Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dual Aspects in the NT

In all of scripture we notice a dual aspect. The Bible begins with the statement, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Interestingly, the verse does not say God created everything, or the universe. But very specifically tells us that God created ‘the heavens and the earth’. Here two things are mentioned – the heavens and the earth. God’s purpose for the heavens is different from His purpose for the earth. And ever since, God’s purpose for the heavens and His purpose for the earth has been unfolding, and that alongside each other. This of course does not mean that every time each of God’s progressive plans and purposes were revealed simultaneously. Indeed very often the earthly plans were revealed and only later have the heavenly plans been manifested or made clear. But that they did exist simultaneously, there can be little doubt.

When God created Adam He introduced him as His representative in this world to rule and exercise dominion over all His works as mentioned in Genesis 1.26 – And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. This is further confirmed for us in Psalm 8.6-8 – Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field, The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

Very obviously, God intended man to rule over His creation on His behalf. But Adam (man) fell into transgression and lost the position God had given him. God revealed His purpose for Adam who was the first man of the earth, earthy (1Cor.15.47), nevertheless He also had His own purpose regarding the Last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, the second man the Lord from heaven (1Cor.15.47). We cannot now get into all the details of how our Blessed Lord Jesus is the antitype of Adam the first man. But no serious student of scripture can miss the obvious connection here. Just as Adam was the head of the old creation, of the earth, the Lord Jesus Christ, the last Adam, is the Head of the new creation. And as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly (1Cor.15.49) Once again we notice a contrast between the earthly and the heavenly – one is from the earth, the other from heaven.

And so all through we notice such a dual aspect to almost every subject in the Bible. Take now for instance God’s promise to Abram as recorded for us in Genesis 12.1-3 – Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee; And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. There can be no doubt that when God spoke these words to Abram, they were meant for Abram. At least that is how Abram would have understood them. And whether or not Abram perceived anything beyond the immediate events, and if anything indeed was perceived, nothing of this is even hinted at in this scripture portion. Later in Genesis 17.6-8 changing his name to Abraham, the Lord introduces his seed into the picture – And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a sojourner, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. Here God now promises to bless, not only Abraham but also his seed. Then in Genesis 22.16-18, in response to Abraham’s obedience to God’s command to offer Isaac, the Lord says, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord; for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice. Previously the Lord has promised Abraham that in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed, but now the Lord promises that in thy seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Now when God told Abraham that He would bless all the nations of the earth through his seed, scripture does not indicate that Abraham understood these words to refer to Christ. That God’s promises to Abraham do refer to Christ, the apostle Paul make clear in Galatians 3.8 – And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. And further with reference to Abraham’s seed, Paul says, Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. So not only did God mean to refer to Isaac, who was the promised seed of Abraham; God had in mind His own beloved Son our Lord Jesus Christ when He promised to bless Abraham. So we see that Isaac was intended and also Christ was intended. God’s purpose was revealed to Abraham from an earthly point of view, and later God’s hidden purpose in Christ was revealed through the words of the apostle Paul. But not only did God refer to Isaac and Christ as being Abraham’s seed, the apostle Paul further tells us that we ourselves who have believed on Christ are accounted as Abraham’s seed. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal.3.29).

So we see that when the scriptures speak to or about one individual or event, the Spirit of God may also have something beyond that individual or event. Take the example of David as yet another instance of this principle. In 2 Samuel 7.12-16 the Lord tells David – And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thine own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee; thy throne shall be established forever. Although in this passage in the book of Samuel the possibility of David’s seed committing any sin is contemplated with the ensuing chastisement, God’s same covenant with David as recorded in 1 Chronicles makes no mention of any failure on the part of David’s seed. In 1 Chronicles 17.11-14 the Lord tells David – And it shall come to pass, when thy days are ended, that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, who shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me an house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son; and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee, But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established for evermore.

Although there are many similarities between these two passages of scripture, there are also differences. In the Samuel passage the Lord says, “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established” whereas in the Chronicles passage the Lord says, “I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom forever”. The ‘thine house’ becomes ‘mine house’ and the ‘thy kingdom’ becomes ‘my kingdom’!

That God was obviously not just speaking about Solomon, who did reign in his father’s stead, is clear from the book of the Psalms. In Psalm 89.3-4 we read of the Lord’s covenant – I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant: Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah. Speaking about David the Lord says in verse 29 of this same Psalm – His seed also will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven. And again in verses 34-37 the Lord says – My covenant will I not break, nor will I alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.

Clearly, the Lord could not be speaking about Solomon for the very simple reason that David’s son Solomon did not endure forever. Secondly, his kingdom also did not endure forever. Far from enduring forever, Solomon’s kingdom was actually torn away from him. 1 Kings 11.11-13 records God’s final warnings to Solomon – Wherefore, the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done by thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely tear the kingdom away from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding, in thy days I will not do it, for David thy father’s sake: but I will tear it out of the hand of thy son. Howebeit, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but will give one tribe to thy son, for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, which I have chosen.

Whether or not David and Solomon understood the full significance of God’s covenant, scripture is clear that the Seed of David, who was to proceed out of his own body, is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. The angel Gabriel speaks to Mary about Jesus in Luke 1.32 saying – He (Jesus) shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father, David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (However, the apostle Paul in Acts 13.22-23 says, “And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; of whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, who shall fulfil all my will. Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus,”. Here scripture clearly tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ was raised unto Israel to be a Saviour, not just to reign over the house of Jacob. The scriptures abundantly affirm that our Lord Jesus Christ could not have but suffered and died before entering into His Glories, which no doubt included His entering upon His kingly reign over Israel.)

Thus we see a dual purpose in God’s promises to Abraham and to David. Ultimately Christ was the fulfilment of those promises. Nevertheless God’s promise to Abraham and to David was for real and therefore legitimate. God did indeed desire to bless all nations through Abraham and through his descendents, the Israelites. The fact that the Israelites failed to be a channel of blessing does in no way negate God’s intention. Indeed this only made way for God’s hidden, heavenly purposes to be revealed and fulfilled in His own time.

Scripture often speaks with this dual aspect in mind. For instance although God spoke through Moses to the children of Israel in the wilderness, His word was not only for them but for all time. In answering the Pharisees who came to Him with the issue of divorce, our Lord Jesus Christ, quoting from the writings of Moses told them, “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Of course when God gave those instructions through Moses, they were without doubt meant for those Israelites Moses himself addressed. Nevertheless God’s word through Moses is for all time. But here in Matthew 19.8 our Lord Jesus affirms pointedly that Moses wrote you those words. The Lord Jesus was speaking centuries after Moses to people of His own day and yet He said that Moses wrote them those words. Similarly we too could say that Moses wrote for us things applicable in our own day and generation.

So we notice that not only does God speak to an individual and have in mind another individual, He also speaks to individuals things which could be applied to others at a much later time period. Thus very often prophecy has had an immediate fulfilment and also a faraway and future fulfilment.

When we examine the Gospel accounts and try and answer the question as to why Jesus came into this world, we will be faced with two rather different answers.

1. On the one hand, as already seen, we read that the Lord Jesus Christ was born into this world to reign over the house of Jacob forever. Jesus Himself admitted that He was born for this very purpose. In answering Pilate whether He was a King, our Lord admits, “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into this world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.”(John 18.37) And just in case a doubt may remain with regard to our Lord’s reply according to the KJV translation, we include Scofield’s note on these words – This is a clear, affirmative answer, according to the Greek idiom. Observe what follows in the text: “To this end was I born,” etc.

2. Whereas the angel Gabriel told Mary that her to-be-born son would “reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” before Jesus was born, an angle of the Lord speaks to Joseph in a dream informing him that Mary’s son would “save his people from their sins”. We also notice that the Lord Jesus also confessed that He came to seek and to save lost sinners. In the context of Zacchaeus receiving the Lord Jesus into his house, Jesus announced to him saying, “This day is salvation come to this house...for the son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk.19.9-10).

There are of course many other verses that explain why the Lord Jesus came into this world. For example, the apostle Paul tells us in 1Timothy 1.15 “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners...”.

So what do we make of these verses that, on the one hand tell us that the Lord Jesus Christ was born into this world to be King and to reign over the house of Jacob forever, while on the other hand testifying to the fact that He came into this world to save sinners and bring them salvation. How do we understand these two rather different concepts, that seem to be apparently contradictory. For surely, if the Lord Jesus came into this world to be King, He should not have been crucified on a cross, and if He came to save sinners, the cross is exactly what we would expect and not a throne.

But the Scriptures are always right since God is always right. And if at all there seems to be any contradiction, it must exist in our thinking, in our minds and not in God’s Word for His Word is as infallible as Himself and therefore without any errors.

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