Saturday, October 9, 2010

Who is the Prince of this World? - A Response

...I write now mainly in response to the recent article you sent me entitled ‘Who is the Prince of this World?’ I must confess I found this particular article rather erroneous, to say the least. My dear brother, in what I have to say, please do not take it that I am lashing out at you personally. I do not intend to do any such thing. However, I cannot but think that in this article you are in error. Please do not take my comments as personally attacking you. I trust and believe that you, like myself, only desire to speak the truth and to hold all that the scriptures declare to be true. Hence I believe that you will not resent my examination of your article. I have always enjoyed your writings, which have been most stimulating, but I must confess this particular article does not contain the truth of God’s Word on this subject.

According to the light that I have received and, indeed in accordance to the scriptures themselves, I am obliged to state my reasons and at least try and explain why I defer from your own conclusions. I trust these words assure you of my sincere love and affection towards you, however much I might disagree with you on the point discussed here. Besides, I would gladly acknowledge that you are far more matured and learned than myself, ... I have profited much from your writings and praise God for His grace towards you in the Ministry of His Word. However, I feel obliged to state my views and, because I believe your own to be false, to try and explain them in however feeble and inadequate a way I might be able to.

To begin with, I would like to point out that in your article when you quote John 16.32 you insert the words ‘to heaven’ thus – “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth (to heaven), will draw all men unto me.” Now those are your words added to make, as you say, better and complete sense. But if this is what was meant, why did the Spirit of God not say so plainly? Besides, that expression ‘lifted up from the earth’ explains what we have in the following verse 33, “This he said, signifying by what death he should die.” If all that Jesus meant by the expression ‘lifted up from the earth’ meant His return to heaven to the Father, how would this expression signify the type of death He should die? Clearly, being lifted up from the earth meant our Lord would be literally lifted up or made to be raised up from the earth.

Interestingly, John 3.14 uses a similar expression, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:” Clearly, the Lord Jesus was not referring to His returning to Heaven to His Father. (Of course in dying, Jesus would return to His Father. This we do not deny.) The serpent of course we know was not lifted up into heaven but was raised or lifted up, elevated upon a staff, and similarly, Jesus Himself would be thus raised, lifted or elevated, when He would be crucified.

Now this is brought out clearly when later in John 8.28 we read, “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.” These words were spoken by our Lord to the Jews, as seen clearly from the context. Did the Lord Jesus mean that these Jews would send Jesus back to Heaven? That they would lift Him up into Heaven? No. The context was clearly the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 21 the Lord had said, “...I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins; whither I go, ye cannot come.” In response, the Jews ask in the following verse, “...Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.” Clearly, the Jews understood Jesus’ words to mean that He would die, only they wondered if He would kill himself. The context was clearly Jesus’ death. And in this context of Jesus’ death, He uttered the words of verse 28 and stated clearly that the Jews would be responsible for His death, His crucifixion, which type of death chapter 12 verses 32 and 33 intimate. (Here of course, we are not denying that our Lord laid down His life of His own will and that no one was able to take it from Him. Nevertheless it is also true that the Jews rejected their Messiah and had Him crucified. Compare Peter’s words in Acts 2.23 and 3.15)

Your quotation of John 14.30 does not make good sense. This is how you have given the verse along with your clarifications and questions.

Hereafter I will not talk much with you: (Why will He not talk much with them?) for (because) the prince of this world comes, (Christ, this prince comes...) and has nothing in me (because Israel refused to give Him His true title, Prince of this world!).”

Please allow me to quote from Darby’s translation of this verse. Darby’s reads, “I will no longer speak much with you, for the ruler of the world comes, and in me he has nothing;” Young’s literal translation reads, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world doth come, and in me he hath nothing;” In both the above translations, the Lord Jesus is contrasting the ruler of the world with Himself in saying ‘in me he’ has nothing; unlike the KJV translation, in which the emphasis of this contrast is not brought out clearly. The Greek of this verse definitely bears this out.  All the major Greek texts read, “kai. evn evmoi. ouvk e;cei ouvde,n as the last line of this verse. Clearly evmoi (emoi) ‘in me’ is contrasted with e;cei (echei) ‘he has’; the ‘me’ and ‘he’ being contrasted. Obviously, two different persons are here intended by these words, as is also clear from the two translations I have quoted.

This verse alone proves that the ruler of the world could not be the Lord Himself. Whoever the ruler is, it is not the Lord Himself. His identity would have to be discovered from other passages of scripture. But this much is clear, the ruler is not the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. (Revelation 1.5 of course states that the Lord Jesus Christ is the “prince of the kings of the earth.” Here our Lord Jesus is called the ‘Prince of the kings of the earth’, not ‘Prince of the world’. The two expressions do not mean the same thing. Besides, in the book of the Revelation, the kingdom of this world is contemplated as having become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (Rev.11.15) and the Lord is viewed as the Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, who is and who was, and who is to come (Rev.1.8). With this in view, nothing hinders the Lord being addressed as the Prince of the kings of the earth, as indeed one day He will show Himself to be truly so.)

Besides, your quotation of the verse does not make good sense. Within the verse you ask, “Why will He not talk much with them?” in brackets, and then you answer within brackets, “because…Christ, this prince comes…)”. Frankly, this is rather odd. It would have been understandable to say that He would not speak much with them because Christ goes…(Granted that the word for ‘comes or coming’ can also be translated as ‘goes or going’, however, in view of the following words, it is rightly translated ‘comes’ and not ‘goes’.) But here the word says because He comes. And if so, what sense can be made of the fact that Jesus will not speak much with his disciples because He comes! Here something is quite amiss. Your words don’t seem to make good sense.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that simply because we find an expression to mean something in John 12 and John 16, it need not be conclusive that if that expression occurs in between, as in John 14, it should mean the same thing referring to the same person or thing. This is what you ask,

‘is it possible that our title, “the prince of this world,” could refer to the Lord Jesus Christ in John 12:31 and also in John 16:11 and then refer to the devil in John 14:30? – a verse in between? Unthinkable indeed!’

Now, assuming that your conclusions on John 14.30 and John 16.11 are true, this would in itself not be a proof that John 12.31 should also be treated in like manner, or that the words necessarily refer to the person they refer to elsewhere. No doubt they could mean or refer to the same person or thing, but this logic alone cannot be applied to prove it to be so. Other considerations would have to apply.

In scripture, expressions and even words that occur in the same context may not necessarily have the same meaning, i.e., in the sense, that they need not refer to the same person or thing.

Allow me to explain. If you turn to Daniel chapter 9 and verse 25 you will find the words, “…unto Messiah the Prince…”. And in the next verse 26 too you will find the words the prince. Now in the KJV, the translators have put the word ‘Prince’ in verse 25 beginning with a capital letter but the one in the next verse is in lower case. The original of course does not have this distinction. Now you are probably aware of how covenant theologians interpret these verses. And simply because the word prince occurs in two consecutive verses, people have generally made the mistake of assuming that in both instances, the same person is referred to. I believe you will agree that in verse 25, the word Prince refers to our Lord Jesus Christ himself, whereas in verse 26 the word refers to the Roman Prince whose people destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. Clearly, two very different persons were described here with the same word within two verses.

Obviously, we cannot and ought not to be guaranteed that if any word(s) occur within the same book, chapter or even, as in the example quoted, within two verses, they should necessarily refer to the same person, or thing as the case may be. The words in themselves could mean the same, and they probably ought to, if words have to be interpreted at all. But that they should and therefore refer to the same person or thing, etc. is not guaranteed simply because they occur so. Of course, when all things are taken into consideration and the words clearly ought to be understood to refer to the same thing or person, no one would deny that they definitely ought so to be taken; but not otherwise and definitely not simply because of their close proximity of occurrence.

Dear brother, please do not take offense since I do not wish to offend you in any way. I do not desire to attack you personally. I only wish to arrive at the truth of God’s Word and nothing else. If I have in any way misread or misunderstood your article, or if my own understanding is faulty, please do feel free to correct me. I would be only too grateful to you for pointing out the truth to me and I would be most happy to learn from you.

I trust my motives and intentions in writing have been made fairly clear and that you will in no wise have any misgivings about anything I have written.

Please allow me to once again assure you of my deepest respect and sympathy, love and affection in the Lord. I pray the Lord would grant us all much grace even by the help of His Spirit, who alone can lead us into all Truth, the Truth of His Word.

I close with much love and prayers.

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