March 2007 • Volume XI, Issue 11
this Passing World (1)
The apostle Paul gives three reasons in I Corinthians
7:25-34 why is it preferable to remain single. First, the argument from
sin: there are distress and trouble in marriage (25-28; CR News
XI:10). Second, the argument from eschatology or the last times: "the
fashion of this world passeth away" (29-31). Third, the argument from
our chief end: "how [we] may please the Lord" (32-34).
However, it is not preferable to remain single if you
burn sexually: "But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is
better to marry than to burn" (9). This is a command to those who
do not have the "gift" of sexual self-control (7), yet they must marry
"only in the Lord" (39).
Of the three arguments given above, the argument from
eschatology is the most unexpected and striking to us. But the apostle,
who was soaked in eschatology and understood the unity of God’s
truth—that all biblical doctrines are related—was inspired here even to
treat marriage in the light of eschatology.
Again, we see that marriage is a subject that
requires thinking, sober thinking, including considering it from various
angles, because marriage is two people becoming one flesh, for better or
for worse, for life.
The two key eschatological phrases in I Corinthians
7:29-31 are "the time is short" (29) and "the fashion of this world
passeth away" (31). Together these two phrases speak of created reality
from two different aspects: time ("the time is short") and space ("the
fashion of this world [kosmos] passeth away").
"The fashion of this world passeth away" refers to
the transformation of the creation at the last day. Similarly, II Peter
3 tells us that the world will be purged with fire and the heavens and
the earth will be renewed. According to Romans 8:19-22, the creation
shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption. Matthew 19:28 refers
to "the regeneration" of the heavens and the earth. "The time is short"
teaches us that it will not be long before all this takes place.
The phrase, "the fashion of this world passeth away,"
helps us reconcile apparently contradictory scriptural statements. Some
verses speak of the permanency of the world: "the world also is
established that it cannot be moved" (Ps. 93:1; cf. 96:10). Other verses
predict the destruction of the world: the heavens and the earth shall
"perish" (Ps. 102:26) or "pass away," "melt" and "be burned up" (II
Peter 3:10). I Corinthians 7:31 explains that it is "the fashion
of this world [that] passeth away." The world itself is permanent; God
decreed and wills that it shall forever be and that man will always live
there. But "the fashion of this world"—its external
circumstances—will pass away. This is what will "perish" (Ps. 102:26)
and "be burned up" (II Peter 3:10).
"The fashion of this world" which passes away
includes all of man’s achievements on this planet: civilizations;
cities, towns, hamlets; airports, harbours, roads; factories, libraries,
homes—and everything in them! For "the earth also and the works that
are therein shall be burned up" (II Peter 3:10).
Luke 20:34-36 contrasts this world/age with that
world/age which is to come. In this world/age there is marriage (and
thus families and children), death (and thus dying, aging and sickness)
and non-resurrection bodies (in which we currently live). In the
world/age to come there is no marriage (and thus no families or
children), no death (and thus no dying, aging or sickness) and glorious
resurrection bodies. Revelation 21:4 unfolds the idea of "no more death"
in the world to come: there will also be no more "sorrow," "crying" or
"pain," for "the former things" will pass away.
Our text (I Cor. 7:29-31) develops the idea of
as passing away, as one would expect in I Corinthians 7: "But this I
say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have
wives be as though they had none" (29). "The fashion of this world
[including marriage] passeth away" (31).
In the phrase, "the time is short," time is not
simply the succession of moments until Christ’s return, but it is the
designated time, the time appointed for salvation and the service of
God in this life. The word "short" is, literally, "shortened" or
shrunken or contracted. But what does it mean that "the time is short,"
when almost 2,000 years have passed since Christ’s ascension into
Here we should point out several things. First, time
is short from God’s perspective, for with the timeless One 1,000 years
are as 1 day (II Peter 3:8). Second, time is short from the perspective
of the endless ages of everlasting glory. Third, the next great divine
wonder work is Christ’s second coming and the renewal of all things. No
great redemptive act and no other age or dispensation are to come
between now and Christ’s return. Fourth, the signs of the end of the
world—including wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes (Matt.
24:6-7)—point to and foreshadow the grand truth that "the fashion
of this world passeth away." Fifth, time is "shortened" in that
everything which happens in this world serves the goal and end in such a
way that all God’s purposes are fulfilled so that Christ returns for His
bride, the church, as quickly as possible. Rev. Stewart
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).
Question: "How can it have been acceptable for
Mordecai to give Esther first as a concubine to King Ahasuerus (Esth.
2:8) and later to marry him (Esth. 2:17)? Yet this event is evidently
blessed of God in that the deliverance of the Jews turns on it. How can
God’s blessing on Esther’s unequally yoked marriage to a heathen king be
The book of Esther tells a stirring story, the theme
of which, as the question indicates, is the salvation of the church from
Haman’s plot to commit genocide. It is, therefore, the story of God’s
sovereign preservation of Israel, from which nation Christ was destined
to come. It is a remarkable and astonishing display of the mysterious
and wonderful ways of God’s providence. The whole coming of Christ,
through the preservation of the church in the Old Testament, rested upon
one sleepless night of Ahasuerus (Esth. 6)!
Vashti had, for moral reasons, refused to appear at a
banquet her husband had prepared for all his government officials
throughout the vast Persian Empire. Although she was not a member of the
Jewish nation, and was not a child of God, she had higher moral
standards than Esther, the Jewess. Because of Vashti’s refusal to show
her beauty to a host of drunken government officials, she was divorced
and deposed from being queen. In a sort of beauty contest, which
involved at least one night in bed with the king, Esther the Jewess was
chosen to be the new queen. She had entered the contest at the prompting
of her uncle, Mordecai, also a Jew. Both were in Shushan, the capital of
the Persian Empire, because they or their ancestors had been taken to
Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar and had moved from Babylon to Shushan when the
Babylonian Empire had been conquered by the Medes and Persians.
Through a marvellous sequence of events, God used
Esther, in her position of power, to save the Jewish nation; and Haman,
the Jews’ enemy, was hanged on the gallows that he had built to hang
Mordecai. It is well our readers read the story once again to refresh
The questioner asks how it is possible for Esther to
marry Ahasuerus and receive the blessing of God. The assumption in the
question is, of course, that, because God used Esther’s marriage to
Ahasuerus to save Israel, God blessed that adulterous union. That
assumption is wrong, although many commentators take the same position.
Many have been the discussions (and sometimes arguments) I have had with
saints who have taken the position that Esther was a true child of God.
The book of Esther is itself the proof that she was not.
Think of her sins and the sins of her uncle.
Mordecai’s and Esther’s families had refused to return to the promised
land, when Cyrus ordered and encouraged the captives to return. Their
refusal was simply due to the fact that they far preferred life in
captivity to a return to the land of promise. The reason was that they
had no interest in the coming of Christ.
Esther, at Mordecai’s promptings, entered a
royally-sponsored beauty contest, which involved fornication with the
king. What child of God would ever enter a beauty contest in the first
place? What child of God would ever enter a beauty contest, thereby
agreeing to fornication with the one sponsoring it? It was a gross
violation of the seventh commandment. She showed that her moral
standards, even though a Jewess, were lower than the heathen, Vashti. I
think that Vashti is introduced by God into the history simply to
demonstrate into what moral decay the Jewish captives had fallen.
By agreeing to marry Ahasuerus, Esther violated the
marriage ordinance God had established in paradise, for she contradicted
the purpose of marriage by being unequally yoked to an unbeliever.
The book of Esther is the only book in Scripture
which does not mention the name of God. This omission of God’s name is
intended to demonstrate to us how wicked everything that happened in
Shushan was—a wickedness providentially used by God for good.
Did God bless the union of Esther and Ahasuerus? He
most emphatically did not! It was an abomination in His sight and the
curse of the Lord was in the palace in Shushan (Prov. 3:33).
But it may be argued that God used the marriage to
save Israel and preserve His Christ, who was in the loins of the nation.
Indeed He did! The salvation of the nation and the remarkable events
that led up to it were surely under the guidance of God’s sovereign
But we may not conclude from this that God blessed
Esther, and that she was a true believer.
A principle is at stake here. In a very broad sense
of the word, it is the principle laid down by Paul in Romans 8:28, that
all things work together for good to them that love God. The "all
things" include all the wicked world and everything they do. It is by no
means a strange idea in Scripture that God uses wicked men to accomplish
His purpose. He did so pre-eminently in the cross of Christ (Acts 2:23;
4:27-28). God is completely sovereign. He rules sovereignly in all the
lives of the wicked (although in such a way that they remain accountable
for their sins). He uses the wickedness of the ungodly to serve the good
of His church, as reprobation must and does serve election. Even
persecution is the means to purify and save those who suffer with
Christ. All things are yours, Paul writes to the Corinthians, for "ye
are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s" (I Cor. 3:22-23)!
Let us together marvel at God’s wonderful providence
and bow in worship before Him who governs all things for us and for our
salvation! Prof. Hanko
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