April 2007 • Volume XI, Issue 12
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
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
Family: Foundations are Shaking by Prof. Gritters (£1.50 inc.
and/or "Rearing Covenant Children for the End-Time" by Prof. Engelsma
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
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
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.
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