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August 2003, Volume IX, Issue 16


Christ's Words Shall Never Pass Away (2)

Christ makes the strong affirmation of the permanence of His words—"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35)—in Matthew 24 because, as we saw last time, He has been predicting events, some of which are so glorious and some of which are so terrible, that they are hard to believe.

Christ’s promise is all the more necessary today since almost 2,000 years have passed and He has not yet returned upon the clouds with His angels (30-31). The church is tempted to sleep and forget about her Lord’s second coming. Moreover, scoffers have arisen who deny Christ’s return (II Peter 3). Often these are world-respected professional men with academic qualifications. "Man has come of age. We are scientific. The bodily return of Christ is a myth." Thus Jesus’ words come to us: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." So hold fast to this truth and do not be shaken by the wisdom of the world for it is "foolishness with God" (I Cor. 3:19).

Jesus does not say, "These my words shall not pass away," as if He were speaking only of a particular utterance. Instead, He says, "My words [understood inclusively] shall not pass away." Christ’s words in Matthew 24 on His coming at the fall of Jerusalem and at the end of the world, all of Christ’s words and all of Christ’s words in their context (i.e. the four gospels) shall not pass away. The NT is the words of Christ by His Spirit too. And would God promise to preserve the NT and not also preserve the OT? Thus Jesus here assures us of the preservation of the complete Word of God, OT and NT.

Christ’s promise is absolutely trustworthy; no part of God’s Word has passed away. There was no fifth gospel which was lost. The epistle that Paul wrote to the Corinthians before he wrote I Corinthians (I Cor. 5:9) has not come down to us for it was not inspired nor intended for the church of all ages. Similarly Paul’s letter to the Laodiceans (Col. 4:16) was not God-breathed. The alleged gospels and epistles by various apostles (e.g., Thomas and Andrew) are spurious. It is not the case either that God wanted to tell us more about Christ’s childhood or the forty days after His resurrection or Paul’s life after Acts 28, but that these have accidentally been lost to us. We have today all that God inspired for our learning for Christ’s words will never pass away.

And it is not just the ideas of Scripture that are preserved for us. Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). And how can we live by every word, if every word is not preserved? Beloved, every word of God is preserved according to Christ’s promise. Feed on these words for this is your life! Rev. Stewart

A New Heaven and a New Earth (1)

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful (Rev. 21:1-5).

The questioner who submitted this text asked, "In the light of Scripture, what are we to understand by the term ‘a new heaven and a new earth?’"

Revelation 21 contains the vision granted to John the apostle on the island of Patmos of the final perfection of all things and the eternal blessedness of the church after the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Part of the final perfection of all things is a new heaven and a new earth. This is clearly taught in the passage cited above. I suspect the question arises out of the use of the word "new" to describe heaven and earth after Christ’s coming: How are both these parts of God’s creation new?

It ought not surprise us that both heaven and earth will be renewed for both have, since creation, undergone some profound changes. A brief look at these changes will help us understand how a final change could take place at the coming of our Lord.

During the six days of the creation week, God created heaven and earth (Gen. 1:1). We are not told much about the creation of heaven, and the little we do know must be gleaned from other parts of Scripture. But we can be sure that heaven is a specific place, that the rational-moral creatures who live in heaven are angels, that the entire number of angels was created immediately and not as the entire human race which comes from two original parents, that the heavenly creation is not material as is this earthly creation but is spiritual in substance, and that heaven has a history as well as the earth.

The first event of significance in heaven was the rebellion and fall of Satan, the head of the angelic world, and an enormous number of angels who rebelled and fell with him. Sin began in heaven. What consequences the fall of Satan had on the heavenly creation is difficult to know, for Scripture is very reticent to speak of this subject. But when Satan persuaded Adam and Eve to join forces with him in rebellion against God, both readily agreed and also fell into sin and depravity. But the consequences of the fall of our first parents was not only the total depravity of the entire human race which came forth from Adam and Eve, but the curse which came upon the creation.

The curse upon the creation was very severe and made great changes in everything. These changes are so great that we are unable even to form an adequate picture of what the original creation was like. After all, the curse means that death came on the creation—upon man, beasts and birds, and trees, bushes and flowers. We cannot imagine a creation in which was no death, not even in the plant world. But so it was.

We might want to notice in this connection that evolutionism denies death as God’s punishment for sin. Evolutionism teaches a very old earth in which death was present from the beginning of the creation’s history. But Scripture denies this and tells us that death came with the curse.

The curse made life on earth very difficult. This is why Lamech called his son Noah (Rest or Comfort) because, he said, "This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed" (Gen. 5:29).

In some sense heaven was also affected by the fall, for the angelic world was left without a head. And, during the entire OT period Satan and his demons still could come into heaven. For example, in heaven they slandered Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7). They were once again in heaven to fight over the body of Moses (Jude 9) and had to be resisted by Michael and his angels. When God asked the question who would deceive Ahab to go to battle against the Syrians, a devil volunteered to do this (I Kings 22:19-22). At the time of the ascension of our Lord, Satan and his demons were thrown out of heaven, never to be permitted to enter again (Rev. 12:7-11).

Another drastic change came upon the earth at the time of the flood. This change was so great that it is no easier to imagine the pre-deluvian world than to imagine the world before the fall. For one thing, the curse was somewhat lessened as a fulfilment of the prophecy of Lamech and as is described by God in Genesis 8:21-22, where God speaks of the fact that from the time of the flood on there would be seasons and the successful growing of crops. For another thing, Peter contrasts the pre-deluvian world with the post-deluvian world by describing the former as a creation "standing out of the water and in the water," while the post-deluvian creation is said to be "kept in store, reserved unto fire" (II Peter 3:5-7). And finally, because the flood was a type of the final destruction of the world and the salvation of the church, the change from the pre-deluvian world to the post-deluvian world was typical of the change between our present world and the new heaven and the new earth (12-13).

One more element must be taken into account before I actually turn to the question of how heaven and earth are indeed "new." The Scriptures tell us that because sin came into both heaven and earth, the former directly through Satan’s rebellion and the latter through man’s disobedience to God, Christ died for the elect angels as well as His elect people; and that Christ died for the heavenly and the earthly creation. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; the entire cosmos with the elect as the true human race is the object of God’s love. This is taught in many passages in Scripture. I suggest the interested reader look up Romans 8:19-23 and especially Colossians 1:15-20 which teaches that "all things ... whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven" are reconciled to God through the cross of Jesus Christ. Prof. H. Hanko

The Role of Israel (1)

The lady who asked about the meaning of Christ’s cursing the fig tree, while stating that she agreed with most of the exposition in the last issue of the News, questions one of my conclusions: "At no time in the future will Israel be restored to her special nation status with God and certainly not in some future earthly millennium." She quotes Jeremiah 31:36 which says that Israel shall never "cease from being a nation before me for ever" and several other passages (Isa. 41:9; Eze. 37:22; Ps. 121:4) which she understands as speaking of a future spiritual restoration of the nation of Israel. Her question thus concerns (chiefly) the subject of the last times or, more specifically, the role of national Israel in the future.

The difference can be expressed like this. (1) There are passages in the Bible which speak of God’s casting off Israel because of their rejection of the Messiah. Jesus cursed the fig-tree (which the questioner and I agree refers to Israel): "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever" (Matt. 21:19). Later Christ said to the Jews, "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (43). (2) Other Scriptures (such as Jer. 31:36) say that God chose and loves Israel and that He will never cast her off.

How are these to be reconciled? Some say that God will convert national Israel in a future millennium or golden age (premillennialism and dispensationalism). This view seeks to reconcile (1) and (2)—that Israel is cast off and that Israel will not be cast off—by saying that Israel is not now experiencing God’s special favour but that she will be converted in the future. The other view is that Israel is not now and never will be restored as God’s special nation and that the OT passages which promise that she will not be cast off refer to spiritual Israel, both Jews and Gentiles who are elect and called.

In support of the latter position, I remind you that Christ’s pronouncement, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever" (Matt. 21:19), is a word of curse upon the nation of Israel ending her role as the nation of God not just for two thousand or more years but "for ever." But more needs to be said than this because, as the questioner indicates, this is an important issue determining one’s view of Israel and the future, as well as one’s interpretation of many Scriptures and OT prophecy. However, this will have to wait for consideration in the next few issues. Rev. Stewart

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