Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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June 2005, Volume X, Issue 14


The Goodness of Singleness (2)

Singleness, Scripture teaches, is "good" (I Cor. 7:1). First, singleness is "good" as a good institution of God. We rightly speak of marriage as a creation ordinance (Gen. 2:24) but singleness too was instituted at creation for there was a (short) time when Adam was single. To state the obvious, all are born single and so everybody, including married people, were once single. The singleness which God wills for all His people (for a time) is "good." Second, not every Christian is obligated to marry. It is "better to marry than to burn" in lust (I Cor. 7:9) but some are given the "gift" of continence and others the "gift" of marriage (7). Third, the goodness of single life is evinced in that not only are angels single but so were the apostle Paul (8) and even Christ Himself. All unmarried persons are to glorify God in their single state. Fourth, all will be single in heaven. Earthly marriage is temporary (29, 31). In the new heavens and the new earth, there will only be one marriage, that of Christ and His church for ever. Fifth, single people avoid the cares of marriage (26, 28, 32). Sixth, single Christians ordinarily have a greater freedom to serve the Lord (32-35). In short, singleness is good as a divine "gift" (7), blessing (40) and calling (17) which is preferable to marriage in certain circumstances (40)—though marriage is preferable in other circumstances (9).

All this has important implications for married people in their attitude towards single Christians. Unmarried (or widowed) believers are not lesser Christians or second class citizens in the kingdom of heaven. The older unmarried sister is not just some old maid. She is part of the body of Christ; a necessary part of His body. Similarly, the single man must not automatically be thought of as odd or strange. No one ought to offend one of Christ’s little ones (Matt. 18:6).

The single Christian must believe on the basis of the Word of God that his single state is "good." God has good purposes for the single believer, for "all things [including singleness] work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28). Moreover, it is in the way of believing the goodness of single life that the single Christian experiences the goodness of single life. One may object, What is good about cooking alone and eating alone and washing up alone? However, singleness can be and is good even when it brings its own trials and struggles. Singleness can be and is good even though you (lawfully) desire and seek to be married and have children. For the Bible declares singleness to be "good" and we must believe this and not murmur about God’s providence towards us. Thus the single Christian must avoid self pity and desperation and learn to be content in whatever state God puts him or her—a difficult calling for all of us in all our circumstances (Phil. 4:11). Rev. Stewart

Is There Death in Heaven? (2)

There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed (Isa. 65:20).

Last time, I pointed out the failure of pre-millennialism and post-millennialism to interpret the Old Testament in general and Isaiah 65 in particular from the viewpoint that the Old Testament is the dispensation in which God spoke to His people through types and shadows, or what we may call "pictures" of things to come.

Isaiah is prophesying of the return of the captives from Babylon to Canaan, and he finds in this a picture of the gathering of the elect people of God throughout history from their spiritual captivity into the final perfection of the everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ in the new heavens and the new earth.

The first part of Isaiah 65:20 reads: "There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days." The little word "thence," though often overlooked, is important here. Literally, it means "from there;" not merely "there." You can readily recognize the difference. If I say, "There are no English there," meaning Belgium, that is quite different from saying, "There are no English from there," meaning Belgium again (but speaking in some other place such as America). The former means that there are no English in Belgium. The latter means that, though there may be English in Belgium, there are no English from Belgium who are here (in America).

Now that we understand that "thence" in the text means "from there," the question is: From where? The answer is, From the earth. Isaiah is standing, as it were, in vision, in the new heavens and the new earth. As he surveys those in the new heavens and in the new earth, he sees none from earth who are infants or who are old men who have not filled their days. "Thence" or "from there," therefore, means from old Jerusalem; from the church on earth; from the company of those who die in the hope of heaven, but who die without ever accomplishing their purpose as they intended it.

It is characteristic of both infants and old men who have not filled their days that infancy or old age, and death in both cases, have prevented them from attaining their purpose in life. An infant dies as an infant, without ever attaining childhood, much less adulthood. It is not educated; it has no active work in the church; it does not marry and raise a family. It is swept away by an untimely death. It dies, so we say, before its time.

But when we get old, it is also difficult to fulfil our time. There is so much left to do. Our families seem to need us; our books are still unwritten; our work that we began lies unfinished. And all this is true because old age makes it impossible to fulfil our tasks. It is not long before illness strikes and the doctor tells us that we have to slow down. Then our eyes grow dim and we have troubling seeing; our ears cannot hear very well; our backs will not enable us to lift anything heavy; our muscles and joints ache; our energy slips away. And so we have to cut down on our work and gradually quit it altogether. We cannot fulfil our days. To us our days seem always unfulfilled.

But in heaven this will not be the case. I do not know whether in glory there will be a preservation of the age of God’s people who die in infancy, or who die in the full strength of manhood and womanhood, or who die venerable and wise in the ways of God. But in heaven, no matter how the saints appear in glory, there will be no limitations of any sorts, nor anything that will prevent every saint from fulfilling his full God-given purpose. Each, in full strength and glory, will be fully capable of serving God in such a way that all God’s purpose for him is accomplished.

The second part of the verse—"... for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed"—explains the first part for it gives its reason or cause. "... for the child shall die an hundred years old" refers to one who is God’s elect; he or she is righteous in Christ. He or she can confidently expect to leave this life and go to glory. "... but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed" refers to the wicked here in this world whose life is spent in sin and who lie outside the scope of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.

The text looks at both the righteous and the sinner from God’s point of view and explains why in glory there shall be no more an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days. The reason is that from God’s point of view, whenever an elect dies, even if he or she dies an infant, that one had fulfilled the purpose of his or her life in the world. God does not take one of His elect out of the world before that individual, though a babe, has fulfilled the purpose for which God gave it life and breath to begin with. Even if, therefore, a child never lives to be a hundred years old, and we say that the child died before it accomplished anything, God says that His purpose is accomplished. And its place in glory, determined by its life in the world as God fulfilled His purpose with that child, is a life in which the full accomplishment of its purpose shall be realized.

But the wicked will never enter into glory. Their life in the world, in all their sin, was futile and useless. Maybe an ungodly man worked hard and won world acclaim for his mighty accomplishments. But from God’s point of view, he never accomplished anything at all. The wicked, all their life, are on a treadmill. They labour and toil but never get anywhere. They labour, but for themselves and not for God. Even if they live to be a hundred years old, their works are burned up in the conflagration which consumes all things at the end.

And so the text teaches us many lessons. (1) We cannot properly measure the length of our sojourn in the world. (2) There is no death in the new heavens and the new earth. (3) Though our labour seems so often to be in vain here on earth, yet it is never in vain, for God determines the length of our pilgrimage, using us in His own way for His purpose. (4) All the works of the wicked, no matter how magnificent, amount to nothing, for though the ungodly live to be a hundred, they are accursed. There is no common grace for the wicked. (5) In heaven, it shall be so glorious that all our work shall never be vain and empty, but always to God’s glory, always fully satisfying, always showing forth the praises of the God of our salvation. Prof. H. Hanko

What Motivated Judas to Betray Christ? 

Having discussed in the last three issues of the News why the Lord chose Judas, we now consider why Judas betrayed Christ or, to be more precise, the motivation of Judas in betraying Jesus. At first this seems like a very simple question. Judas was motivated by covetousness. Thus he betrayed the Lord for money: 30 pieces of silver (Matt. 26:15). Moreover, we are specifically told that he was "a thief" (John 12:6). This "treasurer" of the Lord and the twelve was hardened in this sin by pilfering from the "bag" over some period of time. However, 30 pieces of silver was the price of a slave gored by an ox (Ex. 21:32), a pitiful sum (Zech. 11:12-13; Matt. 27:9). Could not Judas have made more money by continuing to steal from the bag?

Is there perhaps another, deeper reason for Judas’ treachery? John 6 is suggestive. Here Christ first announces to His disciples that there is a traitor in their midst: "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" (70). Why should the Lord mention it at this point? Because many of His erstwhile followers had just forsaken him: "From that time many of his disciples [i.e., the broader circle] went back, and walked no more with him" (66). At this Jesus asks the twelve, "Will ye also go away?" (67). Peter then confesses Jesus as "that Christ, the Son of the living God" (69). Whereupon Christ tells them that there is even a traitor amongst the twelve (70-71).

But what was it that made Christ’s apparent followers forsake Him? It was His doctrine. He declared that He is the life-giving bread of heaven (27, 32-33, 35, 41, 48-58), a bread eaten by faith alone (29, 35, 40, 47). He told them that men only come unto Him by the powerful drawing and inner teaching of the Father (44-45) and that only those whom the Father "gives" to Him in time, according to God’s eternal election, will come to Him (37, 39). The last straw came when Jesus repeated His earlier teaching: "Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father" (65). "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him" (66). These people merely wanted to see miracles (2, 14) and have their bellies filled (26) for their heart was set on an earthly king withan earthly, carnal kingdom (15). The truth of God’s sovereign grace in Christ alone exposed them, so they "went back, and walked no more with him" (66).

It may well be that Judas held the same, widespread, carnal hopes. Over three years of hearing Jesus’ teaching, he was hardened and offended by the same gospel of sovereign grace. Judas’ covetousness was in keeping with this desire for an earthly Messiah ruling a triumphant Jewish kingdom bringing worldly peace and prosperity. So when Jesus proved not to be the Messiah Judas wanted, he sold him for the price of a gored slave, showing us the use he had for such a Christ. Rev. Stewart

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