Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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April 2007 • Volume XI, Issue 12


Marriage in This Passing World (2)

I Corinthians 7:29-31 shows how important one’s understanding of eschatology (or the last things) is in marriage. Just as the church’s unity requires not only "one faith" but also "one hope" (Eph. 4:4, 5), so Christian couples ought to share "one hope" in Christ, as it is set forth in the Scriptures.

If the wife’s hope is the rapture of the church (so that believers will avoid the great tribulation) followed 7 years later by the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth, but the husband’s hope is the bodily return of Christ to renew heaven and earth, there is disunity in the marriage, because they do not have the same hope. Or if a husband hopes for the Christianization of all the countries of the world so that believers predominate and the civil governments draft and enforce biblical laws, while his wife maintains that the perfection of the world comes with Christ’s glorious return, they are divided by their different hopes. In mixed marriages, the believer watches and waits for Christ’s return, while the unbeliever has no such interest and prefers not to think about it. Here the spiritual disunity between them shows itself in the fact that the believing spouse lives by hope while the unbelieving spouse has "no hope" (Eph. 2:12)

According to Postmillennial Reconstructionism, "the fashion of this world passeth away" (I Cor. 7:31) refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Thus Ken Gentry refers to Christ’s second coming as being in the "distant" future (He Shall Have Dominion, p. 331). This makes the apostolic requirement for the Corinthians (in first century Greece) and for us (in the twenty-first century) of sitting loose to marriage (and to weeping, rejoicing, buying, and selling) of little sense (29-31). Regarding marriage, Premillennial Dispensationalism holds that it passes away at the rapture for believers, that it continues for the non-raptured in the great tribulation, and that it returns in an earthly 1,000 year-reign of Christ on earth, before it passes away again at the end of the millennium. The Reformed Amillennialist, however, believes that marriage belongs to this present age/world, and that it passes away with this age/world, for in the age/world to come there is no marriage (Luke 20:34-36). In the new heavens and the new earth, the reality to which our marriages must point—the union between Christ and His bride, the church—is perfected forever (cf. Rev. 19:7-9).

Thus two Christians contemplating marrying each other ought to agree together on eschatology (as well as on the other doctrines of the faith) before they wed. What future would your marriage have if you do not even agree on the future of marriage? Those who consider becoming "one flesh" (Gen. 2:24) ought to have "one hope" (Eph. 4:4), which is part of being of "the same mind" (I Cor. 1:10). Moreover, they must not merely have "one hope" objectively but this should be a living hope, so that both long for Christ’s coming and pray (individually and together), "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20).

This radical, new understanding of the end of our present mode of existence implies a calling regarding marriage: "they that have wives be as though they had none" (I Cor. 7:29). This does not set aside God’s command that husbands love their wives, as Christ loved His church (Eph. 5:25). It does not mean that husbands do not have to provide for their wives or that they may defraud their wives sexually (I Cor. 7:3-5) or simply divorce them (10-13). But it does mean that marriage is not an end in itself; it is a means of serving God. Your spouse and children are only loaned to you, and your time with them is relatively brief.

Because "the time is short" (29), "they that weep [should be] as though they wept not" (30). The Lord here does not require us to kill our godly affections and bowels of mercies or never to cry. Indeed, there is "a time to weep" (Ecc. 3:4) and we are commanded to "weep with them that weep" (Rom. 12:15). But when we sorrow over departed brethren, we do not sorrow "as others which have no hope" (I Thess. 4:13); and in all our weeping we must remember that "the fashion of this world [with all its griefs] passeth away" (I Cor. 7:31). All the causes of our sorrows will be removed, whether at home or at work or in the world, and the wicked who persecute us will not dwell in the new earth (Ps. 104:30, 35). All this applies also to weeping in marriage, brought on by quarrels with your spouse or problems with your children or sickness or death in your household. Weep as though you wept not! Do not become totally cast down so that you are unable to function. Hope in the Lord for you will yet praise Him (Ps. 42:5, 11; 43:5)!

Since "the fashion of this world passeth away" (I Cor. 7:31), we must "rejoice as though [we] rejoiced not" (30). This does not mean that joy is something sinful and shameful or that we ought not be glad in God’s good creation and ordinances. But we should know that our rejoicing in this world is temporary and can never be totally satisfying, so we should look forward to the greater, perfect, everlasting joy of heaven. Many of the causes of our joy will pass away: joys at work or school, joys on holiday or with friends, and even the joys of marriage. But these will be replaced by something even better and deeper. Rev. Stewart

Contact us if you would like us to send you The Family: Foundations are Shaking by Prof. Gritters (£1.50 inc. P&P) and/or "Rearing Covenant Children for the End-Time" by Prof. Engelsma (FREE).

Esther (2)

And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti (Esth. 2:17).

After the last News, the reader who asked me the initial question about Esther sent me additional material pointing out some potential problems with my position that Esther and Mordecai, her uncle, were wicked people whom God used to save the nation of Israel, a nation from whom Christ was to come. The questions suggest the possibility that Mordecai was "a man at the centre of the Jews’ deliverance from genocide, sincerely concerned for their preservation (including those who had returned to Canaan)."

After considering carefully the objections, my basic position remains that both Mordecai and Esther were unbelievers. The most important question remains: Would one who loved the Lord and the promises made to Israel do what Mordecai and Esther did? Would a God-fearing believer command his niece to enter a beauty contest sponsored by the heathen king, Ahasuerus, especially when fornication was a requirement for entrance? Would a man who desired to be faithful to God condone Esther’s actions after she "won" the contest, that is, marrying a divorced pagan?

God’s Word to His people in both the Old Testament and the New Testament is very particular about marriage. Jews must not marry outside the nation, for that would be marrying an uncircumcised heathen, and there was no salvation outside the nation of Israel. Some heathen, in the course of Israel’s history, were brought into the nation (e.g., Rahab, the Gibeonites, Ruth, Uriah, Araunah, etc.), but they were incorporated into God’s people and became Jews. Think, for example, of Ezra’s insistence that men who had married heathen wives give them up along with the children born to them (Ezra 9-10). This was about the time of Esther’s adultery.

Old Testament laws were equally particular about divorce and the only exception that permitted divorce was laid down in Deuteronomy 24 (for the "hardness" of their hearts [Mark 10:5])—an exception which Jesus brushed aside as irrelevant in the new dispensation (Mark 10:2-12). If Mordecai and Esther were God-fearing, they would not have violated such a fundamental law.

The fornication that was involved in the beauty contest with Ahasuerus, sleeping with every contestant prior to making his decision for a new queen, was such an abomination that it is inconceivable that a child of God would participate in such a thing. The Jews knew the laws that stipulated that any woman caught in such fornication had to be stoned.

A justification of Esther’s conduct is really impossible.

But let us consider the specific points raised by one of our readers.

(1) "Nehemiah 7:7 lists a man called Mordecai amongst the first to return to Jerusalem. Some commentators suppose that, if he is the same man, he may have subsequently returned to Shushan out of a concern for the Jews who did not return to the promised land."

One cannot determine with certainty whether the Mordecai of Nehemiah 7:7 is the same as Esther’s uncle. I rather doubt it. But even if they are the same, the matter is not essentially changed. If Mordecai’s concern was for the Jews who did not return to Canaan, that concern could not have been a godly concern. It is true that not all the Jews who remained in captivity were ungodly. Some could not return because of illness, infirmities, old age, or, as Nehemiah, because they held positions in the kingdom from which they could not escape. But a believing Israelite would almost certainly have returned. Psalm 137:5 expresses the longing of godly Jews for Canaan, the land of promise: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning." This is an Old Testament expression of the believer’s longing to go to heaven (cf. Heb. 11:10, 13-16).

(2) "Esther 4:16 describes Esther as willing to sacrifice her own life in order to bring about deliverance for the Jews."

I do not think Esther’s conduct at this juncture was such a noble act. She did not commit the whole matter to God. She did not give any indication of reliance on His sovereign protection. She made no prayer that the nation be spared for the sake of the promise of Christ. She expressed the sentiments of someone who views necessary, though disagreeable and dangerous, obligations with a fatalistic attitude: "if I perish, I perish," she said (Esth. 4:16). What is godly about that? Many soldiers on the battlefield say the same thing when they are fighting for their country and are faced with a dangerous situation in which they might be killed. They too express a willingness to die for their country. Fatalism is not an option for the child of God. When saints comfort one another, they do not say, "If it must be, it must be. Be brave. Keep a stiff upper lip. Hang in there. Let come what will come." I fail to see anything spiritual about this statement of Esther, done under the prodding of her uncle.

Next time, we will respond to more points made by the reader (DV). Let us continue to "Search the scriptures" (John 5:39) and may the Lord be pleased to grant us all greater understanding of His Word. Prof. Hanko

If you would like to receive the Covenant Reformed News free by e-mail each month (and/or by post, if you are in the UK), please contact Rev. Stewart and we will gladly send it to you.