.  As He hangs there, His mind ranges over things that were brought to His remembrance by the surrounding circumstances.  He is hanging there at Passover time; during the hour of prayer in the temple; whilst the choirs are singing the praise of God in the temple courts; having been mocked and reviled by those around Him, including the chief priests; having committed His mother to John’s care; guarded by the Roman soldiery; having experienced the piercing of His hands and feet; conscious that the final battle was yet to be fought against the one who had the power of death.  All these things were on His mind, and they find mention is some way or other in the psalm.
He ponders these things with His senses fully alert.  He was offered something to drink on three occasions whilst on the cross.  First, He was offered the drugged drink that the daughters of Jerusalem provided out of pity for those who were crucified, Matthew 27:34.  He refused this, after He had sipped it and found it was stupifying.  He would go into the experience of the cross with every sense alert.  His faculties were not dulled at all by sin, as with us, and He would endure the cross in all its horror without any relief from man.
He was offered drink again in mockery, as the soldiers held it near to His lips, and then withdrew it; repeating this many times to tease and taunt Him, Luke 23:36.  Then He was offered drink that He accepted, John 19:28-30, for His throat was dried, as our psalm describes, and He needs a clear voice by which to shout “It is finished” in triumph, and also to commit His spirit to God.

Verse 1(a)            The defining statement from Christ Himself.

22:1  My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me? why art Thou so far from helping Me, and from the words of My roaring?

My God, My God- this is a declaration of dependence, as He endures the wrath of God in the hours of darkness.  God had always been His Father, for He was “that eternal life, which was with the Father”, 1 John 1:2.  He had become His God, however, when He was conceived.  Verse 10 of this psalm says this, for it reads “Thou art My God from My mother’s belly”.  It was when He became incarnate at His conception that His relationship with the Father was given a new dimension, and He can now begin to address His Father as His God, the one on whom He depended as a man.  Now that dependence is being shown to its greatest degree.
This expression is also one of submission.  When He came into manhood, Christ accepted the headship of God, 1 Corinthians 11:3, a relationship involving subjection.  Under the supreme trial of the wrath-bearing, will His submission falter?  The fact that it did not is clear from this verse, for twice over He affirms that God is still His God, and He recognises His claims over Him as His Son in manhood.  Adam in ideal circumstances was found to rebel and be insubject.  Not so the Last Adam.
Why hast thou forsaken Me?  Is there any final answer to this question?  Who can ever understand why it was the will of God that the Son of God should be abandoned of His God?  How can He who is “in the bosom of the Father”, John 1:18 be said to be forsaken?  Especially as the “is” of that quotation has the force of “ever is”.  It is a position that cannot be given up.  At whatever point we view Christ, whether in eternity or time, and even upon the cross, He is in the bosom of the Father, for this is an expression that tells of the unique relationship He has with the Father as His Only-begotten Son.
Psalm 22 presents to us the sin-offering aspect of the work of Christ at Calvary, beginning as it does with this cry as one forsaken of God.  Something of great moment must have happened if the Son of God’s love, His only-begotten, was caused to ask why He had been forsaken.  And indeed it had, for He had been “made sin”, as 2 Corinthians 5:21 declares. 
We are helped to understand this a little by reference to what happened when a sin-offering was brought in tabernacle days.  The sinner brought his animal, and laid his hands upon it, thus identifying himself with it, and acknowledging that he indeed was a sinner.  From then on, the animal was reckoned to stand in the stead of the sinner, and the man’s sin was attributed to it.  Whatever the sin deserved is inflicted upon the animal, and not on the man.  So it was that the offering is killed beside the altar of burnt offering, but is not laid upon it.  Its blood having been shed, and poured out at the base of the altar, it is taken outside the camp and burnt on the ground.  The fire of God’s wrath consumed it, so that in figure the sin was no more. 
Each of the vessels of the tabernacle was the support for something else.  The ark supported the mercy-seat; the lamp-stand supported the lamps; the altar of incense supported the censer; the table supported the loaves; the laver supported the water, and finally, the altar supported the sacrifices laid upon it.  So it is that the person of Christ is the support of His work, whether it be in the past, or now.  So the altar represents the person of Christ as the one who is able to undertake the work of sacrifice.  And the bringing of the sin-offering to that altar to be killed recognised that fact. 
But as we have noticed, the major part of the sin-offering was burnt on the ground, and not on the altar at all.  So the offering is disconnected from the altar, suggesting to us that in His sin-offering work Christ is dealt with as if He is not the person He is, for He is standing in as the substitute for others, and has been made sin.  He does not confess those sins as if they were His own, but He does have attributed to Him that which is totally contrary to Himself personally.  But since God is “of purer eyes that to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity”, Habakkuk 1:13, He had to turn away.  God says, “But your  iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear”, Isaiah 59:2, hence He must distance Himself from His own Son.
However, He is still the person He ever was, for the apostle Paul, when speaking of the purpose of God to bless us, spoke of Him as “He who spared not His own Son, but freely delivered Him up for us all”, Romans 8:32, so He was still His own Son, even though, as the sinner’s representative, and made sin, He was abandoned by God.  But it only lasted as long as the three hours of darkness, for after they were ended, He then said, “Father”.  The sense of desertion was over, for the sins had been borne.  It only remained for Him to die, and rise again, so as to introduce those who believe into the good of His death, in association with Him in resurrection.

Verses 1(b)-10        Cry for help on the basis of four things:
“Why art Thou so far from helping Me?

Why art Thou so far from helping Me- as a dependent man, the Lord Jesus could always count on the support of His Father.  The promise of the Father to Him was “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”, Hebrews 1:5.  These were words originally spoken about Solomon, 2 Samuel 7:14, but “a greater than Solomon is here”, Matthew 12:42; if the words were true of Solomon, how much more so of Christ.  In other words, in the world of natural relationships, all that a dutiful son may expect his father to be, in terms of support and resources, God had been to Him.  God had been His God, as He moved in lowly dependence before Him.  But He had been a true Son to His Father, and that gave great pleasure to God. 
We are often reminded of the contrast between God’s words to Israel in Malachi’s day, and His word to Christ on the banks of the Jordan.  In Malachi we read of God saying, “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: If I then be a Father, where is mine honour?  And if I be a Master, where is My fear?”  Malachi 1:6.  As a result of Israel’s failure as a nation in this regard, (and remember it was God’s national son, Exodus 4:22), God went on to say, “I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of Hosts”, verse 10.  How different was the scene at Jordan, when the word came, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased”, Matthew 3:17.  And He would go on to honour Him and serve Him faithfully. 
At the end of Malachi’s prophecy, God promises to spare Israel, “as a father spareth his own son that serveth him”, 3:17.  Yet we have already noticed the language of Romans 8:32, “He that spared not His own Son…” What has happened?  Certainly not a breakdown of the relationship between Father and Son; that could never be.  But a new situation has arisen, where the Son is standing in the place of sinners as the one made sin, and God’s attitude must necessarily take account of that.  So it is that the Divine help He was afforded during His life, seems now to be withdrawn.  That it is only temporary will be seen when we consider verses19-21. 
And from the words of My roaring?  We read of God that His arm is “not shortened that it cannot save, neither His ear heavy that it cannot hear”, Isaiah 59:1.  But now it seems that in relation to His own Son, His arm is not stretched out to save when He calls for help; nor does His ear seem to be open to His cry.  It is not that His prayer is not fervent enough, for the expressive term “My roaring” tells of the most intense of cries.  If it were not be the fact that He has been made sin, His prayer would have been answered long before.  The writer to the Hebrews speaks of the strong crying and tears of the Saviour, Hebrews 5:7, and this is a prime example.

(i)    Verses 2,3    The constancy of His praying.

22:2  O My God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.

O My God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not- notice the deep feeling expressed in the “O”; He is directly addressing His God, and pleading, not so much with the intensity of prayer as in verse 1, but the constancy of it.  As far as the clock was concerned, it was daytime, and He constantly appealed to His God, such is the reality of His need, and His confidence that His need could be met.  He is not asking to be delivered from the experience He was going through, but to be enabled to endure it.  He had said to His disciples, “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” John 18:11, so He was not desiring to be relieved of the suffering, but to be enable to pass through it with spiritual success.  And even though His prayer seemingly met no response, in reality it was otherwise, for He can say in verse 21 “Thou hast heard Me”.  So we are to understand “Thou hearest not”, as meaning “Thou gavest Me no indication that Thou wast hearing Me”.
And in the night season, and am not silent- although it was day as far as the clock was concerned, it was night as far as the supernatural darkness was concerned.  Scripture tells us of great darkness that came over the earth when the Saviour was hanging upon the cross.  Darkness within strictly confined limits, (from the sixth to the ninth hour, Luke 23:44), and therefore Divinely sent and controlled.  As a result, the sun was darkened, verse 45.  So the darkness was not that of an eclipse, (which cannot occur at full moon anyway), but was brought about by heaven’s intervention.  The sun was still shining, but the darkness intervened.  Is this not a parable?  The Sun of Righteousness was still shining in all the brightness of His glory, but the thick darkness of our sins clothed Him in sackcloth.
Whilst the Saviour was on the cross in the darkness, the priests were preparing to offer the incense at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour, Acts 3:1.  This incense was unique, for no man was to make its like, Exodus 30:38.  Yet this was only a symbol.  The true incense of prayer was offered on the cross, and there is no prayer like His.

22:3  But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

But Thou art holy- here we have the first of several “buts” in the psalm.  Each has its own shade of meaning.  They are as follows:
Verse 3    The “but” of the refusal of an unspoken, unacceptable alternative.
Verse 6    The “but” of contrast, for Israel had been delivered and He has not been, thus far.
Verse 9    The “but” of faithfulness, even though as yet not delivered, He continues on with undiminished trust in His God.
Verse 19    The “but” of an appeal.  Even though mine enemies are near, be not far.
Verse 24    The “but” of recompense, “when He cried unto Him, He heard”.

This “but”, therefore, is that of an unspoken and unacceptable alternative.  Faced with a situation of extreme trauma, when earnest prayers seem to go unanswered, many a saint might, if only for a fleeting moment, entertain wrong thoughts of God.  Not so this Holy Sufferer.  He banishes the thoughts before they arise.  For Him, to sin is not an option, and to doubt the goodness of God, even when passing through this situation, would be to sin.  But His holy mind will have none of it, and He immediately ascribes holiness to God.  By saying this He is safeguarding God’s honour, seeking God’s interests, and securing God’s praise, as the next phrase goes on to indicate.  After all, how can it be proper to praise a God whose dealings are less than holy?
O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel- the blood of atonement enabled God to dwell amongst His people for a further year, even though they in many senses were unclean, Leviticus 16:16.  Christ is conscious that His blood is that which will enable God to dwell with His people for ever, so He must go through with the work.  But there is more than that.  What if He failed God by attributing to Him wrong motives, or failure to help those in need?  How that would spoil the praises of the righteous, for as they were rejoicing in the righteous dealings of their God, doubt would be cast upon it if His own Son thought Him to be less than righteous.  Perhaps even as He hung upon the cross, the voices of the temple-choir drifted across the air.  How He would feel the fact that even whilst the worshippers were rejoicing in the courts of the Lord, He Himself was consigned to the desolation and loneliness of Calvary.  Their joy tried His soul in His sorrow.

(ii)    Verses 4-5    The history of Israel at the Passover.

22:4  Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them.

Our fathers trusted in thee- as He thinks of the praises of Israel, He remembers it is Passover time, the celebration of the great deliverance from Egypt, when God had heard the groanings of the children and had come down to deliver them, Exodus 3:7,8.  How they had sung on the banks of the Red Sea!  That first recorded song in the Bible is testimony to the saving power of God when He delivers His helpless people.  And He is part of that people, a True Israelite, for He says “our” fathers, thus associating Himself with them.  Yet He is seemingly forgotten.
The fathers showed they trusted in God when they sprinkled the blood of the lamb in obedience to His word.  They had faith that God would protect them from the destroying angel of death, and rescue them from their situation.  But Christ trusts His God!  Yet He has no sense of being delivered.
They trusted, and Thou didst deliver them- note in these two verse the repetition, as if the matter is constantly occupying His mind.  Their trust was not misplaced, for deliverance came.  He is sure that His confidence is not misplaced, (for to think otherwise would be to sin), but it does not meet with the same response as Israel’s trust did.

22:5  They cried unto Thee, and were delivered: they trusted in Thee, and were not confounded.

They cried unto Thee, and were delivered- now the emphasis is on their cry, as before it was upon their trust.  They cried because they trusted, and they received the answer to their cry.  God said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them”, Exodus 3:7,8.  “Affliction…heard their cry…their sorrows…am come down to deliver them”.  Yet what of His affliction, His cry, His sorrows?  Where was the “come down to deliver” for Him?
They trusted in Thee, and were not confounded- their trust in God was rewarded, and they were not embarrassed by any delay in the deliverance.  Yet His deliverance was seemingly not at hand.

(iii)    Verses 6-8    The mockery of the bystanders.

22:6  But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.

But- here is the second “but”, the “but” of contrast to the nation of Israel who had been delivered, and whose deliverance they were celebrating at that very moment.
I am a worm, and no man- thoroughly downcast, He thinks of Himself as worthless.  How can it be otherwise if God does not answer Him?  Do worms pray to God and get an answer?  He is no different to them.  He feels Himself to be like a senseless and low creature that no-one cares about, and which is trodden under foot of man without a second thought.  God gave Adam dominion over the creeping things, Genesis 1:26, yet here is the Last Adam likening Himself to a worm.  He has taken “made Himself of no reputation” to the ultimate degree.  He can surely go no lower than this. 
A reproach of men, and despised of the people- He was an embarrassment to the nation, and on that account despised.  But He was only these things because of their faulty view of Him.  If they only understood that He came to manifest God, and their reaction to Him was their reaction to God.  As He Himself said, “Now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father”, John 15:24.  And when He was reproached, it was that “the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon Me”, Romans 15:3.  That they did indeed reproach and despise Him is seen in the next verses.
 
22:7  All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn- this is the general summary of their attitude as expressed in the next phrases.  The Holy Sufferer thinks back to before the darkness came, and the way insults were hurled at Him.  The supernatural darkness had silenced them, but their words still hurt.
We are familiar with the cries of the Lord Jesus from the cross, but what of the cries to Him on the cross?  They are as follows:
“And they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads, and saying, ‘Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself.  If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross'”, Matthew 27:39,40. 
“Likewise also the chief priests, mocking Him, with the scribes and elders said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save.  If He be the king of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.  He trusted in God, let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said ‘I am the Son of God’.  The thieves also, which were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth”, verses 41-44. 
“likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save.  Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe'”, Mark 15:31,32.
“And the people stood beholding.  And the rulers also with them derided Him, saying, ‘He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He be Christ, the chosen of God’.  And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him, and offering Him vinegar, and saying, ‘If Thou be the King of the Jews, save Thyself'”, Luke 23:35-37.
There are no accounts of these things in John’s gospel.  It is as if John, who was present, could not bring Himself to relive the mockery of the one he loved. 

Putting these things together we can see that the mockery concerned His claim to be:

1.    Able to rebuild a destroyed temple.  This was a misunderstanding, for He had referred to the temple of His body, John 2:19-21.  They destroyed the temple of His body, and He raised it again in three days, for He had power to take His life again, John 10:18.
2.    Son of God.  Because He was truly the Son, He only did His Father’s will, for Divine persons do not act contrary to one another, John 5:19.  It was His Father’s will that He remain on the cross, so that is what He did.
3.    Saviour.  He had worked many miracles to save people from their diseases and their despair, but He never worked a miracle for His own benefit.
4.    Christ.  He had given every proof that He was the promised Messiah, as predicted in the Old Testament.
5.    One whose trust was in God.  This is clearly the case, for He was the man of prayer, the sign of reliance upon God.  Luke’s gospel emphasises this.
6.    King of Israel.  Matthew’s gospel especially gives His credentials as the rightful King of Israel.  The title is used sarcastically here, however.
7.    King of the Jews.  This is how the Gentile soldiers referred to Him.  The implication being that it was not worth being the king of such down-trodden and fanatical people.  What sort of nation is it that condemns its king to a cross?  The name Jew was only used after the nation had gone into captivity; it is a title of disgrace. 
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying- they add to their scornful laughter the barbed words of sarcasm recorded in the gospels, and the exaggerated wagging of the head as if bewildered by the claims He had made in His life. 

22:8  He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him.

He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him- what made them think this?  Perhaps His prediction before Caiaphas that He would come in the clouds with great glory.  Perhaps they thought He meant that was immediate.  When He cried “Eli” they thought He was calling for Elijah to help Him, Matthew 27:47.
These are almost the same words as were actually used by those who mocked Him at the cross, over a thousand years later.  They are heavy with sarcasm, for those who spoke them, the chief priests, elders and scribes, did not believe they were true.  They are words of malicious intent, designed to add to His sufferings.  The believer knows they are gloriously true, however.  He did trust in God; He was delivered, but not in the way the mockers thought; He did delight in Him.

(iv)    Verses 9-10    The dependency on God He showed from the beginning.

22:9  But Thou art He that took Me out of the womb: Thou didst make Me hope when I was upon My mother’s breasts.

But Thou art He that took Me out of the womb- far from causing Him to recant, and renounce His trust in God, their words of mockery only serve to lead Him to muse upon His trust in God, and reaffirm it.  His trust had been steadfast from the outset of His life in the flesh, and He is clearly resolved that it would continue.  He had been able to count on God when a helpless babe, and He can count on Him now that He is nailed to the cross in weakness, 2 Corinthians 13:4.  He is reminded of these things, for just a little while before He had made provision for the care of His mother, and now muses on the care she had showed to Him, as she served God by bearing and nurturing Him.  She was the means at that time of the Father expressing His care for Him.
Not only was the conception of the Lord Jesus unique, His birth was, too.  For no-one before or since has been born of a virgin.  That has great spiritual implications, of course, but it has physical ones as well.  In the wise providence of God the manner of conception ensures that birth is facilitated.  This was not the case with Christ, for He was conceived of the Holy Spirit.  He needed help in this, therefore, and that help was forthcoming.  It did not come from Joseph, attentive to Mary as he no doubt was.  He had no authority to step in here.  Not only must the virgin conceive, the virgin must bear a son, according to Isaiah 7:14.  She must be a virgin at both events.  So it is that by Divine power He had been conceived; by Divine power He was delivered out of the womb of the virgin.
Thou didst make Me hope when I was upon My mother’s breasts- He needed help after He was born, for Herod and his sword were ready.  The arrival of the wise men from the east was ordered of God so that by the time they arrived He had been presented in the temple, and was developed enough to be able to travel with Mary and Joseph to Egypt.  (Notice that the wise men come to “the house”, not the inn or the stable.  We are not told they came to Bethlehem.  Herod sent them to Bethlehem, it is true, for that was where Messiah was to be born, but that does not mean He was in Bethlehem when the wise men came, for God is preserving His Son from harm, Matthew 2:7-12). 
And even the expense of that journey into Egypt was defrayed by God.  When Mary’s child was forty days old, she brought the poor person’s offering to the temple, Luke 2:24.  After the wise men had visited, however, she had gold, frankincense and myrrh, just the very things that would fetch a good price in Egypt.  So it was that all the time the Saviour was preserved of God.

22:10  I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother’s belly.

I was cast upon Thee from the womb- Christ’s trust went back further, even to before He was born.  We know from the account in Luke 1:41,44 that unborn children can respond to circumstances, and so it is here.  We know that Christ was confident that God would take care of Him when He was dead in the tomb, Psalm 16:9, and now the other extreme of His earthly experience is in view.  He trusted in God wholly, when He was unable to help Himself, either in the womb or the tomb.
(It is important to bear in mind that Scripture never makes a distinction between what we are before and after birth as regards whether we are alive.  The message Bathsheba sent to David said, “I am with child”.  She did not write, “I am with embryo”, or “I am with foetus”.  That an unborn child is alive is seen from Job 3:11, “Why died I not from the womb?”.  See also Exodus 21:22,23, where a woman with child is injured so that she miscarries.  If there is harm to the child so that he dies, then the penalty is death, so it is “life for life”, just as in conventional murder cases, verse 12).
Thou art My God from My mother’s belly- this defines the point at which God became His God.  He had always been able to say “My Father”, but to say “My God” He must become flesh, for this is an expression of dependence and trust.  This is not to imply that the Lord Jesus consciously prayed to God from the moment of His conception, for He was not in any way a prodigy, (for that would mean reputation, and He made Himself of no reputation), but it does assure us that in His nature there was no hint of independence.  Nothing of Adam’s self-sufficiency marked Him, for His nature was totally free from sin.  This had been ensured by the manner of His conception, so is relevant to the matters at issue here.

Verses 11-18        Cry for help because of nine things.
“Be not far from Me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN PSALM 22, VERSES 11 TO 18:
22:11  Be not far from Me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.
22:12  Many bulls have compassed Me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset Me round.
22:13  They gaped upon Me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.
22:14  I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint: My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels.
22:15  My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws; and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death.
22:16  For dogs have compassed Me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed Me: they pierced My hands and My feet.
22:17  I may tell all My bones: they look and stare upon me.
22:18  They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture.

22:11  Be not far from Me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

Be not far from Me- having considered the total trust He has had in God from the very outset, He appeals to God for help in His current dire circumstances.  The climax of His cross-experience is about to come, and He seeks the help of God to pass through it with dignity.  He continues to pray to God even though, so far, He has had no response; such is His trust. 
For trouble is near- He appeals to God to draw near to Him, for two reasons- trouble is near, and His friends are absent.  His God seems so far away, but trouble is really near, represented by the forces of evil arrayed against Him around the cross.  They were the princes of this world, who crucified the Lord of glory in ignorance, 1 Corinthians 2:8.  But behind them all was the prince of this world, he who had the power of death, and who was present, for the Saviour had said, “the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me”, John 14:30.  He had found nothing that corresponded to him when he had tempted Christ in the wilderness, and had to leave, defeated.  But now he has come again, to seek to take advantage of the fact that the Lord is at His lowest point.  It is help in this situation that Christ is pleading for now.
For there is none to help- even if His disciples had all assembled around the cross, they could not have helped Him in His time of need.  He had prophesied that they would leave Him alone, John 16:32, and so it came to pass.  This was God’s will for Him, for the prophet predicted that lover and friend would be put far from Him, and His acquaintance into darkness, Psalm 88:18.  Even those who stood faithfully by the cross have been obscured by the darkness.

(i)    Verses 12-13    Strong bulls have compassed Him. 

22:12  Many bulls have compassed Me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset Me round.

Many bulls have compassed Me- there is now an enumeration of those that represented trouble.  The bull is a clean animal, suitable to be used in the service of God.  This is a figure for the priesthood, who had clamoured for His death before Pilate.  They were ceremonially clean, but morally unfit for their office.  The one who was both clean and fit, was the one who was hanging on the cross as a sacrifice.  The Hebrew alphabet has symbols associated with each letter.  The symbol of the first letter, Aleph, is an ox, whilst the symbol of the last letter, Tau, is a cross.  We are reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many”, Matthew 20:28.  The ox serves its master in its life, and then may be offered as a sacrifice upon the altar, provided it had not been blemished in any way.  So it was with Christ; He served His Father well in life, and served Him well in death.  These bulls, however, are serving their own interests, for they have delivered Him to Pilate because of their envy, and Pilate knows that, Matthew 27:18.  They had seen Christ as a threat to their position and prestige, and now they surround Him to ensure that He does not escape.
Strong bulls of Bashan have beset Me round- the priesthood had great power and influence as leaders of the people in the absence of a proper king.  They were certainly strong.  As another psalm says, “they that would destroy me, being My enemies wrongfully, are mighty”, Psalm 69:4.  Bashan was a region to the east of the Jordan, where the two and a half tribes lived who had rejected the land.  It is a place of compromise, being outside of Egypt, outside of the wilderness, but not in Canaan.  It was a place of lush
pastures, with its consequent fat cattle.  The priesthood had certainly grown fat.  They owned the stalls in the temple market, and profited from the sale of animals for sacrifice, and the exchange of money.  When the Lord Jesus purged the temple courts at the start and end of His ministry, He was striking at the heart of the centre of power in the nation, and exposing its hypocrisy.  No wonder they schemed for His death, and now think they have achieved it.  They have beset Him round, thinking they have cornered Him.  He is about to out-manoeuvre them however, for He will lay down His own life; none shall take it from Him, for He will lay it down of Himself, John 10:18.  This has not happened yet, so He stands in need of help.

22:13  They gaped upon Me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

They gaped upon Me with their mouths- they did not have the authority to put Him death, so having handed Him over to those who would be able to do this, they have to be content with slaying His good name with their words. 
As a ravening and a roaring lion- the princes of the world are acting like the prince of this world, doing his work for him.  The Devil goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, 1 Peter 5:8.  He seeks to intimidate with his roar, and impress with his strength and ferocity.  He is ravening, too, seeking to tear to shreds the character of those he opposes.  He has met his match, however, for it the Lion of the tribe of Judah that is going to prevail. 

(ii)    Verse 14(a)    He is poured out like water. 

22:14  I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint: My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels.

I am poured out like water- we are now told of the things that render Him unable to help Himself, and why He must rely on His God.  To be poured out like water is to be near death. When the Israelites were oppressed by the Philistines, they expressed their helplessness by pouring water out before the Lord, 1 Samuel 7:6.  The wise woman of Tekoa said, “We must needs die, and are as water spilled upon the ground”, 2 Samuel 14:14..
Even in Gethsemane the Saviour said that His soul was sorrowful, “even unto death”, Matthew 26:38.  How much more so now, after the ill-treatment He has received, including the scourging, which was called “the first death”, and which some did not survive.  He feels that life is coming to an end, and yet it is not God’s will that men should take it from Him.  He needs help.

(iii)    Verse 14(b)    All His bones are out of joint. 

And all My bones are out of joint- here is another sign of helplessness, for every bone has been dislocated, causing intense suffering, and rendering any movement full of pain.  His bones may be out of joint, but they are not broken, for that would mean Scripture was not fulfilled.  John is careful to tell us about the soldier that broke the legs of the two thieves to hasten their death so that their bodies could be taken down before the end of the day.  But when he came to Jesus he saw that He was dead already, and so brake not His legs.  John assures us he saw these things happen, “And he that saw it bear record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.  For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, ‘A bone of Him shall not be broken'”, John 19:35,36.  This implies that His legs were not broken before, either.  The pathway of the Lord Jesus was intensely precious to God, and He ensures that it is preserved even down to the symbolism. 
As a shepherd, David had sometimes had to break the leg of a rebellious lamb that insisted on wandering away into danger.  After it had been kept close by the shepherd for a while, however, its bones would heal, and it could be given its freedom again, the discipline over.  David himself had been like that.  He had strayed into danger in the matter of Bathsheba.  But the Lord was his shepherd, and He brought him under discipline, so that in one of his repentance psalms David asks God to “make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones Thou hast broken may rejoice”, Psalm 51:8.  No such discipline was needed by the Lamb of God, whose walk so impressed John the Baptist, John 1:36.

(iv)    Verse 14(c)    His heart is like wax. 

My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels- this is a serious matter, for His heart-resolve is in danger of being affected.  The heat of Divine anger is reaching His innermost being.  Scripture says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life”, Proverbs 4:23. 
Notice that the anger is softening Him, not hardening Him, as was the case with Pharoah.  When God afflicted him, it only served to make him harden his heart, Exodus 9:34.  The reaction of Christ is the opposite.  Yet He fears lest the end may come without Him having full control of His affections.  He had said, “That the world may know that I love the Father; and as He hath given Me commandment, even so I do.  Arise, let us go hence”, John 14:31. 
The Hebrews believed that the internal organs, (the bowels), were the seat of the emotions, and here the Sufferer is concerned, because His melting heart, (that is, His heart-feelings) is affecting His emotions, (His heart-responses).  He strongly desires to continue in undiminished affection to the end, that His laying down of His life may be an expression of that great love. 

(v)    Verse 15(a)    His strength is dried up. 

22:15  My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws; and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death. 

My strength is dried up like a potsherd- we have in this verse three more causes of helplessness.  This, is near-total exhaustion.  The harrowing and terrible pains of scourging and crucifixion have taken their toll, and the energy to survive is ebbing away.  The potter places his products in the oven to dry every drop of moisture from them.  Christ is in the oven too, the fierce heat of God’s anger against sin is directed at Him relentlessly, and it has taken its toll of Him.  But a potsherd is a piece of broken pottery, serviceable at one time, but now discarded as useless.  The Saviour is fighting against beginning to react as if He is past His usefulness.  In fact, He has a most important work yet to do, even the laying down of His life, and He longs to be strengthened for it. 

(vi)    Verse 15(b)    His tongue cleaves to His jaws. 

And My tongue cleaveth to My jaws- His act of dying will be the act of triumph over all the forces of evil.  He will cry with a loud voice, “It is finished”, and He will commit His spirit to God audibly.  The centurion is going to be impressed with the way He cried out, for he is used to victims either dying in silence, or else with cursings on their lips.  This man is so different, even to His last act.  But if He is going to cry out in this way, His throat must be clear, His tongue flexible and moist.  This is why He asked for a drink, so that His final words might be distinct and unmistakeable.  But would His request be granted?  He has already been taunted by the soldiers, as we have noticed, offering Him a drink and then pulling it away at the last moment.  His trust is that God will intervene and He will be given a drink.

(vii)    Verse 15(c)        He is brought to the dust of death.

And Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death- it is God’s determinate will that He die, He knows that, but it is also His commandment to Him to lay down His life, and He is appealing to be able to obey that on His own initiative.  He is so near death that He is almost on the edge of the grave.  Help needs to come very soon. 
Of course, as God’s Holy One He would not see corruption, Acts 2:27, but He will certainly “fall into the ground”, figuratively, John 12:24, and be “in the heart of the earth”, Matthew 12:40. 
It was customary for the crucified to be flung without ceremony into a pit dug at the foot of the cross.  Perhaps the soldiers are even now digging the pit, despite the darkness.  If so, dust fills the air.  But the prophet foretold that even though the Saviour’s grave would be appointed by men to be with the wicked men who were crucified with Him, Isaiah 53:9, in the event, by God’s appointing, He would be with the rich in His death, in a fresh clean rock-hewn tomb,.  By this means the burial place of Christ would be well-marked, and separate.  So since only one person was put in the tomb, only one person could come out.  The grave of Moses is unknown, but it is vital that the grave of Christ should be well-known.

(viii)        Verse 16        His hands and feet have been pierced.

22:16  For dogs have compassed Me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed Me: they pierced My hands and My feet.

For dogs have compassed Me- here is another cause of concern, the encircling Roman soldiers, for they are in control of the situation, humanly speaking.  He is surrounded by Roman soldiers, standing guard over Him, such is the idea behind the expression “and sitting down they watched Him there”, Matthew 27:36.  He will ask to be delivered from the power of the dog in verse 20, for in a sense He is at their mercy.  During His ministry the Lord showed that He was ready to bless Gentile dogs, for the Syro-Phoenecian woman appealed to Him on that basis, and her request was granted, Mark 7:24-30.  But these are not humble suppliants; they are cruel executioners, charged with the duty of making their victim a public example.  We know that the centurion in charge of them was impressed with what happened when the Lord Jesus gave up His spirit, but that stage is not quite reached yet.
The dogs that roamed the streets in those times were untamed, unclean, and unrestrained, fit symbol of the soldiers as they callously went about their duties at the foot of the cross.  This reflects so very badly on the Jewish authorities who handed Him over to them.  As Peter charged them on the Day of Pentecost that they had taken Him and “by wicked hands have crucified and slain” Him, Acts 2:23.  They allowed the Gentiles free rein, knowing that their hands were lawless.  The restraints of the Law of Moses were nothing to these Gentiles.  No wonder the Lord told Pilate that “he that hath delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin”, John 19:11.  In other words, Caiaphas the High Priest was more guilty than Pilate, for as High Priest he was supposed to be in touch with God, making decisions in His fear, and ensuring that accused persons were given a scrupulously fair trial, but it was far otherwise. 
The assembly of the wicked have enclosed Me- it was the chief priests, scribes and elders who were amongst those who mocked Him whilst He was on the cross, Matthew 27:41.  They should have been in the temple courts, occupied with the praises of Israel, verse 3, but they prefer to mock the Son of God.
Jacob had prophesied of what would befall the tribes in the last days.  When he addressed Simeon and Levi he said, “Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.  O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they digged down a wall.  Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel:  I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel”, Genesis 49:5-7.  The matter which Jacob refers to in the past tense was the avenging by Simeon and Levi of the defiling of their sister Dinah by Shechem, a Gentile, as detailed in Genesis 34.  Simeon and Levi took it upon themselves to avenge this wrong, yet Jacob curses them for it.  He disassociates himself from their secret plan, and also their conference, as they planned the raid on the Shechemites.  Simeon’s name means “hearing”, and Jacob does not want to hear their plotting.  Levi means “joined”, and he does not wish to join them in their scheme.  He condemns them for having instruments of cruelty in their houses, ready to use against Shechem.  He condemns also their fierce anger and their cruel wrath.  They had slain a man, Shechem, and digged down a wall, for the protection afforded Jacob by his good behaviour had been destroyed, and he was at the mercy of his enemies.  As a result he predicts that they will be divided in Jacob, and scattered in Israel.  And this came to pass, for Levi was allotted cities throughout the land of Canaan, and Simeon was given territory surrounded by the inheritance of Judah, thus cutting him off from his brother.
But these things have a more sinister side, for it is the descendants of Levi, and those who “heard” them, the unthinking multitude, who are angry and cruel again in relation to the Lord Jesus.  The priests and the Sanhedrin had plotted and schemed for years to put Him to death, and now they think they have achieved their aim.  They hold their secret and illegal counsel in the darkness of the night, and condemn Him to death.  In their anger against Christ they seek to ensure His death, and the apostle Peter accused them of doing it, for he said, they “killed the Prince of Life”, Acts 3:14,15.  Unwittingly, they digged down the walls of Jerusalem, so to speak, for some forty years after the crucifixion the city of Jerusalem was destroyed.  The Lord Jesus had linked what would happen to His body when they destroyed Him at Calvary, with what would happen to the temple, John 2:18-22.  Their treatment of Him would be matched by God’s treatment of their temple.  They gave Him over to the Romans to crucify; God gave their city to the Romans to destroy, and in the process, crucify many thousands of Jews outside the city walls.
So it is that at the cross the instigators of the death of Christ assembled, and they are rightly called the assembly of the wicked. 
They pierced My hands and My feet- the “instruments of cruelty” have been brought out, the cross, the hammer, the nails, the club and the spear, and they have sanctioned the Romans to kill Him on their behalf.  Instead of handling the holy instruments as they attended at the altar, they minister in a most unholy way.  Crucifixion was a Gentile mode of execution, designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain.  One Roman orator said that it was the most degraded death that could be meted out to any man.  The Jewish way of capital punishment was by stoning, with the accuser casting the first stone, the rest of the people joining in, and then when the guilty person was fully dead, the stones heaped upon the victim as a testimony and warning to others.  The problem with this was that it was likely that the victim’s bones would be broken, and God was concerned that the body of His Son should not be fractured, in order that the completeness of His person and character might be preserved, in this way as in all others.  John is careful to tell us that not one of His bones was broken.
It is true that sometimes especially wicked criminals were hanged on a tree as an example.  But this was after they had been stoned, see Deuteronomy 21:21-23: Galatians 3:13.  So stoning was not an option.  He must be executed in some other way.  So it was that a few years before the crucifixion the right to capitally punish was taken away from the Jews by the Roman overlords.  (There was with one significant exception, for they were allowed to keep the right to execute a person who crossed the middle wall of partition in the temple courts, even if that person was a Roman.  This is why the apostle Paul was in such danger in Acts 21:29-31, even though he had Roman citizenship).  Thus God saw to it that the Scripture, “neither shall ye break a bone thereof”, Exodus 12:46, and “they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced”, Zechariah 13:12:10, would both be fulfilled. 
The words of this phrase may have also the sense “they are piercing My hands and My feet”, as if the Saviour is reliving, near the end of the hours of darkness, what had happened some six hours before. 
 
(ix)    Verses 17-18    He is stripped of His clothing.

22:17  I may tell all My bones: they look and stare upon Me.

I may tell all My bones- we may be sure that, even though His hands and feet were pierced, His God had ensured that no bone had been broken in the process.  So it is that He is able to recount that fact in relation to every bone.  It is true that the word “tell” may be translated to number, but its main meaning is to recount.  Here the Holy Sufferer is able to recount that He had been preserved as to His bones. 
They look and stare upon Me- whilst the foregoing is gloriously true, it is also true that even whilst He considers the fact that His bones have been preserved, those same bones stare back at him, exposed as they are, not just by the removal of His clothes as detailed in the next verse, but also because He has been so fastened to the cross that His bones protrude, and can be seen through His skin.  Their very unbrokenness only serves to highlight their grotesqueness. 

2:18  They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture.

They part My garments among them- reliving the experience again, the Saviour recalls that His garments had been shared out between the four soldiers.  This verse is quoted by Matthew and John, and alluded to by Mark and Luke, as having been fulfilled at the cross, but it is John that gives us the most detail.  He writes, “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also His coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.  They said therefore among themselves, ‘let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be’: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, ‘They parted My raiment among them. And for My vesture they did cast lots’.  These things therefore the soldiers did”, John 19:23,24.  His own raiment had been put back on Him after He had been mocked by the soldiers, Matthew 27:31, so the first action of the soldiers must have been to take off His garments in order to nail Him to the tree.  As soon as He was born, Mary with loving hands wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.  Now it is the day of His death, and rough hands strip Him, and lay Him cruelly on a cross.  As Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return thither”, Job 1:21.
But whilst men may deprive Him of His clothing, they cannot rob Him of His character.  Joseph’s brothers stripped him of his coat of many colours, dipped it in the blood of a goat and showed it to his father, deceiving him into thinking Joseph was dead.  But it was not so, for Joseph lived on, and the character which his coat symbolised continued.  So it is with Christ.  His garments, stained by His own blood, passed into the hands of sinners, but the value of His person, and His blood, endures.  His Father is not deceived, and fully appreciates what His Son did at Calvary in love for Him and His interests. 
And cast lots upon My vesture- special attention is paid to this item.  The four other pieces, the head-covering, outer tunic, girdle and sandals, were easily distributed between the four soldiers, but there remained one item over, His inner tunic.  Not knowing they were fulfilling Scripture, the soldiers cast lots for it to determine who would have it. 
And so it came to pass, and His last earthly possession was gambled for, and passed into the hands of His executioners.  When John writes “that the Scripture might be fulfilled”, we are not to think of that as meaning the soldiers did it so as to fulfil Scripture.  The point is they gambled for His coat to the fulfilling of Scripture. 
There were several things rent at the time of Christ’s crucifixion.  The high priest had rent his clothes when the Lord Jesus had asserted His Deity, Matthew 26:65.  This is the sign of the end of the Aaronic priesthood.  Then the veil in the temple was rent, verse 51. This is the sign of the end of the temple system. The rocks were rent, too, signifying the end of the old creation, verse 51 again.  The graves were opened, so they were virtually rent, too, for His death signalled the end of death for those who believe.  But His clothes were not rent, for His character lives on, and His blood-stained garments tell us that His character is forever associated with His sacrifice, and in eternity He will be known as the lamb once slain.
So comes to the end the survey of things that He needs to be saved from if He is to bring the work to an end in God’s appointed way.

Verses 19-21            Cry for help to overcome four things.
“But be not Thou far from Me, O Lord: O My strength, haste Thee to help Me”.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN PSALM 22, VERSES 19 TO 21:

22:19  But be not Thou far from Me, O Lord: O My strength, haste Thee to help Me.
22:20  Deliver My soul from the sword; My darling from the power of the dog.
22:21  Save Me from the lion’s mouth: for Thou hast heard Me from the horns of the unicorns.

22:19  But be not thou far from Me, O Lord: O My strength, haste Thee to help Me.

But be not thou far from Me, O Lord- here is the fourth “but” of the psalm, that of faithfulness.  Even though as yet not delivered, He continues on with undiminished trust in His God.  He is making His final appeal for help, in order that He may keep the initiative, and not allow wicked men to triumph.  Notice that the title He uses is “Lord”, whereas previously in the psalm it has always been “God”.  This is a name of God which tells of His constancy and faithfulness.  The word “Jehovah” which it translates, is said to be a combination of “He will be”, and “being”, and “He was”, thus indicating His unchangeable presence.  See Revelation 1:4.  So by using the name Lord, the Saviour is asserting His confidence that God’s faithfulness to His promises will be sustained.  He has been deprived of the enjoyment of that faithfulness, because our sins have interrupted it, but now the moment is coming when He will emerge out of the darkness into a full sense of the fact that the Lord is true to His promises.  When Eve was tempted, she began to use the word God, and abandoned the name Lord that she would have learned from Adam.  This was because she listened to the tempter, and he would not use the word Lord, being rebellious.  This tempted one is resolute, and He maintains His trust in the one who is Lord.
O My strength, haste Thee to help Me- His life had been lived in reliance on the strong God of Israel.  Even though He was Son, yet He, in dependent manhood, relied entirely on His God as His strength.  Never did He need that strength more, and He pleads that He may know it for the final conflict.  It is clear that He believes the end is near, and His physical strength is failing fast, and therefore asks for speedy help.

Verses 20 and 21 are the climax to the first half of the psalm, and explain to us what it is that caused the Saviour to pray for help.  What does He need help to do?  These two verses tell us.  They centre around the sword, the power of the dog, the lion’s mouth, and the horns of the unicorns.

(i)    Verse 20(a)    The sword.

22:20  Deliver My soul from the sword; My darling from the power of the dog.

Deliver My soul from the sword- God has put a sword into the hand of those who rule.  When God made a covenant with the earth after the flood, one of the terms was, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man”, Genesis 9:6.  The apostle Paul also spoke of these things when he wrote, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.  For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.  Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?  Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good.  But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil,” Romans 13:1-4. 
So power has been given to rulers to do three things: To execute those who murder; to punish those who resist their authority, (for those who do this resist God); to execute wrath upon the evil-doer. 
Now Pilate, representative of the power of Caesar as he was, had made decisions about two men.  He had convicted Barabbas of murder, insurrection, and robbery, Mark 15:7; John 18:40, yet he released him.  And he had, (against his better judgement, John 18:38), convicted Jesus Christ of insurrection, for this was what the Jews accused Him of before Pilate, with the words, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ a King”, Luke 23:2.  It was also the implication behind the accusation over the cross, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”. 
Now if the death of Christ is the direct result of Pilate using the “sword”, then it will go down in the record books that He was an evil-doer and an insurrectionist.  The only way of avoiding this is for Christ to lay down His own life, thus keeping the initiative.  It was His soul that was delivered from the sword, for His soul-longing was to obey the command of His Father to lay down His own life.  He is not asking to be delivered from the sword of Divine Justice spoken of in Zechariah 13:7, for He was already suffering because that had been used against Him by God.

(ii)    Verse 20(b)    The power of the dog.

My darling from the power of the dog- we have been told of the dogs in verse 16, and here we meet them again.  There it was in connection with Him being crucified, as they pierced His hands and His feet, and gambled for His clothes.  Now they have power of a different sort.  The Jewish authorities would soon ask Pilate that the legs of the victims be broken to hasten their death, because the next day, that began at 6pm, was drawing near.  These Gentile dogs have the power to wield the club that will break Christ’s legs, and cause His almost immediate death, for He will no longer be able to push Himself up so as to breathe.
My darling is a translation of the word which is rendered “only-begotten” elsewhere, Genesis 22:2 for instance.  The word literally means “to unite”, reminding us of the Lord’s words, “I and My Father are one”, John 10:30.  Is this the Son calling Himself by a name which He knows His Father knows Him by?  And does that mean that the enjoyment of the Father/Son relationship is about to be resumed?  The relationship has been there all along, but the joy of it was withheld whilst Christ was made sin.  He is now anticipating the imminent resumption of that joy.

(iii)    Verse 21(a)    The lion’s mouth.

22:21  Save Me from the lion’s mouth: for Thou hast heard Me from the horns of the unicorns.

Save Me from the lion’s mouth- we have been told of those who were lion-like, in verse 13, the princes of this world.  But now the prince of this world is mentioned, the one who the Lord Jesus prophesied would come.  We know from Hebrews 2:14,14 that this one had the power of death in Old Testament times.  This was because men had a sinful nature, and as such were in the domain of Satan, for the wages of sin is death, and they were in bondage to him because of their fear of death.  This is not true of Christ personally, but He is acting as representative of sinful men, and has been made sin.  Satan thinks he has power over Him, and asserts that power with his mouth.  In other words, accuses Him before God.  He is the accuser of the brethren, Revelation 12:10, and uses every opportunity and excuse to do so.  That Satan has not the power of death over Christ is true, but the impression will be given that it is so, unless Christ keeps the initiative, and is strengthened to lay down His life of Himself, and not through external pressure.

(iv)    Verse 21(b)    The horns of the unicorns.

For Thou hast heard Me from the horns of the unicorns- despite not having received any answer to His pleadings thus far, the Lord Jesus is confident that His God has heard, and will answer at the moment of His choosing.  That moment is about to come.  The unicorn was a wild ox, and a group of such animals are here pictured as lowering their heads for the final charge at their victim.  We read of bulls of Bashan in verse 12, symbolising, we suggested, the ceremonially clean but morally unfit priesthood.  Here they are again, but this time they are exposed in their true character as wild, fierce and vicious.  They had already shown that to be the case, for we read that the chief priests “were the more fierce”, as they accused Him before Pilate, Luke 23:5.  Their fierceness is coming to a climax, for they are concerned lest the bodies hang on the cross after the end of the day, at the twelfth hour.  So they “besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away”, John 19:31.  Their request was granted, and the soldiers brake the legs of the malefactors, “but when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs”, verse 33. 
Unknown to the priests, the request of Christ had been granted, strength had been given Him, and He had not only cried “It is finished”, but had given up His spirit to God, John 19:30. 
So it was that He did not die by the sword of Caesar as if He was a malefactor; His death was not hastened by the Roman club; He was delivered from the mouth of the lion, and the horns of the unicorns did not impale Him and cause His death.  His trust in God had been vindicated, His work had been completed, and the sin-bearing was over.
The gospel writers are careful to document the time at which things happened at Calvary, so we know that the time from His crucifixion to the end of the hours of darkness was six hours, from the third hour to the ninth, Mark 15:25,33,34.  It was during this period, from the offering of incense at the third hour, to the offering of it again at the ninth hour, that the worshippers would be bringing their sacrifices, whether they be burnt offerings, meal offerings, peace offerings, or sin offerings.  Yet at the end of it all, there sounds out a loud cry across the temple courts, and amazingly, it comes from the Man on the central cross.  “It is finished”, He declares, or “It is fulfilled”.  The will of God expressed in sacrifices and offerings has been brought to its climax, and now, with a word, He “taketh away the first, that He may establish the second”, Hebrews 10:9.  And it is by that will that believers have been perfected by His one offering.  We see how important it is, then, for Him to have strength, not only to cry this cry with loud voice so as to reach the temple courts, but also to commit His spirit to God, laying down His life in wholehearted surrender to His Father’s will.

At this point the psalm divides, and the results of the work of Christ reach an ever-widening circle.  If the previous verses depict Christ being surrounded, and compassed about, encircled by the assembly of the wicked, the next verses show Him surrounded by those who love Him and trust Him.

Verses 22-31            The glories that follow His sufferings.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN PSALM 22, VERSES 22 TO 31:

22:22  I will declare Thy name unto My brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.
22:23  Ye that fear the Lord, praise Him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify Him; and fear Him, all ye the seed of Israel.
22:24  For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from Him; but when He cried unto Him, He heard.
22:25  My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation: I will pay My vows before them that fear Him.
22:26  The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek Him: your heart shall live for ever.
22:27  All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee.
22:28  For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and He is the governor among the nations.
22:29  All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before Him: and none can keep alive his own soul.
22:30  A seed shall serve Him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
22:31  They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done this.

22:22  I will declare Thy name unto My brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.

I will declare Thy name unto My brethren- in the context here, the name of God is His reputation for having delivered His Son from the power of the enemy.  In a wider sense, the idea is of Christ continuing to expound the name of His Father to those who are His brethren.  He said in His prayer in John 17, “I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them”, verse 26.  The apostles had beheld His glory, and that glory was that of the only-begotten of the Father, John 11:14.  By His coming into the world, the Lord Jesus secured a company of born-again ones, who had the capacity to appreciate Him in His relationship with the Father, John 1:12,13.  They were privileged to see that relationship worked out, and by this the name of the Father was expressed.  But there is more to tell, and there are others to tell, so the exposition continues, so that those who believe might have an appreciation of the relationship between the Father and the Son, which is one of intense love, and so they will appreciate that love better.  As that happens, the characteristics of the Son will be reflected in their lives, and the Lord will be able to say, “I in them”, for the Father will see in His children some likeness to His Son.
In the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee- these words are quoted in Hebrews 2:11,12, which reads, “For both He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, ‘I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee'”.  He that sanctifieth is the Lord Jesus, who has separated His people from Adam’s world, and brought them over into association with Himself in resurrection.  They are His brethren, and He is not ashamed to call them such.  They all issue forth out of a pathway of suffering, and meet together in heaven, where He leads the praise of His people.  This was anticipated when the Lord Jesus met with His own in the upper room after His resurrection.  So the declaring of the name takes place now, the praising which comes from knowing the Father, awaits in heaven.

22:23  Ye that fear the Lord, praise Him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify Him; and fear Him, all ye the seed of Israel.

Ye that fear the Lord, praise Him- here, God-fearers are exhorted to praise the Father.  This is the fear of reverence.  Those who sought after God from among the Gentiles, “whosoever among you that feareth God”, Acts 13:16, are encouraged to have the name of the Father expounded to them by Christ, so that they might meaningfully and intelligently praise him.  They will move from simply being God-fearing seekers after God, to being His children, able to worship Him as their Father.
All ye the seed of Jacob, glorify Him- the nation of Israel is assured of the opportunity to praise God, instead of clamouring for the death of His Son.  The gospel was preached first in Jerusalem, Luke 24:47.
And fear Him, all ye the seed of Israel- this is the fear of dread, the fear of those who “look upon Him whom they pierced”, in a day to come, and weep and wail because of Him, Revelation 1:7.  Even for them there is forgiveness, if they come God’s way.  The expression “seed of Jacob” indicates the crooked and perverse nature of the nation that crucified its Messiah.  Jacob” means “crooked”, and Peter exhorted his audience to save themselves from this “perverse generation”, Acts 2:40.  “Seed of Israel” anticipates the future days of glory for them, as their Messiah gives them dignity as the foremost nation in the earth.

22:24  For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from Him; but when He cried unto Him, He heard.

For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted- the sufferings of Christ on the cross were not a cause of the Father personally rejecting Him.  On the contrary, what He suffered, and the laying down of His own life in holy surrender to His Father’s will, have given the Father fresh cause to love Him.  As He Himself said, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again”, John 10:17.  If verses 1-21 are the record of the words of Christ on the cross, these remaining verses of tghe psalm are His words in resurrection.
Neither hath He hid His face from Him- the meaning is, surely, that His turning away from His Son made sin, was not a permanent thing.  As God said to Israel, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee”, Isaiah 54:7.  So in the future the remnant of Israel will realise their Messiah has solidarity with them, for this, in principle, (but not for the same reason), was His experience too.
But when He cried unto Him, He heard- whilst it did not seem like this at the time, it is now very evident that God heard His every pleading, and answered Him at the moment when His love and trust had been tested to the utmost.
These are reasons why the call can go out to men to fear and praise God, hence the “for” at the beginning of the verse.  Faith in God is well placed, since He has kept faith with His Son.

22:25  My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation: I will pay My vows before them that fear Him.

My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation- having secured a born-again nation for Himself, He can now celebrate with them in Millenial blessedness. 
I will pay My vows before them that fear Him- the Lord Jesus will be careful to discharge all His responsibilities God-ward, in gratitude for His deliverance from all that were against Him.  Jonah vowed to God during his experience of suffering, and pledged to pay those vows afterwards, “But I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed.  Salvation is of the Lord”, Jonah 2:9.  So does Messiah here.

22:26  The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek Him: your heart shall live for ever.

The meek shall eat and be satisfied- that which the Lord Jesus did when He fed the five thousand, and when He fed the four thousand, is but a foretaste of His abundant provision for men, both physically and spiritually, when He reigns on the earth.  There shall be no hunger or any sort of want then.  Of course, what He did when He brake the bread and fed the multitude He does in another sense now, as He makes known the truth of His person to those who believe.  It is they who eat the flesh of the Son of Man, (take in truth about His life), and drink His blood, (take in truth about His death), John 6:55,56.
They shall praise the Lord that seek Him- the Lord had to say to the people He fed, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled”, John 6:26.  Their seeking was merely carnal.  They needed to come in faith, or the real blessing would be lost.  As a result of seeking and finding, Peter is able to say at the end of that day, “And we believe that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God”, verse 69.  The seeking was followed by praising, as always must be the case.
Your heart shall live for ever- those who seek and find the living bread, have eternal life, and shall never perish.  As the Lord Himself said, “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise Him up at the last day”, John 6:40. Here is the confirmation of that, for believers in the Millenial Age, having been raised from the dead, enjoy the richness of eternal life. 
 
22:27  All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee.

All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord- Calvary shall never be forgotten, and during the reign of Christ many of those who are born during that time shall turn to the Lord in genuine faith, as they are told of what the King did when He was on earth before.
And all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee- there will be a great pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and the nations shall come to worship the King, Zechariah 14:16.  Instead of seeing Him upon a cross of shame, they shall come before the throne of His glory, Matthew 25:31.

22:28  For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and He is the governor among the nations.

For the kingdom is the Lord’s- there will be no doubt as the right of the Lord Jesus to reign.  Men put Him upon a cross because He claimed to be Israel’s King, and also the Son of man, with rights over all the earth.  At last His claim will have been vindicated. No doubt Matthew’s gospel will help them greatly in this regard.
And He is the governor among the nations- in Pilate’s judgement hall, Pilate the governor sat, and Christ stood.  In the future the roles will be reversed, and Christ will sit on His throne of impeccable righteousness, and kings shall rise up from their thrones to fall down before Him, Isaiah 49:7.  He who “before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession”, 1 Timothy 6:13, will one day “show who is that blessed and only potentate, King of kings and Lord of lords”, verse 15.

22:29  All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before Him: and none can keep alive his own soul.

All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship- those who prosper from His beneficent reign will worship Him in gratitude for His goodness. 
All they that go down to the dust shall bow before Him- at the great white throne, all those who have gone to the grave unrepentant, shall be forced to bow before Him, and reluctantly acknowledge that He is indeed who He claimed to be.  As the apostle Paul put it, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory olf God the Father”, Philippians 2:9-11.
And none can keep alive his own soul- believers will gladly agree that they depend wholly upon Christ for their maintenance in blessedness.  Unbelievers will find to their cost they cannot escape death if unrepentant.

22:30  A seed shall serve Him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.

A seed shall serve Him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation– the question was asked by the prophet, “Who shall declare His generation, for He was cut off out of the land of the living”, Isaiah 53:8.  It was considered a disaster to die without descendants, as Abraham expressed, Genesis 15:2.  Such was the experience of Christ.  Yet in resurrection He addressed His disciples as “children”, John 20:5, and He will say at last, “Behold I and the children that God hath given Me”, Hebrews 2:13.  These are a spiritual posterity, to whom He has given the life of His Father, eternal life.
With that life in their souls, they are strengthened to serve Him, in gratitude for what He has brought them into.

22:31  They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done this. 

They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born- the seed He has produced will serve Him by telling forth His righteousness, not only of His person, but His righteous act of dying upon the cross, Romans 5:18.
That He hath done this- these last words are said to be the direct equivalent of the Saviour’s words on the cross, “It is finished”.  But they are reserved for this place at the end of the psalm, perhaps to emphasise that the ever expanding and far-reaching influence of the one who suffered on the cross, is based entirely on His finished work.  It is because His work is finished that His righteousness can be declared.

PERSON OF CHRIST: His burial

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE PROPHECY OF ISAIAH CHAPTER 53, VERSE 9:

53:9  And He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death; because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth.

And He made His grave with the wicked- verses 7 and 8 of Isaiah 53 foretold the way men would treat the Lord Jesus.  They oppressed and afflicted Him, sought to destroy His character, and at last took Him and slaughtered Him on a cross.  In all this it seemed as if they were in control, and that He was the helpless victim of circumstances, but this verse tells us it was not so.  The apostle Peter emphasised this on the day of Pentecost when he declared that the nation of Israel had by means of the wicked hands of the Gentiles crucified Him, and allowed that crucifixion process to continue until He was slain, Acts 2:23; they callously allowed Him to suffer, and only planned to curtail His sufferings because the feast day was near. There was another dimension to this, however, as Peter points out at the same time.  The fact is that He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.  Men were only allowed to do what they did because it was part of God’s plan.  Indeed, the basis of God’s plan.

Now Isaiah 53:10 tells us that the pleasure of the Lord prospers in the hand of the Lord Jesus.  As God’s Firstborn Son, as well as His Only begotten Son, He was charged with the task of administering God’s affairs.  Not in any dispassionate way, but personally, and a major part of those affairs involved Him in suffering of different sorts.  He suffered in life, as earlier verses of the chapter have told us; He suffered in the three hours of darkness, as verse 5 has told us; He suffered injustice and cruelty at the hands of men, as verses 7 and 8 clearly show.  But He not only suffered in these ways, as He carried out the will of His Father, He was in control as He did so.  So, for instance, we find verses 7-9 alternate between passive and active.  He was oppressed…He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth.  Passive in oppression and affliction, but active in not opening His mouth.  He is brought…He is dumb.  Men bring Him, and He passively allows this, but He actively remained as dumb.  So also in verse 8.  He is taken…He was cut off…stricken.  But then the active, He made.  Each time the active is the answer to the passive.  So when He made His grave with the wicked, He was responding to something that He had passively allowed, but during which He was totally in control.

The question is, of course, in what way was He in control so that He made His grave with the wicked?  And if He was in control in this matter, why did it not happen?  And how can He make His grave with the wicked and with the rich at the same time?  So tightly interwoven is this prophecy that it can be fulfilled in the experience of only one man.

We need to notice that the word wicked is in the plural, and the word rich is in the singular.  So there are wicked men, and there is a rich man.  The word for wicked used here is an actively bad person.  We know that all have sinned, but not all set out to be actively bad.  We are told in verse 12 that the Lord Jesus was “numbered with the transgressors”, and the word transgressors means persons who have broken away in revolt against just authority.  The words are quoted by Mark when he describes the Lord Jesus being crucified between two thieves.  So we begin to see a picture building up of Christ in some way making His grave with wicked men by being crucified.  He submitted Himself to arrest, trial and execution, knowing that normally the end result of that process was to be flung unceremoniously, (and in company with the others crucified with Him), into a pit dug at the foot of the cross.  But even though it is true that He submitted Himself to the process of arrest and all that followed, nonetheless He was in complete control of the situation.  He did not call for the legions of angels that were at His disposal, Matthew 26:53.  He did not allow His followers to try to prevent His arrest, and rebuked Peter for attempting it, and remedied the damage he had done with his sword.  He could have any moment passed through the midst of them and gone His way, as He had done several times during His ministry when the crowds were hostile.  He did none of these things.  And by thus not resisting He ensured that His grave would be with the others crucified with Him, even though this was a distasteful prospect, and normally to be avoided at all costs.

It is interesting to notice that the words “He was numbered with the transgressors” are quoted twice in the gospel records.  Once by Mark as he records the crucifixion, as we have noted, but prior to that by the Lord Jesus as He is about to leave the Upper Room and make His way to Gethsemane, Luke 22:37.  So these words bracket together the whole series of events from the arrest in Gethsemane, to the crucifixion at Golgotha.

There is a big problem, however, with this situation, and it is this.  It is vitally important that the Lord Jesus be put in an easily identified and publicly-known grave, and, moreover, is put there on His own.  If He is buried at the foot of the cross with the two thieves, who is to know whether He has risen from the dead?  In theory those near of kin to the thieves could even come to the place, remove the body of their relative, and claim he had risen from the dead!  And even if this is unlikely to be attempted, the followers of the Lord could be accused of doing the same, and pretending that He had risen.

There is also the consideration that the psalmist prophesied by the Spirit that God would not suffer His Holy One, meaning the Messiah, to see corruption, Psalm 16:10.  There would certainly be corruption in a grave at the foot of the cross, with the remains of many criminals mingling together there.  Now of course whilst the whole of creation is in the bondage of corruption, nonetheless only humans are morally corrupt.  So the requirement is that the Lord Jesus must be buried in a marked grave, which has had no-one else in it before, and has no-one else in it whilst He is there.  Only in this way can it be sure that the One who was put into it is the One who came out.

How is this situation going to come about?  It will be necessary for this grave to be more than a marked grave in the ground.  It will need to be secure and unused.  This involves expense, and the Lord Jesus had not the material resources to arrange for this to happen.  Yet our passage says “He made His grave…with the rich in His death.”  It is certainly not that He had influential friends who could rise to the occasion in this matter.  His followers were poor, as He was.  And yet in a real sense He does arrange this matter, for our passage says “He made His grave…with the rich”.

In the event, the rich individual pinpointed in this passage was Joseph of Arimathea.  He was not a prominent member of the disciples that followed the Lord.  In fact, he was only a disciple secretly, because he feared the Jews, and what they would think of him.  For he was a counsellor, meaning that he was a member of the Sanhedrim, and as such was one of those spoken of in John 12:42,43, which reads, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God”.  Luke records that “the same had not consented to the counsel and the deed of them”, Luke 23:51.  The “them” referring to his fellow-members of the Sanhedrim.

He was assisted by a Pharisee, Nicodemus, who also was a secret disciple, and who is designated by John as “he that came to Jesus by night”, reminding us of his conversation with the Lord Jesus in John 3.  He presumably was a member of the Sanhedrim since he is described as a ruler of the Jews, John 3:1.  He seems to have had great influence amongst them as we see from John 7:45-53.  The chief priests and Pharisees had sent officers to arrest the Lord Jesus, no doubt on the pretence that He had interrupted the temple services by crying out, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink”, verse 37.  The officers returned without Him, and when the Pharisees protested at this, Nicodemus said, “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear Him, and know what he doeth?  Thus he showed himself to be prepared to defend the interests of Christ in a small way, and to appeal for justice to be done.  Things have changed, now, however, for he has to make a decision.  He cannot be neutral about Christ any longer, and something makes him side with Christ publicly, like Joseph of Arimathea.

We might well ask ourselves what it is that convinced them of the genuineness of Christ’s claims.  Remember, our answer must be in line with what the prophet said, which was, “He made His grave…with the rich in His death.  We notice that the words “in His death” are only applicable to His grave with the rich.  The prophet did not say “He made His grave with the wicked in His death”.  So to all intents and purposes He was destined for a grave with the wicked; but in the event, and by His own ordering, His grave was actually with the rich in His death.

We are told several things about the character of Joseph.  First, that he was a good man, the direct opposite of the wicked men between whom the Lord Jesus was crucified.  Second, that he was just man, meaning he was diligent in trying to keep the law, in direct contrast to the transgressors, who rebelled against all law.  Third, he waited for the kingdom of God, showing that he had a longing for the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah.  Fourth, he was a rich man, so is a candidate for the role marked out in Isaiah 53.  Fifth, he was an honourable counsellor, which implies that, (as indeed was the case), there were members of the Sanhedrim who were not honourable.  Sixth, he was prepared to make sacrifices, for he gave up his own tomb in favour of the carpenter from Nazareth.  And seventh, he came from secret discipleship to open and bold discipleship at last.

It is the first three qualities that we need to focus on.  Now a reading of the gospel records will show that the whole council, meaning the Sanhedrin, of which Joseph was a member, were present at the first trial before Caiaphas.  Matthew 26:59 reads, “Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put Him to death”.  Here is the first test for Joseph.  He is a just man, and he must ask himself whether justice is being done here.  He is a good man, and must ask himself if the prisoner is being treated respectfully.

The following rules governed the arrest of prisoners, and Joseph must know that already those rules have been broken:

1.  The arrest should have been done voluntarily by those who were witnesses to the crime.  It was illegal for the temple guard acting for the High Priest to make the arrest.
2.  The arrest should not have been at night, and constituted an act of violence.  This is why the disciples were preparing to prevent it.  Malchus was probably one of those foremost in the arrest.  If Peter had been preventing a legal arrest, he should have been arrested.  The fact he was not, showed the authorities knew they were in the wrong.
3.  The prisoner was bound, which was unnecessary violence, since he was surrounded by only a few men, and the arrest party consisted of many.
4.  The prisoner was taken to Annas first, but he was not the proper magistrate.
5.  He was interrogated at night, which was prohibited by law.
6.  He was detained in a private house.
7. He was struck gratuitously before any charges had been brought, John 18:22.

And now the first trial before Caiaphas is taking place, and Joseph has further questions to answer, for he is a member of the body that is conducting this trial.  Consider the following:
1. The trial was conducted at night, which was illegal.  All proceedings of law were prohibited at night.
2.  No trial was allowed on a feast day, under penalty of being null and void.
3.  He was ill-treated in a private house, (Matthew 26:67,68), with Caiaphas not preventing it, and before a proper hearing had taken place.  This was against Jewish law.
4.  The trial was conducted by Caiaphas, who was prejudiced, because he had already said that it was expedient for one man (meaning Christ), to die for the nation, John 11:49-52.
5.   Caiaphas acted as judge and accuser.
6.  He allowed the prisoner to be ill-treated, even though no sentence had been passed, Luke 22:63-65.

And then, the morning comes, and Mark tells us “the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council”.  So Joseph must be present at this meeting also.  Now further rules are broken, as follows:

1.  Witnesses should come forward voluntarily, but these were “sought”, after the attempt to find honest witnesses against Christ was unsuccessful, Matthew 26:59,60.
2.  Witnesses who did not speak the truth were to be stoned to death.
3.  If witnesses did not agree, the case was to be dismissed immediately.  (This was to ensure no frivolous accusations were made).  This did not happen.
4. To put a prisoner on oath, and therefore, in effect, to force him to incriminate himself, was illegal.
5.  The confession of an individual against himself should not decide a condemnation.
6.   If accused wished to speak, he was to be given the most profound attention.

Now at some time during these proceedings Joseph made a stand.  We read that he “had not consented to the counsel and deed of them”, Luke 23:51, the “them” meaning the other members of the Sanhedrim.  Their deliberations, and what they had done, both by sins of omission and by commission, he disagreed with strongly.  But there was more than the breaking of rules involved here.  The prisoner is special, and is making dramatic claims.  There was something about the way those claims were made that convinced Joseph.  What that was is told us in the next phrases in Isaiah 53:9.  “He made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth”.  The reason why Joseph came forward to offer his tomb, is because there was no violence with Christ, and because he came to believe that when He testified as to His person, there was no deceit in His mouth.

Peter tells us that “when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered He threatened not”, 1 Peter 2:23.  There was something about the way Christ presented Himself, His poise, His calm, His answers, and His restraint under the most intense provocation that so impressed Joseph, that he was resolved to distance himself from the decision of the Sanhedrim.  It is too late to resign membership, but he can “bring forth works unto repentance” by honouring Christ in His death, in contrast to the dishonour done to Him in His life.

The testimony of the Lord Jesus revolved around His claim to be the Son of God, and the Messiah, and the Son of Man.  Joseph comes to believe that His claims were true, and resolves to act accordingly.  His mind is made up, he must absolve himself from complicity in the crime of murdering the Son of God, by repentance and faith in Him, as Peter exhorted the rest of the nation to do at Pentecost, six weeks later.

Now this is very powerful testimony from within the council-chamber itself, and from one who was present as a member of that council.  It is also a powerful rebuke for those who remained steadfast in their hostility towards Christ after His resurrection.

So it is that after the Lord Jesus had died Joseph steps boldly forward.  Each of the steps in the burial of the Lord Jesus are carefully documented, and there is no room for doubt to any fair-minded person that He who was put, dead, in Joseph’s tomb, was He who rose the third day.

Consider these steps:

1.  The Jewish authorities demanded that the victims be taken down before the Sabbath began at 6 o’clock in the evening.  Neither Jew nor Gentile authority had any interest in taking down anything other than dead bodies.  The Gentiles because their government and power was involved, and the Jews because they wanted above all else to see Christ dead.  So it is that the soldiers hasten the death of two thieves, but find Christ is dead already.  He must be sure however, so what stops him breaking Christ’s legs? The answer is given to us by the apostle John, who was there as a witness.  It is because the Scripture had said that as the true Passover lamb His bones must not be broken.  But still the soldier must be satisfied, and so must the centurion, for he is soon going to be asked by Pilate if the Lord Jesus is dead.  So it is that the side of Christ is pierced, and the evidence that death has recently taken place is seen in the issuing forth of blood and water, no doubt meaning the watery fluid that surrounds the heart.  So it is that there is a unique body in Jerusalem, a crucifixion victim without broken legs, and with a pierced side.  The other two victims have broken legs and un-pierced sides.

2.  Joseph now goes to Pilate, and begs the body of Jesus.  We now have the remarkable sight of a rich man begging, and his request is granted.  As a rich man, Joseph had longed to be able to gain many things; now his only desire is to be associated with a dead body, for he is a changed man, and the things of earth that money can buy have now lost their attraction.

3.  Pilate is surprised that the victim is dead.  It is more than his position is worth for him to allow a body to be taken down from the cross when it is not dead.  The victim may recover, and thus escape justice.  Pilate may even have faced the death penalty himself if this should happen.

4.  He therefore summons the centurion to him, and verifies it from him as the man in charge of the crucifixion, who, as a professional executioner, will certainly know whether a person is dead or not.  He does not simply ask the centurion to send a message, but has a face to face conversation with him.  There is no possibility of a note being forged and passed off as a message from the centurion, or later, a note passed off as a message from Pilate.  This also ensures that the centurion knows who Joseph is, for both are now before Pilate at the same time.

5.  Pilate is now in a position to grant the body to Joseph, but why should he do so?  It was customary to allow close relatives of the deceased victims to take the body if they wished, but Joseph is not one of these.  So why does Pilate allow it?  Of course, one reason is that the Scripture says that Christ will be with the rich in his death; but Pilate has no interest in furthering the fulfilment of Scripture.  Is it because he has a guilty conscience?  His last conversation with Christ had been on the fact that He was Son of God.  Superstitious Pilate was no doubt fearful lest he had killed a “son of the gods”, and would receive Divine vengeance.  Perhaps this is his feeble attempt to repair the damage his clumsy and cowardly dealing during the trial had resulted in.  In any event, he grants the body to Joseph, in effect signing Christ’s death certificate, and thus proclaiming with all the authority of the world-empire of Rome that Jesus of Nazareth was really dead.  Those who suggest otherwise, (Moslems, for instance,)  must produce their valid reasons for contradicting this.  This they have not done.

6.  Not only does Pilate give Joseph leave to have the body, but he also commands the centurion to put this into effect.  So the jurisdiction of Rome still controls the body until the moment Joseph takes it down from the cross.  Every stage of the proceedings depends on the one before.

7.  So it is that well-known man, with the authority of the centurion and through him of Pilate, takes a body certified as dead down from the cross.  This is possibly the only legal act that has been done in Jerusalem that day.  He does this in full view of everyone, for the place of execution was near a highway, xxx.  He does it in full view of the Roman authorities, and also, no doubt, of the Jewish authorities also, who are anxious to ensure that the bodies are taken down before 6 o’clock that evening, when the Sabbath day will start.  They also are commanded to not allow hanged bodies to remain after nightfall, but to ensure they are buried the day they died, Deuteronomy 21:22,23.
So it is also that He is not taken down by one of His long-time followers, who could be said to have an interest in trying to get Scripture fulfilled.  A new convert, who has not spoken to Christ at all as far as the record goes, is now the centre of the action.

8.  The body is buried in the Jewish manner, which means that strips of linen cloth are wound round the body, with fragrant spices between the layers.  Even if the Lord Jesus were still alive, it would be impossible for Him to extricate Himself from these grave clothes.

9.  All this is done outside the sepulchre, for it is not until the process is finished that the body is placed within, as both Matthew 27:59,60, and Mark 15:46, 47 show.  John seems to go further, for he alone tells us the position of the tomb in relation to the place of crucifixion, but mentions the wrapping in linen before saying where the tomb was, thus suggesting that the wrapping was done near the cross, and then the body was taken to the tomb.  In any event, all is under the watchful eye of unbelieving men.  There is no possibility of bodies being switched in transit, with a disciple substituted for Christ, and disappearing from the tomb, with Christ’s dead body buried in a secret location.  All is open and transparent.

10.  Joseph is of Arimathea, a city of the Jews, as Luke carefully tells us.  (Arimathea was in Samaria in Old Testament times, but with boundary changes it was classed  in New Testament times as a city in Judea).  Luke is a world-class historian, and wants us to have the facts in our minds.  He draws attention to this relatively obscure matter so that we realise he is competent.  We can trust Luke even in apparently inconsequential matters like boundary changes, so we can trust him also in the vital matters also.  Yet Joseph’s tomb is not in Arimathea, but Jerusalem.  This shows his strength of commitment to the things of God, for he wishes to be buried near the centre of Messiah’s kingdom, for which he waited, and yet it is ordered of God so that his tomb is near the place of crucifixion for the burying of Christ.

11.  It is not only important that the body of the Lord Jesus should be immediately identifiable, (which was ensured by the fact that He is the only one of the three persons crucified that day who had unbroken legs and a pierced side), but He must be placed in a readily identifiable tomb.  A tomb, moreover, which has no dead bodies in it before Christ’s dead body is placed there, and no dead body in it until He has come forth.  Moses’ burying place is unknown, no doubt lest it be turned into a shrine.  The tomb of Christ must be known, and yet it was not turned into a shrine.  As we  read the Acts of the Apostles we look in vain for any reference to the sepulchre, apart from when the resurrection of Christ is preached.

12.  So it is that, assisted by Nicodemus, Joseph carries the body and lays it in the sepulchre, and then rolls the stone to the entrance.  This was no doubt a stone like a millstone, in a stone channel which sloped towards the entrance, so it was comparatively easy to roll it down, but more difficult to roll it up and away.

13.  Joseph departs, Matthew 27:60, his task completed.  But the authorities are not satisfied.  The chief priests and Pharisees go to Pilate to make a request.  They do so on the Sabbath day, so the urgency of the matter makes them endanger the sanctity of the day.  They had refused to go in to Pilate because it was the Passover, John 18:28, but they are willing to go to a Gentile’s residence on a day of unleavened bread, even though it may contain leaven.  They have a conscience about Christ even when He is dead.  They even command Pilate to act, and he, also with a guilty conscience, agrees to do as they say, even though at other times he would loathe them.  Pilate’s words are “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can”.  So they had already organised a watch of the tomb, but now have permission to tamper with a private sepulchre.

14.  They went with Pilate’s authority, and seal the stone, and set a watch.  We may be sure that under no circumstances will they seal the tomb without assuring themselves that the body is still there.  They will also be very careful to examine the tomb to make sure that the earthquake that occurred when Christ died, Matthew 27:51,52, and which rent the rocks in the area, has not damaged the rock-hewn tomb of Joseph, thus providing a means of access for disciples without the watch knowing.  (Notice that Matthew is not afraid to tell us about the rending of rocks and the earthquake, which caused graves to be opened.  He is confident that the truth about Christ’s burial and resurrection will not be compromised by those facts).  Having satisfied themselves on these matters, they fasten the stone to the rock-face and place a seal in such a way that any movement of the stone will break the seal.

15.  Despite all these precautions, sometime between 6 o’clock on the Sabbath evening, and 4 o’clock on the first day of the week, (the hour at which it begins to get light in Palestine in April), Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and Israel’s Messiah, rose triumphantly from among the dead, to die no more.  Death could not hold Him any longer, for He is God’s Holy One.

As  He Himself said,
“Fear not; I am the first, and the last:
I am He that liveth, and was dead;
and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen,
and have the keys of hell and of death”.
Revelation 1:17,18.

COLOSSIANS 2

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Survey of the chapter
Verses 1-3 are really a continuation of the subject of the greatness of the mystery, beginning in 1:24.
In verses 4-19 Paul warns about four ways in which heretics would seek to lead them astray.  He tells the Colossian believers they would:

Verse 4 Beguile you with enticing words.
Verse 8 Spoil you through philosophy.
Verse 16 Judge you in meat and drink.
Verse 18 Beguile you of your reward.

In verses 20-23 one consequence of being dead with Christ is set out.

Structure of the chapter

Verses 1-3 Appreciating the mystery of Christ.
Verses 4-19 Avoiding the error of those who deny Christ.
Verses 20-23 Acting on the truth of association with Christ.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 2, VERSES 1-3:

2:1  For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;

2:2  That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

2:3  In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

 

Verses 1-3        Appreciating the mystery of Christ.

2:1  For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;

For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you- Paul agonised in prayer, (the word “conflict” is “agona”, from which we derive the word agony, and it is used in Luke 22:44 of Christ’s conflict in Gethsemane), in view of the greatness of the truth he has just written about, and in view, also, of the greatness of the danger that lurked all around them, which danger he is about to write about.  Agony is the exertion of the athlete as he strives to attain his objective.  Paul is not striving to win for himself, but that the Colossians might do so.  He knows that hostile spirit-forces are opposing the believers, seeking to make them go off course.  Jericho was a barrier to Israel, the stronghold that prevented them from entering in to the inheritance that God had given them.  The word Jericho means “City of the moon”, and Paul reminds the Ephesians believers that they wrestle against “the rulers of the darkness of this world”, Ephesians 6:12.
Even though we have an intercessor on high, Romans 8:34, and an intercessor within, 8:26, we still need to pray for ourselves, for the Spirit helps us as we pray; He does not intercede instead of us but alongside of us.  Prayer is a sign of our dependence on God and faith in God.
And for them at Laodicea- some twenty-six years later Laodicea had declined in spirituality, being more interested in material riches that spiritual ones.  Both Colosse and Laodicea were on the river Meander.  This river gradually silted up, however, and left Colosse poorer commercially, and Laodicea richer.  Sadly, however, the greater prosperity affected the Laodicean believers, so that they boasted that they were “rich, increased in goods, and had need of nothing”, but they knew not that they were poor, spiritually, Revelation 3:17.  This can easily happen when prosperity comes, for dependence upon the Lord can easily decline and we become self-sufficient.  We must remember that even though in Old Testament times financial prosperity was a sign of God’s approval, in this age it is not so.  In fact, the apostle writes to Timothy that he should turn away from those who said that gain was a sign of godliness, 1 Timothy 6:5.  Melchizedek strengthened Abraham with bread and wine before the King of Sodom came with his temptation, “Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself”, Genesis 14:21.  As the Lord Jesus said, “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”, Matthew 16:26.  Starting out on the Christian pathway we should resolve to go in for spiritual things, even if that means less material things.  This will be to the profit of our souls.  This will prevent the tragedy of looking back on a life spent in worldly pursuits, and asking what, out of the accumulated wealth we have acquired, we can give to buy back the lost opportunities.  The answer, of course, is nothing.
And for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh- Paul had an interest in the spiritual progress of all believers, even those he had never seen.  It is one of the signs of a true believer that he loves those who are born of God.  As John wrote, “every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him”, 1 John 5:1.  And the Colossians were marked by this, for in 1:4 Paul can write of their love to all the saints.
We should remember, however, that just because we love a believer it does not mean that we can automatically have fellowship with him, for the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship go together, Acts 2:42.  We should only have fellowship with the things and the people that the apostles would have had fellowship with.

2:2  That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

That their hearts might be comforted- the heart of man is the very centre of his being.  “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life”, Proverbs 4:23.  Just as the natural heart is critical to our life, (for “the life of the flesh is in the blood”, Leviticus 17:11), and forth from it is circulated our life-blood, so the centre of the moral being of the believer should be safeguarded and comforted.  To be comforted means to be strengthened and fortified.  A fort was a stronghold in ancient times.  So our hearts need to be protected and strengthened to withstand the attacks of the enemy.
Being knit together in love- Satan loves to divide the people of God.  The slogan of many a military strategist has been “Divide and rule”.  The apostle is earnestly praying that the Colossians might not be disunited.  Love is the major uniting bond of believers- love to God and Christ, love to fellow-believers, all grounded in the love of God’s word, as he will go on to say.
And unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding- this is one of Paul’s complicated phrases.  It is best understood by beginning at the end and working backwards. The main subject of the phrase is “understanding”.  Then we have the “full assurance of understanding”.  Then we have “all riches of the full assurance of the understanding”.
The word understanding as used here means literally “to put together”, and refers to the believer’s ability to relate truth to truth so as to gain a right appreciation of Divine things.  This demands effort, concentration and persistence, but it reaps a reward, as the word riches indicates.

Full assurance may be thought of as complete confidence.  Many believers lack assurance because they do not allow the truth of the word of God to govern their thinking.  Instead of appreciating what God has done for them and in them through Christ, they look to themselves, and find failure and weakness.  This only unsettles and disturbs, whereas if we look to what God has done we shall be assured in our hearts.  This is not to say that we may be complacent about our failures and shortcomings, but we should remember that the true believer is “accepted in the Beloved”, Ephesians 1:4, not accepted by God because of anything he has done or been.
No wonder the apostle speaks of “all riches”, for every conceivable blessing has been granted to the believer, Ephesians 1:3, and it only remains to enter in to an appreciation of these things in faith.
To the acknowledgement of the mystery of God- the great goal the apostle had as he prayed for these Colossian believers is now set out for us.  We might well pray this prayer for our fellow-believers, too, as well as for ourselves.  He desires that they fully acknowledge, or are fully acquainted with, the truths that he, as an apostle, had been entrusted with, and which had passed on to the saints.
He has set us the goal of the (full) knowledge of God, in 1:10.  The eternal life we receive when we believe not only enables us to know God initially, but it empowers us to get to know Him increasingly.  This is the highest goal set before us, and the life we have been given enables us to achieve it, in dependence upon God.  To have the knowledge of God in this way will mean that we have God alone as our object; all other knowledge will recede.  Believers will be totally absorbed with who and what God is, in eternity.  Moreover, with that knowledge will come insight into all that is mysterious now.  Those many things which seem so puzzling will be resolved then, as we are enabled to fathom to some degree the inner secrets of God’s purpose.  We should strive for that now, but it will only be fully realised in eternity, when all that hinders us will have been removed.
And of the Father- there was a mystery about God as Father that has now been disclosed to believers.  The Lord Jesus, when He prayed to His Father as recorded in John 17, was able to say “I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it”, verse 26.  So the name, (meaning the person), of the Father had been declared by the Son by His life down here.  God had not been addressed as Father by any in the Old Testament.  The psalmist had used a figure of speech when he wrote of God pitying His children as a father does, Psalm 103:13, but the revelation of God as Father was only given when the Son came to reveal Him.  This revelation was so complete that He could say, “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father”, John 14:9.  And as the apostle John wrote, “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we might know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ”, 1 John 5:20.  As a result, when He went back to heaven He ascended back to one who is not only His Father, but ours too, John 20:17.
And of Christ- the name Son tells us of His nature, and His relationship with the Father.  The word Christ, however, is a title, and relates to an office.  The word means “Anointed”, and marks out the Lord Jesus as the long-promised Messiah.  There is a further dimension to His Christ-hood, however, as indicated by Peter on the Day of Pentecost.  He declared that “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ”, Acts 2:36.  The Jews knew that the Christ or Messiah would be their King; now they learn that He will have another way to exercise His office, for as the Ascended One He unites His people with Himself in a way that can be likened to the way in which the human body is joined to its head.  It was the special task of the apostle to set these things out; it remained for the Colossian believers to enter into an understanding of them.

2:3  In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

In whom are hid- not in the sense of being hidden out of reach to believers.  The treasures are, however, out of reach of heretics like the gnostics.
All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge- the claim of the gnostics to have superior knowledge must be spurious, since all the truth resides in Him.  (As He Himself said, I am…the truth”, John 14:6).  Since they knew not Christ, they knew not the wisdom that is in Him.
Something of the spiritual excitement of the apostle as he thought of this wisdom and knowledge is conveyed to us by the word treasures.  To him, the knowledge Christ gives is worth more than earth’s riches.  We read about wisdom in the book of Proverbs, and there wisdom is personified, (an anticipation of the coming of Christ the Wisdom of God, 1 Corinthians 1:24), and speaks like this:

“I love them that love me;
and those that seek me early shall find me.
Riches and honour are with me;
yea, durable riches and righteousness.
My fruit is better than gold;
yea, than fine gold;
and my revenue than choice silver.
I lead in the way of righteousness,
in the midst of the paths of judgement:
that I may cause them that love me to inherit substance;
and I will filll their treasures”, Proverbs 8:17-21.

Wisdom is insight into the true nature of things, and knowledge is the information we need to put that wisdom into practice in our lives, so that we may live intelligently to God’s glory, and are able also to resist the teachings of heretics.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 2, VERSES 4 to 19:

2:4  And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.

2:5  For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.

2:6  As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him:

2:7  Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

2:8  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

2:9  For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

2:10  And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power:

2:11  In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

2:12  Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead.

2:13  And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

2:14  Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross;

2:15  And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

2:16  Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

2:17  Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

2:18  Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

2:19  And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

Verses 4-19        Avoiding the error of those who deny Christ.

Warning:  Beware of those who beguile with enticing words.

2:4  And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.

And this I say- this introduces a new section, as the apostle is more specific in his warnings about false teachers.  Verse 5 can be considered as a parenthesis, so “This I say” connects with “As ye have therefore” in verse 6.  We should remember that the apostle has full authority from Christ, so “I say” has special force.
Lest any man should beguile you with enticing words- having presented the truth as to the person of Christ, Paul is now protecting the minds of the believers from error.  In 1:28 he had spoken of warning and teaching.  To beguile means to deceive by false reasoning.  This is why the apostle prayed that the believers at Colosse might be given wisdom, so that they might discern what was false.  Enticing words describe the persuasive speech of those who promote error.  Not having the Spirit of God in their hearts, they have to rely on natural eloquence.  Paul writes elsewhere of those who “by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple”, Romans 16:18.  This is not to say that preachers and teachers should be hard to listen to, or awkward in their presentation of the truth, but it must be done in the power of the Spirit of God and not of the flesh.  Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 reads, “And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.  The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth”.

2:5  For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.

For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit- Epaphras, (who was from Colosse), had given a faithful report as to conditions in the assembly in that city, and he had endeared the believers to the heart of the apostle.  It was a company the apostle would have been happy to associate with, and in his spirit he did so.  Every assembly should strive to be the sort of company in which Paul would be happy.  Two things are next mentioned as being pleasing to the apostle, namely their order, and the steadfastness of their faith.
Joying and beholding your order- every assembly should be marked by order, the spiritual order of those who keep in step with one another by a mutual love of the word of God and its instructions.  In many ways the assembly at Corinth was in disorder, so the apostle had to exhort them to do everything decently and in order, 1 Corinthians 14:40.
And the stedfastness of your faith in Christ- their order was more collective, as they met together, but the steadfastness of their faith is especially seen in their personal lives as they lived by faith day by day, refusing to allow circumstances to move them.  Note the connection between order and faith.  Disorder prevents faith flourishing, for the distractions are too great.  By constantly exposing their souls to the truth of Scripture, their faith would be strengthened, and they would not give way when error about Christ was presented to them.

2:6  As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him:

As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord- they had received Him by faith, and that initial faith should continue to mark them.  John writes of those who “believe on His name”, John 1:12, the sense being, “who keep on believing on His name”.  The phrase that Paul uses three times in his epistles to show that justification is by faith, is “the just shall live by faith”.  But as found in Habukkuk 2:4, the phrase is, “the just shall live by his faith”.  So the initial faith that results in justification, is the same faith by which the justified one lives subsequently.  His life is governed by his faith.
He is Christ Jesus, implying that He is exalted to heaven with Divine approval; there is no deficiency in Him, therefore, that needs to be made up by the suggestions of the heretics.  He is Lord, and therefore those He authorises to expound the truth, the apostles, should not be set aside in favour of unauthorised false teachers.
So walk ye in Him- their unseen Lord should be their guide, not the unbelieving false teachers, no matter how plausible their arguments seemed to be.  There are those who use this expression to support their view that things like the Lord’s Supper, and baptism, are not necessary, since they involve things we can see, and, they say, faith and sight are not compatible.  This is not the case, however, for faith is necessary in baptism, as even our chapter will show in verse 12, “the faith of the operation of God”.  Baptism is a response in faith to the work of God in raising Christ from the dead.  So to walk in faith includes being baptised.

2:7  Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

Rooted and built up in Him- the apostle uses a variety of figures of speech to illustrate what he is teaching.  Having spoken of walking in the previous verse, he now uses descriptions of a healthy plant.  First of all it is rooted.  This reminds us of verse 5, where he spoke of the steadfastness of their faith in Christ.  They were not like the stony ground hearers of the parable of the sower, who had begun well, but after a while had withered because, as the Lord said, “these have no root”, Luke 8:13.  On the contrary, these were firmly settled in Christ by true and lasting faith.
A plant also needs to grow if it is to be fruitful.  Again the secret is “in Him”; spiritual growth comes when we take advantage of all the resources available to those who are in Christ.  This growth would be jeopardised if they listened to the poisonous doctrines of the false teachers.
And stablished in the faith- as a plant grows, it puts out an ever-increasing network of roots, which enable it to draw nutrients from a wide area for the support of its structure.  This the believers should do, as they explore the richness of the truth in Christ which nourishes their souls, causing them to grow more into His likeness.  Roots also give stability to a plant so that it can withstand the wind.  There are hostile winds of doctrine blowing around the believer, and he needs stability to withstand their force, see Ephesians 4:14.
All three of these words, “rooted”, “built up” and “stablished” are perfect participles, which means they express action which is ongoing, and not once-for-all.  Believers need to constantly grow and develop in the things of Christ, for eternal life is not a static thing, but progressive and ongoing.
As ye have been taught- they should continue as they had begun, having been faithfully taught by Epaphras and others, 1:7.  They should not be tempted by the novel ideas of the gnostics.  As the apostle John exhorted, “Let that therefore abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning”, 1 John 2:24.
Abounding therein with thanksgiving- whilst it is true that the Lord Jesus cursed the fig tree because it bore no fruit, nevertheless foliage is necessary for a plant to flourish.
We should never neglect to thank God for the teaching that He gives to us through the teachers Christ has given to the body of Christ for our instruction.  Those teachers have a difficult and stressful task, as they labour to bring the word of God to us.  The apostle will seek the prayers of believers in 4:3 that his ministry might be effective.  If an apostle needed prayer, how much more those who are not apostles.

2:8  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Warning: Beware of those who spoil you through philosophy.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit- the figure changes, and now the apostle likens false teachers to the wolves that come to snatch away sheep.  The Good Shepherd Himself made clear that none can pluck the sheep from either His hand or the hand of His Father, John 10:28-30, nevertheless the threat of damage to the spiritual life of the sheep is real, and the apostle warns of the danger false teachers pose.  They use philosophy, which is the product of the human mind, and which has been condemned by God through the cross, as 1 Corinthians 1 makes clear.  Christ is the wisdom of God, and all the resources we need to inform our minds and govern our practice is in Him.  The wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, but it has an attraction for the carnal mind.  We should not confuse this wisdom with the use of logic, which is everywhere used by the apostle in his writings, drawing conclusions in a reasoned way.  The logic must be based on Scripture, and not on human speculation which has no authority.
Allied to this philosophy is vain deceit; dealing in error as they do, the false teachers cannot rely on the truth to make their case, but need to employ deceptive methods to promote their cause.  The consequence of this is vain, empty and devoid of positive good, and detracts from Christ.
After the tradition of men- Christian traditions, the handings down of the apostles and the Lord Himself are to be kept faithfully, but the writings of those who oppose the truth should be rejected.  There is such a thing as the New Testament Apochrypha.  These writings do not have the sanction of the apostles, being written after they had passed from the scene.  Jude can write of the “faith once (for all) delivered unto the saints”, Jude 3, so the body of Christian doctrine, known as the faith, was complete in his day.  Any additions thereto are to be regarded with great suspicion.  There is a lack of discernment about this in our day, and outrageous and often blasphemous writings are made into films and books, and deceive people into thinking that they represent Christian truth, which they do not.
The Lord Jesus censured the rulers of His day for the way in which they elevated the traditions of the Jews above the Scriptures, saying, “Ye make the word of God of no effect by your tradition”, Matthew 15:6.
After the rudiments of the world- this expression was used by the apostle in Galatians 4:3,9 in relation to the basic and simple truths that the law was able to impart, but which did not represent the full truth as found in Christ.  It seems that the false teachers attacking the Colossians were mixing gnostic speculation with Judaism, to make a combination of ideas that would appeal to everybody.  Those impressed by intellectualism on the one hand, and those impressed by ritualism and asceticism on the other.  Whatever the doctrines were, the apostle is clear that they are of the world, and therefore are not helpful to the believer, who has life from heaven.
And not after Christ- this is the decisive thing which condemns false doctrine.  It does not conform to what Christ teaches, nor does it give a correct view of Him personally.  We need to ask about any teaching, or proposed action based on teaching, whether it relates well to Christ, or whether it is contrary to Him.  He is always the test, as He Himself indicated to the Jews with the question, “What think ye of Christ”, Matthew 22:42.

2:9  For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily- Christ is the reference point, for the reason Paul now gives.  The reason why everything must centre in Christ is because He is the one through whom the Godhead expresses itself.  The word “fulness” was greatly used by the gnostics, and in their teachings it represented the sum total of all the qualities of God which were to be found spread around amongst an endless array of minor spirit-beings.  This was a total misuse of the word, for the reason stated here.  The fulness is in Christ, not temporarily, but as a resident, as is indicated by the word “dwelleth”.
Every attribute of Deity resides permanently in Christ, and is happy to do so, again as the word “dwelleth” indicates.  There is nothing lacking in Him, and He is able to manifest God fully.  He left nothing of His Deity behind when He came down from heaven; He left nothing of His manhood behind when He went back to heaven.  Hence the fullness dwells bodily.
Early in the history of the world man lost the concept of the One True God, who had every attribute and quality enshrined within Himself.  Forsaking this knowledge, man invented false gods, each of whom they believed had some virtue, but none of them possessing every virtue.  Satan was only to ready to position himself through his evil agents behind these ideas, and hold man in bondage.

2:10  And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power:

And ye are complete in Him- believers are “in Christ”, reckoned by God to be positionally where Christ is.  He is beyond death, so, in principle, are believers.  He is seated in heaven, so are believers, Ephesians 2:6.  He is sure of the approval of His Father, so are believers.  No wonder the apostle says they are complete “in Him”.  Their position is one of full acceptance, full provision, full salvation.  And this is heightened by the fact just noticed that He embodies within Himself all the fullness of the Godhead.  All that fulness ensures the complete welfare of His people.  And this includes the constant nourishment of their souls by means of the truth.  He has all fulness and they have no lack.
They have no need of the heretics, who come along claiming to be able to take them beyond what there is in Christ.  This was the strategy of Satan in the Garden of Eden.  He did not tempt Eve to murder Adam, or any such thing.  He tempted her with the prospect of being as gods, knowing good and evil, Genesis 3:5.  In other words, to advance her in knowledge beyond what God had said.  She fell, but the Colossians should learn the lesson, and not fall into that trap.  Beware of any religion that claims to give the knowledge of God apart from reference to Christ as the Son of God, equal with the Father.  “What think ye of Christ?  Whose Son is He?”, is always the test, Matthew 22:42.  Many profess to think well of Christ, so both questions need to be answered.
Which is the head of all principality and power- He is far above angels because of His Deity, (for He is the creator of angels, 1:16); and also because of His ascension, for He is raised “far above all principality and powers, Ephesians 1:20,21.  Verse 15 will tell us He defeated evil spirit-powers at Calvary.  So no spirit can override what Christ teaches, for He is above and in control. All teaching must come from Him; He does not delegate this to angels.  Indeed, Paul warned the Galatians that even if an angel came and preached to them, they were to think of him as cursed, Galatians 1:8.  The Gnostic theory of an almost endless stream of lesser deities linking man to God is a fabrication.  See 1 Timothy 1:4, “endless genealogies”.

2:11  In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands not only are believers complete in Christ, they are separated unto Him from the sphere where error flourishes.  Christ cannot link sinners with Himself, so He must cut them off from their links with Adam so as to join them to Himself.  This He did at the cross, where He dealt with all that Adam represented.
When God made a covenant with Abraham, He made physical circumcision the sign of that covenant.  Abraham was now special to Himself, and had the mark on his body to prove it.  Such a rite is no longer relevant, so that the apostle described physical circumcision as “concision”, a cutting off and a maiming, Philippians 3:2, whereas believers are now the true circumcision, properly cut off by God from their links with Adam’s world.  This means they are cut off from the sphere where heretics operate, for such men are of the world, being unbelievers, and as such have no contact with the things of God.
When he is dealing with the case of the Jew in his epistle to the Romans, the apostle shows that true circumcision is a heart matter, “”For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:  but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men but of God”, Romans 2:28,29.  This is why Stephen was justified in calling the Jews who were about to stone him, “uncircumcised in heart and ears”, Acts 7:51.
In putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ- we have seen there was the circumcision of Abraham.  There was also the circumcision of Moses, for under his leadership the people became cut off to God nationally by the covenant of the Law given at Sinai.  Further, there was the circumcision of Joshua, when the people crossed the Jordan and it was found that some had not been circumcised during the desert journey.  All these variations were of physical circumcision, but the circumcision of Christ is spiritual in character.  It has to do with the whole body; in other words, it is not limited to part of the body as with the physical ceremony; this circumcision separates the whole body for God.  Clearly this is a radical thing.  And only the crucifixion of Christ can effect it.  It is in His cutting off that the believer is cut off, and that not partially, but wholly.
What is cut off is the body as the vehicle by which sins of the flesh are conceived and committed, the flesh being the sinful self, which is resident in the body.  Paul calls the body “the body of sin” in Romans 6:6.  He is there concerned with the sin-principle within, whereas here it is the sin-practice that is in view; nonetheless the idea is that the body is the base of operations from which sins proceed.  As far as God is concerned, that body has been cut off so that it may be brought over into resurrection conditions to be used for God.  That which is called “the body of sin” in Romans 6:6 can be presented to God in Romans 12:1, for God has wrought upon it to His glory.

2:12  Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead.

Buried with Him in baptism- having cut off our body by associating it with Christ in His cutting off by crucifixion, the process is confirmed by the “burial” of that body.  Just as our circumcision is not literal, so our burial is not either, for it is burial in water, not the earth.  When immersed by the act of baptism, the believer is placed in a watery grave, and this is after the likeness of Christ’s state when He was in the tomb; what the apostle calls “the likeness of His (state of) death”, Romans 6:4.
We can clearly see the error of infant sprinkling, from this verse.  How can the sprinkling of a few drops of water on a person even remotely be called a burial?  And how can the so-called “baptism” of an infant be justified, when the apostle here speaks of “the faith of the operation of God”.  The candidate for baptism must have faith, and must be immersed, or else the procedure is invalid.
Wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God baptism has two aspects.  It is a burial, and it is a resurrection.  Just as surely as the believer, when under the water, is like Christ was in death, so he is like Christ is in resurrection, when brought up out of the water.  And this is an act of faith, for it something that the believer is responsible for getting done.  When Ananias said to Paul, “Arise, and be baptised”, he used the Middle voice, so the sense was “Get thyself baptised”.  Whilst it is true that evangelists are commanded to baptise, they cannot force this on people.  After all, evangelists are commanded to preach, but they cannot force people to believe.  It is the responsibility of men to believe when the gospel is preached in their hearing; it is the responsibility of believers to get themselves baptised.  In fact, the Lord Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved”, Mark 16:16, so all the time a professed believer remains unbaptised, there is a question-mark over the reality of his profession.  This is not to say that baptism contributes to salvation, or else the Lord would have said, “He that believeth not and is not baptised shall be damned”, but He did not.
Notice that the faith that moves the believer to get baptised is faith in the operation of God; it is not faith in baptism.  The virtue lies in what God did through Christ by His death, burial and resurrection, not in the process of baptism, as if that is a means of grace.
Who hath raised Him from the dead- so baptism is a very positive thing, not only in its practice, for the believer comes up out of the water, but also in its principle, for it is response to the God who raised up Christ.  By association with Him we are linked to that which is clear of death and judgement.  All that opens up for Christ because He is risen, opens up for believers too.

2:13  And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

And you having established that the believer is a person in a new situation altogether through the resurrection of Christ, the apostle now reviews what it is that he has been delivered from.  By so doing he will expand on the expression “the operation of God” of the previous verse.  He turns his attention particularly to those who were Gentiles before conversion, for that was, no doubt, the situation with most of the Colossian believers to whom he is writing the epistle.
Being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh- not only were they devoid of response to God, being dead, and demonstrating this by sinning, but also they were uncircumcised, for they had not the separating advantages that God had given to the Jews.  He had placed a hedge around that nation, but no such restrictions were known by the Gentile.  He was left to walk in his own way, as Paul told the idol-worshippers of Lystra, Acts 14:16.  Their backs were turned to God and their faces were turned to sin and the world.  They were uncircumcised physically and morally.  Note it is the uncircumcision of the flesh, not just of the physical body; the whole tendency of the sinner to commit sin, whether of mind or body, is in view, for the flesh is the self-principle in man.
Hath He quickened together with Him- to quicken means to make alive.  Paul is showing that this operation is all of God.  No credit attaches to the sinner.  He is dead, and totally reliant on life from God if he is to live in any real sense of the word.  Being dead in sins, he has no stock of merit by which to claim blessing from God.  But God is rich in grace, and is pleased to associate those who believe with His Son in His death and resurrection experience.
Having forgiven you all trespasses- nothing contrary to God can be taken over into resurrection.  The just basis of this forgiveness is the death of Christ, the subject of the next few phrases.

2:14  Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross;

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us- clearly, by the use of the word “us” as opposed to the “and you” of verse 13, the apostle now turns his attention mainly to those believers who were formerly Jews.  Not exclusively so, however, for the Gentiles had the law written in their hearts, according to Romans 2:15, and the Jews had the law, not only written on tables of stone by the finger of God, but in the book of the law written by Moses.  But it is as if Moses did not write with permanent ink, for here we learn that what was written was blotted out.  The law is not the rule of life for the believer.  Believers who try to please God by keeping the law will always be defeated, and therefore miserable, as Paul found in Romans 7.  The example of Christ is our model, and it is in this that the Spirit of God encourages.
Which was contrary to us note the double assertion that the law was not on our side.  It was not only against us rather than for us, but also it was “contrary to us”, attacking us relentlessly because of our sinfulness.  Paul found that “sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me”, Romans 7:11.  Clearly, we need someone to deliver us from the law and its demands.
And took it out of the way- the commandments of the law would represent a stumblingblock to the believer as he seeks to walk the pathway of faith.  God has taken this hindrance out of the way, so the path is cleared of obstacles.  This is not to say that the Law of God has been disposed of; that cannot be.  But it is removed as a means of pleasing God.  Believers please God by living like Christ.  When they so live, they fulfil the righteousness of the law, meaning all that the law demanded as being right.  A Christ-like life will never break the law of God.
Nailing it to His cross- the subject of the verbs used here is God.  So He has quickened, forgiven, blotted out, taken out of the way, nailed, and in verse 15 He is said to spoil, make a show, and triumph.  Eight mighty acts that God has performed on the basis of the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ.
It is as if God placed the handwriting of the law into the hands of Christ, and the nails went through not only his hands, but also the manuscript, fastening it to the cross that that it could not be active against the believer.  We might almost say that it is the blood of Christ as it trickled over this manuscript that has blotted out its words, so that it cannot make its demands or act contrary to the believer any more.  And since it is nailed to the cross, it cannot be re-written.

2:15  And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

And having spoiled principalities and powers- there were other enemies of the believer, and their power must be broken too.  The gnostic heretics made a great deal of supposed intermediaries between the believer and God.  This verse exposes such mediators as being none other than evil spirit-forces, fallen angels who are still allowed to influence men’s thinking.  God has spoiled them through Christ, however, and they are powerless now as far as the believer is concerned.  To spoil means to “strip off the armour”.  Their defences have been removed, and they are defeated foes.  The believer is more than a match for them as he puts on the armour provided for him by God, Ephesians 6:13.  When men asserted that the miracles of Christ were accomplished by the power of Satan, amongst other things the Lord said in reply, “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all the armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils”, Luke 11:21,22.  Satan is the strong man, and Christ is the stronger than he.  Satan’s defences are taken away, and he is vulnerable to attack.
He made a show of them openly- God has raised up His Son, not only from the grave, but also to His throne, as Peter declared on the Day of Pentecost in the words, “”By the right hand of God exalted…the Lord said unto my Lord, ‘Sit Thou on My right hand'”, Acts 2:33, 34.
Paul refers to Christ’s ascension with the words of the psalmist, “When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men”, Ephesians 4:8.  The initial reference in the psalm is to the ascension of David to the throne of Israel after he had defeated his enemies.  So the gifts mentioned in large part were the spoils of war, as a reading of 2 Samuel 8:9-12 will show.
Three ideas come together in the verse quoted.  First, the absolute triumph of Christ, as indicated by the fact that having been crucified on a cross, He has now ascended to the very throne of God.  Second, the utter defeat of Satan and his forces, crippling them to such an extent that, even though they are allowed a certain amount of latitude, they are easily defeated by means of the resources Christ gives.  Third, the bestowal of gifts in grace, to enable believers to grow.
In the expression “He led captivity captive”, captivity is personified to represent all that had held unbelievers captive, and which would try to lead them captive as believers.  Such is the triumph of Christ that He can move through the sphere of the prince of the power of the air unhindered.  In Daniel 10:12,13 we read of the way in which the progress of the angel Gabriel was hindered by an evil angel-prince, and he had to be assisted by Michael the archangel.  No such delay is suffered by Christ, who rises to heaven with “angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him”, 1 Peter 3:22.
It is clear from Scripture that the Lord Jesus has defeated the enemy in all of his guises:
The Prince of this world came to Christ when He was down here, yet He could say he “hath nothing in Me”, John 14:30.  As a result of Calvary the prince of this world has been cast out, John 12:31.
As the Devil, and wielding the power of death, he has been utterly defeated by the death and resurrection of Christ, Hebrews 2:14.
As god of this age he is defeated every time a blinded mind is made to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 4:4-6.
As Satan he is defeated when Christ intercedes for His own, Luke 22:31,32.
As Devil, the accuser, he is defeated by Christ our advocate, 1 John 2:1.

Triumphing over them in it- the apostle returns at the end of the sentence to the event which started this sequence off.   The cross is the ground on which God has defeated the powers of evil.  If the Son of God can humble Himself even to the death of the Cross, and be crucified in weakness, as 2 Corinthians 13:4 puts it, and yet rise again and ascend to God’s throne, He must be superior to any force.  And so He is.  The Devil is defeated, and so, therefore, are his evil hosts, which he uses to infiltrate the minds of men with error, the “doctrines of demons” that Paul refers to in 1 Timothy 4:1.

Warning;  Beware of those who judge you in meat and drink.

2:16  Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink- the word “therefore” shows that the apostle is about to apply the truths he has just set out.  He lists various features of the Old Testament tabernacle and temple system, which were ordained of God for Israel.  God gave Israel a strict dietary code, listing the types of creature they were not to eat, Leviticus 11.  This not only served a hygeine purpose, but also meant they would not be able to have easy contact with Gentiles in their homes, for their they would be offered prohibited foods.   The drinks could refer to the prohibition of wine as far as the Nazirites were concerned, Numbers 6.  The idea is of material things that the Law demanded, but which the apostle will show are out of date.  The Colossian heretics were apparently teaching that these things were binding on believers.  The apostle warns them not to allow these false teachers to judge or criticise them for not participating in Jewish rituals.
Or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days- these are the prescribed days in Israel’s religious calendar by which their religion was regulated.  A holy day was a day during the set feasts; the new moon was the starting point for the month, and determined when the feast began; the sabbath days were the weekly ordinance in israel, in which all unnecessary work ceased, so that the day could be set apart for sacred purposes.  There was also a Sabbath at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles, on the eighth day, Leviticus 23:39.  So whether it was a qustion of personal things like meat and drink, or collective things like festivals, the heretics were wrong to insist on adherence to Old Testament ordinances, for the reason the apostle will now give.

2:17  Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Which are a shadow of things to come- there cannot be a shadow unless there is an object to cast a shadow when the light is shone upon it.  That object is Christ; the Old Testament ordinances were but shadows.  The things of which they spoke were “to come”, in those days, but now they are come.  We may study them to see how they spoke of Christ, but now He is come, there is no need for them.  To continue with them is to show ignorance of the principles of Christianity.  Christendom continues with these things, and mixes with them the unholy practices of paganism, to produce a system of things which is obnoxious to God.  Believers should beware of being unwittingly drawn into these practices, for instance by celebrating Christmas and Easter, which are almost entirely pagan in origin and meaning.  The policy of the Emperor Constantine to amalgamate heathenism and Christianity has been a blight on Christian testimony for 1600 years.  To go along with it is to perpetuate the tragedy.
But the body is of Christ-  no significance attaches now to the different kinds of meat available, as Peter found in Acts 10:9-16; 28.  There is no Nazirite vow now, since the source of true joy, Christ Himself, has come, and wine is no longer needed for the  purpose of cheering the heart of man, Judges 9:13.  In Him the festivals of Israel either have or will have been fulfilled, 1 Corinthians 5:7; 15:23; every day may be held sacred to the Lord, Romans 14:6; the passing of time, as measured by the moon’s phases, is irrelevant, for the believer is in touch with eternal realities, Hebrews 9:12,15:13:20; and as far as the believer is concerned, true rest has been found in Christ, Matthew 11:29.  No legalistic celebration of a day can replace or improve on that.
The fact that He is the body which casts the shadow is testimony to His pre-existence.  It is also a testimony to the fact that He has always been the centre of God’s purpose, even in the days of the tabernacle rituals.

Warning: beware of those who beguile you of your reward.

2:18  Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

Let no man beguile you of your reward- those who run the race of faith, and who wish to win the reward of a prize, must see to it that no-one and nothing distracts them.  Allegiance to Christ demands that we focus on Him.  Satan does not want this, so he tries to attract us with other things to stop us concentrating on the things of Christ.
In a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels- the heretics claimed that God was unapproachable, and men need the agency of angels to bridge the gap.  This seems to be a humble position, but in fact it ignores the fact there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5.  The humility that finds its roots in the human will, (which is the sense of “voluntary humility”), is spurious.  Grateful for the supposed intervention of angels, the worship of angels began to be practised.  There was a temple in honour of Michael the archangel in Colosse, so the apostle’s warnings were very relevant.  Today, men worship Mary and the saints, and are likewise condemned by God.  Even the apostle John was tempted to worship an angel, but was severely rebuked by him with the words, “See thou do it not…worship God”, Revelation 22:9.  If an apostle was tempted, how careful we as ordinary believers should be, for our God is a jealous God, Exodus 20:5.
Intruding into those things which he hath not seen- the unknown spirit-world has a fascination for the natural mind.  God has forbidden any attempt to contact the world of the spirits.  Through Isaiah He said, “And when they shall say unto you, ‘Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter:’ Should not a people seek unto their God?  For the living to the dead?  To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them”, Isaiah 8:19,20.  That these things continue is seen from the warning of the Lord Jesus to those who will pass through the time of tribulation that, “if they shall say unto you, ‘Behold he is in the secret chambers’; believe it not”, Matthew 24:26.
Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind- far from showing true humility, these men are in fact puffed up in pride, claiming to have superior knowledge, and access into higher realms not open to the “ordinary” believer.  Their minds are governed by the flesh, being unregenerate persons, and this leads them astray.  Their pride is vain and empty pride, based on nothing substantial or spiritual, but rather the imaginings of their own thinking.

2:19  And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

And not holding the Head- Christ is the head of the church, which is His body.  He is far superior to any real or supposed spirit-powers.  To give way to the heresy-mongers is to not “hold the “Head”, that is, to not give Him His proper and supreme place, especially in the matter of building up His people.  The heretics did not hold the head, but believers must be careful to do so.  A body does not have to hold on to the head to maintain its position in the body, (so union with Christ is not the responsibility of believers, but their Head), but it does have to rely on the head to govern the supply of nourishment for its maintenance and growth.
From which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered- nourishment is ministered from the head, not from any external sources, least of all, devilish ones.  No good angel can supply us, either, for all administration is entrusted to the Head.  In Ephesians 4:11,12 the apostle writes in similar vein, and there explains that the apostles and prophets with their written ministry, and pastors and teachers with their spoken ministry, are the channels of supply to us directly from our head.  To ignore the ministry of the word is to ignore the ministrations of the Head, to our loss, and His dishonour.
And knit together- the joints and bands of our body not only give strength and structure, but also serve as means of supply to the whole body.  What is true of the human body is also true of the body of Christ, the church.  Much if not all of the disunity and fragmentation of believers could be avoided if there was a response to the teaching the Head sends down.  This would not only build up, but bind together.
Increaseth with the increase of God- a body that does not grow is a tragedy, but the church grows and develops with the increase of God.  This may be taken to mean the increase God supplies through Christ, or, alternatively, the increase that God is looking for, and the Epistle to the Ephesians makes it clear that what God is looking for and working towards is likeness to Christ in His people.  The language of that passage is as follows:

“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 fulness of Christ:
that we henceforth be no more children…
But speaking the truth in love,
may grow up into Him in all things,
which is the head…”
Ephesians 4:13,14,15.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 2, VERSES 20 TO 23:

2:20  Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,

2:21  (Touch not; taste not; handle not;

2:22  Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

2:23  Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

Verses 20-23    Acting on the truth of association with Christ.

2:20  Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,

Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world- one of the things the believer died to in the death of Christ is the ordinances of the law.  These have no jurisdiction over dead persons.  We are “dead to the law by the body of Christ”, Romans 7:4.  In other words, the process the body of Christ went through, namely, death, burial and resurrection, is the process we have been associated with.  The elementary and rudimentary matters that the law of Moses set out were for the life of Israel on the earth.  They do not fit for heaven.  They were symbolic things, having great meaning, indeed, but now set aside by Christ.  As such they are not relevant to those who are linked to Him in His heavenly place.
Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances- believers live in the world by physical necessity, but not moral necessity.  They are not of the world, but are sent into it as witness-bearers.  They should live as though they are citizens of heaven, as indeed they are, Philippians 3:20, and not as though citizens of the world.  Those who were God’s earthly nation in Old Testament times had ordinances to keep which were appropriate to being on earth.  Such things are not appropriate to those who are linked to heaven.  After all, Paul has told us that the ordinances were blotted out, and then the manuscript was nailed to the cross so that it could not be re-written.

2:21  (Touch not; taste not; handle not;

Touch not the apostle sums up the ordinances of the law in three short phrases.  They are all negative, which is characteristic of the law.  The commandments were given by God to prevent sins being committed, and “Thou shalt not” is a constant refrain.  The Levites were not allowed to touch the vessels of the tabernacle; the ordinary Israelite was not allowed to touch the altar.  The whole nation were forbidden to touch mount Sinai, but to fence it off and keep away.  This was indicative of the fact that closeness of approach to God was not possible under the law.
Taste not- Israel was given dietary laws by God not only for their physical welfare, but also to mark them out as different to the nations.  This is why the command to eat prohibited food was so significant to Peter, as he is about to meet Cornelius, a Gentile, in his house, Acts 10:27-29.  There were those in the church, especially those who had been Jews, who were reluctant to eat other foods, and the apostle deals with that matter in Romans 14:1-4,6.
Handle not- the first verb “touch” is more strong than this one, which means that there is a progression, with the final verb prohibiting the slightest contact; such is the nature of the law, it admits no compromise or slight deviation.
We might contrast these two ideas of not touching and not tasting with the fact that believers can hold and taste.  The word used here is the same as that of John 20:17 when the Lord Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended to My Father”.  The implication being that, strangely, after He was gone back to heaven she could touch Him.  And so she could, as all believers can, for they are joined to Him vitally.  And that in a way not possible under the law.
We may taste, too.  When David was hungry, and went into the tabernacle to ask the priest for food, he was given the showbread that had been replaced that Sabbath day with hot bread, 1 Samuel 21:1-6.  When he wrote about this later, David exhorted his readers to “taste and see that the Lord is good”, Psalm 34:8.  When Peter alludes to those words he writes, “if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious”, 1 Peter 2:3.  He is writing to believers as Christian priests, and just as the Aaronic priests had showbread to taste, so the believer feeds upon Christ the Living Bread.  But David was not an Aaronic priest, but was of the tribe of Judah.  Nonetheless, since the Lord is gracious, he was allowed the loaves.

2:22  Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

Which all are to perish with the using- all those things that are prohibited under the law are material things, which one day will all be dissolved, 2 Peter 3:10.  Why be occupied with things that are passing and material, when that which is eternal and spiritual is available to us?
After the commandments and doctrines of men?  Originally the things of which Paul is speaking were commandments from God, but they are no longer so, not being binding on believers.  The false teachers were trying to impose them upon the Colossian believers, however, and as such they had become the commandments of men, and the substance of their doctrine.

2:23  Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship- to the carnal mind these things seemed the right thing to do, for man is a religious being, and even though he rejects God’s word, he still is inclined to some sort of religious activity.  This is true of men universally.  The worship the heretics were professing to offer to God was the product of their own will, and was not Divine worship at all.
And humility they displayed a mock humility, claiming to be so abased before God that they could not approach Him directly.  The true believer has “boldness and access with confidence” to God, but only “by the faith of Him”, that is, by faith in Christ who introduces the believer into the presence of the Father, and pleads His worth, not theirs, Ephesians 3:12.
And neglecting of the body- the strange doctrine of some was that if you starved and abused the body, then nearness to God might be achieved.  We are to mortify the deeds of the body, reckoning the death of Christ to apply to it, in principle, Romans 8:13.  We are not required to mortify the body itself.  Christianity alone gives the proper place of honour and dignity to the body, and brings about circumstances whereby it may be presented to God as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1.  Needless to say when the apostle said he kept under his body, and brought it into subjection, 1 Corinthians 9:27, he was not saying he abused his body, but that he refused to allow the capacity of his body to commit sin any licence.
Not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh- as far as God is concerned, these practices, far from pleasing Him, are reckoned to be dishonourable, however much men might approve of them.  All these ideas did was satisfy carnal minds; they did not satisfy God, which should be our main aim.

 

 

 

 

THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY

THE SCRIPTURAL DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY

The Biblical doctrine of resurrection is both exciting and encouraging for all who love God, for eventually all that have ever gone into death will be raised from the dead, whether they died as the just or the unjust, and in this way God shall be glorified.  This is guaranteed because of who God is.  He is the living God, and as such cannot allow death to thwart Him.  He must, and will, triumph in this matter.  This triumph is assured through His Firstborn Son, into whose hand He has committed all His affairs, John 3:35.  Because the pleasure of the Lord prospers in His hand, Isaiah 53:10, we know that all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and come forth, John 5:28,29. 

When God made man He first of all made his body from the earth as a potter forms a vessel, Genesis 2:7.  He then breathed into that lifeless body the breath of life, “and man became a living soul”.  He was a tripartite being by Divine design, and whether in life or in resurrection he will always be a tripartite being.  Only when in a state of death is man divided into his parts, with the body going to the dust, (“for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”, Genesis 3:19), the spirit going back to God that gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and the soul going out into its appropriate place awaiting its appropriate resurrection moment.  As we shall see, even after Abraham had died he still lived unto God, Matthew 22:32.  His body was dead because the spirit had been withdrawn, but that spirit does not die.  Because Abraham was a believer he could still be said to live unto God. 

The word resurrection does not occur in the Old Testament, but the idea is certainly there, for the dead were raised in the Old Testament times.  In the New Testament the main word used means “a raising up, a rising”, (Grimme.)  The thought being the reversal of what happened when a person fell in death, and was lowered into a grave.  It has to do with the body, for souls and spirits cannot die.  Just as death is defined as “the body without the spirit” in James 2:26, so resurrection has to do with the return of the spirit to the body, and the rising of that body from the dead by Divine power.  In the book of Ecclesiastes we read, “then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God that gave it”, Ecclesiastes 12:7.  This is an echo of the word to Adam, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”, Genesis 3:19.  Now Adam’s spirit did not come from the dust, but from God breathing into his nostrils.  His body did, however, come from the dust of the ground, for he was “of the earth, earthy”, 1 Corinthians 15:47.  Only this part of him, therefore, can return to the ground.  And what is true of Adam is true of all who have him as their head, for in Adam all die, 1 Corinthians15:22.  Or as Romans 5:12 puts it, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”.  The proof that death has passed upon all is that all have sinned in their experience, showing that they have the sin principle within them from Adam.  The wages of this sin principle is death, Romans 6:23.
When a person dies, their spirit returns to the “God of the spirits of all flesh”, Numbers 16:22, awaiting the moment of resurrection.  When that resurrection is, depends on what their relation to God was at the moment of their death.  For the believer, there is “the resurrection of life”, John 5:29, also called the “first resurrection”, Revelation 20:5,6; for the unbeliever there is the “resurrection of damnation”, John 5:29.  The time of that resurrection as far as believers are concerned also depends on which age they lived in, whether the Old Testament era, the New Testament, or the Tribulation period.  Hopefully these things will become clear as we proceed.

We should remember that there is a distinction between existence and life.  There are many things that exist that have no life.  But man has life, and when he dies he exchanges that state of existence for another, called death.  He still exists, whether believer or unbeliever, but he now exists in death, as before he existed in life.

As a result of the sin of Adam our first-father, the sin-principle has been passed on to us.  As Romans 5:12 says, “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”.  In other words, by sinning, all men show they have a sin-principle within them.  Because they have that sin within, they die physically, for “the wages of sin is death”, Romans 6:23. 

God is not defeated by this situation, for He is the Living God, and His Son manifest this attribute when He declared, after learning that His friend Lazarus had died, “I am the resurrection and the life”.  By Him not only eternal life may be known as to the spirit, but resurrection as to the body.  These things were but dimly seen in the Old Testament, but we shall notice various scriptures showing that Old Testament saints were not entirely ignorant on the matter of resurrection.

Resurrection and Abraham
We begin with Abraham.  To Him God said, “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee the land whereon thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession: and I will be their God”, Genesis 17:8.  Now we learn from Hebrews 11:13 that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all “died in faith, not having received the promises”.  This means they did not receive the fulfilment of the promises.  Yet God had made His promise to Abraham personally, not just to Abraham’s seed.  And since the fulfilment of the promise involves living on the earth under the reign of the Messiah, (“ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God”, Luke 13:28), it follows that these men must be raised from the dead to come into the good of God’s promise to them.  For the same promise was given to Isaac in Genesis 26:2-5, and Jacob in Genesis 35:12.

That Abraham believed that God could raise the dead is seen in Genesis 22:5 when he said to his young men, as they travelled to Moriah, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you”.  It was not that Abraham simply believed in resurrection as an event in the future; he believed that God could raise the dead at any time of His choosing.  So it is that Hebrews 11:19 says he received Isaac from the dead in a figure.  Abraham’s faith was such that he believed God could raise Isaac from the dead immediately, so that he could come down with him from the mountain.

No doubt Abraham was encouraged in his faith by the fact that he already had experience of God producing life from the dead.  His body, at 100 years old, was dead as far as having children was concerned, and so was Sarah’s, at age 90.  Yet God had given them a son, and thus showed that he could produce life out of dead conditions, a fact which the apostle Paul uses in Romans 4:17-25.

We should notice, however, that the apostle Paul assures us that when Abraham believed God, he believed in Him as the one who quickens the dead, Romans 4:17, and this is before Isaac had been produced out of the “dead” bodies of Abraham and Sarah.  So his belief in the God of resurrection came before the birth of Isaac, suggesting that he had realised that the promise that he would live in Canaan under the Messiah was to be brought about after his resurrection. 

So it is that the apostle Paul, giving his defence before Agrippa, was able to say, “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come.  For which hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.  Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” Acts 26:6-8.  So not only did Abraham, Isaac and Jacob believe in the resurrection of the dead, but Jacob’s twelve sons, and the tribes that came from them, did so also.  Why else would Paul link the hopes of the twelve tribes with resurrection?  He had not mentioned the resurrection of Christ up to that point in his conversation with Agrippa, nor does he mention it until the very end of his remarks, 15 verses later, (although his reference to the Lord speaking to him on the Damascus road does imply it).

When Moses was being commissioned to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, he heard the voice of God from the midst of the burning bush saying, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”, Exodus 3:6.  The Lord Jesus pointed out the deep significance of this statement when He was questioned by the Sadducees at the end of His ministry on earth, Matthew 22:23-33.  They did not believe in resurrection, so the situation they recounted to the Lord, that of seven brothers who all had the same wife in succession, was designed to trip Him up.  They thought that the question of whose wife she would be in the resurrection was not capable of an answer, and they thought they would thereby disprove resurrection, and discredit Christ who taught resurrection. 

The Sadducees had ignored the fact that when the first six brothers died, their marriage to the woman was at an end, for “the woman that hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband”, Romans 7:2.  This was why she was free to marry the successive husbands.  But when the last husband died, she was no longer married to any one of them.  So if the question is “Whose wife shall she be”? the answer is “No-one’s”, because death has ended her marriages, and also, as the Lord said, “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage”.  Because the brothers’ marriages were ended, they would have to marry again to have the woman to wife.  But in the resurrection the men do not marry, and women are not given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven, who do not marry.  The reason they do not marry being that they have no bodies.  This is why the question is about the resurrection state; the intermediate state between death and resurrection is one in which the person does not have a body- there is no possibility of marriage then anyway.

Having confounded the Sadducees by His teaching, the Lord goes on enforce the truth of resurrection further.  He used the incident of the burning bush, and the statement made by God quoted above from Exodus 3:6.  The Sadducees were prepared to accept the five books of Moses, but rejected the rest of the Old Testament.  They cannot make the excuse that the quotation is from a part that they do not recognise as the Word of God.  By saying, “I am the God of Abraham”, God was using the present tense.  Abraham had been dead for many years at this point, yet God declared “I am the God of Abraham”.  In other words, although dead as to the body, Abraham lived on in relationship with God as to the spirit.  He was “living unto Him”, as the Lord said.  When God declares He is the God of someone, it means He is in relationship with that person, and will be true to all He has promised.  By saying that He was the God of Abraham, then, Jehovah is assuring Moses that all that He had promised to Abraham would come to pass, including the promise that Abraham would personally possess the land of Canaan, Genesis 17:8.
No wonder the Sadducees were put to silence, for a truth that had been in the Word of God all along, contained simply in the tense of a verb, had completely undermined their position; there was such a thing as resurrection after all!

Resurrection and Job
We come now to the patriarch Job, a man who had a close personal relationship with God.  He exclaimed out of his trial and distress, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:  and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me”, Job 19:25-27.
These are remarkable statements, and show that Job had taken to heart the things God had told him.  He was conscious that at the moment he uttered the words, his redeemer was living.  Moreover, He would stand at some late stage upon the earth, implying His incarnation and real manhood.  Since Job connects this with his own resurrection, it must be a reference to Christ’s second coming to the earth, when He shall redeem His people from the power of the grave, as Hosea 13:14 says.  Job is confident that even after the worms in his grave have not only eaten up his skin, but have totally destroyed his whole body, yet he would be raised again, and in his resurrection body see God.  Even though his reins had been consumed in the grave, yet he would personally recognise his redeemer, and be sure that it was not another, but He Himself.
Think of the things these words imply:
1.    Job had a Redeemer, who would ultimately deliver him from his troubles.
2.    He was living at the time Job spoke the words, probably 1520 BC.
3.    He would stand upon the earth, implying His real manhood.
4.    He would do so after a long period of time.
5.    Even though Job would die, and his body be consumed in the grave, he was confident of a resurrection which involved having a body.
6.    He was sure that His Redeemer was God and that he would see Him.
7.    He was also sure that even though his whole body had been consumed, his memories and insights would be carried over into resurrection conditions, so that he would know his Redeemer, not as a stranger seen for the first time, but as one well-known.

All this shall be realised when Christ comes to earth to reign, for we read in Revelation 11:15-18 as follows:

“And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.  And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.  And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth”.

So it that Job’s prayer will be answered, “O that Thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that Thou wouldest keep me secret, until Thy wrath be past, that Thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!  If a man die, shall he live again?  all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.  Thou shalt call, and I will answer Thee: Thou wilt have a desire to the work of Thine hands”, Job 14:13-15.

Resurrection and David
We come to the words of David, found in Psalm 16.  They read as follows:  “I have set the Lord always before Me:  Because He is at My right hand, I shall not be moved.  Therefore My heart is glad, and My glory rejoiceth:  My flesh also shall rest in hope, for Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine holy one to see corruption.  Thou wilt show Me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore”, Psalm 16:8-11.

My might think at first that these words are about David, until we get to “Thou wilt not suffer Thine holy one to see corruption”.  This shows that David is not writing of himself, but the Messiah, for David’s body was not preserved from corruption, for it was “sown in corruption”, 1 Corinthians 15:42, like every other man except Christ.  And the apostle Peter emphasised this on the Day of Pentecost, for this was one of the passages he quoted in his address.  He pointed out that David’s sepulchre was still with them, with David’s dust within it; so he had gone to corruption.  The inspired apostle states categorically in Acts 2:25, that David was writing about Christ, not himself. 

But David had a promise from God that a descendant of his would sit on his throne, and “reign over the House of Jacob for ever”, Luke 1:33.  The only way to achieve this was for Christ, of the seed of David, to rise from the dead to die no more.  And this He has done.  God has seen to it that His body saw no corruption whilst He was in Joseph’s tomb.  The tomb was new, was hewn out of the rock, and had no-one else in it before, and He was wrapped in a new linen cloth, so there was nothing to pollute the body of Christ in death.  He had no sin-principle within, so He would not see corruption that way, nor did He see any corruption from without, for His tomb was sealed.  He has been shown the path of resurrection life, and is currently at the right hand of God, where all the things that spiritual minds find delightful are enjoyed.

Resurrection and Daniel
Daniel was confident of resurrection, and he looked forward to the time when he would stand in his lot at the end of the days, Daniel 12:13.  At the beginning of that chapter he was told “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book”, Daniel 12:1.  So the time in view is the great tribulation, (Matthew 24:21), and the promise is given that as many of Daniel’s people, the people of Israel, as are found written in the Book of Life, shall be delivered from it.  So much for the living, what of the dead?  The angel goes on, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”, Daniel 12:2.  Now it is important to understand this verse correctly.  On the surface it appears to say that all involved awake together, and some go into everlasting life, and the rest into shame and everlasting contempt.  The word translated “some” is never used in the Hebrew Bible, however, to divide up what has been mentioned before. 

The correct understanding of the words, (and the Rabbis were agreed about this), is as follows:
1.    Many of them that sleep in their graves shall be wakened.  The word “of” means “out of”, so bearing in mind the angel is only referring to Daniel’s people, the Israelites, the prophecy is telling us about the resurrection of Israelites from among the dead, with no reference to any others in the graves, whether Gentile believers or Gentile unbelievers.  In fact the Gentile believing dead will indeed be raised at this time, as we shall see, but the concern  in this passage is Daniel’s people.
2.    Since the promise to believers in Israel was that they would have a share in Messiah’s kingdom, (and this is what having everlasting life meant to an Old Testament Jew), those who awake to everlasting life go into Christ’s kingdom when He comes to earth to reign.
3.    Those who go into shame and everlasting contempt are clearly unbelievers, even though of Israel.  These shall awake at the resurrection of the unjust, and shall be judged at the Great White Throne judgement, Revelation 20:11-15.  There is nothing in the verse to say that all the people in view rise at the same time, just that they rise from among other dead persons, and go to their respective places.  So there are one thousand years between the two awakenings, just as there are one thousand years between the first resurrection and the resurrection of damnation.
4.    The foregoing is a warning to the men of Israel not to presume that since they were children of Abraham they were guaranteed a place in the kingdom.  Nicodemus thought this in his day, and the Lord Jesus had to warn him that unless he was born of water and of the Spirit he would not enter into the kingdom of God, John 3:5.  The Rabbis taught that all those who were descended from Abraham and had been circumcised were sure of a place in the kingdom, but they were wrong.

Resurrection and Hosea
Hosea the prophet also spoke of God’s promise to His people, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave;  I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from Mine eyes”, Hosea 13:14. 

In the Old Testament, redemption is most often in relation to national deliverance from calamity for Israel.  So Israel were redeemed from their slavery in Egypt, and the prophets speak of a future deliverance for the nation when Christ comes to earth in glory.  The verse just quoted, and also the words of Job we have already looked at, are exceptions.  God is pledging to redeem His people from the power of the grave, as it holds the bodies of His people, and from death, as it holds their souls.  Their spirits are with God, for the spirits of all who live upon earth go to God at death, to be re-united with the body in the resurrection day, whether for judgement or for blessing.  Hence there is no mention of redemption for the spirit.  God issues an ultimatum to death and the grave, that just as death had been the result of the plague of sin, (what Solomon called the plague of a man’s heart, 1 Kings 8:38), so God would plague death to such an extent that it shall be rendered completely powerless.  And just as the grave had swallowed up the bodies of His saints, and corruption had destroyed their bodies, so God will corrupt and destroy the power of the grave.  God is determined to do this, and assures us that any idea of repentance or change of mind is completely out of the question as far as He is concerned.  As we now turn to the New Testament, we see the way this announcement by God that He will deliver His people from death and the grave comes to pass.

Resurrection and Martha
The coming of the Son of God into this world changed everything.  One of the purposes of His coming was so as to “bring life and immortality (incorruptibility) to light through the gospel”, 2 Timothy 1:10.  We see this illustrated in what happened to Lazarus.  Lazarus was not only a disciple but a friend of the Lord Jesus, but he had died.  When the Saviour met Martha, Lazarus’ sister, four days later, He said to her, “Thy brother shall rise again”, John 11:23.  This was not only a word of encouragement and comfort for her, but also the introduction to a conversation in which He would reveal His glory to her.  Martha’s reply was, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection in the last day”.  She was in the good of what Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Job, Daniel, and Hosea believed.  And she was confident that the “last day” was the last day before Messiah’s kingdom would be set up, so that Lazarus, raised from the dead, could enjoy that kingdom.  She was about to learn more, however, for a new age was about to dawn, about which the Old Testament saints knew nothing, as a reading of Ephesians chapter 3 will show.

So it is that at this point the Lord utters one of His “I am” statements.  Said He, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.  Believeth thou this?” 

Let us look at this statement phrase by phrase.  By saying “I am the resurrection”, the Lord is introducing the idea that because He is present, a fresh situation prevails.  Resurrection is vested in Him as the Son of God, so He holds in His person the right to raise men.   He Himself said, “For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself”, John 5:26.  If He who is the resurrection stands in a cemetery, things must change.

But He is not only the resurrection, but also the life; not natural life here, (although all forms and expressions of life come from Him at the beginning, “In His was life”, John 1:4), but eternal life.  He is “that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us”, 1 John 1:2, and He is “the true God and eternal life”, 1 John 5:20.  So we are being presented with two aspects to life.  There is eternal life, the life of God, which Divine persons have essentially, and which believers have by the new birth.  And there is the expression of that life in resurrection conditions. 

The Saviour went on to say to Martha, “he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”.  The expression “he were dead” is in the Aorist Subjunctive, “which refers to a simple defined action, without signifying the time of the action.  The Subjunctive Mood makes an assertion about which there is some doubt, uncertainty, or indefiniteness.  It is closely related to the future tense, which helps point up the fact that often the uncertainty only arises because the action has not yet occurred”, (Zodhiates).

Applying this to our phrase, we learn that the event referred to, death, is in the future.  Yet it is not certain that this believer will die; but should he do so, he will certainly live again in resurrection.  This is an important point, for the Lord is giving for the first time an indication that some believers will partake of resurrection without dying. 

Then we have the last expression, “And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die”.  Note the change in designation of the person in question.  In the first part, it is “he that…though he”.  Now it is, “whosoever…shall”.  Because the first part had to do with a possibility that might not involve everyone, it was “he”.  Now we are learning of something that all believers shall share, so it is “whosoever”, meaning everyone without exception.  So what is it that is to be true of all believers?  As those who are alive physically, and alive spiritually too, they shall never die physically or spiritually.  Such is the power of eternal life, that it renders the event of death as if it were of no consequence.  This has already been stated, for in John 8:51, the Lord said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death”.  It is also why the Lord said, when told of the death of Lazarus, that “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby”, John 11:4.  Unbelievers might say this was not the case, because Lazarus did die.  The point is, however, that the sickness was allowed by God, not so that Lazarus might die, but that he might be raised from the dead, and as a result both He, and His Son, might be glorified in his resurrection.

We should not apply this to the death of the Lord Jesus however, and say that because He is eternal life personified death was of no account to Him either.  For in His death He was being held responsible for the sins of others for whom death was a terrible consequence.  So for Him death was of the utmost significance.

Having taught these things to Martha, the Lord went on to illustrate the truth of them by raising Lazarus from the dead.  He was selected from among the dead that day, and came forth from his grave in response to the word of the Son of God.  This marks one of the differences between the raising of the dead by Elijah, Elisha, Peter and Paul, and the raising of the dead by Christ.  They did not act of their own will, but as subordinate to the will of God.  The Son, however, had authority to raise the dead of His own will.  But only in harmony with the will of His Father, with whom He is equal.  His own words were, “For as the Father raiseth the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will”, John 5:21. 

Of course Lazarus was not raised to never die again, for the Lord Jesus must have the privilege of being the first to rise in that way.  Lazarus did not have a spiritual body as he came forth from his grave, or else he would not have needed to be loosed from his grave-clothes.  The resurrection body is spiritual, and does not suffer the restrictions our physical body does. 

Resurrection and the disciples
When the Lord Jesus referred to His resurrection in Mark 9:9, He used the preposition “ek”, meaning “out of”, which is the equivalent to the “of” in Daniel 12:2.  Yet the disciples were puzzled by this use of the word, “And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean”, Mark 9:10.  The idea of resurrection was not strange to them; nor was the idea of many persons rising from among the dead, for they would know the meaning of Daniel 12:2.  What was new to them was the idea of one man rising from among the dead, leaving all others, of whatever class, behind.  They did not as yet realise that the resurrection of Christ would inaugurate a new sort of resurrection, namely some believers rising and leaving other believers behind.  Those raised being church saints at the rapture, and those left being Old Testament saints. 

Now the Lord Jesus later told His disciples that He had many things to say to them, but they were not able to bear them at that point, for the Holy Spirit had not yet come to indwell them as He would on the Day of Pentecost.  After that, however, the Spirit in His capacity as the Spirit of Truth would lead them into all the truth, (and if it was all truth it must include about resurrection), John 16:12,13.

Resurrection and Christ
This brings us to a brief consideration of the resurrection of Christ.  When the Lord Jesus spoke of His death by lifting up in John 12:31, the people were puzzled, for they had “heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever”.  What they had been taught was perfectly correct, for Isaiah had declared that the Son whose name is Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of peace, that “of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this”, Isaiah 9:7.

If the Son of Man is to be crucified, and yet will reign for ever, then He must rise from the dead.  And this is what Peter asserted on the Day of Pentecost, quoting the words of Psalm 16 and alluding to the words of Psalm 132.  In the latter passage David wrote of God’s promise to him that his family would occupy the throne of David for evermore.  There were conditions, however; a condition which they (with one exception) did not fulfil.  Those conditions were that the children be just, fear the Lord, and keep God’s covenant.  David confessed that his house had not done this, for he has to admit “although my house be not so with God”, 2 Samuel 23:5.  How sad that in his last words, (see verse 1), David has to write this.  Does this mean that David’s throne shall be forever vacant?  Not at all, for as David goes on to say, “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure”.  If David’s throne is to be occupied only by one who has not broken God’s law, then there is only one person qualified, even Christ who is the Just One, was heard for His godly fear, and who magnified the law and made it honourable, and thus fulfilled the conditions for occupying that throne.  And being a prophet, David knew this, Acts 2:30,31, which is why he foretold that Christ’s soul would not be left in Hades, nor His body allowed to see corruption, but, on the contrary, would be quickly raised from the dead.  So how is it Christ shall be able to reign uninterruptedly for ever?  Because He has been raised to die no more.  “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom”, Daniel 7:44, and “He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end”, Luke 1:32. 
When we come to Isaiah 52 and 53 we hear the prophet asking, “And who shall declare His generation?  For He was cut off out of the land of the living”, Isaiah 53:8.  Then to safeguard the integrity of the One of whom he speaks, Isaiah makes it clear by the Spirit that “for the transgression of my people was He stricken”.  Matthew declares His ancestry, but who shall declare His posterity?  To die childless was to a Jew a disaster ever since Abraham lamented, “I go childless”, Genesis 15:2.  It is true that Messiah was cut off without natural seed, but the prophet assures us “He shall see His seed”; that even though cut off in the midst of His years “He will prolong His days”, and it will continue to be true that “the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand”, verse 10.  There is, in other words, an expectation on the part of the prophet that the Messiah will rise from the dead.  And so it came to pass.  But if He rises, so must the seed associated with Him rise too.

Resurrection and Paul
Now it is the apostle Paul that especially deals with the consequences of the resurrection of Christ and applies those consequences to those who believe.  We shall look briefly at Romans 6 to see the spiritual and moral consequences, and 1 Corinthians 15 to see the consequences as to our bodies.  Turning, then, to Romans 6 we find the apostle confronting those who suggested that because the sin of man had been met by the grace of God in Christ, then the more we sin, the more opportunity there would be for God to be glorified by the exhibition of His grace, Romans 5:20-6:1.  The apostle answers this not by saying, “You ought not to sin”, but rather, “How shall we, that are dead to sin live any more therein”, Romans 6:2. 

He shows that when we believed we not only came into the good of Christ’s death, but, more than that, we were associated with Him in it.  Not, of course, that we made any contribution to the value of His death, but that God associates those who believe with what happened at Calvary, so what happened to Christ happened to them, in His sight.  He can do this because He foreknows who will believe.  So our old man, (ourselves considered as having links with Adam), was crucified with Christ, verse 6.  God considers that the pre-conversion person is cut off morally, as much as a crucified person was cut off physically. 

When the Roman authorities wished to declare very publicly that a certain criminal was not fit for their society, they crucified him.  After the same manner, God cannot have sinners in the society of heaven, so He publicly sets them aside by associating them with His Son when He was crucified.  So they are crucified by proxy.  Now if this was all there was to Christianity, it would be a very negative thing.  But it is positively positive!  For, having been crucified with Christ, the true believer is buried with Him, and then raised with Him to walk in newness of life. 

There are two things that show that a person has died, namely the death certificate and the burial service.  Our death certificate is the Scripture which says, “our old man is crucified”, verse 6.  Our burial is when we are baptized.  Those who are buried in the ordinary sense have died beforehand- they do not die at their own funeral.  So baptism is the burial of a person who has already died.  But unlike every normal burial, the buried person arrives at resurrection immediately, coming out of the watery grave to live a new sort of life.  So it is that to be baptized into His death means to be baptized into His state of death, associating with the one who for three days lay dead in the sepulchre.  But He is risen, so we are authorised to rise from our “grave” too. 

Now since we are dead and buried, and since we have emerged to live a new and different sort of life, the old way of life is not appropriate for us.  Yet we have a problem, for whilst our old man is crucified, the flesh is still with us.  As far as God and spiritual reality are concerned the pre-conversion person is dead; but as far as practical reality is concerned the ability to sin is still with us.  The reason being that we still have our old body, and that body is the seat of the sin-principle, so that the apostle calls it “the body of sin” in verse 6.  But he raises the possibility that that body of sin may be destroyed, or “made of no effect”.  This is the potential, and not the actual.  We know only too well that our bodies still have the tendency and ability to sin.  We are exhorted, however, to “let not sin reign in your mortal body”, verse 12. 

How do we do this?  The apostle tells us, for he writes, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord”, verse 11.  We are to reckon with the fact that as far as God is concerned, we are dead to sin.  If we act on that truth, by the power of the indwelling Spirit, we shall not sin.  We are also to act on the truth that we are alive to God, and if we do this, we shall live righteously, again by the power of the Spirit.
In this way we enter into the good of what the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ has secured for us.  And as we reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, we increasingly attain to the (out) resurrection of the dead, Philippians 3:11, which means moral conformity, even now, and by degrees, to the truth of Christ’s resurrection.

Resurrection and church saints
We come now to the classic chapter on resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15.  What body can possibly rise from the grave, when it has crumbled to dust centuries before?  The answer is found in the One who made man from the dust at the beginning, and who can bring a man out from the dust at the resurrection.  We should remember that our body is not only an object, but is also an idea- one million cells in our body die and are replaced each second, so we are constantly changing.  The body we had when we were saved, the body God bought with the price of His Son’s blood, 1 Corinthians 6:19,20, is composed of different cells now.  The resurrection body is “eternal in the heavens”, and “from heaven”, 2 Corinthians 1,2, in other words it exists in the mind of God in the first instance.

Before we take a look at what the apostle says about the resurrection body, we might ask why it is necessary for us to have one.  Are we not linked to Christ already on a spiritual level, for “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit”, 1 Corinthians 6:17.  And are we not able already to commune with God by the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit, even in this present body?  Can we not be in heaven simply as spirits?  After all, the angels dwell in heaven, and they are spirits without a body. 

We might answer this question by considering four things:
1.    Having a body is part of being human, and is therefore part of our personality.  We express ourselves not only by soul and spirit, but also by our body.  We need to have our body to be recognised in heaven, as no doubt we shall be.
2.    The Lord Jesus has a body in heaven, for He is shortly coming out from heaven as the Last Adam; if Adam had a body and He does not, then that title has lost most if not all of its meaning.  He is coming as the Second Man, so He has a body, or else He could not be called a man.
3.    God has purchased our bodies by the redeeming blood of Christ, 1 Corinthians 6:19,20, and therefore they are valuable to Him, and He has an eternal purpose for them.
4.    We are to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, so as to represent Him.  But He has a body, therefore we cannot fully represent Him in heaven, or anywhere else for that matter, if we do not have a body.

When the apostle is giving instruction about the kind of body that believers will have in resurrection, he first of all gives some illustrations from the world of botany, biology and astronomy, to help us understand what the resurrection body will be like, in verses 36-41.  Then he makes a series of contrasts, in verses 42-44.

First the comparisons.  In verse 36 we learn that the resurrection body is a quickened body, a body pulsing in all its parts with Divine life, and freed from all the current hindrances imposed on it because it is a natural body having the sin-principle within it.  Death is a necessity, in this context, not a calamity, for seeds left unsown will not grow.  Later on the apostle will show that some believers will not die, yet shall share in the resurrection.
Our bodies in resurrection will be suited to their occupation, which will be to serve God, for “His servants shall serve Him”, Revelation 22:3. 

In verses 37 and 38 we learn it will be a clothed body, compared to which the present body is plain and unadorned.  Just as a grain of corn when it is sown is bare or unclothed, but when it is quickened into life a luxuriant plant is produced which seems to bear no resemblance to the plain seed sown, so will it be with our bodies in resurrection.  God “giveth”, (in the present), a body to a seed when it is sown, but He does so in accordance with what pleased Him at the beginning when He created all things.
Just as we know what was sown by seeing what has come up, so those in the resurrection body will be recognised as those we knew before, there will be a continued identity.

Verse 39 draws lessons from the world of biology.  Each kind of creature has a body suited to its environment, whether land, sea or air.  So the resurrection body will be suited to the environment of heaven.

Leading on from this idea, Paul moves into the world of astronomy.  The sun radiates Divinely-give energy, and so shall believers display the power of God, in bodies of glory.  The moon, on the other hand, reflects the glory of the sun.  So the believer will gladly acknowledge that any glory he is able to display is only a reflection of the glory of Christ; it is not intrinsic but acquired.  And just as each star has its own peculiar glory, so each believer will have his or her different and glorious characteristics, but all to glorify Christ.  The resurrection body will be able to display glory.

Having spoken of the resurrection body by the use of comparisons with creation, the apostle now makes a series of contrasts in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, as follows:
Even though believers may have lived a spiritually incorrupt life, the body in which they lived was a corrupt one, because affected by the fall.  They shall be “raised incorruptible”, however, not only with no trace of corruption on them, but with no capacity to ever do corrupt things again.
Even though they may have been much honoured and respected by the saints, they are laid in the grave, sharing the dishonour that Adam brought on the race.  They shall be “raised in glory”, with a body ideally fitted to glorify God in the realms of glory, and to appreciate that glory to the full.
Even though they may have died when they were still physically strong, the weakness of the fall was still about them, and they were weak compared to what they shall be.  When raised, however, their bodies shall pulse with resurrection power, for they shall be “raised in power”, and they shall serve God with energy and enthusiasm for all eternity.

Even though they may have been very spiritual, their bodies were still natural, or soulish.  Like Adam they were living souls, not living spirits.  Their bodies were governed by the soul, and its relations with the earth.  They had eternal life from God, and thus they could grow in spirituality, but the fact remained that they had a body fitted for life on earth.  At the resurrection this will change, and there will be given a spiritual body”, one fitted for the heavenly sphere, and one, moreover, that will have the capacity to relate to God in the fullest way that is possible for a creature. 

We then learn from the apostle the role of the Lord Jesus in this change of the body.  He is now declared to be “the second man”, 1 Corinthians 15:47, the first man having shown himself to be a failure.  That first man was not only known personally as Adam, but that was also his title as head of natural men.  Christ is second man, not because He has some shortcoming- that cannot be- but because the first man must be seen to fail before God brings in the One who cannot fail.  But He is second, and not third, not only because there are only two heads of men as far as God is concerned, (there is no-one between first and second), but also because there is no-one to follow Christ as the third.  He brings in finality.  This is why the apostle calls Him the Last Adam, for He takes that name, not in a personal sense as Adam did, but in its official sense. 

Just as there are only two heads of men, so there are only two companies of men, those under the headship of Adam, and those who have believed, and therefore have transferred from the headship of Adam to that of Christ.  This is a moral and spiritual change, but not as yet a physical change, for that awaits the resurrection.  At that time the believers shall begin to bear the image of the heavenly.  That is, they shall be equipped to adequately represent their Head, even Christ, because they will have changed bodies.  Of course it is the responsibility of believers to represent Christ now, but they are somewhat hindered by being in the body they have from Adam.  In the resurrection every hindrance will be removed, and the last link with Adam will be gone.  The bondage of corruption which we share with the whole of the fallen creation shall be broken, and we shall be set free, Romans 8:19-23.  The apostle calls this the redemption of the body, when full sonship will be ours, with all its accompanying advantages and abilities. 

As a result of these changes, the resurrected saints will be enabled to “bear the image of the heavenly”, 1 Corinthians 15:49, or in other words, to represent Christ their head to the limits of their capacity.  Formerly representing Adam, and hampered by a body of clay, (see Job 4:19), they represented Adam; now all is changed, even as to the body.  Full sonship will have been reached, and the conformity to the image of God’s Son that God has purposed for all eternity will be attained, Romans 8:29.  When God made man at the beginning, He gave him rationality, personality, and spirituality.  Rationality, to enable him to think and reason, so that he might understand God’s truth.  Personality, so as to be able to express the character of God, (insofar as that is possible for a finite being).  Spirituality, so that he could relate to God, worship Him and commune with Him.  As far as Adam and his race are concerned, these faculties have been spoiled.  As far as believers are concerned, they are restored in Christ, but not fully, since they are still in a natural body.  When the resurrection comes, the believer will be able to fully exploit the rationality, personality and spirituality he has been given, to God’s glory.

Resurrection and living saints
There is a difficulty, however.  What of saints who are “alive and remain” when the Lord comes out of heaven for them?  How can they partake in resurrection if they have not died? 

We have really come across part of the answer to that question already, when we noticed that the Lord Jesus said, “he that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die”, John 11:26, and “if a man keep My saying, he shall never see death”, John 8:51.  In other words, it is not just those alive when the Lord comes who will not die.  All believers, since they have eternal life, (which cannot be touched by death), do not die as other men die.  For them death is defeated, and has no claim on them in the ultimate sense.  Their bodies are mortal and do indeed die, but their spirits are born of God and they share His life.
This situation prevails for three reasons.  The first is that believers have eternal life, and that life is not dissoluble by death, just as the Lord Jesus could not be held by death, and He is made priest in relation to the fact that by His resurrection He has shown His life to be indissoluble by death, Hebrews 7:16.
The second reason is that he who had the power of death in Old Testament times has been rendered of no effect in that regard, as Hebrews 2:14 informs us.  In Job’s day, the Lord had to say to Satan, “Touch not his life”, for he had power to do that; but now, through the death of Christ his power is gone.
The third reason is that the Spirit of God within the believer is the guarantee, according to Romans 8:11, that the believer’s mortal body will be quickened, or made alive, at His coming.  The Spirit is given a special title in that passage, namely “the Spirit of Him that raised up Christ from the dead”.  In other words, since the Spirit of the God of resurrection dwells within, the mortal body He indwells will certainly be quickened.

1 Corinthians 15:50-54 assures us that unchanged flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.  The latter expression refers to the sphere of God’s spiritual rule, where-ever that rule is exercised.  “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”, Romans 14:17.  In other words, it has not to do with natural, material things, but spiritual things.  Those who inherit something do so because they have a claim upon it.  A body of flesh and blood, however, has no claim upon the heavenly sphere, for it is fitted for life on the earth, not heaven.  There must be a change to the body of living saints, so that they do have a claim upon heaven, and this is what will happen. 

So it is that the apostle assures us that even though not every saint shall sleep in death, nevertheless every saint shall be changed, for missing death will not rob living saints of their body fitted for heaven.  After all, this present body is corruptible, and tends to death every moment- it is therefore not so different to a body in the grave, where the corruption and mortality is most marked.  The only difference is that the living saint’s spirit is still within the body, whereas the dead saint’s spirit is with the Lord.  As to the body, (and the apostle is only thinking of the body here), in principle they are the same.  This is why he does not distinguish between the living and the dead in the next verses, for living saints have corruptible bodies, and dead saint’s bodies have corrupted wholly.  Living saints have a mortal body, and dead saints have seen the fact of mortality brought to its logical and terrible conclusion. 

We learn more about this process in Philippians 3:20,21.  Philippi was a colony of Rome, which meant that it was a miniature of Rome at a distance.  The customs, laws, dress and loyalties of the Philippians was centred on Rome, far away.  The believers in the assembly at Philippi were citizens of a far away place in another sense.  Their citizenship, and that of all believers, is in heaven.  The laws of heaven govern them.  Out from the city-state of heaven that is our true home, we await the Lord Jesus to come in His capacity as Saviour.  No doubt the Philippian citizens were used to the arrival of the Emperor from Rome, claiming as he did to be the “Saviour of the World”.  He was not able to do what our true Saviour will do.  He has already fitted us for heaven as to the soul and spirit; but soon He will come to complete the task, and fit our bodies for heaven also.  It is God’s purpose that we should be “conformed to the image of His Son”, Romans 8:29.  This involves representing and manifesting Him.  To do this effectively we shall need to have our bodies changed so that they are like His body.  And this will happen.  As we have seen from 1 Corinthians 15, we shall “bear the image of the heavenly”.  He has a body that is in all senses glorious, and we shall have one like that too.  A body fitted to do glorious things; fitted to appreciate glorious things; fitted to express glorious things.
So it is that in His Saviour-capacity He shall change our vile body.  The expression “vile body” means the body that we have in our current low estate, as compared to the high estate of living in heaven.  Mary spoke of her low estate, meaning her low status in society, Luke 1:48.  Citizenship of Philippi was a very coveted privilege, but it is nothing compared to being a citizen of heaven.  Our bodies will be changed so that we fulfil that role to the glory of God.
The word for change used here means to fashion anew, and has special reference to the outward appearance of things.  All the blemishes and defects that our bodies have will be completely removed, so that not only will the moral spots, wrinkles and similar things be gone, Ephesians 5:27, but the physical ones as well.  If Nebuchadnezzar insisted that his courtiers should be “children in whom is no blemish”, Daniel 1:4, how much more shall the Sovereign of heaven expect that no trace of the fall of man should be upon His servants.
The power He will put forth to do this, (for it does involve great power, such as was needed to raise Christ from the dead, Ephesians 1:19,21), is the same power He will use to subdue everything to Himself in a day to come.  It is spiritual energy supported by moral authority.  The same energy that shall see to it that “all rule and all authority and power” are put down in a day to come, 1 Corinthians 15:25.  Nothing shall prevent the Saviour from completing the task of fitting His people for heaven.
So this corruptible body, whether of the living saint or the dead one, shall put on incorruption.  Not that an incorrupt body will be put on like a garment over the corrupt one that was laid in the grave, but rather, the corrupt body will put on incorruption in the sense that it “acquires qualities”, (Souter, Lexicon to Greek New Testament).  It will be so changed morally as to be unrecognisable as to its former link with Adam, but not so changed that it is not recognisable as to appearance.
The whole of creation is in the bondage of corruption, functioning at less than its full potential, but when Christ comes to earth that will change.  But the sons of God will be manifest with Him, Romans 8:19, and they will be the clear sign that God will give to the world that He has been able to deliver from bondage.  Instead of being slaves in body, soul and spirit, they have been released, and have been brought, at the rapture, into full sonship, and as such are free.

The change spoken of will be accomplished according to three time-phrases, 1 Corinthians 15:52.  First, “in a moment”.  The Greeks believed that they had discovered the smallest particle, so small that it could not be divided further. They called it “a-tomos”, meaning “not divisible”, (they were mistaken, of course, for man has split the atom), and this is the word the apostle employs here.  If we could imagine  a period of time that could not be divided up, then we would have some idea of how quickly the change will take place.  It is not, therefore, a process, but occurs in indivisible time, preparing the body for the sphere where time has no relevance.  Second, “in the twinkling of an eye”, which is not as long as a blink, but the momentary change in the light of the eye.  This tells of change so sudden that the eye cannot capture it.  An imperceptible change, preparing us for the changeless state.  Third, “at the last trump”, telling of an irresistible call.  In 1 Corinthians 14:8 the apostle likened the commands of the Lord to His people by means of gifted men, as a trumpet preparing them to battle.  No doubt a allusion to the silver trumpets which directed the movements of Israel, whether to assemble, prepare for war, or prepare to march, Numbers 10:1-10.  It is the latter use of the trumpet that is relevant here, for the last call to movement for the people of God shall be, not to enter into an earthly Canaan, but to rise to meet Him in the air.  And it is with changed bodies that they shall do so.

When these changes have taken place, then the full extent of the victory obtained by Christ at the cross will be realised, and the triumph which He knew over death, Hades and the grave, will be shared with His people on the resurrection day.  The apostle employs as his victory hymn two quotations from the Old Testament, one from Isaiah 25:8, and the other from Hosea 13:14.  He prefaces them by the word “then”. 

It must be borne in mind that there are three distinct formulas for introducing the fulfilment of prophecy:
1. With the word “ina”, meaning “in order that it might be fulfilled”, indicating that the object of the prophecy has been completely realised.
2. With the word “opus”, meaning “so that it might be fulfilled”, where, not the full realisation of the thing prophesied, but an event within the scope and intention of the prophecy is in view, Matthew 8:17, for instance.
3. With the word “tole”, as here, meaning merely “a case in point”, when what happens is an illustration of what was said in the prophecy.

So the resurrection of the saints of this age is not a fulfilment of the prophecies by Isaiah and Hosea that Paul quotes here, but rather, it is an illustration of what will happen regarding Israel in the future. 

“Death is swallowed up in victory” is a Hebrew way of saying that permanent victory over death has been achieved.  Believing Israel shall know it when the Lord Jesus comes to the earth, whilst church saints shall know it when the Lord comes for them.
In Hosea God looked on to a time when He would plague death, and be the destruction of Sheol, the equivalent of the Greek word Hades used by the apostle in the passage we are considering.  (The Authorised Version departs from the Textus Receptus at this point).  He did it first by raising Christ from the dead, thus robbing death of its prey, and plaguing death itself with the plague of death.  Did it too, by ensuring that Christ’s soul was not left in Hades.  If death cannot hold one who had all sins laid upon Him, its power is broken; if the Devil cannot defeat Christ when He is crucified through weakness, 2 Corinthians 13:4, he will never defeat Him. 

When the Lord comes, and their bodies are changed, the saints will realise that the victory of the resurrection is shared by them.  A statement of intention by God in Hosea will be transformed into a song of triumph for the saints, as they confidently challenge death to say where its sting has gone.  That sting was the sin-principle dwelling within the old body.  Now the body is changed, and the sin tendency has gone with it.  And since the wages of sin is death, then death is powerless.  Instead of sin stinging us so that we develop the plague of death, everything has been reversed, and freedom from sin shall be ours for ever.  No  longer shall we transgress God’s law, (for “sin is the transgression of the law, 1 John 3:4), we shall gladly do His will, for “His servants shall serve Him”, Revelation 22:3, and not, as is too often the case now, “serve sin”, Romans 6:6.
We do not have to wait until the resurrection to share in this victory, however, for the apostle gives thanks for the current position in which we are given victory through the Lord Jesus.  The victory which was achieved when God destroyed death, hell and the grave by raising Christ from the dead, is given by grace to us, because of Him.  Isaiah 53:12 speaks of Christ being divided spoil with the great, and Himself dividing the spoil with the strong, because He has poured out His soul unto death.  We may work out the triumph of the death and resurrection of Christ by not allowing sin to have dominion over us.
Another way we may share in His triumph now is by being steadfast in the implications of His resurrection, unmoved by error concerning it, (as, unhappily, some at Corinth were), and always abounding in the work of the Lord.  The only feast in Israel’s calendar that had not prohibition about working, was the feast of the waving of the firstfruits, see Leviticus 23:9-14, 1 Corinthians 15:20,23.  Service for the Lord is worthwhile, for He will bring over into resurrection everything we have done for Him in this life that has been to His glory.

John looks at things from a slightly different angle in 1 John 3.  He is concerned, as ever, about an inner change of mind and heart.  The world did not appreciate that the Lord Jesus was the Son of God, and that the life He lived out amongst them was the life of God; “the world knew Him not”, John 1:10.  By the same token the world does not understand believers, for as the children of God they possess the life of God in their souls.  This is because what we shall be as those conformed to Christ’s image has not yet been manifested.  It will be one day, however, when He is manifested to the earth, and we  shall come with Him then, Colossians 3:4.
The reason we shall be like Him is because at the rapture we shall see Him as He is.  We fail to appreciate Him fully at present, being hindered by our natural, soulish bodies.  But when we have a spiritual body, we shall fully know Him, even as He fully knows us now, 1 Corinthians 13:12.
It is not simply that we shall see Him with our eyes.  That will be wonderful indeed!  Seeing Him means seeing Him with spiritual insight.  John often uses in his writings that particular word for know which is derived from the word to see.  We do not fully understand Christ now, as we will.  We shall see Him then as He really is, and not as we failingly and falteringly think of Him at present.

Resurrection and Old Testament saints
We come now to a consideration of the resurrection of Old Testament saints, and also of those martyred during the future tribulation period.  We have already seen that Abraham had an expectation of resurrection, and this was expressed by others in Old Testament times.  For instance, Job surveys the life of man from his birth, life, and death, in Job 14:1-6.  Then he muses upon the fact that after a tree has been cut down, it may sprout and revive again, verses 7-9.  Yet man has no prospect of being revived to live upon the earth again, for “he layeth down, and riseth not”, verse 12.  So is that the end of the matter?  Oblivion is all there is for unbelieving man?  Not so, for Job goes on to say- “Till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep”.  That ominous word “till”!  John the apostle looked on to the time when the heaven and the earth shall flee away from before God on His great white throne of judgement, Revelation 20:11.  And Peter had told of a time when “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up”, 2 Peter 3:10.  Death and Hades shall certainly give up their dead; death holds the body and Hades the soul, and both shall yield up their contents.  The fact that John saw the dead standing shows that they had been reunited with their bodies by Divine power, to stand before God’s solemn judgement throne.
This is the same event spoken of by the Lord Jesus, when He asserted that all judgement had been committed to Him because He is Son of Man, John 5:27.  As such, men have had opportunity to respond to Him, not only whilst He was on earth in person, but also now that the account of His life has been set down in the gospel records.  As Son of Man He has relevance to all men, and that relevance extends to the raising of the dead, for the Father “hath given Him authority to execute judgement also, because He is the Son of Man.  Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation”, John 5:27-29. 
As for Job, he appealed to God in these words, “O that Thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that Thou wouldest keep me secret, until Thy wrath be past”, Job 14:13.  So Job has his “until” as well, but his is until the wrath of God has been poured out upon the earth during the great tribulation, the final three and a half years of man’s rule upon the earth.  Revelation chapter 11 confirms this, for as the final stages of God’s wrath take their course, heaven anticipates the coming reign of Christ.  Then come the words “And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them that destroy the earth”, Revelation 11:18.  It is clear that the dead who are judged are not saints of this present age, for they will have been taken to heaven at least seven years before when the Lord Jesus descended from heaven to take them to Himself, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18.  The fact that God’s servants the prophets are included in the list of those judged, and that the other classes mentioned are believers also, serves to show that we have here the raising of Old Testament saints, and also those who were martyred during the great tribulation.  They now have their part in the first resurrection, as those who are blessed and holy, Revelation 20:4,6.  But as verse 5 says, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished”, Revelation 20:5.  Surely an echo of Job’s word “until”.
David shared this hope with Job.  Like Job 14, Psalm 49 has to do with death.  In fact, it is commonly used at Jewish funerals.  Yet for all its melancholy, David was confident that God would redeem his soul from the power of the grave, and receive him, Psalm 49:15.  These convictions were confirmed by the prophets, including David, in what they had to say about the Messiah’s resurrection.  He would not be left in the grave as to the body, nor would His soul be left in Hades, Psalm 16:10. 

Resurrection and unbelievers
The final stage of resurrection is intensely solemn, for the Lord Jesus called it the resurrection of damnation.  All that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth.  It is because they have done (practised) evil that they are damned, John 5:28,29.  For what a man habitually does is the sure indicator of what his nature is like.  This is why at the great white throne judgement the record books are opened, not only to apportion judgement according to the degree of guilt, but also to clearly demonstrate the justice of God’s judgement.  None shall have cause for complaint that they were treated unrighteously.
The fact that John saw the dead stand before God shows that they are in the body.  The very body in which they sinned against God will be restored to them.  But with this difference.  As the Lord Jesus made clear, the unsaved will be cast into Gehenna, (which is another name for the Lake of Fire), with the body they sinned with, Mark 9:43-50.  And if it be asked how the body can continue in fire for ever, then the solemn answer comes in that passage, “every one shall be salted with fire”.  In other words, just as salt preserves from change in the physical realm, so the very fire of the lake of fire shall preserve the bodies of the damned for all eternity.  As Job put it long ago, “But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn”, Job 14:22.  What a combination!  Eternal pain, coupled with remorse for opportunities of salvation ignored upon earth.
When this solemn judgement has taken place, the last of God’s enemies shall have been defeated, and no hostile force is left to disturb the eternal day of God, when He is all in all, 1 Corinthians 15:26,28.

REVELATION 8:1 TO 11:18

THIRD REVELATION: CHRIST’S SOVEREIGNTY

Chapter 8:1-11:18.

Christ reveals Himself in judgement that will achieve the end in view.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION CHAPTER 8, VERSES 1 TO 13

8:1 And when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

8:2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.

8:3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.

8:4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.

8:5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

8:6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

8:7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

8:8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;

8:9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.

8:10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;

8:11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

8:12 And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.

8:13 And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!

At this point the seventh seal is opened, and thus is revealed the whole of the remainder of what is written on it, telling of events right up to the return of Christ to earth as described in chapter 19. The seals are not judgements in themselves, but simply unveil the judgements that are written on the part of the scroll they allow to open up. So when the seventh seal, (which is the last one), is opened, the whole of the rest of the scroll can be read, giving details of events right up to the return of Christ to the earth as described in chapter 19. So awesome are its contents that heaven is silent for the space of half an hour, holding it’s breath, so to speak, as the most terrible judgements are unfolded, but not yet unleashed.

The next revelation of Christ takes the form of angel trumpeters sounding seven trumpets in succession. The trumpet is a war-instrument, as not only has man been at war with God down the ages, but God is at war with man in the tribulation age, and successive waves of His battle against them are summoned by these angels. The seventh trumpet will summon up seven more angels with the last plagues.

Prior to the sounding of the first trumpet there is a reminder, in 8:3-5, of the prayers for vengeance offered by the saints in the first half of the seventieth week, as recorded in 6:10. What they asked for is about to start to happen. Not only is the Lamb the Kinsman Redeemer in chapter 5, but in chapter 6 onwards He takes the character of Kinsman Avenger, the one who takes up the cause of His brethren when they are deprived of justice, see Numbers 35:19; Deuteronomy 19:6. Again, the judgements fall into two groups, four then three, with the four having to do with natural things, and the three with the realm of the spirit.

The first trumpet judgement sees hail, fire and blood cast upon the earth, with one third of trees burnt, and all the grass. This would have a dramatic effect on the climate of the earth, as it depends on the fine balance of the oxygen cycle, which would be upset by the loss of greenery. The destruction of the Amazon rainforests is affecting the climate of the whole planet. If we are to make everything a symbol, then we would have to interpret “all the grass” as all mankind, for “all flesh is as grass”. Yet under the trumpet judgements, (which are yet to be described), a third part of men are killed, so there must still be men alive after the first trumpet has sounded. The grass is not a figure for men, therefore.

The second trumpet sees a mountain burning with fire cast into the sea, and as a result the third part of the sea becomes blood, as untold lives are lost at sea. Consequently the third part of the sea-life was destroyed, and a third of the shipping. The economies of the world will be badly affected if there are no exports and imports. Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, USA, is known to be the crater of a huge super-volcano. The floor of the crater, (which is some 1500 square miles in area), has been rising at a record rate since 2004. Some 400 miles beneath the surface of the park there is a magma hotspot which rises to 30 miles underground before spreading out over an area 300 miles across. The signs are that the volcano is preparing for another eruption, which, it is said, would make two-thirds of the United States uninhabitable. Scientists have discovered that there are unusual hotspots at the edge of the tectonic plates that are beneath the earth’s surface. So the Yellowstone Caldera as it is called is not unique. This is but a small illustration of what the result of the second trumpet judgement would be.

The third trumpet heralded the fall of a great star from heaven, and a third part of the rivers and waters became wormwood, a bitter substance. In Bible times any bright light in the heavens was called a star. It is interesting to notice that the name “Chernobyl”, (the place where a Russian nuclear power station ran out of control in 1986, spewing radioactive clouds into the air, which then fell on the soil), means “wormwood”. There are some farmers in Wales who are still not allowed to sell their lambs for human consumption because the soil is contaminated from the fall-out from Chernobyl. It is said that the meaning “wormwood” for chernobyl has been removed from Russian dictionaries. The description of the survivors of the end-time judgements in Zechariah 14:12 is said to be very similar to the injuries caused to the inhabitants of Hiroshima when the USA exploded an atomic bomb high in the sky over the city in 1945. Zechariah’s words were, “And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth”.

The fourth trumpet saw a third part of the sun, moon and stars being darkened. We can only imagine the effect these judgements will have upon men, as the God of heaven pours out His wrath upon them for their wickedness. Men of science claim to be able to explain everything by natural means, but they will be confounded if only a third part of sun, moon and stars is darkened selectively. The God who created the heavens is intervening in the affairs of men, and asserting Himself in judgement.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION CHAPTER 9, VERSES 1 TO 12

9:1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.

9:2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.

9:3 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.

9:4 And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.

9:5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man.

9:6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.

9:7 And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men.

9:8 And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions.

9:9 And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.

9:10 And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.

9:11 And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.

9:12 One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter.

The second group of trumpet-judgements begins in chapter 9. Attention is drawn to this group by the words of the angel who flies in mid-heaven and names them as woes.

The fifth trumpet summons a demon host like locusts from the abyss, which torment men for five months. What takes place now will make the most dramatic horror film seem like a dreamy romance. Satan has been conditioning men via the cinema and television screen to invasions from space. (Such films as “Return of the Jedi” and “The Empire Strikes Back” are nothing less than New-Age propaganda, and are steeped in the pantheism that shall dominate the earth in a day soon to come). Nothing compares, however, to the reality of demon-hosts let loose to torment men. There was chaos many years ago when an American television channel announced that the Martians had landed. What was a hoax then, will be a reality in a day to come, not involving non-existent Martians, but demon powers with physical appearance. Just as a swarm of locusts causes terror and panic to men in the Middle East, as they darken the sky and devour everything in their path, so these will do the same in the moral sphere.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION CHAPTER 9, VERSES 13 TO 21

9:13 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,

9:14 Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.

9:15 And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.

9:16 And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.

9:17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.

9:18 By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths.

9:19 For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt.

9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

9:21 Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

The sixth trumpet sounds, and the river Euphrates is dried up, to allow easy passage for an army of 200 million soldiers from the east. By these a third part of men were killed. Since we learn from Daniel 10:13,20,21 that evil angels control the affairs of particular nations, we can easily see here that four political groupings, headed by the four angels mentioned here, are allowed to bring destruction and death on the earth. We could surmise that China, India and the Malaysian Peninsular countries could be candidates for the fulfilment of this prophecy, with perhaps Japan being the fourth. China alone has armed forces comprising 200 million persons.

Just as there was a parenthesis between seals six and seven, so there is at the same place in the trumpet series. This parenthesis is a long one, for although we are told that the seventh trumpet sounds in chapter 11:15, we are not told of the effects until chapter 16:1. Before that, however, we shall be told other ways in which Christ will manifest Himself prior to His actual coming. Again, there is further evidence that in the midst of wrath God remembers mercy, for just as the 144,00 evangelists are mentioned in the first parenthesis, so in this one the two witnesses are spoken of. Amidst the sounding of the trumpets as Israel marched round Jericho, there was the ark of the covenant with its cloth of blue upon it, signalling that heaven’s provision was available to faith. Rahab, whose house was on the wall, would see this, and by faith she claimed the blessing.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION CHAPTER 10, VERSES 1 TO 11

10:1 And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:

10:2 And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,

10:3 And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.

10:4 And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.

10:5 And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven,

10:6 And sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:

10:7 But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets.

10:8 And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth.

10:9 And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.

10:10 And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.

10:11 And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.

We are next told of an angel who has a little book or scroll open on his hand, and then John hears seven thunder rolls, the sure sign of an impending storm. We read of the God of Glory thundering in Psalm 29, where the expression “the voice of the Lord” occurs seven times, telling of the fulness of His voice in judgement.

The angel then swore on oath by God as the Creator of all things, that there should be time no longer. This clearly does not mean an end of time itself, for there are still 1000 years to run their course before that happens. May it not be that the angel is signalling that time for repentance and faith is no longer to be given by God? We see in subsequent passages that believers and preachers are being withdrawn from the earth. The martyrs of the first three and half years are already departed, and the martyrs of the tribulation period will soon be of full complement, as the Antichrist makes war against them and prevails, Daniel 7:21; 8:24; 11:33,35. In chapter 11 we read of the two witnesses caught up to heaven, and then in chapter 14 the 144,000 evangelists sealed in chapter 7 are seen in heaven.

John is next bidden to take the little book, not so that he may read it, or write in it, for both are not permitted, but to eat it. This is a figurative action, signifying his close involvement with the affairs written in the book. In his mouth the book tastes like honey, but as it was digested, and the full import of what was in it realised, then it became bitter to him. Ezekiel had a similar experience to this, as recorded in Ezekiel 3:1-11, as he was prepared to go to the nation of Israel with a word condemning their idolatry. Perhaps the apostle is being given insight into the bitterness that the wickedness of the nation of Israel will bring to God at that time, when they, in large part, will side with Antichrist. There will also be a sweet result, for those who are faithful to God, and wait for the Messiah. John must keep to himself what is written in the book, for the contents reveal God’s heart-feelings, which the people of God are not able to share in all their intensity. Only John, who leant on the bosom of Christ, can absorb them in any measure.

It is interesting to notice that at this point John is told that he must prophesy again. May this be the point at which the reader of the scroll moves from the front to the backside, to commence a new set of details about God’s judgements? It is about the half-way point as far as the number of verses in chapters 4-18 is concerned.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION CHAPTER 11, VERSES 1 TO 14

11:1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.

11:2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

11:3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

11:4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

11:5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.

11:6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.

11:7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

11:8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

11:9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.

11:10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

11:11 And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.

11:12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

11:13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

11:14 The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.

John’s attention is now drawn to the temple at Jerusalem. He is to measure the inner parts, to ring-fence them so to speak. The outer court is not to be thus protected, but is to be trodden under foot by the Gentiles for 42 months, see Luke 21:24. When the disciples asked the Lord when the destruction of Jerusalem would be, He did not mention the destruction under Titus in AD 70, but spoke exclusively of still-future times. This is the same period of time as the 1260 days of verse 3, and also 12:6. It is also the same as the “time, times, and half of time” of 12:14. Then in 13:5 the first beast is allowed to continue for 42 months, again the same length of time, a month being 30 days in prophecy. The mention of months connects with the temple rituals and feasts, which were governed by the moon. During this period the Gentiles will be in control of the services in the temple, and God marks this by noting how many months pass by. The times, time, and half of time, connects with Daniel 7:25, and given, as it is, in connection with the faithful remnant of Israel, shows that God’s promises to them through Daniel are surely coming to their fulfilment, as well as the final judgement of their enemies. The mention of daysshows that God will send His witnesses out every day to preach, just like He did of old time, “daily rising up early and sending them”, Jeremiah 7:25. And the days in connection with the oppressed remnant would indicate His daily faithful care of them, nourishing them in the wilderness just as He did Elijah, 1 Kings 17:6. They will pray “Give us this day our daily bread”, Matthew 6:11, and God will answer their prayer through those who are sympathetic to them, as Matthew 25:34-40 indicates.

The two witnesses God raises up will continue their ministry for 1260 days, and then will be killed, their bodies laying in the street of Jerusalem for three and a half days, (as many days as years they served), and then they are revived and caught up to God. It is definitely promised that Elijah will come at the end times, Malachi 4:5,6, and the previous verse to this speaks of Moses as God’s servant. The miracles the two witnesses perform are similar to those done by Moses and Elijah. That these two have a special interest in the end times is seen in their appearance together on the mount of transfiguration. The tenth part of the city of Jerusalem will be destroyed at this point through a great earthquake.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION CHAPTER 11, VERSES 15 TO 18

11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.

11:16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,

11:17 Saying, We give Thee thanks, O LORD God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.

11:18 And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.

It is time now for the seventh trumpet judgement, the third woe. We are not told at this point what happens- we have to wait until 15:1 onwards to find out. We are told of the rejoicing in heaven as the result of the judgement is anticipated, for certain critical things will have been achieved once this judgement is over. This is because the seventh trumpet summons the last seven angels, who shall pour out their vials on the earth at the end of the tribulation period, as detailed in chapter 16. The things accomplished once the final judgements have been enacted are as follows:

One, God will have taken His great power and reigned. The reign of Satan as prince of this world will be over, at last. Christ will reign as Mediatorial King on behalf of the Godhead, and then deliver up that kingdom to God, and the Godhead shall be supreme for ever, see 1 Corinthians 15:24-28.

Two, the nations will have shown their anger at God in the most violent way, as Psalm 2 had predicted.

Three, the wrath of God can now be said to have come. That which had been held back because He was longsuffering, will have been poured out.

Four, the time for the raising of the Old Testament saints and the martyred tribulation saints will have arrived, coinciding with the return of Christ to earth.

Five, the time for judgement of the saints of old time will have come. They will have their lives as servants of God assessed, and that which they have done and been will be reviewed.

Six, the time for reward to them as appropriate is arrived, so that they may enter into Christ’s earthly kingdom and take positions of responsibility there in proportion to their faithfulness. Seven, the time to destroy those who destroy the earth will have come. This is the climax to the third revelation of Christ, for He has revealed Himself in judgement, and achieved the end in view.

Miracles

Many today claim to be able to work miracles of one sort or another, and many more claim to be endowed with the sign-gifts that believers had in apostolic days.  These claims often cause doubts and anxieties to arise in the minds of believers who do not possess such abilities.  In the light of this, we do well to turn to the Scriptures of truth, so that we may be given guidance on these important and pressing issues.

DEFINITION OF MIRACLES
Miracles have been defined as “works of a supernatural origin and character, such as could not be produced by natural agents and means”.  W.E.Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament words.  They are exceptions to normal events, which occur due to the intervention of a power beyond natural power.
We must beware of devaluing the word miracle by using it of happenings which are simply out of the ordinary, or merely coincidences, or take place at a particularly opportune moment.  We must also beware of labelling as miraculous, events which would have occurred anyway.  An example of this would be illnesses that are known to go into remission naturally.  An event does not become a miracle because it is an answer to prayer.

WONDERS
The apostle Peter coupled three words together in the phrase “miracles and wonders and signs”, Acts 2:22.  The second of these words expresses the effect the miracle had upon those involved.  At best, in the case of miracles wrought by Christ and the apostles, those around would be constrained to believe on the Lord Jesus.  As He said in John 14:11 “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: or else believe Me for the very works’ sake”. (Note that belief in Himself is the goal in each case; it is not “believe Me or else believe the works”).  At worst, there were those who responded to Christ’s miracles by wanting to make Him king simply because He could multiply loaves.  He withdrew from such, John 6:15.

SIGNS
This word reminds us that the miracles had a lesson to teach, they had sign-ificance.  They were not simply acts of mercy and compassion, but doctrine made visible in vivid ways.  We see this especially in John 6, where the Lord’s long discourse on the Bread of Life is based on His miracle of feeding the five thousand.
Summarising, we may say that a miracle is an event beyond the normal, with an effect beyond the usual, giving expression to things beyond the natural.

SATAN’S COUNTERFEIT
We must always remember that Satan is able to imitate God’s work to a certain extent, as Moses and Aaron discovered in Exodus 7:11,12,22.  See also 2 Timothy 3:8,9.  This will come to a climax at the end times, when the Lawless One is revealed “whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders….” 2 Thessalonians 2:8,9.  Note that in this case the wonders are lying wonders, for they do not further the truth of God, but rather, the Devil’s lie.

A WORD OF WARNING
The current obsession in charismatic circles with happenings which are out-of-the-ordinary is conditioning professing Christians to look for exhilarating experiences, instead of being built up by the exposition of the Word of God.  It is part of Satan’s New Age strategy to influence the minds of men so that they give themselves over to spirit forces, and so further his end.  His object is to draw believers away from the written revelation of the Word of God, and attract them to “spiritual” experiences.

THE MIRACLES OF CHRIST
Christ’s miracles were a witness to His own person.  Those performed by the apostles witnessed to His person, too.  They were certainly not performed to bear witness to themselves.  See Acts 3:12; 14:8-18.  They also were one of the ways in which God confirmed certain vitally important truths, as we shall see.

(I)    THE WITNESS TO HIS PERSON AS THE SON OF GOD
John chapter 5 contains Christ’s first public discourse as far as John’s record goes.  Significantly, it concerns His Deity, and is preceded by the healing of the impotent man on the Sabbath day.  The Lord Jesus establishes His authority for healing on the day of rest by saying “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work”, verse 17.  The Jews understood very well what He was claiming by this statement, even “That God was His (own) Father, making Himself equal with God”, verse 18.
Later, in John 5:31-39, the Lord Jesus spoke of four witnesses to His person, these being John the Baptist, verse 33; the works which the Father had given Him to finish, verse 36; the Father, who bore witness at His baptism, verse 37; and finally the witness of the Old Testament Scriptures, verse 39.
So the works which the Father had given to Christ to do were a testimony to the genuineness of His person, that He was indeed the Son of God.  Hence John appeals to them in John 20:31 as the reason why men should believe.
The apostle Peter also appealed to the miracles and wonders and signs performed by Christ, but his purpose was to show that He was approved of God, Acts 2:22.  So whether it is a question of His person or His character, the matter is settled when the testimony of the  miracles is received.

(2)    THE WITNESS TO HIS PERSON AS THE CHRIST, OR MESSIAH OF ISRAEL
Not only did John record the miracles of Christ that we might believe that He is the Son of God, but also that we might know He is the long-promised Christ, or Messiah, John 20:31.  The prophets had told of the Messiah as one who would come to bring in what the Jews called “the age to come”, when He would reign over them from Jerusalem.  Hebrews 6:5 describes the miracles of Christ as the “powers of the world (age) to come”.  Isaiah had written that in the time of the kingdom, “the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.  Then shall the lame man leap as the hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing, Isaiah 35:5,6.  The fact that these things did indeed happen when Christ was here, is proof positive that He is the Messiah. 
So the miracles Christ did were not only expressions of compassion, but powerful and indisputable witness as to who He was.  So confident is the apostle John of this witness, that, guided by the Spirit of God, he bases on it his appeal to his readers to believe that Jesus is the Christ, that no less a gift than eternal life may be theirs.

THE MIRACLES OF THE APOSTLES AND OTHER SIGN-GIFTS

(I)    CONFIRMATION OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE IN HEAVEN
The resurrection and exaltation of Christ was confirmed by  things that could be seen and heard, Acts 2:32,33.  The seen things were the tongues of fire that sat upon each of the apostles.  The heard things were the spoken tongues or languages which the apostles were miraculously able to use when speaking to the foreign Jews who had gathered at Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost.
Note that Peter quotes from Joel 2 in his address on that occasion, not because all the events that passage mentions were coming to pass then, but because Joel spoke of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and also the opportunity to call upon the name of the Lord for salvation.  Those two things, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and the salvation of some in Israel, were what were relevant at that time.  Note also that Peter does not quote from the Old Testament passage which expressly speaks of tongues, namely Isaiah 28:11, because that was not so appropriate at that time.

(2)    CONFIRMATION OF THE PREACHING OF THE APOSTLES
The prophecy of the Lord Jesus in Mark 16:17,18, was that certain signs would follow them that believe.  What had been foretold indeed came to pass, for when Mark summarises the book of the Acts for us in verses 19 and 20, he writes in the past tense, and then ends with the words “confirming the word with (by means of) signs following”.  So the signs manifested in apostolic days were a confirmation from the Lord in heaven that what was preached was indeed God’s word.
With this agree the words of Hebrews 2:1-4, where the writer identifies three lines of testimony.  First, that of the Lord Himself when here, as He spoke of “so great salvation”.  Second, when those who heard Him confirmed to others what they had been taught, and third, when God bore witness to both these testimonies by enabling signs and wonders to be performed, giving added proof that what the apostles preached was of God.

(3)    CONFIRMATION THAT NON- JEWS HAVE RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT
Apart from the initial pouring out of the Spirit on Jews only in Acts 2, there were certain groups that were dealt with separately by God, because they were special cases.
The Samaritans.  These were potentially a cause of friction amongst the believers, if they allowed the enmity between themselves and the Jews to spill over into their new life in Christ.  “The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans”, John 4:9.  Hence in Acts 8:14-17, Peter and John are sent to Samaria to personally and directly lay hands on those who had believed from amongst the Samaritan nation, that they might receive the Holy Spirit after a delay.  That delay was not normal, since the moment a person believes and receives the gospel the Holy Spirit is given.  We know this from Galatians 3:2, where the apostle indicates that the Spirit is given when a person hears in faith.  (The indwelling of the Spirit of God is never presented to us in the New Testament. as something that can be earned, but rather the gracious gift of God the moment true faith is exercised).  But the Samaritan situation was not normal, given the bad relations between the two nations, so an unusual procedure was followed. And because the apostles themselves laid hands on the Samaritan believers that they might receive the Holy Spirit, they did not need confirmation of the fact, and therefore we do not read that the Samaritan believers responded by speaking in tongues.  They may have done so, but we are not expressly told.
The Gentiles.  Peter had needed a vision from the Lord to convince him that it was indeed the Lord’s purpose to call Gentiles to faith.  He had taken certain believers with him on his visit to Cornelius in order that they might be fellow-witnesses of what took place.  This was a wise precaution, for afterwards Peter was criticized for his actions.  These fellow-believers who companied with Peter were astonished that upon the Gentiles the Holy Spirit had been poured out, Acts 10:45.  But how did they know this?  Verse 46 begins with “for”, they knew they had received the Spirit “for they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God”.  Hence, again, the speaking in tongues is audible proof of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The disciples of John.  In Acts 19, the apostle Paul came across disciples of John the Baptist, who did not know that the Holy Spirit had been given at Pentecost.  Having heard of the Lord Jesus from Paul, they believed and were baptized.  Having received the Holy Spirit by the laying on of his hands, they spoke with tongues and prophesied.  No doubt this was a great encouragement to them, confirming that they had been right to cross over from allegiance to John to faith in Christ, a step John would have encouraged, see John 1:35-37; 3:25-30.

We see then that various special groups are dealt with by God in ways that are not regular.  Since they are special cases, they do not provide precedents for today.  Believers today receive the Holy Spirit the moment they believe, and do not need any to lay hands on them before this can happen.  Nor is the supposed speaking in tongues of some today, any evidence that they possess the Spirit of God.  After all, the devil-worshipping “Whirling Dervishes” of the Middle East utter sounds indistinguishable from modern tongues-speaking!

(4)    CONFIRMATION OF JUDGEMENT UPON UNBELIEF
God had warned Israel of the penalty of unbelief, namely that a foreign power would carry them away, and they would hear strange languages spoken by their captors, Deuteronomy 28:45-51.  He warned the people of the same danger in Isaiah 28:11.  The judgement fell when the Assyrians took the ten tribes into captivity.  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14:21,22, used these Scriptures to show that tongues-speaking was a sign from God to those who believe not, just as the “tongues-speaking” of the Assyrians had been to unbelieving, idol-worshipping Israel in Isaiah’s day.

SUMMARY
Clearly the things that are confirmed by the gift of tongues were new at the time.  The gospel of a crucified and risen Christ; His ascension to heaven; the pouring out of the Spirit on the Gentiles; the particularly grave sin of rejecting a Saviour who had been received back into heaven, these were all fresh and different matters, and God graciously confirmed their reality by the exhibition of miracles. Once this confirmation has been done, it does not need to be repeated, or else doubt is cast upon the original confirmation, and upon the Scriptures which record it.
It is an historical fact that sign-gifts did cease.  Chrysostom, the well-known “church father”, was unable to find them practised in his day.  The onus is upon those who claim to perform miracles and speak in tongues today, to prove from Scripture that their return at the end of the age is to be expected. They should also offer evidence that what they do is identical in character to the signs of the apostolic age, and is accompanied by a strict adherence to apostolic doctrine and practice. 

THE NATURE OF THE SIGN GIFTS                                                Miracles and other signs did have an important role to play in the days when the record of the New Testament was not complete.  They are listed for us in three passages.  In Mark 16:17,18, we read of the casting out of demons, speaking with new tongues, taking up of serpents, drinking of deadly things without harm, and the laying of hands on the sick, so that they recovered.  Further on, in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, we find mention of the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.  A further two, namely helps and governments, are found in 1 Corinthians 12:28.

God never wastes time or energy on mere entertainment.  Each of these gifts had great usefulness.  A brief notice of each will make this clear.  The gifts of Mark 16:17,18 are mentioned in connection with the command of the Lord Jesus to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  It is no surprise, then, to find that they are especially of use in pioneer evangelism.

(I)    GIFTS OF USE IN EVANGELISM
When God embarks upon a new phase in His dealings with men, Satan is always ready with his opposition, which often takes the form of demon activity.  This, however, was no problem to an evangelist penetrating a new area with the gospel, for he could cast out demons, being gifted to do so. He had no language problem, either, for he could speak with new tongues.  By ” new” is meant “unaccustomed”; that is, the one speaking was not used to the language, it was not his native dialect.  It does not mean new in the sense of newly-invented.
Hacking his way through the jungle, he inadvertently disturbs a sleeping cobra.  But this is no problem, either, for he can handle serpents!  Thirsty and hungry from his exertions, he drinks contaminated water, and eats the fruit of a poisonous tree, yet comes to no harm.  He finds himself in a clearing, where malaria-ridden natives huddle in their mud huts.  Imagine the effect upon these poor souls as he touches the untouchable, and they instantly recover.  What an introduction for the evangelist as he brings to them the gospel!
Notice that this man does not need to learn a language, or take a course in a school of tropical medicine, or learn botany, to prepare him for his mission, for he had been gifted by God.  But where is the missionary today who is so fitted?  He does not exist, for the simple reason that these gifts have been withdrawn in the wisdom of God.

(2)    GIFTS OF USE IN THE ASSEMBLY
The gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 are useful too, but most of them in connection with the gatherings of God’s people, as again we might expect given the context in which they are found.

THE GIFTS OF WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE
How valuable a word of wisdom would have been in those early days when so many new things were happening, and before the scriptures of the New Testament were written.  Of course there was the written wisdom of the Old Testament, but it was not always relevant to the new conditions prevailing at that time.  So, too, the word of knowledge, insight directly from God on a particular, and perhaps strictly local problem.

THE GIFT OF FAITH
The tremendous challenges of those days would need to be met by men with the gift of faith, who could “move mountains” so that the work of God could go forward.  Needless to say, this faith is not saving faith, which is the common possession of all the people of God.

THE GIFTS OF HEALING AND MIRACLES
There were those with the gift of healing, (but with no mention of the laying on of hands), who like Paul in Acts 19:11,12, could heal from a distance.  This gift is distinguished from that of working of miracles, for whereas healing was a beneficial thing, sometimes miracles of judgement were necessary to preserve the testimony, as in Acts 5:5-11 and Acts 13:8-12.  The raising of the dead would also be classed as a miracle, rather than an act of healing.

THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
The gift of prophecy, or the forth-telling of the mind of God, was vitally necessary if the saints were to be built up in Christian doctrine.  The believers could not open their Bibles and find, say, Ephesians 3, for it had not yet been written.  Nor could the apostles be everywhere at once to personally teach the saints.  Hence the man gifted with insight into the mind of God filled a very real need.

THE GIFT OF DISCERNING OF SPIRITS
In those days there was no lack of imposters, and in order that the companies of the Lord’s people be not infiltrated by these, this gift was very necessary, so that the fraudulent might be kept out.

THE GIFTS OF TONGUES AND INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES
In the pioneer situation envisaged above in connection with Mark 16, the interpretation of tongues was not needed, for those addressed would all be of the same tongue.  The same would be the case on the Day of Pentecost, for each nationality could gather round the particular apostle that was miraculously speaking their language.
In the assembly gatherings at Corinth, however, there might be several languages represented in the one company, especially as Corinth was a cosmopolitan city, and near to the sea-port of Cenchrea.  If a brother began to speak the truth of God in the language of one of these groups, the fact that that group could testify to hearing their own language spoken accurately, (even though the speaker did not know the language), was in itself part of the object of that gift; it was a sign that God was at work.  But all things, according to 1 Corinthians 14:26, must be unto edifying, and so far only the minority that knows the tongue has been edified. There needs to be, then, the interpretation of that particular tongue, for the benefit of the rest.

THE GIFT OF HELPS AND GOVERNMENTS
As time went by, there would arise administrative needs such as distribution to the poor, so it was very necessary for some to be gifted with practical and organisational skills to enable this to be done without the work of preaching being held up.

THE EXERCISE OF THE GIFTS
A reading of 1 Corinthians 14 will show clearly that the gifts, particularly of prophecy and tongues, were to be exercised with dignity and restraint.  For instance, the maximum number allowed to speak in tongues during a meeting was three, verse 27, and that by course, or one after the other.  The spectacle of large numbers of people all speaking with tongues at the same time, would raise questions as to their sanity, verse 23.
The situation was similar with regard to the gift of prophecy.  Verses 32 and 33 make it clear that those who were gifted in this way did not abandon self-control, (which after all is a fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:23), but in an orderly and becoming way they edified the gathered saints.  If a revelation was given to a prophet sitting alongside the current speaker, then the latter was well able to hold his peace and defer to the other.
 “Let all things be done decently and in order”, is the final word of the apostle in chapter 14, for “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints”, verse 33.  It is sadly true that many gatherings of those who claim to possess these gifts today, have not been notable for orderliness or dignity.  This raises serious doubts as to the validity of what they claim.

“THE TORONTO BLESSING”
The current obsession with this phenomenon is a very grave matter.  Far from being a repeat of apostolic practice, there is every indication that earnest, unsuspecting souls are being subjected to hypnosis in the name of Christ.  If this is what is happening, then it is outrageous, because the unbelieving public looks on, and finds that what they think of as Christianity, is represented by those who seem intent on making fools of themselves, instead of preaching Christ.

It is said that 90% of the population can be hypnotised without much difficulty.  Any run-of-the-mill secular hypnotist can induce feelings of being washed clean, of peace, of tingling sensations, of feelings of energy passing through the body, of seeing bright lights and so on.  He can make people lay down, go stiff, laugh uncontrollably, and also heal minor ailments like migraine and back pain. And all this without the power of the Holy Spirit at all!  Just unbelievers hypnotising unbelievers!

The methods by which these things are done in the world are in principle the same as are used in charismatic meetings.  The persuasive voice of the leader; the mind-numbing use of repetitive music; the exhortations to relax and give way; the encouragement to look for an experience which the leader assures everyone is about to come; the testimonies of those who have had the experience before; all these things combine together to produce a situation where almost everything can happen under the control, and touch, of the plausible master of ceremonies.  And all in the Name of the Lord!

THOU SHALT LOVE THE LORD THY GOD WITH ALL THY….MIND
It is highly dangerous for believers to abandon reason in favour of feelings.  The service of God is to be “reasonable service”, Romans 12:1, intelligent action as a result of a careful understanding of what God requires, as detailed in His Word.
We are NEVER called upon to abandon rational thought-processes, and give ourselves over to the influences abroad in the world.  Satan is determined to control the minds of men, so that they willingly do his bidding.  His strategy is to alter the state of a person’s consciousness, so that he may introduce a new set of perceptions, and cause the old values to be rejected, paving the way for the ultimate deception, the lie that the Antichrist is Christ.
Any supposedly Christian activity, therefore, which displays so many of the classic features of hypnotism, and which encourages the abandonment of reason, is highly suspect.

THE ALTERNATIVE
What alternative is there then, to the practices of the signs and wonders movement?  The answer is simple- the Scriptural alternative.  The apostle Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 13 that whereas prophecies, tongues and knowledge come to an end, faith, hope and love do not.  This is true whatever the phrase “that which is perfect” means.  The cultivation by the believer of these three cardinal Christian virtues will result in steady growth in Christ-likeness, which surely must be the main aim.

The apostle also makes clear in Ephesians 4 that the ascended Christ has given gifts to His people, which will ensure that they all “come…unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”, Ephesians 4:13.  The gifts Christ has given are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  Through their ministry the end-result God is looking for, even likeness to His Son, is certain to be achieved.

May the Lord revive His people, so that they once again have a love for His Word, and an earnest desire to put it into practice, to His glory alone.

DOCTRINES OF SCRIPTURE: Resurrection of Christ

INTRODUCTION:

 The resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead is a fundamental part of the Christian gospel, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. That He really died is seen in that He was buried, that He really rose is seen in the fact that He appeared (not simply was seen, but deliberately confronted people). His resurrection had been prophesied in the Old Testament, hence the apostle says He was raised according to the (O.T.) Scriptures. See Psalm 16; Psalm 21:2-6; Psalm 22:21-31; Psalm 40:1-3; Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 52:13, 53:10,11. It was also prophesied by the Lord Jesus Himself, although His disciple did not grasp the fact. Only Mary, who sat at His feet and heard His word, saw that He was going to die, and so anointed Him for His burial whilst He could appreciate it. She must also have seen that He would rise, for she did not go to the sepulchre to seek to preserve His dead body, as the other women did. So the Old Testament views Christ’s resurrection prophetically, the Gospels view it historically, whereas the epistles view it doctrinally.

1.    Romans 1:4: ‘”And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the resurrection from (of) the dead”. Note the change of verb from verse 3, where Christ is made of the seed of David by incarnation. Here it is not something He was made in time, but what He is eternally is declared by resurrection.  He is ever the Son of God, for “to be the son of” means “to share the nature of”. Since the Father’s nature is eternal, so must the Son’s be, therefore He is the eternal Son of God. This is declared by resurrection. Note that it is not the resurrection from the dead, but rather the resurrection of dead persons, for the word dead is plural. Every time the Lord Jesus raised a person from the dead; every time a sinner is raised from death in trespasses and sins; when saint’s bodies are raised at His coming; when sinner’s bodies are raised  just before the Great White Throne judgement, then on each occasion there is a declaration of His Deity. This is in line with His words in John 5:19-29, where the right of the Lord Jesus to grant life and to raise from the dead, is vested in His equality with the Father.

And then of course there was the declaration of His Sonship when He Himself was raised from the dead. He had said “when (after) ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then ye shall know that I am He”, John 8:28. They should have known He was Son of God by the supernatural events at His crucifixion, for the centurion came to this conclusion, Matthew 27:54. They should have known by His rising again, for Saul of Tarsus was convinced, Acts 9:20.

2.    Romans 4:15: “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification”.  The apostle has been deriving principles from the experience of Abraham and Sarah, who as far as having children were concerned, were dead. Yet they believed God, and as a result He intervened and brought Isaac out of the sphere of death. Whereas Abraham believed God was able to do this in the immediate future, we look back to the distant past and believe that the true “Isaac” has been brought out of the sphere of death to guarantee the promises of God. Paul in effedct asks two questions: “Why was Christ found in death anyway?” and “Why was He raised from the dead?” The answer to the first is our offences, whilst the answer to the second is because of our justification, which means that He was raised again because God was satisfied that His work upon the cross was enough to justify believing sinners.

3.    Romans 5:10: ‘”For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life”. Verse one speaks of peace with God, so that those once enemies of God because of sin, are now reconciled to Him. Now if the work which forms the basis of that reconciliation was done for us whilst we were still God’s enemies, what blessings will He not bestow now that we are friends? And more than this, if Christ’s work of reconciling enemies took place when were in sin, surely we shall be saved from every sort of penalty at the judgement day, for the one who saved us from sin is still our saviour, preserving us eternally from the judgement of God. Because Christ lives eternally in resurrection, the believer is eternally secure. If the suffering and agony of the cross did not put Him off from taking up our case, surely the glory He has now will not prevent Him living to preserve those who believe in Him.

4.    Romans 6:4: “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”. Paul is showing why it is not in order for believers to continue in sin, i.e. continue to respond to the sin-principle within. The reason here given is that we are buried, and therefore cannot continue in sin. The burial took place when we were baptized, and we were identified with Christ in His (state of) death. But our baptism has a positive purpose, it is not just a negative putting out of sight, but association also with Christ in His resurrection. Christ was raised from the dead because the glory of the Father demanded that such a person should be raised, and not left in the grave. It was not so with us personally, however, so our emergence from the watery grave of baptism is solely because of association with Christ. Having been raised, we have a responsibility to walk in a different sort of way, which is compatible with the new place we have with Christ risen.

5.    Romans 7:1-6: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God”. The apostle is showing that the believer is not under the Law of Moses, nor will trying to keep that Law result in a victorious Christian life. He uses two illustrations to prove his point. First, that when a person is dead, the dominion of the law, any law, is gone from him. Second, that when a woman’s husband dies, she is free from the law of the husband. He then applies these two principles, namely one’s own death delivering from law, and another’s death delivering from law. Christ has died, and we have died in association with Him, so on both counts we are dead to the Law of Moses. The body of Christ was hung upon a cross, and there He bore the curse of a broken law for us. But His body was also placed in a tomb, and subsequently rose from the dead. By association with Him in these things we are delivered from the law by association with what happened to Christ in His body.

6.    Romans 8:11:”But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you”. The Spirit of God is here described as the Spirit of the God of resurrection. Not only does the Spirit of God empower us so that we are able to live proper Christian lives now, but He is the guarantee that we shall share in the resurrection of the body hereafter. The epistle to the Romans emphasises truth which enables us to live upon the earth, hence we are looked at in this verse as being alive on the earth when Christ comes. When dead saints are raised, then those alive on the earth will share in the same sort of change, even though they have not died. The certainty of this is found in the presence within of the Spirit of God.

7.    Romans 8:34: “Who is He that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us”. The only one who could possibly condemn God’s people is Christ, for all judgement has been committed to Him. But far from condemning, He is the very one who defends and supports them. He does this in a four-fold way, because of the four events mentioned here. He died to deal with our sins that would have meant our condemnation. He was raised again  to demonstrate to all who would accuse us that the work of the cross dealt effectively with sins. He is ascended to the right hand of God, the most influential place in the whole of the universe where He wields all power. And He intercedes for us to defend us from the charges the adversary, Satan, would level against us, Revelation 12:10.