Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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May 2005, Volume X, Issue 13


The Goodness of Singleness (1)

I Corinthians 7 is the outstanding chapter in all the Word of God on the subject of Christian marriage and singleness. It deals with just about every variation on these two states. Here inspired instruction is given to Christians who are married to an unbeliever, who have been deserted by their spouse and who are separated from their spouse, as well as Christian virgins and widows.

I Corinthians 7 provides a healthy corrective to the foolishness which passes for wisdom in the world and with many professing Christians. Here mere emotionalism and unhealthy romanticism find no place. I Corinthians 7 has no time for worldly notions that physical beauty is the number one thing in a mate, that sex is the be-all and end-all, and that marriage is all about self-fulfilment and feeling good. Listen to the following samples of biblical realism: "it is better to marry than to burn" (in lust; 9), "the fashion of this world passeth away" (31), and married people "shall have trouble in the flesh" (28). Marriage and singleness require serious thought and biblical sobriety. Many, sadly, end up marrying foolishly or are carried away by lust into fornication.

Some speak of the single Christian life as freedom. Others call it evil and bitter, a sore trial and a heavy cross. The Word of God calls it "good:" "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" (1). "Touch" here refers to intimate, sexual touching. Thus when God kept back Abimelech from sleeping with Sarah, it is said that he did not "touch" her (Gen. 20:6). Similarly, in Proverbs 6:29 touching a woman is synonymous with going in to her.

As a "good" state for a Christian, singleness is beautiful, becoming and worthy. It is not contrary to God’s moral ideal and there is nothing shameful about it. Two false inferences have been made from the goodness of singleness—both in favour of asceticism and monkery. First, some, like Jerome (c.345-c.419), have inferred that if it is good to be single, then singleness is a more holy state than marriage. Second, it has been argued that if it is good not to touch a woman then it is bad to touch a woman, that is, there is something unclean and sinful about marriage and sexual intercourse.

However, when the Bible teaches that singleness is good, this does not mean that other states are bad. Marriage, like singleness, is a good state. Marriage is an institution of God and a picture of the covenant union of Christ and His church. "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled" (Heb. 13:4). Parenthood is also a good state. Just sing Psalms 127 and 128 where children are seen as a blessing and a heritage from the Lord. Thus singleness, marriage and parenthood are all good states for the Christian. Next time, we shall consider how singleness is good (DV). Rev. Stewart

Is There Death in Heaven? (1)

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).

A reader asks, "Why does Isaiah 65:20 see sin and death in the new heavens and the new earth?" The reader also refers to Revelation 21 and II Peter 3 as proof that death shall not enter the new creation. Revelation 21:4 declares, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death ..." II Peter 3:13 is probably the verse to which the reader refers: "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." Surely, where righteousness is, death cannot be, for death is the punishment for sin.

At the very outset, I want to assure readers of the News that I am aware that the text is difficult to explain. Because of its difficulty, I am not sure that I have the right interpretation; I invite readers to submit their interpretation if they have a better one.

One thing is sure. The interpretation of the text, whatever it may be, cannot allow for death in the new creation which is to come. That would be dreadful, and would rob heaven of its blessedness. Scripture is very emphatic that death belongs to this creation and is the curse pronounced upon it and upon man for sin. Salvation, including its final glory in heaven, is emphatically salvation from death.

It is probably important to make a couple of more general comments before I offer my explanation. The first is this. Both premillennialists and postmillennialists frequently appeal to Isaiah 65 in support of a kingdom of Christ here upon earth, either after Christ’s coming (premillennialism) or before Christ’s coming (postmillennialism). Both interpretations are wrong. Both fail to take into account the typical character of the Old Testament Scriptures; i.e., specifically, both fail to recognize that Israel in the Old Testament was a type of the whole church of Christ gathered from the beginning to the end of time, and that Canaan was an Old Testament picture of heaven.

Both appeal to this text because it seems to speak of death in the kingdom of Christ, and, of course, if that kingdom is realized here in the world, there will be death. How discouraging! If the believer has only a kingdom in which there is still death, that is not much of a kingdom. For, if death is present, sin will also be present, along with sickness and sorrow. That is all we may ever hope for in this world. It is only in another world that God will wipe away all tears from our eyes, and there will be no more death.

Further, both premillennialists and postmillennialists do not reckon with the context in which Isaiah 65:20 is found. If they would pay attention to the context, they would notice that Isaiah speaks here of the final perfection of the kingdom of Christ in a new heavens and a new earth, which is not in any sense to be found in this present creation: "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind" (17).

Yet, in spite of the fact that Isaiah, under divine inspiration, is speaking of the new creation which shall be established when Christ comes again, he nevertheless uses Old Testament figures. Read on: "But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy" (18). Jerusalem is used as synonymous with the new heavens and the new earth. It is no wonder that the apostle John, in describing this new creation, speaks of it as "new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven" (Rev. 21:2).

Verse 19 carries on that same thought and also speaks of the new creation as Jerusalem: "And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying." This reminds one of Revelation 21:4: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."

Isaiah 65:20, which has our attention for the moment, must be interpreted in this same way, namely that the Old Testament is a typical description of the New. Canaan was a picture of heaven. Jerusalem was a picture of the kingdom of heaven where the throne of Christ, pictured in David, was established; and where the temple was a picture of God dwelling in covenant fellowship with His people. Israel was a picture of the church of all ages, destined to live in covenant fellowship with God in the kingdom of Christ forever in a new and glorious creation in which heaven and earth are one.

Further, Isaiah is prophesying of the return of Judah to Canaan from the Babylonian captivity. He finds in that return a type of the final deliverance of the church from the captivity of this present evil world into its full salvation in heaven in Jesus Christ. Isaiah 65 (including verse 20) must be interpreted in that light.

It ought not surprise us that God revealed His purposes to Israel in such typical or pictorial ways. Israel was a child (Gal. 4:1-6). The people of God did not yet possess the Spirit of the ascended Christ who would lead them into all truth. They could not read and understand a work on Reformed dogmatics; they had to have a picture book. Parents who faithfully instruct their children do not read to their little five-year-olds Calvin’s Institutes; they show their children a Bible story book with pictures in it to help them understand.

A minister, teaching his catechumens Reformed doctrine, needs a blackboard to draw illustrations and diagrams, to help the children understand. Only when they come to years of maturity are they able to plunge into a work on Reformed dogmatics. So it was with Israel. So it is in Isaiah 65:20. If we do not keep this in mind, we shall stumble and fall in our interpretation of this rather difficult verse. Prof. Hanko

Why Did the Lord Choose Judas? (3)

A reader asks, "Why did the Lord choose Judas to be a disciple if his heart was not right with God?" Having already given three reasons, we now turn to a fourth and last reason: Christ chose a traitor (Judas) as one of His disciples to teach the visible church of the NT age about apostates in her ranks.

First, think of the great knowledge which Judas had! As well as being brought up in the Jewish church, Judas spent at least 3 years "with" Christ Himself in the flesh (Mark 3:14). Judas saw and heard things that "many prophets and righteous men" in OT days desired to see and hear (Matt. 13:17). He heard Christ’s parables, the sermon on the mount (Matt. 5-7), the Olivet discourse on the end of the world (Matt. 24-25) and Christ’s teaching on the water of life (John 4) and the bread of life (John 6), etc. He also saw Christ walk on water, heal the sick, raise several people from the dead, and feed both the 5,000 and the 4,000. He even helped gather the fragments left over (John 6:12-13)! Despite all this he lacked the saving knowledge of faith, and he perished in his sins. Many in the NT church have walked in the footsteps of knowledgeable Judas.

Second, think of the mighty works of Judas! Judas was a preacher of the kingdom of God and a miraculous healer (Luke 9:1-6, 10). He even drove out demons (Matt. 10:8), though he himself was a child of the devil (cf. John 8:44) and later Satan would enter into him (John 13:2, 27). Listen to these terrible words: "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" (Matt. 7:22-23). Judas will not be alone in this regard; he will be joined by masses of "faith healers" and charismatics.

Third, think of the glorious office which Judas occupied! He was one of the twelve disciples, no less. His name appears in illustrious lists with Simon Peter, John the beloved disciple, Matthew the tax collector and gospel penman, and all the others (Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16). Yet even in these lists the Spirit always places Judas last of the twelve and always refers to his treachery. How many pastors, elders, deacons, lay preachers, revivalists, televangelists, bishops, cardinals, popes and all the rest in the history of the NT church have not betrayed the cause of Jesus Christ, revealing themselves to be successors not of the apostles but of Judas!

Many church leaders have followed Judas as thieves. Think of treasurers and deacons pilfering from the church’s offerings, popes raping Western Europe to support their armies and adorn their palaces, and health and wealth teachers promising their donors that God will make them rich!

Many in the church have followed Judas as traitors. Consider those who under persecution betray their brethren to save their own skin, or those who compromise the faith to avoid the scorn and abuse of the world, or the pastors and theologians who prostitute the gospel of Christ for their own ends. Judas stands as a warning to the Christian church to the end of the age: trust not in your knowledge, works or church office but in Christ crucified alone. And be faithful unto death. Rev. Stewart

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