An Election within an Election
Is membership of the one Body co-extensive with salvation?
We are sure that there is sufficient in the Scriptures to warrant the belief that the reception of the truth of the Mystery is subject to an elective purpose of God, operating within the wider election unto salvation, and we feel that this present volume (Dispensational Truth – Charles H. Welch) would be incomplete did we omit this very important phase of dispensational truth. Others before us have had the impression that this is so, but have been hampered by not realizing that the present dispensation did not begin until after Acts 28; consequently they have spoken of an inner election to the ‘headship’ of the one Body. This is the result of including the Body of 1 Corinthians with the Body of Ephesians. We believe that our enquiry will lead us to see that membership of the one Body itself is the object of this elective purpose.
There is another system of teaching with compromises with those who perpetuate undispensational doctrine and observances, believing that we who see the truth of the Mystery should not expose the error of the traditionalists. We might as well extend our charity and encourage the Jew in his legalism. It is not for us to assume the sovereign prerogatives of God. Having seen the truth, we must ‘leave . . . and go on to perfection’. We have to be concerned with faithfulness, even though it should limit the sphere of our so-called usefulness.
Some may object at the outset to the idea that the Lord may have chosen some (from among those who are saved) to a peculiarly exalted position. These would doubtless have joined Miriam and Aaron in their resentment against the special call of Moses (Num. 12:1-14), but they would have ‘perished in the gainsaying of Korah’ if they had continued in their rebellion against the high calling of Moses and Aaron (Num. 16:1-9). Or further, they would have murmured against the exclusive choice of Peter, James, and John to be witnesses of the Transfiguration (Matt. 17), yet their murmurings would not have altered these facts. It must ever be borne in mind, lest we be ensnared with pride, that the elective purpose of God have no room for ‘good works’.
- ‘When Rebecca also had conceived . . . It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger’. Why?
- ‘For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth’ (Rom. 9:10-12).
Human responsibility must never be slurred over, but we are convinced that our God is one ‘Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will’. Human error and satanic guile may be responsibility for the eclipse of the truth of the Mystery all down the present age, yet of this we are certain, that none who were predestined by that unalterable counsel of God to ‘come to a knowledge of the truth’ could fail to receive it. Hence we are driven to the conclusion that the time has come when the Lord intends to strip from our eyes the bandages of tradition, and from this time onward to take the grave clothes from many believers who have been marked off to receive the truth so long hidden beneath the rubbish of Christendom’s conflicting creeds. The Lord has already given the life-giving command, ‘Come forth!’ and the liberating command, ‘Loose him, and let him go’ (John 11:43,44). We believe that ‘the knowledge of the truth’ of the Mystery is only attained by those who are the subjects of this ‘election within an election’. They have received no revelation, they possess no new Bible, and they claim no special holiness or learning: the truth lies upon the page of Scripture possessed by all alike, yet apparently seen by few.
Is membership of the one Body co-extensive with salvation? May a man be saved, and yet have never received a knowledge of the truth of the Mystery? These are questions to which we hope to give Scriptural answers as we proceed. In order to manifest more clearly the difference between ‘faith’ (common to all believers), and ‘knowledge’ (possessed by the subjects of this special grace), we venture to lay before the reader the arrangement of the opening verses of the epistle to Titus. It will be seen in the suggested structure (1) that ‘the faith of God’s elect’ is described under the member C, d, e, f, and (2) ‘the knowledge of the truth’ under C, f, e, d.
A a Paul (Name). b A servant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ (Title). c According to (1) faith (the faith of God’s elect); (2) truth (the knowledge of the truth).
B According to godliness.
C d Upon hope of eternal life. e Promised by God Who cannot lie. f Before age-times. [[Faith. — Believed by those who are called ‘Calvinists’.]]
C f Manifested in its own seasons. e His Word by heralding. d Entrusted to me. [[Knowledge. — Denied by most of those so called.]]
B According to the command of God our Saviour.
A a Titus (Name). b Mine own son (Title). c According to a common faith.
It is clear that we are not saved according to our knowledge, yet it is quite certain that none can really believe, hope for, and suffer together with, that which they neither know nor understand. Many have believed with ‘the faith of God’s elect’ who have been hopelessly confused concerning the right division of truth. Men like John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, or of more recent times, Joseph Irons, and Charles H. Spurgeon, have been stalwart champions for the faith of God’s elect, but if we examine them upon the next item (the knowledge of the truth), they evidence a lack of agreement which leads to confusion. With them kingdom and the church, Israel and the one Body, Abrahamic promise, Zion, and the earth’s regeneration are all spiritualized away, yet one of those to whom the knowledge of the truth has been given would think for one instant that they were better than these men of God named above.
The faith of God’s elect is explained as comprising three items (see structure, member C). It has before it:
- the hope of eternal life,
- which God, Who cannot lie, promised,
- before the age-times.
These items are enlarged upon in the writings of the great Reformers and Puritans. The knowledge of the truth is explained in a twofold way;
(a) it is closely connected with ‘godliness’ (a term which we shall examine shortly), and (b) this truth has:
(i) a peculiar season for its proclamation, which is now, the present dispensation;
(ii) it is heralded or proclaimed by the word and words given to …
(iii) the special apostle of the Mystery . . . Paul.
Orthodoxy makes no distinction between the proclamation announced in Pentecostal days, or ‘gospel’ times, and the present period; it starts its church at Pentecost, and seeks to rule it by Matthew 18. As to recognizing Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, his epistles might as well have never been written, for the place which they are given in its meditation of preaching. If a ‘text’ or a ‘reading’ is wanted, the Gospels, the Acts, the Psalm, etc., are chosen again and again, whereas Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Timothy, and Titus are practically a dead letter. http://www.levendwater.org
Before passing from this passage we would like to call attention to the word translated ‘godliness’. The word is eusebeia, and occurs 15 times in the New Testament. Fifteen is 5 (grace) x 3 (divine perfection). The Pauline epistles contain 10 of these 15 occurrences, stil emphasizing 5, the number of grace. The average idea of godliness goes little further than piety, but the word means much more than this conveys to the English reader. It embraces the larger meaning of worship, and may be rendered ‘the act or state of worshipping well or acceptably’. Just as euaggelion means good message, and eudokia, good will, so eusebeia means good worship. Worship to be good must be in harmony with the will of God in reference to the dispensation obtaining for the time. Good worship once demanded the offering of the blood of bulls and goats, but that would not be acceptable now. Good worship once was accepted only at the Temple at Jerusalem, but such is impossible now.
If we read the literature of many of the ‘bodies’ of Christendom, we shall hear many echoes of the Samaritan woman’s words (John 4:20); it is all about where we may or may not worship . . . the Lord’s reply seems to be overlooked. He disposes of both the Samaritan and the Jewish centres, and tells us that ‘God is Spirit, and they who worship [[this is not the same word as is translated ‘godliness’]] Him must worship Him in true spirituality’. While so many sorrow over the so-called worship which must have its solos, living pictures, politics, ethics, etc., they themselves are often involved in a system of bondage to ceremonies, observances, ordinances, and traditions, perpetuating that which belongs to another dispensation, and failing to offer that worship which is in harmony with the time now present. Those who ‘resist the truth’ ate in the context brought into close connection with those who suffer persecution for living in harmony with godliness or proper worship.
This failure to appreciate the spiritual character of the present dispensation is the secret that lies at the root of the bitterness that occurs among those believers who retain any regard for the Word of God. Zealous for God, but not according to the knowledge of the truth, they have instituted a miniature Popery, the ‘central act of worship’ is made an occasion of harshness worthy of a Diotrephes (3 John 9,10), and the true ‘place of worship’ is unrecognized. Worship to be acceptable must be offered where the great High Priest is. That is entirely independent of place, denomination, or circumstance; many have been received into fellowship there who would ‘defile’ some assemblies on earth. ‘Heaven itself’, the true ‘Holiest of all’, is the one place of worship worthy of the name. From that assembly none can excommunicate. The binding and loosing of man has no effect there.
We have often felt, when we have heard of some believers who are called ‘over-sight’ brethren, that the word ‘over-sight’ has more than one meaning, and that while many have been keen over trifles comparable to the tithing of pot-herbs, the weightiest matters concerning the unity of the Spirit, and worship consistent with the dispensation of the Mystery, have been ‘overlooked’.
In 2 Timothy 2 and 3 we read of two classes. One class, to whom the Lord may ‘peradventure give repentance to the knowledge of the truth’, and another, who though ‘ever learning never come to a knowledge of the truth’ (‘knowledge’ and ‘acknowledge’ in Titus 1:1; 1 Tim. 4:3 (verb); 2 Tim. 2:25 and 3:7 are the same). The first passage occurs in a setting which is of the utmost importance, especially just now. The arrangement of the passage (2 Tim. 2:14-26) is as follows:
2 Timothy 2:14-26
A 14,15. a Strive not. b Study. c Rightly divide the Word of truth.
B 16. Shun. C 17,18. Illustration, ‘Canker’. D 19. The sure foundation. C 20,21. Illustration, ‘Vessels’. B 22,23. Flee . . . avoid.
A 24-26. a Not strive. b Instruct. c Knowledge of truth, and recovery from snare of the Devil.
It is important that we should realize the purpose of this structural arrangement. It is not merely to excite our curiosity; it is for our instruction. The central member (D) is the important one, and should be studied first. It tells us that in the midst of all the trials and perplexities of this pilgrimage, God’s sure foundation standeth. Let those who are troubled remember that and take courage. The door of heaven has not been closed by the shutting of a meeting place; access it still free there.
The foundation of God has connected with it (like a seal) the words. ‘The Lord knoweth them that are His, and let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity’. These words are found in a most significant passage in the Old Testament, and supply the key to unlock the whole of the context. The moment we turn to Numbers 16 we shall see that it is directly connected with the ‘election within an election’, and will throw light upon the much-discussed ‘vessels unto honour and dishonour’. Korah and his company rebel against the thought that Moses and Aaron should be favoured with higher privileges than they were, and expressed their feelings by saying:
- ‘Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?’ (Num. 16:3).
Moses does not ‘strive’, but falls upon his face. He then speaks to Korah in the words of 2 Timothy 2:19:
- ‘Even to morrow the LORD will shew who are His‘ (Num. 16:5, cf. the Septuagint with 2 Tim. 2:19 Greek).
- ‘Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you (sons of Levi) from the congregation of Israel — and seek ye the priesthood also?’ (Num. 16:9,10).
Just before the terrible judgment fell upon Korah and his company, Moses uttered the words which form the second portion of the seal of 2 Timothy 2:19, ‘Depart I pray you from the tents of these wicked men’. Surely we can see that the Lord intends us to use this passage in interpreting 2 Timothy 2. The very ones resented the special choice of Moses and Aaron were themselves specially chosen out of the congregation of Israel. They rebelled against ‘an election within an election’.
On either side of the sure foundation we have the members marked C and C, Hymenaeus and Philetus on the one hand, and the great house with its various vessels on the other. We must exercise care here lest we miss the Holy Spirit’s meaning. In the first case we have teachers of error, whose word eats like a gangrene. Are the vessels unto dishonour to be reckoned as typifying the same? Much depends upon the force of the little word ‘but’ in verse 20. The injunction had been, ‘depart from iniquity‘ and lest by over zeal the believer should think that such a title could not possibly mean a fellow saved one, the apostle reminds him that ‘in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earthenware, and some indeed to honour, and some, on the other hand, to dishonour’. In other words, he must be prepared to find within the circle of electing grace two classes.
Some will have, by grace, received a knowledge of the truth, while others, though saved, never get beyond the faith of God’s elect. All such will ‘live’, but all will not ‘reign’; some will be ‘denied’ this ‘honour’. It is interesting to note here that Timothy’s name is suggestive, as it means ‘honoured of God’!
Interpreted in the light of Numbers 16 this passage indicates that in the present purposes of God there are some who have been chosen out from the mass of believers; that they have had the eyes of their heart enlightened, that they may know what is the hope of His calling, and the truth of the Mystery, while others are left in the traditions of Christendom, saved, yet not so free as they would be did they but ‘know the truth’ (John 8:32). Orthodoxy has no room in its creed for ‘one star differing from another star in glory‘, neither has it place for the words ‘more tolerable’ in its conception of future punishment. In order better to illustrate that those under the heading ‘iniquity’ are not the ‘vessels unto dishonour’, we will turn for a moment to 2 Corinthians 6:14 to 7:1.
Both 2 Timothy 2 and 2 Corinthians 6 have been misused. From both of these passages Christians have drawn arguments about ‘being separate’ from differing Christians, and have not hesitated to use the words ‘unclean’, ‘defiled’, etc., of those who have been accepted by the Lord. Those who have been urged to ‘come out from among them‘ do not seem te have had enough courage to dare ask to whom the word ‘them’ referred, but have helped on the heart-breaking work of judging one another. The context gives a fearful list as the answer, namely, ‘unrighteousness’, ‘darkness’, ‘belial’, ‘infidel’, ‘idols’ (verses, 14-16). Are these God’s description of His erring children? Such an interpretation is but a murderous, ‘say now Shibboleth’. The true interpretation is lost in this party zeal.
2 Corinthians 6:17,18 is not an exhortation to believers, but is a complex quotation from the Old Testament which supplies the exhortation of chapter 7:1, ‘Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved (!) let us cleanse ourselves‘, etc. It is not so humiliating to be busy cleaning others, and removing the motes from their eyes, but dearly beloved, ‘let us cleanse ourselves‘. The verb ‘to cleanse’ (2 Cor. 7:1) and the verb ‘purge’ (2 Tim. 2:21) are kindred words. So also is the exhortation; he is to purge himself.
Two very distinct words are used in 2 Timothy 2. Regarding ‘iniquity’ the believer must ‘depart‘ (the word is very emphatic, and is literally (‘apostatize’), but regarding the vessels unto dishonour, he is to ‘purge himself’. The word ‘dishonour’ needs a little explanation. To the English mind dishonour signifies some positive shame, whereas the word atimia means ‘lack of honour’. This can be seen in 1 Corinthians 12:23, ‘those members of the body which we think to be less honourable‘ (atimotera). The figure of a vessel suggests the theme of our chapter — election. ‘Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto no honour?’ (Rom. 9:21). ‘That the purpose of God according to election might stand’ (Rom. 9:11). The vessels unto ‘no honour’ are those who have never received ‘the knowledge of the truth’, and who are not among those who, like Paul, look forward to the ‘honour’ of ‘reigning’. We will speak more definitely of this later.
The last two verses of 2 Timothy 2 tell us of some who are in the snare of the devil, and that they will ‘oppose themselves’ to those who bear the message of liberty and glory. The servant of the Lord does not strive, he is a vessel of gold or silver, he lets ‘the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth’ if they will. He seeks grace to be ‘gentle toward all, apt in teaching, bearing up under injury and malice (2 Tim. 3:12), in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves, if God perhaps may sometime give them repentance unto a knowledge of the truth, and that being taken alive by Him, they may awake from the snare of the devil unto His (God’s) will’ (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
Will the reader refer to the structure of this passage given on page 284; the first and last members will be seen to answer one another. In verses 14 and 15 we find the injunction not to ‘strive’ about words, while in verse 24 we have the commandment not to ‘strive’ with opposers. He who ‘instructs’ (verse 25) has ‘studied’ (verse 15), but the lesson of lessons for us is that ‘the knowledge of the truth’, which delivers from the snare of the devil, and marks one out as a ‘vessel unto honour’, is the rightly divided the Word of truth (verse 15). Here is the secret of faction and strife. Satan not only opposes the Bible as a whole, but lays a snare for the earnest believer, traps him into undispensational practices, blinds his eyes to the ‘glorious gospel of Christ’ (2 Cor. 4:4), and the truth of the Mystery, and makes him a tool in his destructive work.
Persecution and religion go hand in hand. Timothy is prepared to receive hard treatment at the hands of those who ought to have received him with open arms. 2 Timothy 3:12 has been shorn of its true meaning. ‘All who are willing to live godly in Christ Jesus (or in a manner consistent with the present will of God regarding worship) shall suffer persecution’. Some Christians suffer persecution by their endeavour to live in harmony with the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. They read this verse, and find consolation and confirmation, but this is not the meaning of the passage.
In 2 Timothy 3:10,11 Paul has made reference to the ‘persecutions’ which he endured, particularly mentioning those which came upon him at Antioch, at Iconium and Lystra. Why does he specially mention these cities? Why not Jerusalem? The reason is that Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra are associated with a ministry fulfilled in absolute independence of Jerusalem and the Twelve, and also that the Scripture intimates that it was at Lystra that the apostle, being stoned to death, was ‘caught away to paradise’ and saw the visions, and heard the words which related to the glory of Christ and the present dispensation of the Mystery. Let those who claim consolation from 2 Timothy 3:12 be consistent. Let them follow Paul in his separate teaching, then they will be entitled to the solace of this passage. The endurance of hardship is repeated several times in relation to the special truth committed to the apostle:
- ‘Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel’ (2 Tim. 1:8).
- ‘The gospel: whereunto I am appointed a preacher (herald), and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these things’ (2 Tim. 1:10-12).
- ‘Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and the things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same entrust thou to faithful men, such as shall be competent to teach others also’ (2 Tim. 2:1,2 author’s translation).
This true exclusivism disposes of nine-tenths or more of so-called teachers, for they do not even know that Paul had any distinctive message to be passed on.
The apostle continues, ‘Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ’ (verse 3). Then again, after speaking of the gospel which he calls ‘My gospel’, the apostle says, ‘wherein I suffer hardship, as an evil doer, even unto bonds . . . Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may obtain salvation, (verses 9 and 10); yes, but not only salvation, ‘that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with age-abiding glory‘. There is no need for us to begin speculating as to the difference between this salvation and the added glory, for the apostle immediately explains, ‘if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him’. This is ‘salvation’; this embraces every believer, whether he has ‘the knowledge of the truth’, or not. ‘If we endure we shall also reign with Him’. This is the added ‘glory’ and ‘honour’. ‘Living’ is one thing, reigning is another. All who reign will live, but not all who live will reign.
The Lord has been pleased to arrange that the present ‘light affliction, which is but for a moment’ (connected in this epistle in a special manner with the teaching committed to Paul), shall ‘work for us as a far more exceeding age-abiding weight of glory’. Some, maybe, will say, This is works, not grace. One thing we know, and that is, it is Scripture, and further, if the Lord had never told us of this high glory we still could not have resisted the truth when He made us see it, but we should have endured affliction sooner than give it up. Shall we say hard things then, if the Lord is pleased to add more of His riches of glory upon those who for a short season are called upon to suffer together with His despised Word?
In this dispensation of the Mystery there is no bema (or judgment seat); the dividing that will separate believers will be their attitude towards ‘the testimony of our Lord’ through His servant Paul.
Believers will either receive the truth and look forward to reigning, or will reject the truth and be denied this honour. ‘If we deny Him (if we are ashamed of the testimony of our Lord and Paul His prisoner), He also will deny us’. This in no wise touches eternal life, for ‘if we are faithless, He abideth faithful, for deny Himself He cannot’.
We can now proceed a little further. Both Paul and Timothy looked forward to a crown, which confessedly symbolizes reigning. The apostle charges Timothy:
- ‘Be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering (cf. 2 Tim. 2:24-26), and doctrine. For there will come a season when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires will, unto themselves, heap up teachers, (because) they have an itching ear, and from the truth they shall turn their ears away, and unto myths will they be turned aside’ (2 Tim. 4:2-4 author’s translation).
Here we have the prophetic picture of our own days. The evil started as recorded in 2 Tim. 1:15, ‘All they in Asia are turned away from me’, and necessarily it ends with the words, ‘turn away from the truth’. Does the reader wonder why God has laid upon the hearts of some of His children the burden of this rejected truth, and this rejected apostle? Turning from the contemplation of these false teachers, Paul addresses Timothy:
- ‘But thou, be sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist (cf. Eph. 4:11), the ministry that is thine complete’ (2 Tim. 4:5 author’s translation).
The apostle’s approaching death is the reason for this final charge. There is no more Scriptural warrant for ‘evangelistic succession’, than for ‘apostolic succesion’, the last word in ministry being 2 Tim. 2:2, ‘teachers’. Continuing we read:
- ‘for I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the season of my release has come, the noble contest I have contested, the race I have finished, the faith I have kept, henceforth there is laid up (same word in Colossians 1:5, “the hope laid up in the heavens”) for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will render unto me in that day, and not to me only, but unto them also that love His appearing‘ (2 Tim. 4:6-8 author’s translation).
The hope of the Mystery is to be received up in glory. ‘When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory’. ‘Looking for that blessed hope and the appearing of the glory’. Those who look for the parousia, or who expect to pass through the tribulation, must not be surprised if they miss this ‘crown’, especially if, by ignoring this special messenger Paul, they are found ‘denying’ (2 Tim. 2:12), and ‘ashamed’ (2 Tim. 1:8).
In 2 Tim. 2:5,6 there is another reference to a crown, ‘If moreover any man contend even in the games, he is not crowned unless he contend according to the rules. The husbandman must labour, before partaking of the fruits’. To obtain the ‘glory’ and to ‘reign’ (2 Tim. 2:10-12), the believer must ‘keep the rules’. The truths of other dispensations will not suffice. We must regulate our worship, our witness, and our warfare according to the teaching of the epistles of the Mystery, of fail. We must:
- ‘lay aside every weight, and the easily entangling sin, and run wit patience the race that lies before us, looking off unto Jesus, the Prince-leader and consummator of faith, Who for (anti, over against, or corresponding to) the joy that was lying before Him, endured a cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Heb. 12:1,2 author’s translation).
This crown, this race, make us think of the ‘prize’ of Philippians 3. The realization of ‘an election within an election’ will throw great light upon that chapter. Brethren, do you see you calling? If so, ‘walk worthy’ of it. Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth if they will.
- ‘Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are (were) called in one body; and be ye thankful’ (Col. 3:15) . . .
By Charles H. Welch – out the book: ‘DISPENSATIONAL TRUTH’ or The Place of Israel AND The Church which is His Body IN The Purpose of the Ages.
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SIGNS OF THE TIMES (1) – By Mr. C. H. Welch
‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons’ (Acts 1:7)
The sure word of prophecy, is to the believer, something so vitally linked with the truth of Scripture, and the faithfulness, sovereignty and omniscience of the Almighty, that it cannot be thrust aside, misapplied, or manipulated to suit private interpretations, but must ever be the subject of reverent enquiry, and wondrous expectancy. The prophet Isaiah to quote but one O.T. writer uses this fact or prophetic pre-vision as an antidote to the snare of idolatry into which Israel was at that time so prone to fall, and also employs it as a positive encouragement to faith.
- ‘Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods’ (Isa. 41:21-23; see also 43:9; 44:7,25,26; 46:10; 48:5).
Those who have learned to distinguish between prophetic fulfillment and the present parenthetical interposition of the dispensation of the mystery, do not look at the present cavalcade of ‘wars and rumors of wars’, or the recurrence of ‘famines, pestilences and earthquakes’ as ‘fulfillments’ of prophecy, they see clearly that when Israel became Lo-ammi ‘not my people’ (Hosea 1:9), the prophetic clock stopped (Acts 28:28), and will no go again until the present parenthetical dispensation is completed. That is one attitude, an attitude of heart and mind that honours both the Wisdom of God in making known the secret purpose of His will consequent upon Israel’s failure, and the literal and sure fulfillment of the Word of Prophecy when the times comes for Israel’s awakening, conversion, restoration and blessing.
Speaking generally concerning prophetic interpretation, whether to do with Israel or to do with the prophetic utterances of 1 Timothy 4 or 2 Timothy 3 and 4 (which comprehend practically all that is prophetic in the prison epistles), there are two main principles to remember.
- The time, season, day and hour of prophetic fulfillment is hid. ‘ . . . It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power’ (Acts 1:7); ‘But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only’ (Matt. 24:36); ‘Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh’ (Matt. 25:13).
- While the day and the hour is unknown, there are ‘signs‘ that the believer should ‘discern‘. ‘ . . . When it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: for the sky is red . . . ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?’ (Matt. 16:2,3); ‘Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see these things, know that it (He) is near, even at the doors’ (Matt. 24:32,33).
Let us, in this introductory article, become a little better acquainted with these two complementary principles: ‘Which the Father hath put in His own power‘ Acts 1:7.
This passage is translated in the R.V. ‘Which the Father hath set within His own authority’, and as a marginal reading adds ‘or appointed by’ for the word ‘set’. Some interpret this passage to mean, that the Father hath appointed the times or seasons by His own power, but others see that the words mean that the question of times and seasons has been placed by the Father within His own jurisdiction or authority.
The word translated ‘power’ in Acts 1:7 is the Greek exousia. ‘Power’, should be reserved for the translation of dunamis as in Acts 1:8, the use of the same word for both Greek words is confusing. The apostles received power, but the Father retained authority. Dunamis is derived from ‘ability’, but exousia is derived from ‘being’. For examples taken from the A.V. where exousia is translated ‘authority’, see Matthew 7:29; 21:23; Acts 9:14; 1 Corinthians 15:24. The verb tithemi ‘put’ in Acts 1:7 of the A.V. means literally ‘to place’. It is used in Acts some twenty-three times, and is translated ‘laid’, ‘whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple’ (Acts 3:2, and six other occasions). The other passages in the Acts where tithemi is translated ‘to put’, refer to ‘prison’ (Acts 4:3; 5:18,25; 12:4). Other translations in the Acts are ‘to make’; ‘to conceive’; ‘to purpose’; ‘to give’ as counsel. In the epistles it is rendered in addition to these, by such words as ‘to set’; ‘to commit’; ‘to appoint’ and ‘to ordain’. The idea of authority is evident in every reference. The phrase ‘in His own authority’ can be interpreted in the light of the same Greek words found in Acts 5:4 ‘was it not in thine own power?’ or as Moffatt freely renders it ‘and even after the sale, was the money not yours to do as you pleased about it?’ Not only has the Father complete jurisdiction over ‘times and seasons’ but the specific ‘day and hour’ when the Son of Man shall come is not even known by ‘the angels’ although they may ‘desire to look into these things’. In Mark 13:32 we have a fuller and more comprehensive statement:
- ‘But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father’.
Even after the resurrection, the Son is represented as seated at the right hand on high ‘henceforth expecting’, so completely have times, seasons, days and hours been reserved to the authority of the Father.
In the face of such statements, all attempts to calculate, forecast or otherwise anticipate ‘the day and the hour’ are alike foredoomed to failure and contrary to Scripture. The reader may very well repudiate the attempts that have been made to arrive at the date of the Second Coming by ‘Pyramid Inches’, he may, moreover, have acquaintance with such an abortive attempt as that the Dimbleby, who by the Zodiacal Circle, the Eclipse Cycle, and the Solar Cycle, ‘proved’ that the Times of the Gentiles ended in 1898 1/4 (In 1897 richtten Joodse leiders uit de hele wereld, na een oproep van Theodor Herzl, de Zionistische Wereldorganisatie op … GJCP) and that the Millennium started in 1928 1/4, a colossal set of calculations which only stand today as the monument to his misdirected energies.
Another basis for calculation, and one that claims the attention of the believer in the Bible as the book wherein is unveiled the purpose of the ages, is that which sees both in the opening chapters of Genesis, and in subsequent types and shadows, the warrant to believe that the present age will last 6000 years. There is in this view much to be commended, the danger lies in yielding to the temptation by the use of analogy to forecast dates. We have one such attempt open before us, as we write. In this computation, the days that are to come will be as it was in the days of Noach, when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:26-30) and these days are dated A.D. 1938-77, the interpretation of the ‘revealing’ of the Son of Man is given as that Christ is revealing Himself to His people for 40 years before the fall of Mystic Babylon in A.D. 1978. ‘With the Munich crisis in 1938’ says the writer, ‘we entered upon the last forty years of the Time of the End’ (Dan. 12:9).
When we examine the chronology of this writer, we discover that the dates the going forth of the commandment (Dan. 9:23) from Darius’ first year (Dan. 9:1), whereas the Companion Bible dates the going forth of the commandment from the 20th year of Artaxerxes (see Neh. 2:1). The date of Artaxerxes is given in the Companion Bible as 454 B.C., and the date of Darius is given by the writer whose work we are examining as 483 B.C., a discrepancy of 29 years, fully accounted for in Scripture, as the 483 years reach to the ‘cutting off’ of the Messiah, whereas the calculations before us make the 483 years end at the birth of the Messiah. He then adds another 30 years to the commencement of the Lord’s ministry, and so arrives at his conclusion that the age will end the 6000th year from Adam in A.D. 1977. It certainly would have been awkward to have made the 6000 years end 30 years earlier, namely in 1947 (op 29 november 1947 ratificeerde de Algemene Vergadering van de Verenigde Naties het voorstel van UNSCOP met 33 stemmen voor, 13 tegen bij 10 onthoudingen … GJCP), for that would have written Ichabod (see 1 Sam. 4:21) across the whole attempt.
We write with no unsympathetic spirit of this patient endeavour to piece together the pattern of the ages, but taking our stand with the Scriptures already quoted, can only feel sorry that another abortive attempt should be made by a confessed child of God. The recognition that the day and the hour of the Lord’s return is hidden with intention by the Lord, by no means forbids an intelligent reading both of the Scriptures and of the signs of the times. These are as clearly indicate in Matthew 24:32,33,38 and 39, as the attempt to compute the date is forbidden in Matthew 24:36. We will next examine these ‘signs of the times’ more carefully.
The Valley of Dry Bones (Ezek. 37) (2)
We have given our reasons, both from the positive statements of Scripture, and by the sad attempts of believers, for refusing to accept, or to attempt for ourselves, any computation of times, ages, analogies, astronomical data and the like, that would ‘prove’ that the Second Coming of Christ must take place on any specified date. Wo do not, however, minimize either the importance of that great event, or set aside those passage of Scripture which encourage a survey of the signs of the times. The children of Issachar, are commended in the book of the Chronicles, for they were men ‘that had understanding of the times’ and consequently knew ‘what Israel ought to do’ (1 Chron. 12:32). True understanding of the times, therefore rather than leading to a dreamy inefficiency, does the very reverse. Only those who have an understanding of the times can know what should or should not be done. The Saviour rebuked the men of His generation because they were not able to discern the signs of the times, but the context shows that foretelling the date of prophetic fulfillment was not implied. Deductions as to the weather were drawn from the character of the sky. The words of our Lord, in Matthew 16:2,3 find an echo in the proverbial rhyme:
- ‘A red sky at night, is a shepherd’s delight, But a red sky in the morning is a shepherd’s warning’.
The challenge of the Lord is that these men ‘discerned’ the face of the sky, but were unable to discern the signs of the times. The ‘discernment’ is the exercise of the judgment, with especial regard to ‘things that differ’. Diakrino the Greek word so translated implies differences (Acts 15:9; Jude 22), and a balancing of pros and cons before coming to a conclusion, hence diakrino is also rendered ‘doubt’ and ‘waver’ (Rom. 14:1; Matt. 21:21; Jas. 1:6). There is therefore nothing blind, fanatic or mistic about the discerning of the signs of the times but a careful balancing of judgment before a conclusion is reached.
Kairos. This word, in spite of the opinion of Meyer and Alford, that it ‘involves the idea of transitoriness’ is shown by Bloomfield to be far more specific. Kairos is derived (as Lennech says) from kao and means ‘a point’, and as applied to time ‘a point of time’; Plato defines kairos as ‘the acme of chronos‘.
In Matthew 24, when the Lord would direct the attention of the disciples to the signs of the times that would herald His Second Coming, He refers not to the observation of the weather, but to something akin, their observations of nature that made them know ‘that summer is nigh’. When the Lord said ‘Now learn a parable from the fig tree’, He meant, not that He was going to give them a parable which they were admonished to consider. The rise of the sap, the bursting of the fresh young leaves, all declare with one voice that ‘summer’ is nigh. So likewise, the concurrence of all the events already indicated in Matthew 34:1-33, would be sufficient evidence that ‘He is near, even at the doors’.
Luke not only records this parable of the fig tree, but because he deals also with the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24-29), speaks of the fig tree, and ‘all the trees’. The Fig, Vine and Olive trees are used in the Scripture quite frequently as types of Israel, and there is much to favour the conception that these three trees symbolize three phases of Israel’s position:
- The Fig tree sets forth Israel’s position as a nation (Matt. 21:19,20).
- The Vine indicates its spiritual privileges (Isa. 5).
- The Olive Israel’s religious privileges (Rom. 11).
In the parable of Jotham (Judg. 9:8-15), the olive, the fig, and the vine are successively invited to ‘reign’ but refuse, the offer then being made to the bramble, which accepts on conditions. This refers to Abimelech who in his turn is a type of Antichrist.
The parable of Luke 21:29, ‘Behold the fig tree, and all the trees’ is a plain indication what when we see Israel and the nations moving toward the position and relationship spoken of beforehand in prophecy our ‘redemption draweth nigh’. No none, whatever his belief or his unbelief, can close his eyes to the significant movements that are take taking place in Palestine [Israel] today. None of these movements are fulfillments of any specific prophecy; this awaits the close of the dispensation of the Mystery and the end of the times of the Gentiles, but it is as absurd as it is unnecessary to believe that no preparatory work will be done among Israel and the nations before the prophetic clock strikes once more — such a lack of preparation would demand at the time of the end a stupendous miracle for which there is no warrant.
Since writing these words, the world has been moved by the epoch making announcement at Pentecost 1948, that ‘Israel’ were once more to be considered a ‘Nation’; and on the 7 June 1967 Jerusalem was in Israeli hands.
This does not mean that their ‘lo-ammi‘ condition has ended, it does not mean that the prophetic clock has recommenced ticking, but it does mean that the most decisive movement of the centuries has taken place before our eyes, and for weal or for woe, the Rubicon has been crossed. For Israel there can be no looking back.
This is now the attitude of the Press, as following extracts will show:
Thuesday, July 13, 1948
But whatever direction future talks may take, they will get nowhere until the two fundamental issues have been settled. First, it must be brought home to the Arabs that a Jewish State in the Middle East is now a reality and that it has come to stay. The Second fundamental issue is that of immigration. If Israel is to be sovereign, her immigration cannot be restricted.
The Scriptures make it clear, that after a period of separation and negation, Israel shall ‘return, and seek the LORD their GOD, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days’ (Hos. 3:5).
Jeremiah records the promise of the Lord: ‘He that scattered Israel, will gather him’ (Jer. 31:10). During the period of Israel’s scattering, while they are called Lo-ammi ‘not My people’, the dispensation of the mystery obtains and the kingdom and its hopes are in abeyance. This fact however does not alter other facts; all truth must be held without bias or partiality.
Gentile succesion from Nebuchadnezzar still continues, although owing to the non-repentance of Israel at the first advent, the kingdoms represented by the legs (see Dan. 2:33) have entered into a phase parallel with the ‘mystery of the kingdom of Heaven’. Nations go about their ways, rise and fall, quite independently of the Church of the mystery, and scattered and blinded Israel are still with us, waiting indeed as Hosea 3 declares ‘without a king and without a prince’. If at the time of the end is to be an investment of Jerusalem by the armies of the Gentiles, then of necessity there must be inhabitants of that city; and if the inhabitants therein invested are of the stock of Israel, then of necessity, during the present period, there must have been movements among the Jewish people, even though promoted by unbelief in their true Messiah. To borrow a figure from the theatre; the play does not begin until the curtain rises, but if there were no work being done behind the curtain in preparation, there would be no play. So, until Israel occupy their position prophetic times will not have re-commenced, but if they are to commence, then much preparation must be going on here and now, and these prefatory preparations constitute legitimate ‘signs of the times’ that may be observed even today. Among such initial preparations going on at the present moment, and before our eyes is the first movement described in the vision of Ezekiel 37. A valley of dry bones, fitly described Israel’s present condition, and if it described Israel’s present condition, then it is a sign of the times. These bones are said to be ‘very dry’, and this same word appears in Isaiah 40 where we read ‘The grass withered‘ (Isa. 40:7,8). In Ezekiel the prophet is not only asked a question but is given a command ‘Prophesy upon these bones’ (Ezek. 37:4). In the vision we see, in fulfillment of the Lord’s promise, a series of movements resulting in the complete restoration of the whole house of Israel. Most of the prophecy lies beyond the bounds of the present dispensation, but the opening movement is going on before our eyes.
- ‘. . .There was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone’ (Ezek. 37:7).
Once again there is a link with Isaiah 40, for the word translated ‘noise’, is the Hebrew qol ‘voice’, which occurs in Isaiah 40:3,6. The combination of a ‘voice’ or ‘noise’ and a ‘shaking’ is found elsewhere in Ezekiel. In the prophecy against Tyre, the prophet says:
- ‘. . . Shall not the isles shake at the sound of thy fall?’ (Ezek. 26:15).
There is a day of ‘shaking’ to come, as Haggai 2:6,21 and Hebrews 12:26-28 testify, and the movements among the nations, and the upheavals that usher in the time of the end, will be used by the Lord to gather the dry bones of Israel to the land of promise. Israel do not yet ‘live’, the Spirit has not breathed upon the slain, but the movement in Jewry and in Palestine [Israel now] is most certainly the movement indicated in Ezekiel 37:7. To change the figure and revert to the parables in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, there is a most definite sign of movement manifesting itself in the Fig Tree and all the trees. The stage is being set.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES (3)
‘The Spirit speaketh expressly’ (1 Tim. 4:1)
We use the figure of the setting of a stage behind the scenes, before the actual rise of the curtain, to illustrate the difference between those signs of the times which are preparatory to the recommencement of prophetic fulfillment and the actual resumption by God of the things that pertain to Israel at the time of the end. Had it been our intention to survey these preparatory signs more fully, what an amount of suggestive lines of teaching we find ready to our hand. The changes in the climate of Palestine [Israel] which have been noted of late is one of the necessary preparatory signs. Another sign of the times is the shrinking of the world: the aeroplane, the wireless, and the television [social media] rendering ‘splendid isolation’ no longer a possibility to any country; and making the world ready for the last great dictator. The possibility of atomic warfare gives point to the cry ‘Who is able to make war with him?’ (Rev. 13:4). There have been many conjectures on the part of commentators as to how the ‘image’ of the Beast could be made visible to all that dwell on the earth, or how this image could ‘speak’, and so appear to demonstrate that resurrection from the dead had been achieved. The projecting of the ‘image’ of any ruler, and the authentic sound of his voice, is now not only possible but actual by the us of television and media coverage. These and other fascinating matters, however, we leave, in order that we may redeem the time and consider what prophetic statements must be fulfilled before the close of the dispensation of the mystery.
It will be both useless and unbelieving for anyone who has perceived the unique character of the ‘Mystery’ to take to themselves the prophetic utterances either of the O.T. or of the Gospels and the Revelation. The only valid prophecies that fall within the sphere of the present dispensation are those found in Paul’s epistles written since Acts 28:28. We know, from Ephesians 6:13 that there awaits the believer ‘the evil day‘ for which the whole armour of God has been provided; but for specific prophecies we must turn to the epistles to Timothy, for these are the only epistles written after Acts 28, that contain prophecies that pertain to the Church [ecclesia] today.
The first great prophetic utterance of the apostle after Acts 28 is found in the first epistle to Timothy chapter 4, which opens with the words ‘Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith’. It would be possible, of course, to take up these words and commence the study of this prophetic warning straight away, but to do so would be to ignore one of the first principles of all Scripture interpretation namely, the necessity of viewing any passage in the light of the context. Again, this principle may be interpreted in a very limited way and lead only to an examination of the verses immediately surrounding the passage or, it can be interpreted generously, endeavouring to see every passage of an epistle as related to the epistle as a whole. This, as the reader well knows, is our habit and we have never regretted the time spend on such an inquiry. It may not be necessary to set out the structure of this epistle in minute detail, but the following outline surely reveals two things: the intended relation of the apostasy of the latter times with the ‘Mystery of Godliness’, and the fact that these two subjects are at the very heart of the epistle.
A 1:1,2 – Salutation. B 1:3-20 – ‘Teach no other doctrine’ [hetero didaskaleo] ‘The King, incorruptible, invisible’ ‘ Shipwreck.’
C 2:1-7 – The salvation of all men. D 2:8 to 3:15 – These things write I. E 3:15,16 – The MYSTERY – Angels. 4:1-8 – The APOSTASY – Demons.
C 4:9-12 – The Saviour of all men. D 4:13 to 6:2 – These things teach. B 6:3-20 – ‘Teach otherwise’ [hetero didaskalleo] ‘The King, immortal, unseen’ ‘Drowing’. A 6:21 – Salutions.
It would take us too far from our immediate subject either to enter into the controversy that has arisen over the true reading of 1 Timothy 3:16, or to attempt an exposition of that verse, this has been done with some attempt at thoroughness in Volume 32 of the Berean Expositor. All that we will do here is to give two short extracts from that article and pass on to chapter four.
‘A question now arises from the last clause of verse 15. Is the church ‘the pillar and ground of the truth?’ If we use the word ‘church’ in its most spiritual meaning, we shall find no basis in Scripture for such an important doctrine. The case before us, however, is most certainly not ‘the Church‘ but ‘a church’ wherein there are bishops and deacons; in other words, a local assembly, and surely it is beyond all argument that the truth does not rest upon any such church as its pillar and ground. The reader will observe that in the structure, chapter 3:15 is divided between D and E, and that the latter part of verse 15 belongs to verse 16. There is no definite article before the word ‘pillar’, and a consistent translation is as follows. Having finished what he had to say about the officers of the church and Timothy’s behaviour, he turns to the great subject of the mystery of godliness with the words:
- A pillar and ground of truth and confessedly great is the mystery of godliness . . . was manifested . . . etc.
Here the teaching is that whatever or whoever the mystery of godliness shall prove to be, it or He, is the pillar and ground of truth. The mystery of godliness is then explained as ‘God manifest in the flesh’, and He, we know, is a sure and tried ‘Foundation’.
As to the reading of the Greek at 1 Timothy 3:16, we give the following summary:
- ‘The reading of 1 Timothy 3:16, ‘God was manifest in the flesh‘ is witnessed by 289 manuscripts, by 3 versions and by upwards of 20 Greek Fathers. Moreover, the text of the R.V. does not make grammatical Greek. The relative pronoun hos (the suggested alternative to Theos) should agree with its antecedent. But Musterion is neuter. Bloomfield in his Synoptica says ‘hos ephanerothe is not Greek’. We would conclude this, with the calculated affirmation of our belief that the original reading of 1 Timothy 3:16 is, ‘GOD was manifested in the flesh‘ and, like Thomas of old, we bow in this Presence and say, ‘My Lord, and my God‘ and, like Philip, we say ‘Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us”.
The focal point of the epistle is this ‘Mystery of Godliness’, and its relation to the epistle as a whole can be seen if we eliminate all detail and observe the following features:
- A 1:17 — The King of the ages. INVISIBLE
- B 3:16 — God manifest in the flesh. SEEN
- A 6:16 — The King of kings. UNSEEN
The apostasy of the last days of this dispensation is not a departure from faith in general, but from the particular and vital doctrine which the structure places central ‘God manifest in the flesh‘.
The words that introduce this prophecy of 1 Timothy 4:1 have an air of solemnity about them, ‘Now the Spirit speaketh expressly‘. A quotation introduced by the formula ‘it is written‘, commands attention and obedience, but here, the writer of the epistle seems to imply that the Holy Spirit had broken the silence as He did in Acts 13:2, or as the ‘voice’, broke in upon Peter’s vision, Acts 10:13. Some idea of the exactness implied by the adverb rhetos ‘expressly’, can be gathered from the fact that in Mathematics, rhetos was used to specify an exact quantity as opposed to a surd, which indicates a quantity not capable of being expressed in rational numbers. We are going to read that in the latter times there will not only be an ‘apostasy’ which, however sad to contemplate, is not beyond belief, but that this apostasy from the faith is vitally connected with seducing SPIRITS, doctrines of DEMONS, the forbidding of MARRIAGE, the abstention from MEATS, with OLD WIVES FABLES, and BODILY EXERCISE. Such a collection of strange items seems but remotely connected with ‘the faith’ and, therefore, to prevent anyone from treating this warning lightly, we are told that the Spirit spoke ‘expressly’.
This departure from the faith will have a near and a more remote consequence. The near consequence is the state of affairs, depicted in 2 Timothy 3 and 4 (when the ‘perilous times’ will have come), and will at the same time prepare the way for the greater apostasy of 2 Thessalonians 2 which belongs to the dispensation that follows upon the close of the present one. We shall see that the apostasy of 1 Timothy 4 is an incipient opposition to the Mystery of Godliness (1 Tim. 3:15,16), an opposition which reaches its fullness in the manifestation of the man of sin.
These introductory notes, we trust, make the examination of the signs of the times, an imperative obligation upon all, who, like the men of Issachar, would know what the Lord’s people ought to do.
Times and Seasons (4)
The times, which are the subject of the Spirit’s ‘express’ words in 1 Timothy 4:1, are ‘the latter times‘. In 2 Timothy 3:1 they are called ‘the last days‘, and before we examine the characteristics of these times, let us attempt to discriminate between the expressions employed to indicate these ‘times’.
En husterois kairois, are the words translated ‘in the latter times’. En eschatais hemerais, are the words translated ‘in the last days’. We can hardly think that different words are used merely for the sake of variety, and will not assume that they mean one and the same thing before examining the meaning and usage of the term employed. First, let us consider the words translated ‘latter’ and ‘last’. ‘Last’ is a contracted form of ‘latest’ and indicates the utmost or extreme limit of the time under review. ‘Latter’ is a variant of ‘later’, and while still dealing with the time of the end is not so extreme, the two words stand related as ‘later’, ‘latest’. The English words therefore suggest that 1 Timothy 4:1 is the herald of 2 Timothy 3. What testimony do the Greek words give?
Husteros. The primary significance of this word is ‘want’ or ‘deficiency’ and is only applied to time in a figurative way. We will give one example of the various forms, that occur in the N.T.
- Hustereo, ‘come short’ (Rom. 3:23)
- Husterema, ‘that which is behind’ (Col. 1:24)
- Husteresis, ‘not what I speak in respect of want’ (Phil. 4:11)
- Husteron, ‘afterward it yieldeth’ (Heb. 12:11)
These ‘after times’ might refer to the period immediately following the apostle’s day; they can also refer the remaining and closing days of the present dispensation. We will examine the characteristics of the apostasy detailed in 1 Timothy 4:1-5, until we complete our examination of the time period mentioned in these two epistles.
The word kairos, translated ‘times’ in 1 Timothy 4:1, must be given attention. Chronos indicates duration, ‘the time in which anything IS done’, whereas kairos indicates the opportune moment, the ‘season’ at which a thing SHOULD BE done (see Dr. E.W. Bullinger’s Lexicon Concordance – http://www.levendwater.org)
So in Philippians 4:10 akaireomai is ‘lack of opportunity’, not merely lack of time, also eukarios in 2 Timothy 4:2 ‘in season’ or opportunity, even as ‘out of season’ is inopportunely. While the A.V. renders kairos as ‘season’ fifteen times, it employs the broader word ‘time’ in the majority of cases. Confining ourselves to the Pastoral epistles we find kairos occurring seven times as follows:
Kairos in the Pastoral Epistles
A 1 Tim. 2:6 – A testimony in due time. B 1 Tim. 4:1 – Apostasy in latter times. C 1 Tim. 6:16 – King of kings. His times. D 2 Tim. 3:1 – Perilous times. B 2 Tim. 4:3 – Apostasy, the time will come. C 2 Tim. 4:8 – Crown. My time. A Titus 1:3 – A manifestation in due time.
We shall discover as we proceed that the apostasy of 1Timothy 4 prepares the way for the perilous times of 2 Timothy 3 and 4, but as an antidote to depression we observe that God also has His seasons for making known His truth and vindicating both His saints and His Son. The cryptic prophetical phrase ‘a time, and times, and half a time’ (Rev. 12:14) uses this word kairos, which — referring as it does to the last three years and a half of the final ‘seven’ of Daniel 9 — suggests at least that in the ‘after times’ of 1 Timothy 4:1, we may expect something similar in character even if different in dispensation.
Turning to 2 Timothy we observe that in chapter 3:1 we have two time notes, namely ‘the last days’, and ‘perilous times’. Eschatos, translated ‘last’, has reference to the furthest edge, border or extreme. It can mean the highest (summus), the lowest (imus), or the meanest (extremus). It will be seen therefore that the husterois seasons of 1 Timothy 4 are the prelude to the perilous extremity of the seasons of 2 Timothy 3, and that the factors that make up the apostasy of the former period find their fruition in the practices and doctrines of the last days.
Throughout the N.T. there are statements that point to the evil character of that which comes ‘last’ (Luke 11:26; 1 Cor. 4:9; Jas. 5:3; 2 Pet. 2:20; 3:3; 1 John 2:18 and Jude 18). In 2 Timothy 3:1 the apostle does not say ‘the last times’ but the last days. The word hemera primarily means that period of time during which the sun is above the horizon (Matt. 20:6,12); a period of twelve hours (John 11:9), a period contrasted with night, with its darkness and with the inability to do any more work (John 9:4). It also stands for the complete period of twenty-four hours (Mark 9:2); and then to any particular period of time, as ‘the days of Herod’, ‘the days of Noah’, ‘the last day’, ‘the day of judgment’. Two very important and contrasted periods are ‘man’s day’, ‘man’s judgment’ (1 Cor. 4:3 A.V.) and ‘The Lord’s day’ (Rev. 1:10). The reference in 2 Tim. 3:1 is to the extreme verge of man’s day, which must give place to the Day of the Lord.
The seven references to ‘the last day’ in John’s Gospel, the one reference in 2 Timothy 3:1 and the one in James 5:3, differ from two references, Hebrews 1:2 and 2 Peter 3:3, in that these last have a more extended form, reading ‘the last of the days’. The period spoken of the Hebrews 1:2 is not ‘the last day’ for that is still future, but ‘the last of the days’, namely, the prophetic periods marked off in the Scriptures. From these assembled features we gather that Paul speaks in 2 Timothy 3:1, not concerning the last of the days spoken of by the O.T. prophets, nor of the last day of resurrection, nor the last hour of Antichrist’s dominion, but the last days of the dispensation to which he, Paul the prisoner of the Lord, ministered; in other words the closing days in which we live. These days are called ‘perilous’. This is the first characteristic of the closing days that the apostle gives us.
Chalepos the word translated ‘perilous’ is a word to give us pause. It has an affinity with the Hebrew caliph, which is translated axes, hammers and the like, and implies some measure of violence and force. The Greek word is employed to describe the mental condition of the men possessed with ‘devils’, who were ‘exceeding fierce’ (Matt. 8:28), and this gives some idea of the character of the closing days of this dispensation. It is so important that we should be aware of the character of the evil days that lie just ahead of us, that we give a condensed quotation from Liddel and Scott, of a further definition and examples of the word translated ‘perilous’.
- ‘Chalepos is used of things hard to bear, sore, severe, grievous; dangerous as the sea; of pathways that are rough, rugged and steep. When used of persons, it indicates that they are hostile, angry, cruel and stern; bitter as enemies; troublesome as neighbours and ill tempered generally’.
These references, added to that of Matthew 8:28, are a trumpet call to vigilance, to the putting on the whole armour of God, to single eyed service, and to unswerving, uncorrupted loyalty.
The last reference that we must consider under this heading of ‘times’ is that of 2 Timothy 4:3, ‘the time will come‘. Again we must postpone an examination of the things that are to be done in this coming time, in order to complete our examination of the time itself. Here once again we have the word kairos, ‘season’, and there seems to be an intentional play upon the word as will be seen by the following translation.
- Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season . . . for the season will come . . . the season for my departure is at hand (2 Tim. 4:2,3,6).
We do well to remember in preaching the Word in these perilous times, that if we wait for ‘ a convenient season’ we shall wait too long. In the estimate of many, it will always be inopportune, but those who have received the good deposit as a sacred trust, know that the preaching of the Truth of the Mystery, however much it may be refused and rejected, is indeed and in truth ‘A Word in Season’.
Summing up what we have seen concerning ‘the times’ we perceive that in after times, which can refer to the days immediately following the apostle’s own times, as well as later, there will be an apostasy from the faith, which in turn will lead to the perilous times that will be the characteristic of the extreme end of this dispensation. The preaching of the Word, however it be attacked or ignored, must be maintained until the course is finished. At one end of the story is a departure from the faith and at the other, the example of one who kept the faith (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 4:7). May we as sedulously avoid the one, even as we seek to emulate the other.
The Apostasy (5)
Having considered the terms used by the apostle to indicate the different ‘times’, namely ‘the after seasons’, ‘the days at the extreme verge’ and the ‘perilous’ character of these closing days we now retrace our steps in order to discover the characteristics of the apostasy prophesied, so that being warned by the faithful Word and so knowing the times, we may, like the children of Issachar know what we ought to do. The first item that calls for attention is the word ‘now’ (Gk. de) with which 1 Timothy 4 opens. In English ‘now’ indicates either the present time, and would translate the Greek nun, or it is used without reference to time, ‘to form a connection between a preceding and a subsequent proposition, or to introduce an inference or an explanation of that which precedes’. This would be the translation of the Greek connective de, ‘always implying antithesis, however concealed’. The antithesis of 1 Timothy 4:1 is the Mystery of Godliness of 1 Timothy 3:16; and inasmuch as this great revelation is ‘a pillar and ground of truth and confessedly great’, the departure from the truth of which the Spirit expressly warns us, must be in essence a departure in the first instance from this great and fundamental revelation.
Aphistemi ‘to stand away’ is used sometimes of mere physical departure, as in Luke 2:37, but in the epistles it is employed in a spiritual sense. It is found three times in 1 and 2 Timothy as follows:
- A 1 Tim. 4:1 – Some shall depart from the faith
- B 1 Tim. 6:5 – From such withdraw thyself
- A 2 Tim. 2:19 – Depart from iniquity
Now the final contrast with ‘the mystery of godliness‘ (1 Tim. 3:16), is ‘the mystery of iniquity‘ (2 Thess. 2:7), and the balance of 1 Tim. 4:1 and 2 Tim. 2:19 in the use of the word aphistemi anticipates the fact. The word aphistemi gives us the substantive apostasy, a word, however, which does not occur in the A.V. (Authorize Version). Instead we have the following:
- Apostasia ‘forsake Moses’ (Acts 21:21; ‘a falling away’ (2 Thess. 2:3)
- Apostasion ‘divorcement’ (Matt. 5:31; 19:7; Mk. 10:4)
The English reader cannot hope to sense the many references to this word in the two epistles to Timothy by reason of the fact that there is no apparent relation between apostasy and the many other variants of istemi ‘to stand’ which occur, but without overwhelming the reader we would indicate the way in which this root word ramifies through these two epistles, but for simplicity we will not load the text with the actual Greek words.
The bishop, in 1 Timothy 3:4,5 and 6 must ‘rule’ house and children, some without discipline may ‘wax wanton’ (1 Tim. 5:11); and may become proud ‘knowing’ nothing (1 Tim. 6:4). From such the believer is called upon to ‘withdraw’ (1 Tim. 6:5). On the surface there is nothing to show that each one of these words is a compound of the word ‘to stand’ and so related to the word ‘apostasy’ or ‘departure’ of 1 Timothy 4:1.
In the second epistle there is found another illuminative collection of compounds of the same root word. The unashamed workman will study ‘to show’ himself approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15), he will ‘resist’ profane and vain babblings (2 Tim. 2:16); remembering all the time that the foundation of God ‘standeth’ and demands that the believer ‘depart from’ iniquity (2 Tim. 2:19). In chapter 3:1, the words ‘shall come’ are literally ‘have taken their stand’, and in verse 8 we have the example of Jannes and Jambres who ‘withstood’ Moses. In chapter 4 we have ‘be instant’, ‘is at hand’, ‘withstood’, and notwithstanding the Lord ‘stood with me’ (2 Tim. 4:2,6,15 and 17), all of which have departure from the truth, or standing for the truth as the theme. This aspect of the study, however, has a limited appeal and we leave it to those who can pursue it to advantage while we take up the more obvious development of the subject.
It is the consistent testimony of all Scripture that as the end of the ages draws near, so the darkness will deepen. There is no warrant for the idea that by the gradual process of education and betterment that mankind or Christendom will mount upwards and so usher in the Golden Age. In the Gospels we have the question: ‘When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find the faith in the earth?’, and the implied answer is ‘No’. It will be as the days of Noah. The same is taught both by Peter and by Paul. Peter warns his readers that in the last days will come scoffers, and as we have already seen, Paul testifies the same departure from the truth within the administration entrusted to him. And this leads us to the really solemn thought, it is not possible for an unbeliever ‘to depart’ from the faith, this apostasy of 1 Timothy 4, even as of 2 Thessalonians 2 takes place within the circle of professed belief. Faith cometh by hearing — but so also does deception. Those who thus ‘depart’ have given heed to false teaching. Heterodidaskaleo ‘other doctrine’ bounds the epistle at either end (1 Tim. 1:3; 6:3). Once again, the distribution of prosecho ‘to give head’ in the Pastoral Epistles is helpful.
- ‘Neither give head to fables and endless genealogies (1 Tim. 1:4).
- ‘Not given to much wine’ (1 Tim. 3:8).
- ‘Giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons’ (1 Tim. 4:1).
- ‘Give attendance to THE READING’ (1 Tim. 4:13).
- ‘Not giving heed to Jewish fables’ (Tit. 1:4).
Both Paul and Peter associated ‘fables’ with the apostasy of the last days. The Greek word muthos ‘myth’ occurs, in addition to those already listed, in 1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:4; 2 Peter 1:16. It would be a sad, but an enlightening digression to go through commentaries that have been published during the last twenty years or more, and note how many writers harp upon the word ‘myth’. There is, however, more in this than meets the eye. Both the word musterion ‘mystery’ and the word muthos ‘myth’ or ‘fable’ are derived from the same root mu, which means something kept close.
At 1 Timothy 4:1 we are at the parting of the ways. We either believe and hold fast to the mystery of godliness, or we start upon the downward road that leads via the doctrine of the myths, to the mystery of iniquity. Paul’s one corrective is ‘The Word’. For the individual believer or for the teacher alike he says: ‘Give attention to the READING’, ‘Preach the WORD’. Peter tells us that ‘myopia’ muopazo precedes ‘myth’ (2 Pet. 1:9 and 16), and is associated with such practical things as virtue, temperance, and godliness (2 Pet. 1:5-7), the departure from the truth of the mystery of godliness involves aberration in daily life and practice as well as doctrinal error, and will be travestied as we shall see by ‘a form of godliness’ devoid of power. We are prepared, therefore, when we read on in 1 Timothy 4 to find mingled together doctrine and abstention from meats, demons and forbidding to marry, lies, conscience, hypocrisy, and bodily exercise all strangely interlinked.
The attack of Satan has been and will be levelled at the heart of the Divine Purpose ‘the mystery of godliness’ revealed in Genesis 3 and unfolded down the ages, but his methods continually change. He may come as an angel of light or as a roaring lion. He will tempt to a specious sanctity ‘neglecting the body’, ‘abstain from meats’, ‘forbid to marry’ or he may lead on to ‘incontinence’ and love of self and pleasure (2 Tim. 3). He will take the high road, or the low road, he will become all things to all men that by all means he might destroy. In the same way there is but one antidote; whatever form the attack may take, into whatever extremes the temptation may lead, ‘The Truth’ is the Divine panacea. In view of the evil day the complete armour of God provides ‘the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God’ (Eph. 6:17). References to ‘The Truth’ and to ‘the Word of God’ are placed on either side of the departure in 1 Tim. 3:15 and 4:5. It is the truth that sets the captive free (2 Tim. 2:25,26); and it is the way from the truth that the false teachers will turn the ears of their dupes.
It is no wonder therefore with this solemn issue before us that the clearest pronouncement made by Paul on the subject of the inspiration of the Scriptures should be found in his last epistle, 2 Timothy 3:16 . . . to be continued . . . (October 2020!) http://www.bereanonline.org
The Berean Expositor / July 2020 VOL. 70 No. 70
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