Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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November 2003, Volume IX, Issue 19


Christ's Words Shall Never Pass Away (5)

The church of Jesus Christ confesses that the Holy Scriptures are a wonder. Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus uttered these famous words: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35), and His words have not passed away. You are a witness to this marvel, the preservation of God’s Word, OT and NT.

This is all the more remarkable in that the Bible has frequently and fiercely been attacked. In the fourth century, Diocletian, a Roman emperor, ordered all Bibles to be handed over to the civil authorities to be destroyed. The so-called Enlightenment of the eighteenth century disparaged the Scriptures as a book written in a "pre-rational" age for childish or adolescent man who had not yet attained to maturity. Higher criticism of the Bible entered the mainstream in the nineteenth century. Yet even then the nineteenth century became the century of Bible Societies translating the Scriptures into many languages and distributing them all around the world. Today there are more translations and copies of the Bible than any other book. After 2,000 years of desperate efforts, the unbelieving world has still failed to prove one error in God’s Word.

We must thank God for the Bible and its preservation. It is rightly said that verbal inspiration is only a significant doctrine if verbal preservation is also true. Without the preservation of the Bible, the church would be unable to fulfil the great commission. How could we go into all the world to preach the (pure) gospel if the Scriptures are hopelessly corrupted? Moreover, the preservation of the Bible and the preservation of the church are closely tied together. Without the Bible, there would be no church, for the Word—preached and read—creates the church. On the other hand, without the church there would be no one (humanly speaking) to preserve the Bible.

We can be sure that our Bible (Authorised Version) is a trustworthy and faithful translation of God’s inerrant and preserved Word—a Word breathed out by the Spirit in Hebrew and Greek thousands of years ago. Christians have nothing to fear from unbelieving textual critics or new discoveries of ancient manuscripts. For Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Rev. Stewart

The Role of Israel (4)

Last time, from a study of the relevant NT texts (Matt. 26:28; I Cor. 11:25; Heb. 8:8-12; 10:16-17), we saw that "Israel" and "Judah," the new covenant people in Jeremiah 31:31-34, are the NT catholic church consisting of believing Jews and Gentiles. This is simply the way the blessed Holy Spirit interprets the words which He breathed forth in Jeremiah 31.

Every time a Christian partakes of the wine at the Lord’s Supper, he is confessing that he is one of the "many" for whom Christ shed His blood, the "blood of the new testament [covenant]" (Matt. 26:28) spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Thus, whether he is a Jew or a Gentile, he is saying that he is a citizen of the "house of Israel" and the "house of Judah" (Jer. 31:31, 33). Thus even a dispensationalist Gentile, by partaking of the Lord’s table, confesses that he is a member of the new covenant community in Christ. As a Gentile, he must confess that he is an Israelite not physically but spiritually (cf. Rom. 2:28-29). Moreover, as a member of the NT church he thereby confesses that the NT church is prophesied in the OT in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Furthermore, the inspired interpretation of Jeremiah 31 in the NT gives absolutely no indication that this prophecy will be fulfilled in a later era (such as a purported earthly Jewish millennium). Just read for yourself the accounts of the Lord’s Supper in Matthew, Mark and Luke and I Corinthians 11, as well as II Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 8 and 10.

But more can be said from Hebrews, the NT book with most to say on the new covenant. Hebrews 1:2 describes the era of the incarnation and work of Christ onwards as the "last days." The coming of God’s Son (Heb. 1:2), including the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17-18), marks the beginning of the "last days." When God proceeds to speak of the new covenant in Hebrews 8 and 10 it is in intimate connection with the work of the Messiah who brought in the "last days." Christ, "the priest forever after the order of Melchisedec" (7:21), offered up Himself as the one great sacrifice for sins (7:27) and thus became the "surety of a better testament [covenant]" (7:22), the "new covenant"(8:8-12) prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Thus the "new covenant" is a blessed reality for the NT church of believing Jews and Gentiles—spiritual "Israel" and "Judah" (Jer. 31:31, 33)—in the last days (Heb. 1:2).

The adjective "last" in the "last days" is significant. The "last days" are literally the last days which are to come before the eternal state of the new heavens and the new earth for elect men and angels and the lake of fire for reprobate men and angels. There simply are no more days to come after the last days and before the eternal state, because the "last days" are the last days. Since the new covenant is made with believing Jews and Gentiles in the "last days," there is no other era (such as the earthly Jewish millennium of dispensationalism) prior to the eternal state in which the new covenant is to be made with ethnic Israel. Next time (DV), we will consider the implications of this for understanding the context of Jeremiah 31:31-34, namely Jeremiah 30-33. Rev. Stewart

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