THE CONTINUITY OF THE TESTAMENTS
THE CONTINUITY OF THE TESTAMENTS Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
There has entered the Christian thinking the belief that the New Testament describes a "dispensation of grace" different from (almost unrelated to) the previous working of God with men, particularly with Israel—God’s elect. The interpretation of the Apostle Paul’s doctrine to mean God has introduced to mankind a new plan of salvation by "grace" that excuses people from the penalties of sin and rebellion, with the intention of bringing them into Paradise in their untransformed state, is unscriptural. Such is not the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
There appears to be great misunderstanding today, not only of the relationship of the new covenant to the old covenant but also of the relationship of the events and doctrines described in the New Testament writings to the events and doctrines set forth in the Old Testament.
THE CONTINUITY OF THE COVENANTS
There appears to be a misunderstanding today, not only of the relationship of the new covenant to the old covenant but also of the relationship of the events and concepts of the New Testament writings to the events and concepts of the Old Testament.
Although the writer of the Book of Hebrews uses the patriarchs of the Old Testament, beginning with Abel, to teach us the meaning of "the righteous shall live by faith," there has entered Christian thinking the belief that the New Testament describes a "dispensation of grace" different from (almost unrelated to) the previous working of God with men, particularly with Israel—God’s elect.
The interpretation of the Apostle Paul’s doctrine to mean God has introduced to mankind a new plan of salvation by "grace" that excuses people from the penalties of sin and rebellion, with the intention of bringing them into Paradise in their untransformed state, is unscriptural. Such is not the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
The Hebrew Prophets never suggested the coming of a gospel of this kind. The Apostles of the Lamb preached and taught the opposite, for they always insisted that the believers cannot enter the Kingdom of God while they continue to sin (Galatians 5:2, I John 3:6).
Contemporary Christian preaching is "another gospel" from that preached by John the Baptist and by the Lord Jesus and His Apostles.
Many of the currently-held Christian concepts are erroneous. For example:
The purpose of asking the Lord Jesus to enter our heart is that we may become eligible thereby to make our eternal home in the spirit Paradise, in Heaven.
The grace of God through Christ under the new covenant primarily is a forgiveness of our sins, a hiding from God’s eyes of our actions while on the earth.
The Christian Church, the Body of Christ, is a Gentile entity. Although there are a few Jews in the Christian Church, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is different from God’s work with Israel. Israel is destined to become a kingdom on the earth while the Christian Church, the "Gentile Bride of the Lamb," is destined to spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus.
The purpose of the first resurrection from the dead (rapture), which will take place at the appearing from Heaven of Christ, is to bring the Bride of Christ to Heaven so she will not suffer at the hands of Antichrist.
Christians are to become wealthy, getting everything they want in the world when they want it, by using their "faith."
None of the above is true. None of these contemporary doctrines is scriptural. None of them resembles the Gospel of the Kingdom of God prophesied by Isaiah or preached by Jesus and His Apostles.
The Christian churches are preaching and teaching error. The Gospel of Christ has become man-centered. The emphasis today is not on pleasing God, it is on pleasing man. Man’s welfare rather than God’s Kingdom has been brought to the forefront of Christian thinking.
The wrong goal is being set forth. We must understand that the purpose of being saved is not that we may "make Heaven our home." Man’s proper home is the earth. The purpose of accepting Jesus as our Savior is that we may be created in the image of God and find rest in His Presence.
The holding of the scriptural goal is necessary if we are to make a transition from the current mythological concept of salvation to the true scriptural concept.
The grace of God under the new covenant is not primarily a forgiveness of our sins. Although the forgiveness of sins is included in the new covenant, the main benefit of the covenant is the enabling of us to live righteously. The old covenant included the forgiveness of sins. The new covenant is superior to the old covenant because it brings a transforming grace that breaks the yoke of sin and rebellion in our personalities.
The old covenant made provision for forgiveness by the blood of animals. The new covenant takes away our sins. The taking away of our sins is accomplished through the authority of the blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. When we walk in the Spirit we do not fulfill the lusts of our flesh.
Christ came to earth to destroy the works of the devil, not to hide from God’s eyes our filthy behavior while we continue in slavery to Satan.
Many Christians are preaching the new covenant in Jesus’ blood as though the blood of Jesus and His victorious resurrection have no more saving authority and power than was true of the blood of bulls and goats.
The grace of God in Christ is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance and also furnishes them with the Divine power to achieve victory over every enemy of God.
The Father does not go out to where the prodigal is sitting in the slops and wave the wand of forgiveness over him. The Father waits for His son to return home, to repent.
When the son comes to himself and decides of his own will to return home, the Father clothes him and puts a ring on his finger. Today people are remaining among the swine, so to speak, while claiming their Father in Heaven loves them and has forgiven them. We have made the Word of God of no effect by our traditions.
It never has been God’s intention that His grace be used as a means of justifying sinful, rebellious people. It is God’s intention that His goodness enable people to become sons of God who walk in God’s ways. God’s goodness, if received correctly, leads us to repentance.
The new covenant is not primarily a covenant of forgiveness but a covenant of change, of a transformed moral nature.
In order to please the people, Christian teachers and preachers have limited the grace of God to an amnesty, to an excusing of the conduct of the believer as he continues in his own way. We are teaching that "the righteous shall live by faith" means if we believe in Jesus, God accepts us regardless of what kind of person we are or what we are doing. This doctrine reflects the influence of humanism on Christian thinking.
While forgiveness through Divine grace holds true initially it does not continue to be true throughout our discipleship unless we are laying down our life and following the Lord Jesus.
Either we bear through Christ the fruit of righteousness or God begins to judge us.
This misunderstanding of the operation of grace has arisen because of Paul’s reasoning with Jewish converts. The believing Jews were not ready to discard the Law of Moses. Paul stressed that we cannot mix works (of the Law) with the grace of God in Christ.
We Gentiles have taken Paul’s arguments against the Judaizers to mean that God’s grace is not related to righteous conduct, that righteous behavior is not an essential factor in our redemption. This would make Divine grace a substitute for righteous, obedient behavior.
The truth is, the goal of God’s grace in Christ is our transformation into righteous behavior, into the moral image of Christ. The holding of the wrong goal has destroyed the Divine work of redemption in the Christian churches.
The incorrect doctrine being preached today is based on the concept that the purpose of grace is to admit us to Paradise. This concept is part of the erroneous and destructive doctrine of the "pre-tribulation rapture," the overemphasis on the love of God, the "once saved always saved" belief, and the recent errors such as the "faith" and "prosperity" teachings.
A review of the New Testament writings will establish beyond doubt in the mind of the thoughtful reader that the purpose of the Christian redemption is our conversion to godly behavior. Included also is salvation in the Day of Christ—our being permitted to enter His Kingdom when the Lord Jesus appears.
The concept of "making Heaven our home" does not appear in the words of Christ or the Apostle Paul. It is true also that no New Testament passage teaches that the purpose of the second coming of the Lord is to bring His Church to Heaven.
Christian theology has embraced the idea that Christ came from Heaven in order to bring us back to Heaven and that the goal of Divine grace is to bring people to Heaven. The reason we receive Jesus is that we may be eligible to make our home in Heaven, it is taught. Here we see the influence of Gnosticism, the philosophy that views the material realm as inherently evil and the spirit realm as good.
It indeed is remarkable, given the scarcity of passages from which such a goal could be derived, that devout men of intellectual competence, masters of Hebrew and Greek exegesis, could continue to review the texts without noticing that what they believe and what the texts state are quite different.
Since the Hebrew Prophets never suggested God’s purpose for Israel is to bring the Jews to Heaven to make their home there, the conclusion has been reached that the Christian salvation represents a different "dispensation" of God’s dealing with man—a "dispensation of grace."
This is false. The holding of such a belief destroys the continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament. There is no such thing as a "state of grace" or a "dispensation of grace" except in the minds of theologians.
Theological chaos reigns. On the one hand Christian people gain strength from Old Testament passages such as the Twenty-third Psalm. On the other hand they are taught we now are in a dispensation of grace that is fundamentally different from God’s dealings with Israel, implying that what the Twenty-third Psalm promises has nothing to do with Gentile believers in Christ. There is inconsistency and confusion.
It is not uncommon to find Christian teachers who stress that Israel is an earthly kingdom while the Christian Church is a heavenly kingdom. If such is the case, where will Peter, Paul, and James be found?—in the heavenly kingdom or on earth with Israel? Where will the five thousand Orthodox Christian Jews of the first century, all keepers of the Law of Moses, all born again of God’s Spirit, all of whom had received the baptism of the Spirit with speaking in tongues—where will they be found?
Never, anywhere, at any point of the Gospel accounts, is there an indication that there are two kingdoms, one Jewish and one Gentile. The two-kingdom concept is completely a fabrication of the human mind.
When the Lord Jesus responded to the Jew, Nicodemus, Jesus stated that one must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. What Kingdom was Jesus referring to, a Gentile kingdom in Heaven or a Jewish kingdom on the earth? It must be evident to the reader that one of two situation exists: either we will have two different groups of born-again people, one in Heaven and one on the earth, or else one of the two kingdoms will not consist of born-again people. In this instance they would not have Christ in them because when we are born again it is Christ who is born in us.
If the Jews on the earth who form the second kingdom, according to the current theory, will not have had Christ born in them, will not be a new creation in Christ, will not be part of the Kingdom of God or of Heaven mentioned in the Gospel accounts, then we have total confusion. The only true salvation would be in Heaven and Adam would still be living on the earth, not being a genuine part of the resurrected Christ. This indeed is "another gospel" concerning which Paul warned us.
According to the two-kingdom error we Gentiles never were grafted on the cultivated olive tree of Israel. God moved His blessing from the original olive tree to the wild Gentile tree.
The true Gospel is that Christ has come, in keeping with the visions of the Hebrew Prophets, and has brought salvation to Israel in the form of both forgiveness and the power to overcome wickedness. The original Christian Church, as we said, consisted of thousands of born-again Jews, all zealously keeping the Law of Moses.
And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: (Acts 21:20)
As we asked previously, would these "thousands of Jews" be part of the Gentile church in Heaven or of the Jewish kingdom on the earth?
In keeping with the prophecy of Hosea, God then reached out and brought into Israel a number of elect Gentiles who also have received forgiveness and the power to practice righteousness.
And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. (Hosea 2:23)
After the elect Gentiles have been brought in, God will turn again to physical Israel and continue His holy work among the Jews, the same work that began in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. Also, through Christ justice will come to the nations of saved peoples of the earth. This is the thousand-year Kingdom Age—the rule of true Israel. It is the rule of the Kingdom of God over the nations of the earth.
We have invented the concept that God has turned away from Israel and has created a separate entity, a separate church, a separate kingdom—a body of people not envisioned by the Prophets who are not an integral part of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
If we Gentile Christians are not part of Abraham, of Israel, of Christ, we have no place in the new covenant. The new covenant is made only with the house of Israel (Hebrews 8:10).
In order for believers in Christ to envision God’s grace as their ticket to Heaven, (rather than what it is in reality—the promised redemption from the hand of Satan) the New Testament must of necessity be divorced from the Old Testament. It must be shown to be a new revelation—one not set forth by the Prophets. This is in direct opposition to the words of the Apostle Peter:
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom [the Hebrew Prophets] it was revealed, that not unto themselves [the physical Israelites], but unto us [Christians—Jews and Gentiles] they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (I Peter 1:10-12)
"This is that which was promised by Joel!"
God promised the Jews He would send Christ. When Christ comes He will remove their sins and restore the blessing of God to them. Also, He will bless the nations through Israel in accordance with God’s promise to Abraham.
God did send Christ—Jesus of Nazareth. Christ does remove the sins of all who place their trust in Him. Christ does restore the blessing of God to each Jew who receives Him, just as He blessed Paul and Peter. In addition, Christ has added to the fold of Israel a number of elect Gentiles.
The Jews, it appears, envisioned a ruler such as David. Jesus showed the Jews that the Kingdom is born and formed in people. The Divine Life of God must be formed in us if God is to rule in the earth.
"You must be born again," Jesus said to the Jewish teacher, Nicodemus.
The Kingdom comes from God into the hearts of people. It will not be installed by an earthly army marching in the wisdom and strength of flesh and blood.
The Kingdom comes from above, not from below.
There is only one Kingdom, one Christ, one Body of Christ, one Israel. The Kingdom is coming from Heaven and will be established on the earth forever. It is God in Christ in the saints ruling and blessing the creation of God.
There is no other kingdom. The Kingdom began with the Jews and will end with the Jews. We Gentiles have been grafted on Israel, having been made, through the Lord Jesus, an integral part of the family of God. Asenath, the daughter of Potipherah the Egyptian, was made an integral part of Israel through Joseph. The children of Asenath, Ephraim and Manasseh, are considered to be tribes in Israel.
If the Old Testament teaches that the coming of Christ will bring righteousness of conduct to a rebellious Israel, and if we Gentile Christians have been grafted on Israel, and if the wilderness wandering of Israel and the other episodes of their history truly are lessons to us as well as to the Jews, then the current concept that we Gentiles will not reap what we sow because we are under a special dispensation is false.
It is being taught today that Christians will not be held accountable for their conduct; they will not receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ the evil they have practiced. This may be the most destructive error ever to be admitted into Christian thinking. Christians have lost their fear of God.
It is true that when we come to Christ He forgives all our sins. The purpose of God’s forgiveness is that we may turn from our former way of life and through Christ become a new creation.
If a new creation does not result, if the fruit of the image of Christ does not begin to be revealed in us, if we continue in our love of the world, our love of sin, and our self-centeredness, then God will judge us for neglecting our salvation.
If we do not continue in the goodness of God, walking in the light of His Presence and will, we will be cut off.
Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. (Romans 11:22)
The history of the nation of Israel is one of continued unbelief and rebellion. Every time the Jews sinned, God punished them. When the Jews repented, God turned once more to them.
Through the Prophets the Spirit of Christ spoke of a redemption to come that would remove the sins (both guilt and practice) of Israel from them and restore to them the fullness of God’s Presence and glory. God promised to put His Torah in their inner parts and write it in their hearts, and remember their sins no longer (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
The Christian salvation is the fulfillment of the Hebrew promise. The fullness of what has been prophesied will materialize when Christ appears with His saints, raises us from the dead, and clothes our flesh and bones with a body fashioned from the substance of eternal life. All the Divine Goodness we Gentiles are privileged to embrace today is the fulfillment of the inheritance promised to Israel. It is the "children’s bread."
God promised that Christ would make Israel a righteous nation:
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3)
In the last verse of Chapter 61 of Isaiah we note that "the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations."
Christ came to deliver His elect from spiritual bondage, to make them a righteous people, and to give them the earth as their inheritance. The meek shall inherit the earth.
Notice the Word of God concerning the birth of the Lord Jesus:
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (Luke 1:33)
The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. (Luke 1:73-75)
In the above passages there is no thought that Christ has come to forgive the sins of Gentiles and take them to Heaven by grace. The idea is that Christ has come in order that the elect, especially the elect of the Jews, may walk in His Presence in holiness and righteousness. There is continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament.
Did the Apostles preach that Christ has come in order to forgive the sins of Gentiles and take them to Heaven?
No. Look at this typical statement from the Book of Acts:
Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you [Jews] first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. (Acts 3:25,26)
There is no evidence a new dispensation has been introduced, that the stress is now on forgiveness apart from righteous conduct.
One may argue, Paul spoke of righteousness and of the Kingdom to the Jews. But when he went to the Gentiles he emphasized forgiveness and the opportunity to dwell forever in a mansion in Heaven. This would mean that God expects righteous behavior from the Jews apart from the Holy Spirit while the Gentiles with the Holy Spirit are brought to Heaven on the basis of forgiveness. Why is it that intelligent, devout preachers of the Gospel of the Kingdom cannot see the utter folly of such a position? It truly is a supernatural blindness.
No, it is not true. Paul never preached a different gospel to the Gentiles. Paul understood that the Gentiles were being grafted on Israel. Paul never spoke of a "rapture" into Heaven or indicated that Heaven is the home of the elect Gentiles—never once.
We Christians claim we believe in the plenary, verbal inspiration of the received Hebrew and Greek texts. If this is so, why do we preach our uninspired traditions instead of the inspired texts?
Paul never emphasized forgiveness apart from righteous conduct except in the few passages in which he explained to the Judaizers that the works of the Law of Moses cannot be mixed with the grace of God in Christ. Paul always emphasized righteous behavior when preaching both to the Jews and to the Gentiles. It was especially needful to emphasize righteous behavior to the Gentiles because the Jews were, through Moses, more accustomed to the laws of morality.
The belief that Paul emphasized grace while James emphasized works is in error. Most of Paul’s writings have to do with righteous conduct. The purpose of this Satan-inspired deception is to motivate the believers of our day to be more intent on escaping to the spirit realm than on overcoming Satan in their personalities. It is Gnosticism with an emphasis on antinomianism (salvation apart from the observance of moral law). Both of these are ancient heresies.
Satan cannot break through the angel of the Lord and attack the saint unless he can entice the saint into sinning. Therefore Satan’s tactic has been to warp the Gospel message so forgiveness is emphasized and the power of Christ to break the power of sin is minimized or ignored completely.
If Satan can trick the saint into sinning, into believing that God is more interested in bringing the believer to Heaven than He is in guiding him into victorious living in the Spirit, then Satan can continue to dwell and exercise all of his desires in the earth.
The constant Christian emphasis on lawless grace and the pre-tribulation rapture is the means Satan is employing to keep the army of the Lord from standing on the earth in moral strength. Sinning believers are no threat to Satan’s kingdom in the earth. They cannot injure him. Satan is safe as long as we continue in sin.
One of the "key verses" of Christianity is Ephesians 2:8,9. These two verses point out that we are saved "not of works."
But the next verse, Ephesians 2:10, emphasizes that we are saved in order to practice righteousness:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
"Created in Christ unto good works."
The second chapter of Ephesians then proceeds to declare that saved Gentiles are an integral part of the Israel of God, that they are "one new man" with the believing Jews.
Current teaching denies that we believing Gentiles are created to good works and denies also that we are part of the "commonwealth of Israel." It is being taught, rather, that we are saved to go to Heaven and that the believing Jews of today become part of a "Gentile Church." This viewpoint is due in part to the influence of Dispensationalism, an error that arose in the previous century.
It is maintained that the Jews who believe in Jesus after the mythical "rapture" takes place will form an earthly kingdom. All this is conjecture without any basis in Scripture whatever. Indeed, the concept is anti-Semitic.
Notice that Paul preached righteous conduct to both the Jews and the Gentiles, maintaining the continuity from the Hebrew Prophets to the Christian salvation:
But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for [appropriate to] repentance. (Acts 26:20)
"Do works appropriate to repentance." "Do works"!
Did the Apostles indeed show we now are under a different dispensation and Christ has come to save us on the basis of His righteousness and not because there is any righteousness or worthiness in us? Is this the major emphasis of the New Testament Epistles?
Writing to those of Rome who were "called to be saints":
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
Christ has come and has given us a choice. We can obey Him and live, or we can obey sin and die. The text of the sixth chapter of Romans is not about "accepting Christ" but about the consequences of our behavior after we have been baptized in water, the consequences of choosing to serve righteousness or choosing to serve sin.
The goal of the Christian redemption is the transformation of our personality so we walk in righteousness and holiness in Christ in the earth or wherever else we may be.
The Epistles stress righteous conduct, not because righteous conduct is the route to Heaven but because righteous conduct is the route to the restoration of God’s Presence among us.
Notice in the following verse the continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament:
Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution [restoration] of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:21)
The message of the Christian Gospel is identical to that of the oracles of the Hebrew Prophets concerning the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. Christ has come to turn away His elect from Satan and to bring each of us into the Kingdom of God. The issue always concerns the Kingdom of God, the rule of God in Christ in us.
Every parable of Jesus had to do with the Kingdom promised by the Prophets.
The Apostles proclaimed the Kingdom of God.
Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21)
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
It is easy to see in the above passages that the goal of redemption is entrance into the Kingdom of God.
The Hebrew Prophets spoke much of the glory of the Kingdom of God and of how blessed Israel and the nations will be when the Kingdom of Christ comes to the earth.
The "heavenly Gentile Church" is not a scriptural concept although it forms the background of much Christian teaching.
As far as we know, all New Testament doctrines can be found in the Old Testament in some form. The writers of the New Testament gained their understanding of the Messianic salvation as the Spirit of God gave them understanding of the Old Testament.
"The just shall live by his faith" was stated by a Hebrew Prophet (Habakkuk 2:4). The explanation of what "the just shall live by faith" means is set forth in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, and all the examples are from the Old Testament.
Paul’s teaching concerning the Antichrist can be found in the Book of Daniel. The atonement made by the Lord Jesus is set forth in the fifty-third chapter of the Book of Isaiah. The doctrine of the resurrection from the dead is presented in Daniel 12:2. The history of the nation of Israel is an object lesson to us Christians. We derive our comfort from the promises found in the Old Testament.
Righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God are the major emphases of both testaments. The new covenant does not have a different goal from the old covenant. The new covenant does have improved means of attaining the same goal.
Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude stress righteous and holy conduct in view of the return of Christ in His righteous Kingdom. The issue of salvation always is shown to be what position we will have, what our fate will be, in the Day of the Lord—the Day when Jesus and His saints return to the earth to establish righteousness among the nations. This is the same vision that was seen by the Prophets of Israel.
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)
He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. (Isaiah 42:4)
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these [the sinners in the churches], saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 1:14,15)
Christian believers are looking for the coming of Antichrist. The spirit of Antichrist already is being revealed and has undermined the Gospel of the Kingdom with a deception concerning the escape of the elect to Heaven to live in beautiful mansions.
Satan would be well pleased if all the elect would leave the earth and go to Heaven to live in beautiful mansions doing nothing of significance. Satan fears the coming of Christ and His saints into the earth to establish God’s Kingdom of righteousness and peace. Satan would much prefer that Jesus remove His warriors to Heaven and stay away from the earth. In view of Satan’s ambitions in the earth it is easy to recognize the source of the grace-Heaven model of salvation.
Satan has managed to change the concept of the resurrection from the dead, renewed life on the earth, into a concept of escape to Heaven.
There is an uncrossable gulf between the scriptural doctrine of the resurrection from the dead and the erroneous doctrine of the escape to Heaven. The resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the bodies of the saints so they may bring righteousness into the earth. Satan has every reason to fear the resurrection of the bodies of the saints.
The "rapture" into Heaven is the escape of lukewarm believers so they may live in bliss in the spirit realm. There is no note of overcoming, of victory, in this concept. It is an evacuation, a defeat, a testimony that Christ is not able to overcome the work of Satan in the saints in the earth.
The so-called "rapture passage," I Thessalonians 4:13-18, mentions neither the disappearing of the saints nor their ascension to Heaven. The passage is speaking of the coming of the Lord Jesus with the deceased saints and the rising to meet Him of His resurrected warriors. The purpose of the passage is to comfort the living saints concerning their dead loved ones. It is not a hope for the living that they will escape trouble and the Antichrist. What has happened to the competence of Christian scholarship?
We have mentioned that there is continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament, that the New Testament does not represent a change in God’s original intention concerning man. We have shown the promise of God in the Old Testament to be the sending of Christ to the earth and that Christ will make the elect "trees of righteousness." Also, Christ will restore the Divine blessing to Israel and through Israel will bring justice and peace to the nations of the earth.
Can you imagine! The blessed hope of the coming of Christ to establish righteousness and peace on the earth, the hope of the downtrodden meek, has been converted to a flight of the royal priesthood to the spirit Paradise.
The work of restoring righteousness and peace has begun in the Christian Church. The Christian salvation is not a special "dispensation of grace" that God has interjected as an interruption of His work with Israel. The Christian salvation is the deliverance of Israel, of God’s chosen, of which the Hebrew Prophets spoke.
The principal work of the Christian redemption is deliverance from sin—the transformation of the believer from the old sinful nature into a new creation of righteousness and holiness.
Inasmuch as the principal work of the Christian redemption is our transformation from the adamic nature to the Nature of Christ, the believer who is not undergoing such transformation is not abiding in and partaking of Christ. He is not being redeemed. He is not being saved.
Believers who are not overcoming through the Holy Spirit the sins and problems given to them to overcome are not partaking of the Christian redemption. They are not obeying the Holy Spirit. They have received the grace of God in vain.
The purpose of Christ’s coming is that Israel, God’s elect, whether Jew or Gentile by race, may become righteous. Otherwise the new covenant is not in operation.
We can see from the above how destructive is the concept that the Christian redemption is not the Kingdom of which the Prophets spoke but is a special intervention of "grace" that will "rapture" Gentiles who profess belief in Christ into Heaven whether or not there has been a new-covenant transformation of their personality.
The view of Heaven as the goal, belief in Jesus as the ticket, and trust in the catching up of resurrected saints as the means of escaping persecution, have reduced the Church of Christ to the pitiful carnality and ineptness we witness today.
Satan’s gospel is, "Don’t change, trust in God’s forgiveness and go to Heaven as soon as possible."
Jesus’ Gospel is, "Be changed, attain to the resurrection unto eternal life, and inherit all things."
Which is your gospel?
Where are the Lord’s prophets? Where are the saints? Where are the mighty men of faith? They are waiting for the moment when they can flee to their mansions in Heaven and escape the Kingdom warfare in the earth.
They are not seeking to be made in the image of Jesus. They are imagining they will be whisked away from the earth so they may rest in ease and pleasure in the spirit realm. Can any student of the Scriptures honestly claim such an unfruitful scheme can be found in the Word of God? The concept is alien to the manner in which the Lord God has dealt with His elect through the centuries.
The only true members of the Body of Christ are those who through the Lord Jesus are overcoming Satan. All the rewards of the Kingdom go to them. They are the Kingdom of God, the Church of the living God. This is true whether the individual is a Jew or a Gentile by physical birth.
The believers who do not overcome in the Christian warfare, who do not lead a victorious life, have an uncertain destiny. There always is the possibility of being vomited from the Lord’s mouth, of being cast into outer darkness, of receiving lashes for not doing the Lord’s will. It is certain that the careless, spiritually lazy Christians will be punished in the Day of the Lord. Those who live in the appetites of the flesh shall reap corruption.
Many rewards are promised to the victorious saints. Enough is said concerning the lukewarm that we know they stand in danger of having their names blotted from the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5). One can see from this how misleading and dangerous the current preaching is.
The Book of Revelation is the only book of the Scriptures claiming to be a direct revelation of Christ to His servants. In addition, the Book of Revelation is bound with a fearful curse (Revelation 22:18,19).
The Book of Revelation cuts straight across the modern idea that the Christian Gospel is a special "dispensation of grace" in which sinful and rebellious people are brought into Paradise because Jesus is worthy.
The second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation are at odds with the current conception of the Christian redemption as an escape to Heaven of Gentiles who have been "saved by grace."
The second and third chapters of Revelation, which are addressed to the Christian churches, to the lampstands of God, have to do with works of righteousness. The issues raised in these two chapters are not questions of theological accuracy but are concerned with the conduct, the "works" of the believers.
The second and third chapters of Revelation do not fit the gospel of today nor is the Christ who is described in the first chapter of Revelation anything like the image of Christ being presented by our modern preachers.
If it were true that the Christian salvation is a special "dispensation of grace," the text of the second and third chapters of Revelation would be altogether different.
The churches of Asia were Gentile churches. How would the preachers of today write to the Gentile churches who are, as they suppose, saved by "grace" apart from any effort on their part? Would they write, "He will kill your children with death, and all the churches will know He searches the minds and hearts and will give to every one of you according to your works"? (Revelation 2:23).
If it is true "there is nothing we have done and only Christ is worthy, and we are saved by His worthiness," why, then, did the Lord Jesus say, "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis that have not defiled their garments; and they will walk with me in white: for they are worthy"? (Revelation 3:4).
Let us consider the concept of overcoming. It may be noted, in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, that all the rewards go to the victorious saints. These two chapters leave the nonovercomer in danger of being hurt by the second death, by the Lake of Fire (Revelation 2:11). None of these rewards, the rewards we normally associate with being a Christian believer, will be given to the individual who does not pursue the life of victory in Jesus—not even the opportunity to eat of the tree of life.
It may be noted that "going to Heaven" is never held out to the Gentile believers of the seven churches of Asia as a reward for overcoming Satan. It is Kingdom rewards of glory and rulership that are being offered, in keeping with the continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament.
The conclusion, after studying these two chapters, is unavoidable: it is the victorious saints who are the true saints, the members of the Body of Christ, the heirs of the Kingdom of God. The defeated believers can expect chastening at the hands of Christ.
This is taught in the Old Testament as well.
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? (Isaiah 33:14)
But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: (Malachi 3:2)
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:12)
Notice in the above passages the continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament. They express a concept identical to Christ’s warnings to the seven churches of Asia. There is no difference.
There is no special dispensation in which the elect are excused from having to walk in righteousness and holiness before the Lord God of Heaven. We have been deceived. Today the trumpet is sounding in Zion, in the house of the Lord. It is time for God’s people to arise from the dead and put on the beautiful garments of salvation.
Through the Lord Jesus we can walk in obedience to God. There is wisdom and power in the Holy Spirit. It is the responsibility of each believer to look up to God in faith and to lay hold on the Divine virtue that is available. Otherwise we can expect to suffer punishment in the Day of the Lord.
If the purpose of the coming of Christ is to turn away ungodliness from Jacob (Romans 11:26), it follows that those who through Christ achieve victory over sin are the true members of the Kingdom of God.
The believers who "accept" Christ but who do not turn away from their sins and self-seeking are not gaining the Kingdom of God. The Epistles of the Apostles underscore this fact. "They which do such things shall not enter the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:21).
According to the Book of Revelation, the rewards of life, glory, and rulership go to the victorious saints. Those who continue in bondage to Satan receive no such promises. This would not be the case if the Christian salvation is a special "dispensation of grace," as interpreted to mean all Gentiles who make a profession of belief in Christ go to the same reward in Heaven.
It indeed is true that God has given us a dispensation of grace through the Lord Jesus. This means we no longer are to occupy ourselves with the works of the Law of Moses.
Paul, a Jew, was reasoning with Jews. Paul was showing them that their trust in the works of the Law must change into a trust in God’s work through Christ. God’s grace has covered them so they may abandon their many religious observances and obtain righteousness by serving Christ.
It is not possible under the Law of Moses to gain victory over our sinful nature. But it is possible for each believer in the Lord Jesus to achieve victory in every area of battle through the marvelous grace God has given us through Jesus.
Christ was manifested for the purpose of destroying the works of Satan in the earth, beginning with Satan’s hold on the elect whom God has drawn to Himself.
Through the Lord Jesus the believer can overcome. The life of victory, of overcoming sin and self-will, is the normal Christian experience.
Victory over sin and self-will is not the result of a heroic effort on the part of extraordinary believers. The Lord Jesus has made abundant provision for each of His people, and it is necessary and expected that we be successful in our endeavor to serve the Lord.
Overcoming is an undertaking that is unique to each believer. We are required to overcome only those problems that have been set before us, not those that have been presented to someone else.
Overcoming, living victoriously, is a wrestling of the individual with God. It is to "him" who overcomes, never to them who overcome. Christ always gives each person the means (grace) of emerging victorious from the present battle.
Although each of us is given his own set of obstacles to overcome, there are three dimensions in which all Christian battles are fought. These same three dimensions have been the three arenas of testing of all men throughout history. The Christian faces only the temptations common to mankind. The Lord Jesus Himself was tested in each of these three areas.
Looking to the God of Heaven rather than to the material world for security and comfort.
Obeying the eternal moral law of God instead of the lusts of demons.
Allowing God instead of our self-will to govern our life.
All of our testings fall under one or more of these three areas. All men at all times are faced with the same basic choices. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament exhort people to choose the way of God; thus, there is continuity.
The difference under the new covenant is that we have more Divine assistance through the Lord Jesus Christ. The goal of redemption is unchanging. To change the goal would be to change what God Himself Is. If God changes, all is lost.
Looking to the God of Heaven rather than to the material world for security and comfort. In order to come out of the world as we should, as every Christian is required by Christ to do, we must count ourselves dead to the world. When we are baptized in water we must reckon ourselves dead to the world.
Many Christians fail to gain the degree of victory possible to them because they never actually, at a specific point in time, count themselves crucified to the world and the world crucified to them. They always are hoping God will permit them to keep a little bit of the world in their life—something they can cling to, trust in, and find hope in.
One little piece of the world is sufficient to rob the saint of victory, to cause him to forfeit his full inheritance as a son of God.
"Man cannot live by bread (the material world) alone" is an important principle of the Kingdom. Man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Our daily strength and provisions come to us from God. We are to find our security and comfort in the invisible God who provides for us each day of our life, always speaking some word that concerns us.
It is much easier to grasp what we can see. To live by faith in the invisible God is difficult, but it is necessary if we are to inherit the Kingdom of God.
When we love the world the love of the Father is not in us. We must determine resolutely that we are a pilgrim and a stranger. The world is not our home. The earth is our home but the present world system is of Satan, not of God. When we seek to be part of the present world, to be comfortable and secure in the world, we demonstrate we are not fit, not worthy, to be part of the Kingdom of God.
Abraham, who was exceedingly rich, wandered as a stranger in the land God had promised to him. He lived in tents although he could have erected a palace. Abraham was concerned about the Kingdom of God.
We Christians have been called to inherit the earth and the nations thereof. We are required to come out of the world and to live as a stranger. We are seeking a Kingdom that today is in Heaven (because the Lord Jesus is in Heaven). The Kingdom of God has not as yet descended to the earth, but it will in the Day of Christ.
Some Christian believers are making the mistake of attempting to inherit the earth now. They quote Old Testament passages in order to prove that God wants them to be prosperous and rich. They reject the Old Testament passages that stress righteousness, which they ought to observe, and embrace the promises concerning material blessing, which are not the emphasis of the New Testament. They have forsaken the way of the cross. Therefore God has sent them a strong delusion so they will believe a lie (II Thessalonians 2:11).
It is we who are mourning now, who are bearing the reproach of the cross, who will laugh in the Day of Christ. Those who insist on living in the world, attempting to have the security and comfort of the world system and the Kingdom of God at the same time, will lose God’s blessing in both. They will weep in that day.
Israel, the church, has been called out of the present world. He who would please Christ, who would win the battle, must hate his life in the world. He must come out of the world and not touch what is spiritually unclean.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, (II Corinthians 6:17)
We can come out of the world system if we will call on God to help us, to remove the love of the world from us. The Lord will remove the love of the world from us if we ask Him to do so with our whole heart. Through Christ we can conquer in this area. God will provide abundantly for us in His love.
Obeying the eternal moral law of God instead of the lusts of demons. The second arena in which spiritual warfare is fought is the realm of God’s laws of righteousness and holiness. Paul refers to moral transgressions as "the works of the flesh."
The works of the flesh consist of such behaviors as fornication, adultery, rage, murder, jealousy, hatred, slander, covetousness, occult practices, spite, profanity, drunkenness, lying, stealing, and similar practices. These originated in the personality of Satan.
We Christians carry such satanic urges in our flesh. Many of them did not leave us when we accepted Christ. They are part of our old nature, of the first Adam.
When we accept Christ our sins are forgiven. After we have been born again and filled with God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit begins to deal with our sinful nature. The Spirit is infinitely wise in His work of sanctification. He brings us to one problem area at a time.
The Spirit points out a specific sinful behavior and gives us the desire and the grace to confess this sin to God. Then the Spirit purges our nature, some aspects instantly, some aspects over a period of time. God is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).
We do not overcome all our sins and self-will in a moment of time. We follow the Holy Spirit each day as He wages war against the lusts in our flesh. We must never give up. If we confess our sins, patiently calling on the Lord so we may receive the strength to resist Satan and our rebellious nature, we find after a while that real progress is being made. We actually are putting lust, murder, and lying behind us. We actually are bringing forth a new righteous, holy creation.
Our redemption proceeds as the Spirit illumines the depths of our personality. Day after day the illumination expands and we understand to a greater extent the problem areas, the areas not acceptable to the Lord. When we see them we are able to overcome them through the grace of God. This is the meaning of, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."
We can emerge victorious in the war against the lusts of the flesh. Victory is possible through Christ. Christ was revealed for the purpose of destroying the works of the devil in all who believe.
Every believer can achieve victory over sin. Victory over sin is not as difficult to accomplish as Satan would have us believe. In order to win in the war against lust, covetousness, murder, and rebellion against God, we must walk in the Spirit continually, fellowshiping with fervent saints whenever possible, reading the Scriptures, praying, and serving the Lord at all times.
Allowing God instead of our self-will to govern our life. The third realm of conflict concerns our self-will, our readiness to abandon our own program of living and to trust God and obey Him in every matter great and small. The crucifixion of our will is necessary if we would be an overcomer, if we would please God. The downfall of Satan resulted from the exercise of his self-will.
The exercise of self-will in the members of the Body of Christ has destroyed the unity of the body. A person can come out of the world, achieve victory over the lusts of his flesh, and still be filled with his own ways. There is much self-will, self-seeking, self-love, self-centeredness, in the members of the Christian churches of our day. This may be the main reason why we are not ready as yet to appear with Christ and govern the nations of saved peoples of the earth.
Perfect obedience to God and trust in God are difficult to achieve. Receiving Jesus as our personal Lord may well be the most difficult area in which to gain victory. Yet it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of God, to inherit the fullness of our destiny as sons of God, while we still have not yielded to Christ our will and motivation.
The Apostle Paul sought to be crucified with Christ to the extent his life and the Life of Christ would be one and the same. Paul desired that he no longer would be seeking his own glory but that Christ would be living in him. Paul counted every personal advantage as garbage if that advantage had not been achieved as the result of the Life of Christ being expressed in him.
God always is seeking those Christians who will relinquish their "rights" and allow Christ to reign in them, who will give back to God all that God has given to them.
One of our temptations as a the Christian is to strive to fulfill the promise of God to us by our own wisdom and strength. We bring forth an "Ishmael" and then pray that God will bless and multiply this product of our striving.
It is not always easy to die to our personal desires; but if we would inherit the promise of God we must permit the Lord to bring our desires to fulfillment in His own way and in His own time.
The true saints are hidden away with God. In many instances they are so precious to Jesus He will not permit their being displayed before the eyes of people—even the people of the church world. The leaders of Babylon (man-directed Christianity) are not aware that such jewels exist in their churches.
Many of the prominent Christian leaders appear to measure value in terms of the size and influence of their organizations while the hidden values of God go unnoticed.
Those who today are influential may find that in the Day of the Lord their task is to clean up after the horses in the victory parade, while the humble saints of whom they hardly were aware are riding at the side of Christ. Pride is an enemy of the Lord. God never will share His Glory with another.
Before we can reign with the Lord we must be willing to become a worm, to be brought low. We must learn to take the lowliest place with peace and joy, knowing that only Christ is worthy of exaltation.
Total trust in Christ for the gaining of our intense desires is difficult to achieve. If we hope to be at rest in the will of God, to overcome in this area of the struggle, we must ask the Lord to accomplish trust and obedience in us.
Then we must ask for patience, because God teaches us obedience through suffering. Even Christ Himself had to learn obedience to the Father as He suffered here on the earth.
It is the will of God that every believer overcome the world, Satan, and his own lusts and self-will. God has provided, through Christ, every element of authority, power, and wisdom required for each of us to overcome our longing to find security and comfort through the world system, to cease from the lusts of our flesh, and to give all our desires to God for fulfillment.
Each of us can overcome in each of the three arenas of testing. We must attend to the things of Christ with diligence if we expect to conquer, becoming eligible to receive the fullness of our inheritance as sons of God.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Revelation 21:7)
There is a continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Law of Moses could not produce people who always show righteousness and praise in the sight of the nations of the earth. Yet the bringing forth of righteousness and the worship of God is God’s purpose in calling out Israel from among the nations of the earth (Isaiah 61:11).
Because the old covenant did not and could not bring about the type of royal priest God desires, God has given the House of Israel a new covenant. The new covenant, while it includes the forgiveness of our sins, is not primarily a covenant of forgiveness. The new covenant is the putting of the law of God in our minds and the writing of the law in our hearts.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: (Hebrews 8:10)
The new covenant includes the eternal forgiveness of our sins. The forgiving of our sins is intended as a basis on which the Lord can proceed with the work of conforming us to the moral image of Christ. We are to be transformed into new creations of righteousness and holiness.
The forgiving of our sins under the new covenant never was intended to be a means of escaping God’s insistence we be in His image. Yet the new covenant is being preached today as the Divinely ordained means of escaping the Kingdom principle of sowing and reaping. It is taught that grace is an unconditional pardon, and as long as we believe in Christ we can sow sin and reap the fruits of righteousness.
A grievous condition exists in the Christian churches. We have aborted the intentions of God. We are saying to the Christian who works wickedness that he will not reap what he is sowing. We are claiming that if he accepts Christ he then can proceed to fumble ineffectively at the task of following the Lord and never be condemned for his lack of diligence.
If this were true, the new covenant would be virtually worthless for the Kingdom purposes of God. The new covenant would be the lesser covenant, for the old covenant at least demanded righteous behavior, bringing a blessing on those who obeyed the Word of the Lord and a curse on those who disobeyed the Word of the Lord.
Notice what the unchanging Christ spoke through Isaiah:
Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him. (Isaiah 3:10,11)
These words were addressed to Jerusalem and Judah, to God’s elect.
If such were the case under the old covenant, how much more is it true under the new covenant when we have every grace of God to help us turn away from wickedness and live righteously?
Our traditions have made the Word of God of no effect. We are saying to the wicked, "Accept Christ and it is not critically important how you behave yourself. You will not be rewarded according to your works. You will not reap what you are sowing. Disaster will not come upon the wicked, for the reward of his hands will not be given to him as long as he professes faith in Jesus."
Truly, the spiritual life of the Christian churches has been destroyed because of a misunderstanding of the new covenant, of the continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Apostle Paul has been horribly misunderstood.
As Peter warned, men have wrested the words of Paul, and the remainder of the Scriptures, to their destruction (II Peter 3:16).
The Christian churches of today must be warned. Otherwise an entire generation of believers will pass into eternity expecting to receive glory and joy at the hands of Christ, when in actuality they will reap the lukewarmness toward Christ they have sown.
Because we know by experience a little of the terror of the Lord we are seeking to persuade people to live righteously.
It is not true we are in a "dispensation of grace," as interpreted to mean God unconditionally has forgiven our sins for eternity with the view of bringing us to Heaven to live in bliss.
It is true rather that God has forgiven our sins for eternity with the view of transforming us into the image of Jesus. Only those who are in the moral image of Jesus can receive the redemption of the body and serve God as a royal priest over the nations of saved peoples of the earth.
The new covenant is the coming of righteousness and justice through Christ, the good news of which the Hebrew Prophets spoke.
The new covenant is the salvation of Israel—a salvation consisting not only, or even primarily, of the forgiveness of the believer’s sins but of his deliverance from the power of Satan and his transformation into the image of Christ.
The new covenant is the writing of God’s laws in our personality so we are able to discern between good and evil and to always choose the good and refuse the evil (Hebrews 5:14).
The new covenant is a new program and includes unprecedented grace; but the goal of righteous, holy, obedient behavior is the same from eternity to eternity.