Tuesday, December 26, 2006

J.N. Darby on Christ the Heir

by John Nelson Darby

It is on this gathering together of all things unto Christ and in Christ, as their Head (Greek, anakephalaiosis- heading up), that depends the character and the substance of the hope of the church, until God be all in all. In this point of view, Scripture speaks of Christ manifested, as being Heir of all these things, and of the church as being joint-heir with Him. Thus it is written, that God has appointed Christ "heir of all things" (Heb. 1:2); that in Him, "we have obtained an inheritance" (Eph 1:11); that "we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ," Rom. 8:17. This glorious title of Christ- the Heir- has a still more glorious origin. He is "the firstborn of every creature, for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth... and for him," Col. 1:15, 16. The church, the children of God, are therefore joint-heirs with Christ. How are they such? It is this which we are about to develop. Christ receives the inheritance in His character of man, of risen Man, once our companion in sufferings because of sin, and then the Head, the root and the spring of blessing.

We must first remark that the first Adam, "the figure of Him that was to come," is a type and figure of the Second Adam of whom we are now speaking. He is referrd to in this respect in Ephesians 5:30, 31. Before His manifestation, the last Adam is, as it were, hidden, as the first Adam was buried in sleep (Darby later questioned this analogy- D.F); Eve, who prefigures the church, is taken from his side, and God presents her to him as the help meet for him, to be his companion in the government and the inheritance of all things given to him of God in paradise.

Thus Christ, who is God as well as man, presents the church to Himself, when He awakes in His glory, that it may share that glory with Him and that dominion which He already poseses in title and by the gift of God, "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them," John 17:22.

Adam and Eve, taken collectively, are called Adam, as if they were but one (Gen. 1:27, 5:2), although in a strict sense, Eve was inferior to her husband, and had come after him. So it is with Christ and the church, who are but one mystical body. This type, familiar to those who read the Scriptures, presents, in a most simple way, all the forms of the reality prefigured, with this expression, that the Second Man, being 'out of heaven' (1 Cor. 15:47), is also Head and Lord of the heavenly things.

Taken from The Purpose of God in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, vol.1, p.268-269

Sunday, December 24, 2006

At a risk of being boiled with my own pudding and having a sprig of Holly skewered through my heart, I am going to say:

Merry Christmas

Or Merry Saturnalia to all you Jehovah's Witnesses and any like-minded extreme KJV-Fundamentalists who want to enjoy having a family holiday but do not want to get tangled in any pagan stuff.

By the way, a lot of people get slippers as a Christmas present. It is one of those things that makes a great present (provided you know the recipient's shoe-size). If you do, please take it as a sign that you really ought to make your home a shoe-free zone. It will certainly make for a more relaxed atmosphere during the holiday season.

Have a clean and godly Christmas this year.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

J.N. Darby on Psalm 22:22

by John Nelson Darby

Psalm 22:22

Note, if we remark what the force of this verse is, we shall see what the character of our praise, in worship especially ought to be; for what, sice Christ leads it, must His sense be of the nature and completeness of this deliverance before God, and His new position?

Note, Christ does not declare God's name as known to the great congregation, nor call them brethren- it is the same God He praises, no doubt- nor does He say "in the midst of the congregation." In truth, His praise of Him "in the great congregation" etc. sets His rather alone, though as publishing His name, leading them to praise Him. So also He pays His vows "before those that fear" God. It is evidently more Jewish for the deliverances than the revelation of the Name, founded on verse 24, which refers to the act but not to the Name which He revealed when delivered. See Psalm 145, and then John 17, where Psalm 22 is fully brought out.

Verse 22 gives thus in Jewish sort "Thy name," but as Christians we have more. This was on resurrection, "My God and your God." But then He had more for His disciples which He had been afresh, or as a new thing, revealing to them all His life- the Father; now this was fully declared in John 17. Not only did He own Jehovah as His God and walk accordingly, but being One, the Father was seen in Him. This is quite a new thing by virtue of the divine union of the Persons, and yet He is not ashamed to call them brethren. Therefore He says too: "My Father and your Father." This was not merely Jewish, see John 4, where this begins to be openned out. Therefore this time is not mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews, nor introduced in force- but God, being of all the children, as such, by faith. But then this address to them in the name of brethren introduces them into the place of children as in John 1, "to them gave He authority to become the sons of God," because He was to praise for redemption in the midst of the congregation. The difference of the relationship to the Jews of Christ in the flesh, being concealed and smothered, is the root error of Irvingism. It is the devil's abuse of His relationship in the flesh to them, as of His mother linked with them on earth, though holy. This rejected One "Who is my mother?" is of His Father (heavenly), and so the children, and not knowing the earth save as subject, and therefore knowing Christ after the flesh, knowing Him no more, and therefore kaine ktisis (a new creation). All their good and special knowledge is just what Christ has set aside, and they even held that unholily and it is evil; just as in Galatians, the Jewish ceremonies to a Gentile, united to Christ in resurrection, was the same thing as going back again to His own idols- quod nota- have their natural headships, not God's family and the like. Verse 22 however, being in resurrection necessarilly involves sonship, for He therein was declared Son of God with power, and it is only after the resurrection He says "Go tell my brethren" but thence it is addressed to be the means of calling Kol- Israel (the whole of Israel) that they that feared should praise.


Monday, November 27, 2006

The Patristic Page

The Patristic Page

Why not join me in reading the Early Church Fathers? Darby thought they were 'a bin of trash.' Decide for yourself!

Friday, November 17, 2006

J.N. Darby on the Melchisedek Priesthood of Christ

by J.N. Darby

The blessing of Abram, by Melchisedec, runs thus - "Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be the Most High God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand.

It is familiar to every reader, that the apostle uses Melchisedec as the type of Christ, according to the word of the oath: "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec."

We would say a few words on this Melchisedec priesthood of Christ, its extent and blessing. And first, it is not that which Christ the Lord now exercises. Not that He is not a priest after that order - we know fully that He is, by the epistle to the Hebrews, and from Psalm 110, and that He is not of any other. But the exercise of His priesthood is according to the typical character of Aaron's on the day of atonement, as the same epistle shews. The whole of the present order of things answers to the day of atonement - is typified by it. The High Priest is gone within the veil, with the blood of the sacrifice - even of Himself - His own blood. So there, as yet, He is, whom the heavens must receive till the time of the restoration of all things, which God hath promised by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. This, then, is the time during which the Lord, though a priest after the order of Melchisedec, after the power of an endless life, made with an oath for ever (eis to dienekes*), in perpetuity, a continuous, not a successional priesthood; yet exercises it practically for us according to the type, though not according to the order of Aaron, as within the veil, on the great day of atonement.

Accordingly the apostle, after declaring the order of His priesthood, enters upon and dwells exclusively in detail upon the Aaronic priesthood, as characteristic of that which the Lord Christ now exercises. He shews that He exercises it, anti-typically, within the veil, the priesthood being, in its exercise, now one entirely of a heavenly character. He is gone within, not the typical veil, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. The blood is not of bulls and goats, with which the patterns of things in the heavens were purified, but His own blood - those better sacrifices by which the heavenly things themselves could be purified. The very glory with which Jesus is said to be crowned is spoken of in the words in which the consecration garments of Aaron, and his sons after him, are described in Exodus. (Compare Heb. 2: 7 and Ex. 28: 2, in LXX, where the words are literally "for honour and glory.") The whole of chapters 8 and 9 shew the present exercise of the Lord Christ's priesthood to be after the Aaronical pattern, though He be in no sort after the Aaronical order. It is the very reasoning and subject of the epistle; and in chapter 9 the analogy is entered into in detail, so as to enable us to apply the details of the priestly services of the Levitical order to our present condition; as, however imperfectly, is commonly known in the Christian church.

It is manifest, then, that the type of Melchisedec here presented to us, as indicative of the priesthood of Christ, in its exercise leads us to further results and wider exhibition than that in which He now so graciously, and blessedly for us, secures the life, and blessing, and salvation of His people in heavenly places; Himself far above all heavens, at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having by Himself purged our sins. The priesthood of Christ is clearly after the order of Melchisedec, and solely so; its exercise now is as clearly after the type of the order of Aaron solely; and that as exhibited on the great day of atonement within the veil. Not but that there is a great deal revealed now as to Aaronic types, which could not be seen in the type itself, which was a shadow, not the very image, the veil is now rent behind Him, and we are enabled to follow Him within, and see where He is set down, to our comfort and everlasting joy. But there is a glory besides, not yet fulfilled; a glory of its own character, a glory properly Christ's, and taught us in this type of Melchisedec, the exercise of which we find yet to come; and all that develops Christ's glory is precious to the saints. It is the Lord's glory, the glory of the Son of the Father, His own glory, too, as well as the Lord's glory. On this I would speak a little.

The priesthood of Melchisedec is, then, that royal dominion of priesthood in which, as representing the Most High God, and speaking also for man to Him in returns of praise, Christ blesses from Him (as now in His possession) heaven and the uttermost parts of the earth, through and in the seed of God. We find even in the case of Nebuchadnezzar (the first great type of earthly and Gentile dominion but opening out its corruption), his greatness reached unto heaven, and his dominion to the end of the earth; and this is put in such a strong light, that, as far as earth goes, the Adamic dominion is (Daniel 2: 38) in a remarkable manner attributed to him. He may have been guilty, and the first exhibition of Gentile apostate dominion; still this characteristic of universal dominion is attached to him. He was the man (in whatever pride of character he filled it) set in power. The mystery of his non-acknowledgment of God in it was to be brought out in him; and the seven times of a beast's heart in this selfish and proud dominion. It was the man of the earth, not the Lord from heaven acting as man in the power of righteousness; the king of Babylon, not the Son of David, not the Lord from heaven ruling in Jerusalem as witnessing the true God. But it was a dominion given, and typically exhibiting this dominion over the earth, though to illustrate its abuse in man's hand (hence the seed of God, even brought into captivity, not blessed as in power or deliverers); a dominion given in connection with that age (aion), in which administrative power was put into the hand of man, in the commission to kill whoever killed, which was given to Noah. The other characteristic of the evil and apostasy of it was the setting up a false god - an image. But the result was that God was owned by the king "the Most High God": God is acknowledged in this character. The seven times' punishment comes, till he knows that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will. Thus much for all short of dominion in heaven (though his greatness reaches to that), all earthly dominion.

But there is another portion of the divine inheritance corrupted and debased, the scene of power, however, and blessing. His greatness reached to the heavens; but what do the revelations of God shew us to be in the heavenlies?" The saints of the Most High (that is, of the heavenlies - Heb. elionin)* shall take the kingdom." But we find that we are wrestling with principalities and powers, with spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies (Eph. 6: 12); that is, power apostate from God, holding the earth; exceeding great power, and spiritual wickedness, principalities and powers, holding the heavenlies: the earth, and the heavenlies alike, possessed by evil in present power. We find the saints of the heavenlies (Daniel 7: 18) taking the kingdom, and the people of the saints of the high places or heavenlies given the kingdom, and dominion, and greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven (v. 27). In this it is that God has His title, as may be seen in Daniel, of Most High (the second word Most High in verse 25 being different in the original from the first given above), that Most High whom Nebuchadnezzar was obliged and made willing to acknowledge. Thus the earthlies and heavenlies will, as regards government in association with God, be set in blessing under the name of the Most High.

But we have more definite statements on the subject. In the day of the full glory of the Lamb, there shall be one Lord, and His name One; the God of the whole earth shall He be called. In that day shall Jerusalem be called the throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it. And the Son of man appearing in His glory, King of the Jews, even Jesus of Nazareth, shall be on the throne, and not on the cross; and not in Hebrew, nor in Greek and Latin only; but in every language of power which despised Him, shall men join in owning the inscription of the Lord of glory, even Jesus of Nazareth, "This is the King of the Jews," when the earthly kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ is come. This is not, indeed, the limit of His glory, though it be much to have destroyed them that destroyed the earth, and fill it with blessing, the mountain of the Lord's house being established in the top of the mountains, with especial blessing to the seed of God, under His righteous reign. All power is given to Him in heaven; and thus we find the blessing identified with the Person and heavenly presence of Jesus. Accordingly we find in the promise, the purpose of His will in the Ephesians, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, "He should gather together in one all things in Christ; both which are in heaven and which are upon the earth." Now the mystery which belongs to us is not merely that we should have the sure mercies of David by virtue of His resurrection. This will be made sure to the Jews (Acts 13: 32-34), in the day when He shall see them, even the believing remnant, and He shall sit upon the throne of David His father, and reign over the house of Jacob for ever, all nations serving Him, and the nation and kingdom which will not serve Jerusalem shall perish, yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. But Jerusalem shall be called the city of the Lord; the Zion of the Holy One of Israel shall be an eternal excellency; its sun no more go down, but the Gentiles come to the brightness of its rising. This will be the portion of the despised ones, in all whose affliction He has been afflicted, over whose apostasy and rejection of Himself He could but weep. Those tears are not shed in vain, but mark a reaping in joy, when the joy shall be as the joy in harvest and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

But we have a yet better portion, not blessings, great as they are, secured in His resurrection, but to be raised together with Him, and to sit with Him in heavenly places. "He hath blessed us in heavenly places"; and the very purpose of that epistle to the Ephesians is to shew that, made sons with Him, we are to be with Him in heavenly places, the body of Him, the Head to the Church over all things. We have not merely the fruits, but the working towards ourselves of that exceeding great power, which was wrought in Him, when "God raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places." (See Eph. 1: 19; Eph. 2: 7.) But we look at this only in government now in connection with the throne of Melchisedec.

Thus when He gathers together in one all things in Christ we find, under the blessing of His throne, the Jews in the earthlies the centre of blessing, and all nations blessed in them through Him (see Acts 3: 25), and the saints in the heavenlies, sitting there as raised with Christ, and having overcome through grace, sitting down in His throne, as He overcame and sat down in His Father's throne; and thus witnesses together of the universal dominion of Him, to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth, at once Son of God and Son of man; Lord over all, as well as God over all, blessed for evermore. But there is another character (for what of blessing does He not fill?) which we find the Lord here shewing forth. He is a Priest upon His throne (Zech. 6); and here we have the real full exercise of the Melchisedec priesthood. And now see how all the things referred to are brought together in it. We speak of Christ as Priest after the order of Melchisedec, in the day of His power on His throne. He had sat on His Father's till His foes were made His footstool, but now - gathering all things in heaven and on earth into one - He sits on His own throne.

That dreadful evil had come in, that Satan, sitting in heavenly places, had made the poor inhabitants of earth worship demons, gods many and lords many. And earthly power was associated with false worship and apostasy, as we see typified in the great image set up by Nebuchadnezzar, in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Hence misery, also persecution and degradation of the children of God. The corrupter and murderer being in heavenly places, corruption was the portion of his subjects, death of those who were not so exempt. Now that which was specifically opposed to this was this title of the Most High God; so Nebuchadnezzar is bound down to confess the Most High God. And this name we find in the passage we are considering: "Blessed be Abram of the Most High God." Now this remarkably concurs with what we find connected with the call of Abram: "Your fathers," says Joshua (chap. 24), "served other gods beyond the flood." The call of Abraham, therefore, was not the judgment upon unrighteousness against God alone known and owned, but the call and witness of the Most High God. When the perverseness of man made gods many, and lords many, He was then the Most High God. We have seen, further, the heavenlies and the earthlies are united in one, in Christ; whose is all power in heaven and earth; and here, accordingly, Abraham is blessed of the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth; and as the title of the Most High God is given here, and witnessed in the priesthood of Melchisedec, who was priest of the Most High God, so also shall the blessing run in this full and unhindered channel, Possessor of heaven and earth. O what blessing in that day when there shall not be principalities and powers in heavenly places to taint the very source of blessing in powers above: no scene of deceived corruption below to make evil what God had made good; nor spirit of rebellion to bring the curse of opposition to God, the God of blessing, upon the wearied corrupters of their own mercy; but one whose it is, Possessor of heaven and earth, when the Lord shall hear the heavens, and the heavens shall hear the earth standing in the priesthood, and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and the corn and the oil shall hear Jezreel. O what blessing when the Most High takes (ever His in title) possession of heaven and earth, and our High Priest is His High Priest.

Thus we have total exclusion of all other gods but one, the only One; the world or heaven above knowing none but One; no creature above or on the earth taken to be a god but the Most High God, known as the Possessor of heaven and earth. What rest in that! what rest and security! while Satan has the power, while those hold the possession subject to his power, sorrow, discord, and death are the sad and unwelcome companions of man's voyage; he is seduced to every folly, he is but as the convict in the ship - its guidance and its power are in other hands. Now the Most High is Possessor, and where shall be the tempter then? Not in heaven: the Most High possesses that; not on earth: the Most High reaches in His possession to that; and the very ends of the earth shall feel the blessing of His pervading comprehensive blessedness. But this Melchisedec, though priest of the Most High God, had other characters. He was King of righteousness (comp. Isaiah 32); for where righteousness is, there is blessing. He was king of Salem, which is king of Peace; for the fruit of righteousness is peace; the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever. The Melchisedec priesthood is the security of the blessings of these from the Most High God; the union of heaven and earth under Him, and the mutual blessing of both known in Him, and the common recognition of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth.

But we have also to look at the object of this blessing - Abram. Now, naturally, Abram is the father of the natural seed - "I know that ye are Abraham's seed," saith the Lord to the Jews. Here then he stood the father of Israel (and in them of the blessing of many nations), blessed from the fulness of the Most High God, by the King of Peace and of righteousness; the representative of the natural seed of Israel, blessed from on high, in the earthlies, with all the fulness of blessings from God Most High, possessor, etc. But Abraham stood, however, as we know, also as representative of the seed which inherit the heavenlies - Christ and ourselves. "If ye are Christ's, ye are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise"; "and they that are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." And thus (though by subsequent development, for it was hidden as yet) he stood as the representative of the heavenly seed also, and the blessing of the Most High found its actual scope, as He was possessor of the heavens, those who were in Jesus, having their place there, as well as of the earth, all being gathered together in one in Him. Thus, in the title of God - in the priest himself - in the object of the blessing, we find the great character of universality according to the mystery of His will (His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself), "that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, He should gather together in one, all things in Christ": the Jews, being the objects and channels of earthly blessing; and we, sitting in heavenly blessings, priests with Him, ministers of all blessings, and kings withal.

In the character of the priesthood, as exercised in the passage before us, we see the plain distinction from the Aaronical priesthood. That priesthood was a priesthood of intercession - "He ever liveth to make intercession for us," the saints of God, in our weakness: here is the constant object of His sure and never-failing care and intercession. He has appeared in the presence of God for us; and, I will add, the people of God (I mean the Jews), though under the cloud of His rejection, still waiting till the great High Priest shall come forth, the witness of the acceptance of the blood of the atonement, carried within the veil; and remaining a people blinded indeed, but sustained outwardly as the people of God, by virtue of that service of intercession, till He shall come forth and bless them in the name of the Lord. We know that He has sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; we can see through the rent veil into the holiest of all, and see our Jesus there; and still, though longing and waiting for the time of His appearing, are content, because we know that Jesus is glorified, and His glory sure, waiting only till His enemies be made His footstool, and that the long-suffering of God is salvation, that He delays because He is yet waiting to be gracious and calling sinners, and that He will surely come - He will not tarry.

But the priestly act of Melchisedec was blessing, not intercession; blessing from the Most High God. Here, then, is the exercise of the priesthood in its Melchisedec character - the King of righteousness and peace blessing the seed of God's acceptance, a blessed refreshing thought; evil removed, and blessing flowing out through the great High Priest, the Priest of the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth, unhindered. How do our hearts long for that day, the coming forth of Him our souls long for yet know, the universal blessing from the Most High God of heaven and earth. What a word shall be pronounced in that day! how shall heaven and earth ring with the welcome witness of the blessing of the heavenly; the earthly seed be unfettered in its praise; the bondage of corruption gone from the creature, whose rejoicing, though God was ever good and shewed His goodness in it, was restrained till the heirs of the inheritance of God, joint-heirs with Jesus, were manifested to be sons of God. For, lest a cloud should rest on the brow of the heirs of God's inheritance - the church of the firstborn, the creation in bondage through them must wait for their manifestation for its happiness - must be dependent on their deliverance for its joy, as suffering through their fault. For neither is the blessing of Abraham thus widely spread, the only thing; but honour redounds and praise on high: "Blessed be the Most High God, who hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand." This blessing is after the full destruction of the enemies of the people of God, after the victory over the gathered kings and great ones of the earth, "the hosts of the high ones also [that are] on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth"; for there is one Most High, who is possessor of both, and one King Melchisedec, King of Salem, where praise waits for the God of all the earth. Thus is the echo above and below in that centre of both - one in Him; one with the Father, the Most High God; and who Himself took on Him Abraham's seed, now come forth in His kingly glory to bless us from God Most High, and God from us - the Man of blessing, the Blessing Man, the Lord Most High.

But we remark in interpretation most definitely, in connection with all we have said, that it is blessing and refreshment after, and consequent upon, the destruction of all the enemies of those who are represented by Abraham, bringing down and destroying those who destroy the earth by the Lord's power, Himself the servant to refresh. All victory is but in some sort weariness, for victory, if a time of joy, is a time of weariness: if we had none to meet after it, it would be the sorrowful consciousness of destruction, needed, perhaps, for deliverance, but destruction still, God's strange work. But it is not so with the delivered there, nor with us, but in every place where the grounded staff shall pass, which the Lord shall lay upon him, it shall be with tabrets and harps, joy of deliverance. And who shall be there to refresh? Even that One who cometh forth to bless. He brings forth bread and wine, the bread of Salem where the King dwelt, but now the servant of the victors, to give the joy of deliverance, and the refreshing of love; the wine of the kingdom drunk new, great deliverance to their parched lips, that they may open in refreshment, and praise, and speak, and think of Him, how great soever, who brought it forth, their Melchisedec making them to sit down to meat, and as he that taketh the yoke from off the neck; the servant of that blessing always, though beyond controversy the less is blessed of the greater.

Thus then we have in this little sentence the accomplished character of the Most High God, over, and as to, all things in heaven and earth, the one true God, known in blessing, universal blessing, and the unity of all things in Christ; the centre of all this blessing, the benediction priesthood of Melchisedec, the blessing by Him of the redeemed of God. This consequent upon the victory of these, over all their confederate enemies, and the deliverance of every captive; and they all made partakers of the food and wine of the kingdom, brought forth for their joy, and His own rest and delight, by the King of Salem, of righteousness and peace, ministering blessing from the Most High to them, offering it up for them to the Most High. The victory over, the refreshment, as the joy of it from the blessed source, the blessing from His own mouth, the blessing from the Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, proved so in His redeemed, to whom He gives the joy and inheritance, the habitation of both.

May the blessing of Melchisedec, of Christ, the Lord, the King, dwell on our spirits; may we see it in spirit, and may it, in type, be our joyful portion now that He is the servant of intercession for us. He is Head, the witness, and the leader of all our praise, in the ages of the fulness of blessing (even when God shall be all in all), as now in the poor congregation of His saints. How imperfectly all the joy of this could be declared, our own enjoyment of it must most surely tell. May the Spirit of our God teach a more skilful tune to those who may take the lesson into their hands, because the chord struck unskilfully has awakened the thoughts of praise in their hearts; and after all, our dying notes here are but poor witnesses to that new song which we shall sing in abiding notes of praise. And may the sweetness of the instrument itself strike some heart as yet untuned. To hear or know how sweet is the melody of heaven, of Jesus' praise, they and we have yet to learn, in the hope and glory of the blessing which rests not only on His head, but is in His heart toward the redeemed of God in full creation, for we are called to inherit a blessing. We have a better portion than reigning - our calling to be with Him: still His reign will be the source of sweet and rich blessings to a delivered earth; Rev. 11: 15.

Key words: Hebrews, typology, Millennium, Dispensationalism, New Covenant, type, dispensation

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

J.N. Darby and the Jews

John Nelson Darby believed that God's promise to Abraham was unconditional and that one day the Jewis people would be converted and restored to the land of promise in connection with the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom. When Jewish people were converted he rejoiced.


- Darby did not give money to the Zionist movement.

- Darby did not encourage the Jews to build a temple in Jerusalem.

- Darby did not publish magazines all about events in the Middle East.

- Darby did not start special prayer meetings focused on the Jews.

- Darby did not think that converting Jews had a special priority over and above preaching the Gospel to all.

- Darby had no sentimental fondness for the Jewish people.

- Darby did not display the Star of David anywhere.

- Darby did not encourage converted Jews to call themselves 'Messianic Jews' or to set up 'Messianic Synagogues.'

- Darby did not think converted Jews had some special insight into the Word of God.

- Darby did not listen to 'Messianic music'.

- Darby did not do Jewish dancing in the assembly.

- Darby did not expect a revival among the Jews before the rapture.

- Darby did not refer to our Lord as Yeshua, Y'shua, Yahshua or any variation of this name.

- Darby did not refer to the apostle Paul as Sh'aul.

- Darby did not celebrate the Jewish feasts and did not see them as a way to evangelize the Jews.

Darby did, however, believe that the Antichrist would be a Jew, that the Jews would fall into ever deeper apostasy as the end approached and that many doctrinal errors could be traced to Judaizing.

Key words: J.N. Darby, Jews, Israel, Messianic Judaism, Christian Zionism, Zionist, Dispensationalism, Premillennialism, Premillennial, Hebrew Roots

Friday, November 10, 2006

J.N. Darby defends Infant Baptism

(views expressed here do not necessarilly reflect my own)

A letter of John Nelson Darby

Dear Mrs. Walter, - I should never, and never have, as you know, pressed any to baptise their children, or introduced the subject. Indeed, while fully recognising it as a christian ordinance, I am disposed to think that it is in scripture, for our present condition, purposely left in the background. While eternal life and union with Christ are fixed and sure in Him, the ordering of all on earth till Christ comes, and even then, is provisional; not that we have not duties in the state of things we are in; duties belong to that: but the ordering of things passes. We have a kingdom that cannot be moved, eternal life, membership of Christ; but this in actual full possession is to come, and what we have now, even of divine ordinances, is passing. But I repeat, our duties are now. I shall only therefore present to you what scripture affords me on the subject, for if ever I hesitated, and, like others, I was exercised about it, I have NO doubt as to infant baptism of the children of a Christian. But I have a full feeling that Christ did not send me to baptise; I leave to others activities on either side. The twelve were sent to baptise, but as to ecclesiastical matters, we are under Paul.

This for such questions is an all-important remark, because the commission to the Gentiles (on which you and all Baptists rest) was given up by the leading apostles into his hands. But in general he, and he only, taught what the Church was, and it is on that ground we are. Further remark, the commission to the twelve was not from heaven, nor consequently immediately connecting with heaven, but from Galilee, and a commission to bring the nations into connection with an accepted remnant of Jews on earth - not to bring Jew and Gentile into the body in an ascended Christ, which was Paul's commission especially, preaching withal reconciliation from heaven to every creature under it. His original commission is remarkable in this respect. A heavenly Christ was revealed to him - "delivering [separating] thee from the people and from the Gentiles, to whom now I send thee." He belonged neither to Jew nor Gentile in his service, but to heaven. Hence he in baptism knows nothing but baptising to death to all man is, and at the utmost resurrection with Christ into a new state of things. With Peter it is: you have crucified Christ, God has raised and exalted Him. Hence they were to repent and be baptised for the remission of sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Nor does he even go to our death with Christ, or our resurrection with Him. Nay, in Acts 3 he proposes to the Jews to repent, and Jesus would be sent back, and the people would be blessed by the times of refreshing of which the prophets had spoken.

You will say: This is a long story on what is simple; but it is on the mission of the twelve you found your doctrine. That was only to disciple Gentile nations and baptise them. Of the carrying out of this we have no account in scripture: the nearest to it is in Mark, the last verse. But we have an enlarged account of Paul's taking their place; and it is remarkable that Roman Catholics and Puseyites all rest on the commission to the twelve, not on that to Paul. But where in Mark baptism is spoken of it is upon wholly another ground: "he that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved." It was the gospel to a lost world, to every creature, and if a man believed and was baptised, he was saved. It concerns a heathen or a Jew confessing Christ, who before did not, and what is called joining Christians, and as "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness" so "with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Here it had a saving force founded on faith, but that is not the question now. No one can in this sense say a man is saved by baptism, but that is the only use of it in Mark. The Campbellites have this view of it as an ordinance, but with grievous errors, and false in itself, as man's act and not as becoming a Christian. Further remark, that the hundred and twenty first formed into the Church by the coming of the Holy Ghost, or, at any rate, the twelve, were never baptised. I know it is said they had John's baptism, and no doubt rightly, some certainly, and all with little doubt; but that was the opposite of christian baptism. It was to receive Christ; christian baptism is to His death - to a rejected Christ as such at God's right hand; and one baptised with John baptism had to be baptised again, as in Acts 19.

The command was to baptise, not to be baptised, and this makes all the difference. It is not an act of obedience, in this the scripture is quite clear. Acts 8. (verse 37 is not genuine*), he says, "what doth hinder me to be baptised?" it was a privilege to be obtained; but the words do not allow the idea of obedience, but exclude it. So Acts 10, 47, "can any man forbid water?" - a privilege, no idea of obedience, but an admission into the christian estate consequent on the proof that God would have him: and indeed it would be cruel to make it a matter of obedience, as no man can fulfil it; another must do it for him. The admission to a privilege cannot be a matter of obedience, though obedience gives privileges as such. But the real point is, the passages prove that it was the act of the baptiser, not of the baptised. And this changes its whole nature. It is said, Where are children commanded to receive baptism? of course they are not, nor believers. Ordinances are never the subject of commands. They are ordained and rightly used, but never obedience in him who profits by them; it would deny the very nature of Christianity, and destroy the blessing for him who partakes of it.

{*Griesbach rejects it, and it is cancelled or rejected by Grotius, Mill, Wetstein, Pearce, Tittman, Knapp, Lachmann, Tischendorf, and others; it is not found in the Vatican MS., nor in the ancient Syriac.}

Another important principle destroyed by the Baptist system is the existence of a divinely instituted place in which blessing is, independently of the question of personal conversion, and to which responsibility is attached according to the blessing: as the olive tree in Romans, whose branches are broken off and grafted in again or replaced by others who are broken off afterwards, branches where the root and fatness of the olive tree is, yet they come to nothing; so Hebrews 6, 10. So 1 Corinthians 10, where the sacraments, so-called, are shewn to be the ground of this in Christendom, and so the house in 1 Corinthians 3, where wood, hay and stubble are built in with false doctrines, but it is God's building. And in 1 Peter 4: 17 judgment was to begin at the house of God, alluding to Ezekiel. So we see it as a principle in Romans 3: "What advantage then hath the Jew? . . . much every way." But he was condemned, not converted. So the wicked servant who ate and drank with the drunken: was "that servant" the same as the faithful one and Christ his Lord?

Another principle used by Baptists is that it is a formal testimony to what a person has already. This is quite unscriptural. We are baptised to death - not because we have died - rise therein, if I bring in resurrection: it saves us, says Peter - is not used as a witness of being saved. "Arise and be baptised (says Ananias) and wash away thy sins," not in confession that thy sins are washed away. Thus the whole system of Baptists I find to be unscriptural. It is not obedience: that the Baptist brethren now admit: it is not testimony to what we have. The apostles were not baptised, but the twelve were sent to baptise the Gentiles, being themselves received by Christ. Paul was not sent to do it at all, though he was formally sent, from and by a heavenly Christ, to the Gentiles by a new commission, the leaders of the twelve giving theirs up and going to the circumcision.

What is it then? A formal admission into the place of privilege. Water cannot be refused to Cornelius: nothing hindered the treasurer of Candace from being baptised. 1 Corinthians 10 clearly shews that it is the admission into public outward association with God, as when Israel crossed the Red Sea, as the Lord's supper is a sign and expression of food and drink in the desert. It is not a sign even of life - not of being baptised into Christ's body, nor of being made children. In Paul's teaching it is death; in Peter or Ananias, saving, washing away sins, as a sign, a passing from the state of sinful man into the place where God's privileges were, specially the presence of the Holy Ghost, who is among the saints in God's house as Satan is in the world. Paul in Titus 3 recognises the same truth.

The question then is, are children entitled to be received? are believers? Believers, clearly, if they have not yet been; if they have, they cannot be again. But supposing they have not, they are clearly received by baptism; and, in an ordinary way, at the beginning, those in received the Holy Ghost, as said in Acts 2, and may be seen in Acts 8. Can children, or are they to be left out where Satan rules? Scripture, I believe, gives a Christian parent a title to bring them to Christ, but this can only be now scripturally by death as baptism figures it, for "that which is born of the flesh is flesh." If baptism be the reception of children where the Holy Ghost is, and where they can be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and taught to obey, which till they are Christians as to position they cannot be, the question is, Is a christian parent obliged to leave his child outside with the devil, or allowed to bring him in where the Holy Ghost and the care of God's house is? Scripture tells one that children of a christian parent are holy, have a right to be admitted, are not as children of a Jew who had married a Gentile unclean, that is, unfit to be admitted among God's people, but holy. I know it is said the husband was so too. It is not true where the sense is looked to, The Jewish husband was profaned not profane, could not be profaned if he had been: it is what is holy that is profaned, nothing else can be. Now it is grace, and the unbeliever is "sanctified," not holy; the child is "holy". The Lord Himself has said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." It is said, Why not give them the Lord's supper? Because that is the sign of the unity of the body, and it is the baptism of the Holy Ghost that forms that. Baptists always reason instead of going to scripture. I have no difficulty with Baptists who think they have never been baptised; of course they ought to be. They have never been regularly admitted among Christians on earth; they may be of the body (as Cornelius) by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, but they have never been formally admitted to the house on earth, the place where the Holy Ghost dwells.

This answers another question you put - the converted and unconverted being baptised together. If it is admission into the house they are all admitted together, cannot be on any different principle. If it be obedience, then indeed there is; but scripture is in the teeth of this: to separate them would be to deny the principle on which any are baptised at all.

I respect the conscience of a Baptist; I repeat, if he think he never has been baptised he ought to be, but it is as clear to me as the day that his principles are totally unscriptural.

Nothing can be clearer then, that in the New Testament it is never treated as obedience. If it were, we were saved by our own obedience, have our sins washed away by our own obedience; for this is what is said of baptism. I understand quite well that a heathen coming to baptism does administratively receive the remission of his sins: every one is baptised to it. I understand too that one who has been as a heathen and converted coming to the faith - to such it is practically a first confession of Christ and that they are very happy - but obedience of a believer to an ordinance is all wrong from beginning to end; as to the Lord's supper as well as baptism. If a man think it is - I do not blame him for doing it, but it is wholly unintelligent. If a friend was to say, keep this in remembrance of me, and I said, I will do what you bid me, my friend would have no thanks to give me. The gift was not valued. You see it is a wide subject, but the great principle is that the children of a christian parent are holy; and so far from children being unfit subjects, "of such is the kingdom of heaven" - not Christ's, note, on earth.

The truth Baptists have to learn is that there is a place, a system established by God, where the blessings are found - the olive-tree fatness - without the question of conversion being settled, in which heathen, Mohammedans, and now for a time Jews are not, but in which these last will hereafter again be, though not on our footing. I know it is said you are bringing us back to Judaism. I answer, in this respect the apostle does in 1 Corinthians 10 and Romans 11: and baptism does not refer to the body with which they had nothing to do, nor to giving life (which, if they had, was not brought to light, and they had it only in the state of servants), but the dwelling-place of God, which they were then, which Christendom is now, and according to which, or as which, it will be judged - a very weighty consideration. All is so in confusion that this house is hard to own, but that does not alter the truth of scripture.

A word as to the place of parents; God has given them children; but "that which is born of the flesh is flesh." But the love of God is trusted, and the grace of Christ who receives such, and also the word believed that blessing is there where God has placed it. They cannot leave their children without in Satan's world; they bring them to be received as holy, as regards God's ways and dealings. The Church cannot receive them but through death, but receives them in Christ's name as if receiving Him, as He says, and the name of Jesus is called upon them through this image of His death too; and while received into God's congregation where the Holy Ghost is, and where all should be a pattern to them, they are given back to the parents in grace with Jesus' name on them to bring them up for Him, not for the world, "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." I receive them then because they are holy relatively, because Christ received them, and "of such is the kingdom of heaven," and I can receive them in no other scriptural way - with the sign of Christ's death and of His love.

I have no objection to any one reading this letter, but . . . it is not the time to occupy the church with ordinances.

Ever sincerely yours in the Lord.

Elberfeld, November 4th, 1869.

key words: Paedobaptism, Baptist, church, ecclesiology, ordinances, Dispensationalism, kingdom of heaven, House of God, Christendom, dispensational, Exclusive Brethren, Plymouth Brethren

Friday, November 03, 2006

J.N. Darby on Women

by John Nelson Darby

I do not accept a woman’s going out to evangelise. I never saw a woman meddle in teaching and church matters, but she brought mischief upon herself and everyone else. If she sits down with a company before her to teach them, she has got out of her place altogether. We read of Tryphena and Tryphosa, who laboured in the Lord, and the beloved Persis too- each in her own place of service. You find all honour done to women in the Gospels; but the Lord never sent a woman out to preach; neither did a man ever go and anoint Christ for burial. The woman’s prophesying was not preaching. There came inspired teaching to which they gace utterance. I believe it was in an extraordinary way, as Phillip's daughters. Women can by used, as Mary magdalene was sent by Christ to His disciples. If Christ sent a woman to carry a message, the best she could do would be to go and carry it, it is but a message. Suppose it was written down and was special instruction, the teaching then was in the message, not in Mary Magdalene's place. Scripture says, "I suffer not a woman to teach." She was not to teach at all. She can lead on those who have been converted without setting up to be a teacher. Teaching is expounding to people put under you to recieve certain doctrines.

The apostle is not speaking of wearing the sign of subjection at all times, but I believe it owuld be very comely. "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels," v.10. She is therein a spectacle with all present to the angels, and angels ought not to see disorder among Christians. The whole subject is modesty, and order, and comeliness, and things in their right place. Therefore the woman ought to have power on her head on account of the angels, that is, the sign of subjection to her husband. Angels should learn something in the church.

Taken from Notes of Readings in 1 Corinthians in Collected Writings, vol.26, p.255

Sunday, October 22, 2006

J.N. Darby on the Dispensation of the Kingdom of Heaven

by John Nelson Darby

I state synoptically what has been followed out as the subject arose. The kingdom of heaven we have as a state of things during the period when the Son is sitting on the Father's throne. During this period the children are in the Son's, but heirs of the Father's kingdom- a period during which the world is not ordered according to the righteous judicial power of the Son of Man's kingdom- the interval between the rejection of the Son of man upon earth abd His reigning upon earth, in which the saints are sustained by the Spirit, in the midst of the world, by the Spirit sent of the the Son by the Father, the witness of His exaltation there. Of this state of things, this chapter (Matthew 13) is full of prophetic announcement. The external character which it assumes in the world being depicted in the first three; the real blessing and value and the judgment of its results, its internal character in God's sight, in the last three of the six parables. It closes in the setting up of the Son of man's kingdom upon the earth, and the assumption of te righteous, during its continuance, to the Father's kingdom in the heavenlies. The first parable is the world of the kingdom. The expositions and internal view of the church or kingdom are given to the disciples; the judicial blindness of the Jews is declared, and the special privilege of the saints; and the parables are spoken distinctively as the 'utterance of things hidden from the world,' which the Spirit reveals to those 'who have ears to hear.'

Taken from The Dispensation of the Kingdom of Heaven in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, vol.2, p.63

(This is an extract from one of Darby's early writings. These are quite exciting to read, because we see the Dispensational system being outlined for the first time.)

Key Words: John Nelson Darby, Plymouth Brethren, Bible Prophecy, eschatology, parables, kingdom of heaven, mysteries, mystery, dispensation, Dispensationalism, Second Coming

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006

J.N. Darby on the Presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church

by John Nelson Darby

We may take notice in all this that it has nothing to do whatever to do with the dwelling in an individual. It was a distinct thought altogether. The serious question is, are we worse off now as to this? There were then also operations of the Holy Ghost in the way of prophecy and testimony, but it was a distinct thing. We may expect this to be modified in many ways when the Holy Ghost was sent down from heaven; because in Christ, where our proper acceptance is, we are characterised rather as dwelling with God- in His house. Still the other is true by the Holy Ghost sent down. What we have to inquire is, whether the presence of God in the midst of His people is spoken of in the New Testament, and that distinct from His gracious presence in the individual. If there be any material modification of it, this may also claim our attention. It would be difficult to suppose that there was less real presence of God in the midst of His people now than under the Old Testament. It is true we look for His presence in glory; but surely meanwhile the main doctrine, as to the actual condition and existence of the Church, is the presence of God sent down from heaven, as truly and really the presence of God in the midst of His people as the Shecinah of glory. If God was in His holy temple then, God is in His holy temple now- most truly, though after another manner: not merely in individuals, the aggregate of whose individual blessing is the blessing of the whole, but in His spiritual temple, the Church of the living God. And here I would remark further, that His personal presence as acting in any power in the Church is wholly denied. It may not be in words(this I should think much lessof; the faith of simple saints might at once meet it); but it is undermined and taken from us without our being aware of it. It is vain to cry out about its not being fair to impute to a person what he denies. Are the saints to be robbed of their heritage and blessing, because he who does so denies he is doing it? It may be through ignorance, but it is much fairer to detect than to deny it, if the thing be so. Man may speak of the Spirit, may use Him, may act under His gracious influence, but He, the Holy Ghost does not act. That would be impulse. No one pretends to inspiration in the way of new revelation, but simply that the Holy Ghost acts in leading, guiding, filling and using the vessel. That is, He acts by us. The distinction, however, is wholly unscriptural. The Holy Ghost speaking by a man and a man speaking by the Holy Ghost are used as equivalent terms; as Acts 1:16; ch.6:10; ch.20:24; ch.21:4, 11; compare chapter 11:28, ch.28:25; Mark 12:36; compare Matthew 22:43. The difference of the expression most clearly amounts to the lowest Arminianism as to the Holy Ghost. That is, man acts by it, but the Holy Ghost does not act by man. And I beg the attention of brethren to this- it is just simply not believing in the personal presence and actings of the Holy Ghost. I am satisfied that it is simply unbelief in the presence and actings of the Holy Spirit.

And now to the statements of the New Testament on the subject. That the presence of the Comforter is the distinguishing truth of this dispensation, founded on the work of Christ, I ought not to be obliged to insist on. Suffice it to say, that it is on the fact of this presence that the Lord grounds the advantage of His going away. 'If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go away, I will send him unto you.' And all the blessing, communion, and testimony (save the personal testimony of the disciples as living with Him, and that was by His bringing all to their remembrance), if founded on the presence, personal presence of this other Comforter. This is evidently of the last importance. Here it is well to remark on the force of this word 'Comforter.' He was One who, by being down here, was to take the place of Jesus when He went away; and was to take up and carry on the cause of the disciples as Christ had done, only more powerfully in a certain way because of Christ's work and exaltation. It is the same word as is said of Christ, 'we have an advocate with the Father'- one who is charged with and maintains our cause. This the Holy Ghost was to do, and to guide, comfort, sustain and direct the disciples as Jesus had done, with the difference noted. And further, He was not to leave them as Christ had; He was to abide with them for ever. This name of One come down to take Christ's place, and abiding for ever is of all moment in this case; for as the Holy Ghost, come as the Paraclete, who was to be among them in His stead (though glorifying Him), and to act among and for, and by them; and lead, and guide, and correct, and direct and sustain them, and to be with them for ever. This was not merely natural qualities sanctified by grace, and man acting by the Spirit; it was a living divine Person acting for them, and by them. That, He being grieved (an dwithal in the sovereign counsels of God), much of that in which He shewed His power is lost, is true; but to say, because man has abused this grace, and feebleness has followed, because God has not honoured those who did not honour Him, or because the flesh has abused the doctrine, that He does not dwell amongst us, is merely that kind of unbelief hateful to God, which is called in Scripture, 'tempting God.' The palce was called Massah and Meribah, 'because they tempted God, saying, Is the Lord amongst us or no?' And here I will remark on the 'with us,' and the 'in us.' The distinction is perfectly scriptural. The Lord said (John 14:25), 'These things I have said unto you, being yet present with you'- the exact phrase of in Greek which is used concerning the Holy Ghost, translated 'He dwelleth with you.' Christ was yet dwelling with them, but another Comforter was to come whom they would know (though the world would not, because it di dnot see Him) because He dwelt with them; and then He adds, as to the manner (which was not so of Jesus come in the flesh) a new thing, and therefore put in the future tense, 'He shall be in you.' This new paraclete was to be their Counsellor, Guide, Orderer (as Jesus had been), manage their cause and affairs as dwelling with them. Hence we see the importance of distinguishing this living presence and acting of a Comforter from a man's using his talents in a sanctified way by grace.

But, further, this is fully brought out in Scripture as a distinct thing from being in individual members. Both are spoken of to different purposes in Scripture. 'Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, whcih ye have of God; and ye are not your own?' etc. (1 Cor. 6:19). Here accordingly it si applied to personal sanctification. 'Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are,' 1 Cor.3:16,17. Here it is clearly the Church of God, the building of God whcih some might corrupt by false doctrine. They were God's building. The Spirit of God does then clearly distinguish the dwelling in the body. And this is so much the same thought and connected with the idea of the presence of God in Israel, that in 2 Corinthians 6:16 it si distinctly introduced. 'For ye are the temple of the living God: as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God and they shall be my people.' And now I would ask, What is there debasing in the blessed doctrine that God dwells in His holy temple? We might perhaps say (were it not for that precious blood of Christ which has cleansed us) that it was a debasing idea that the Holy Ghost should dwell in our poor wretched bodies as His temple. But His testimony is to the value of that precious blood as cleansing us, so that His presence in the believer is a glorious testimony to the infinite presciousness of Christ's work, and His presence at the right hand of the Father. But His presence in the Church as His temple, though no doubt founded on the same great truth, is at least more easily apprehended. Because when I think of the Church, I do not think of the flesh, but only of the redeemed people of God on earth. Here my soul says easily, the Holy Ghost can dwell. It belongs to Christ, whom the Spirit glorifies. Both, we have seen, are true; but when I think of a man, I think readily of what he is in his infirmity; and (though it would be wrong) might be easily led to say, Can the Holy Ghost dwell in such poor vile creatures? But when I think of the Church, I do not think of the first Adam state. I think of the fruit of Christ's redemption. Here, my heart says, the Holy Ghost ought to be.

Taken from The Presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, vol.3, p.346-350

Key words: John Nelson Darby, Plymouth Brethren, ecclesiology, church, Holy Spirit, Pneumatology, indwelling

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

J.N. Darby on Separation and Holiness

by J.N. Darby

Holiness, then, is separation to God, if it be real, as well as from evil; for thus alone we are in the light, for God is light. This is true, in our first sanctifying- we are brought to know God, brought to God. If we come to ourselves it is, "I will arise and go no farther." If it is restoration, "If thou wilt return, return unto me." Indeed a soul is never restored really till it does; for it is not in the light so as to purge flesh, even if the fruits of the flesh have been confessed; nor is sin seen as it is in God's sight. Hence love comes in, in all true conversion and restoration, however dimly seen, or through however dark workings of conscience. We want to get back to God; there is forgiveness with Him that He may be feared; otherwise it is despair which drives us further away. Indeed, what would or could restoration be if it were not to God. But, in the full sense of gathering, that is to common fellowship, it is clearly the blessed object which reveals that in which we are to have fellowship, which so gathers. We are to have fellowship in something, that is, with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. This, then, must draw hearts to itself, that in their common delight in it their fellowship may exist. The principle of the tract is this, that in doing this it must separate from evil. It is 'this-then-is-the-message' part of the statement. So Christ says, 'If I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.' Now here was perfect love, entire separation from all sin and condemnation of it. 'In that He died, He died unto sin once'- separation from the world, and deliverance from the whole power of the enemy and the scene of it. It is perfect love drawing from everything to itself; shewing all was evil, absorbing the soul into what was good, in a saving way from it. But when we follow Him into life, all is gone from which He separated. 'In that he liveth, he liveth unto God'; that is His whole being, so to speak. Now He is, in this life, made higher than the heavens- the divine glory I do not hear enter into, but the life. It is a heavenly place He takes, and our gathering through the cross is to Him there, in the good where evil cannot come. There is our communion- entering into the Father's house in spirit. And this, I apprehend, is the true character of the assembly, of the church, for worship in its full sense. It remembers the cross, it worships, the world left out, and all known in heaven before God. He gave Himself that He might gather into one. But here I anticipate a little, for I am speaking as yet of the object, not of the active power. I apprehend that what separates the saint from evil, what makes him holy, is the revelation of an object (I mean, of course, through the Holy Ghost working), which draws his soul to that as good, and thereby reveals evil to him, and makes him judge it in spirit and soul: his knowledge of good and evil is, then, not a mere uneasy conscience, but sanctification; that is, sanctification is resting, by the enlightening of the Holy Ghost, on an object, which by its nature, purifies the affections by being their object- creates them through the power of grace. Even under the law it had this form, 'Be ye holy for I am holy'; though I admit, it there partook necessarilly of the character of the dispensation. In the cross we have these two great principles perfectly brought out. Love is clearly shown, the blessed object which draws the heart; yet the most solemn judgment of and separation from evil; such is God's perfectness- the foolishness and weakness of God. Divine attraction in love, evil in all its horror and forms, perfectly abhorred by him who is attracted and attaches himself to that. The soul goes with sin, as sin, to love, and goes there because love thus displayed has shewn him that it is sin, in being made sin for us. This is the power objectively that separates from evil, and ends all connection with it; for I die then to all the nature I lived to. Evil ceases to be, through faith, as I live hereafter in blessed actvity in love. But I have, perhaps, dwelt long enough on what ojectively gathers and gives fellowship; and surely, our fellowship, communion, is in that which is good- and as heavenly by no evil being there. Imperfectly realised no doubt here, but so far as it is not, fellowship is destroyed, for the flesh has none. Hence it is said: 'If we walk in the light as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.' But we cannot walk out of darkness but by walking in the light, that is, with God: and God is love, and were He not, we could not walk there.

Taken from Unity and Gathering in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, vol.1, p.372-373

Key words: John Nelson Darby, ecclesiology, Exclusive Brethren, Plymouth Brethren, separation, sanctification, church

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

J.N. Darby on Persecution

John Nelson Darby, commenting on Acts 14, wrote:

"They gave them to understand that Christ was not come to bring peace on the earth which would meet with the opposition and enmity of the world, but that through much tribulation they must enter the kingdom of God. It was a warning for all times to make men understand that persecution was not a strange thing. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" -not, however, all Christians. If a Christian conforms to the world, he will avoid persecution; but he will lose the joy of the Holy Ghost and communion with God; he will be saved as by fire, and an entrance into the eternal kingdom shall not be abundantly ministered to him. If we walk with God, we shall not be barren in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

I speak thus, because for many the time of open persecution has passed away; but if we are faithful, we shall most surely experience persecution both from the world and from our own families. The world cannot tolerate faithfulness. If the Christian walk with the world, instead of winning the world to Christ, he himself gets a distance from Him, and will lose, I do not say life, but his spiritual privileges, his joy, and the approval of Christ; and his testimony is against Christianity. By his ways he declares that the friendship of the world is not enmity against God. The Christian whne with the world is in no respects at ease; and when in the compnay of spiritual Christians his conscience reproves him because he is walking badly, and that which is the joy to them, he cannot enter into. May all who are disposed to or in danger of being let to mingle with the ways of the world give heed to this exhortation!"

Taken from Meditations on the Acts of the Apostles in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby, vol.25, p.374-375

Key words: J.N. Darby, Plymouth Brethren, Perserverance, apostasy, discipleship, carnal Christians, falling away, Lordship Salvation

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

J.N. Darby on Separation and Unity

John Nelson Darby wrote:

"Here I might close my remarks, having developed the great, though simple, principle, flowing from the very nature of God, that separation from evil is His principle of unity. But a difficulty collateral to my main object and subject presents itself. Supposing evil introduces itself into this one body so formed actually on earth, does the principle still hold good? How then can separation from evil maintain unity? And here we can touch on the mystery of iniquity. But this principle, flowing from the very nature of God, that He is holy, cannot be set aside. Separation from evil is the necessary consequence of the presence of the Spirit of God under all circumstances as to conduct and fellowship. But here there is a certain modification of it. The revealed presence of God is always judicial when it exists; because power against evil is connected with the holiness which rejects it. Thus in Israel God's presence was judicial; His goverment was there, which did not allow evil. So, though in another manner, it is in the church. God's presence is judicial there- not in the world, save in testimony, because God is not yet revealed in the world; and hence it plucks up no tares out of that field. But it judges them that are within.

Hence the church is to put out from itself the wicked person, and thus maintains its separation from evil. And unity is maintained in the power of the Holy Ghost and a good conscience. And indeed, that the Spirit may not be grieved and the practical blessing lost, saints are exhorted to look dilligently lest any man fail of the grace of God. Amd how sweet and blessed is this garden of the Lord, when it is thus maintained and blooms in the fragrance of Christ's grace. But, alas! we know worldliness creeps in, and spiritual power declines; the taste for this blessing is enfeebled, because it is not enjoyed in the power of the Spirit; the spiritual fellowship with Christ the heavenly Head decays, and the power which banishes evil out of the church is no longer in living exercise. The body is not sufficently animated by the Holy Ghost to answer the mind of God. But God will never leave Himself without witness. He brings home the evil to the body by some testimony or other- by the word or by judgements, or both in succession- to recall it to its spiritual energy, and lead it to maintain His glory and place. If it refuse to answer to the very nature and character of God, and to the incompatibility of that nature with evil (so that it becomes really a false witness for God), then the first and immutable principle recurs, the evil must be separated from.

Further, the unity which is maintained after such separation, becomes a testimony to the compatability of the Holy Ghost with evil: that is, it is in its nature apostasy; it maintains the name and authority of God in His church, and associates it with evil. It is not the professed open apostasy of avowed infidelity; but it is denying God according to the true power of the Holy Ghost, while using His name. This unity is the great power of evil pointed out in the New Testament, connected with the professing church and the form of piety. From such we are to turn away. This power of evil in the church may be discerned spiritually, and left when there is the consciousness of inability to effect any remedy; or if there be an open public testimony, it is then open condemnation to it. Thus, previous to the Reformation, God gave light to many who maintained a witness to this very evil in the professing church, apart from it; some bore testimony and still remained. When the Reformation came it was openly and publicly given, and the professing body or Romanism became opnely and avowedly apostate, as far as a professing Christian body can, in the Council of Trent. But wherever the body declines the putting away of evil, it becomes in its unity a denier of God's character of holiness, and then separation from the evil is the path of the saint; and the unity he has left is the very greatest evil that can exist where the name of Christ is named. Saints may remain, as they have in Romanism, where there is not power to gather all saints together; but the duty of the saint as to it is plain on the first principles of Christianity, though doubtless his faith may be exercised by it. 'Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.' It is possible that he that departs from evil may make himself a prey; but this, of corse, makes no difference; it is a question of faith. He is in the true power of God's unity.

Thus, then, the word of God affords us the true nature, object and power of unity; and, in so doing, it gives us the measure of it, by which we judge of what pretends to it, and the manner of it; and, moreover, the means of maintaining its fundamental principles according to the nature and power of God by the Holy Ghost in the conscience where it may not be realised together in power. It nature flows from God's; for of true unity He must be the centre, and He is holy; and He brings us into it by separating us from evil. Its object is Christ; He is the sole centre of the church's unity, objectively as its Head. Its power is the presence of the Holy Ghost down here, sent as the Spirit of Truth withal from the Father by Jesus. Its measure is walking in the light, as God is in the light; fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus, and we may add, through the testimony of the written word- the apostolic and prophetic word of the New Testament especially. It is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (of the New Testament), Jesus Christ Himself being the corner stone. The means of maintaining it is putting away evil judicially if needed), so as to maintain, through the Spirit, fellowship with the Father and the Son. If evil be not put away, then separation from that which does not becomes a matter of conscience. I return, if alone, into the essential and infallible unity of the body, in its everlasting principles of union with the Head in a holy nature by the Spirit. The path of the saints thus becomes clear. God will secure by eternal power the vindication, not here perhaps, but before His angels, of them who have rightly owned His nature and truth in Christ Jesus.

I believe these fundamental principles are deeply needed in this day, for the saint who seeks to walk truly and thoroughly with God. Latitudinarian unity it may be painful and trying to keep aloof from; it has an amiable form in general, is in measure respectable in the religious world, tries nobody's conscience, and allows of everbody's will. It is the more difficult to be decided about, because it is often connected with a true desire of good, and is associated with amiable nature. And it seems rigid, and narrow, and sectarianism to decline so to walk. But the saint, when he has the light of God, must walk clearly in that. God will vindicate His ways in due time. Love to every saint is a clear duty; walking in their ways is not. And he that gathers not with Christ scatters. There can be but one unity; confederacy, even for good, is not it, even if it have its form. Unity, professed to be connected with the clerical principle, because that is needed to maintain unity, when the Spirit is not in power, and in fact, takes its place, guides, rules, governs in its place, under the plea of priesthood, or ministry, owned as a distinct body, a separate institution: it would not hold together without this."

Taken from Separation from Evil: God's Principle of Unity in Collected Writings of J.N. Darby vol.1, p.362-365

Key words: J.N. Darby, separation, unity, Plymouth Brethren, church discipline, putting away evil, Exclusive Brethren

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

J.N. Darby on 2 Thessalonians 2

John Nelson Darby wrote:

In answering this error, and in guarding them from the wily efforts of seducers, he puts everything in its place here by appealing to precious truths of which he had already spoken. Their gathering together unto Christ in the air was a demonstration of the impossibility of the day of the Lord being already come.

Moreover with regard to this last he presents two considerations: first, the day could not be already come, since Christians were not yet gathered to the Lord, and they were to come with Him; second, the wicked one who has then to be judged had not yet appeared, so that the judgment could not be executed.

The apostle had already instructed the Thessalonians with regard to this wicked one, when at Thessalonica; and in the former epistle he had taught them concerning the rapture of the church. In order that the Lord should come in judgment, iniquity must have reached its height, and open opposition to God have been manifested. But the truth had another and more precious side: the saints were to be in the same position as Christ, to be gathered together unto Him, before He could manifest Himself in glory to those outside. But these truths require a more connected examination.

Their gathering together unto Christ before the manifestation was a truth known to the Thessalonians; it is not revealed here, it is used as an argument. The Lord Jesus was coming, but it was impossible that He should be without His church in the glory. The King would indeed punish His rebellious subjects; but, before doing so, He would bring to Himself those who had been faithful to Him amid the unfaithful, in order to bring them back with Him and publicly to honour them in the midst of the rebels. But the apostle here speaks only of the rapture itself, and he adjures them only by that truth not to allow themselves to be shaken in mind as though the day were come. What an assured truth must this have been to Christians, since the apostle could appeal to it as to a known point, on which the heart could rest! The relationship of the church to Christ, its being necessarily in the same position with Him rendered the idea that the day was already come a mere folly.

In the second place, the already known fact is asserted, that the apostacy must previously take place, and then the man of sin be revealed. Solemn truth! Everything takes its place. The forms and the name of Christianity have long been maintained; true Christians have been disowned; but now there should be a public renunciation of the faith-an apostacy. True Christians should have their true place in heaven. But, besides this, there should be a person who would fully realise in sin the character of man without God. He is the man of sin. He does his own will-it is but Adam fully developed; and incited by the enemy, he opposes himself to God (it is open enmity against God), and he exalts himself above all that bears the name of God; he assumes the place of God in His temple. So that there is apostacy, that is, the open renunciation of Christianity in general, and an individual who concentrates in his own person (as to the principles of iniquity) the opposition that is made against God.

It will be noticed that the character of the wicked one is religious here, or rather anti-religious. The apostle does not speak of a secular power of the world, whatever its iniquity may be. The man of sin assumes a religious character. He exalts himself against the true God, but he shews himself as God [See Footnote #3] in the temple of God. Observe here that the sphere is on earth. It is not a god for faith. He shews himself as a god for the earth. The profession of Christianity has been abandoned. Sin then characterises an individual, a man, who fills up the measure of the apostacy of human nature, and, as a man, proclaims his independence of God. The principle of sin in man is his own will. He arises, as we have already seen, out of the rejection of Christianity. In this respect also evil is at its height.

This man of sin exalts himself above God, and, sitting as God in the temple of God, he defies the God of Israel. This last feature gives his formal character. He is in conflict with God, as placing himself publicly in this position-shewing himself as God in the temple of God. It is the God of Israel who will take vengeance on him.

Christianity, Judaism, natural religion, all are rejected. Man takes a place there on earth, exalting himself above it all, in opposition to God; and, in particular, arrogating to himself (for man needs a God, needs something to worship) the place and the honours of God, and of the God of Israel. [See Footnote #4] These verses present the wicked one in connection with the state of man, and with the different relationships in which man has stood towards God. In them all he shews himself as apostate, and then he assumes the place of God Himself-the first object of human ambition, as its attainment was the first suggestion of Satan.

In that which follows, we see not the condition itself of apostacy with regard to the different positions in which God had placed man, but simply man unrestrained, and the work of Satan. The man is but the vessel of the enemy's power.

Man in whom is the fullness of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus, and man filled with the energy of Satan, are opposed to each other. Before, it was man forsaking God, wicked, and exalting himself. Here, it is opposition against God on the part of man, unrestrained, and inspired by Satan himself. Consequently we have (not the wicked one, but) the lawless -the unbridled-one. The principle is the same, for sin is lawlessness. (See 1 John 3:4-Greek.) But in this first case man is viewed in his departure from God, and in his guiltiness; in the second, as acknowledging none but himself.

To this condition in which all restraint will be removed, a barrier has yet existed.

The apostle had already told them of the apostacy, and of the manifestation of the man of sin. He now says that the Thessalonians ought to know the hindrance that existed to his progress and his manifestation before the appointed time. He does not say that he had told them, but they ought to know it. Knowing the character of the wicked one, the barrier revealed itself. The main point here is that it was a barrier. The principle of the evil was already at work: a barrier alone prevented its development. Its character when developed, would be unbridled will which exalts and opposes itself.[See Footnote #5] Unbridled self-will being the principle of the evil, that which bridles this will is the barrier. Now it exalts itself above all that bears the name of God, or to which homage is paid: that which hinders it therefore is the power of God acting in government here below as authorized by Him. The grossest abuse of power still bears this last character. Christ could say to Pilate, "Thou couldest have no power against me, except it were given thee from above." Wicked as he might be, his power is owned as coming from God. Thus, although men had rejected and crucified the Son of God, so that their iniquity appeared to be at its height, the hindrance still existed in full. Afterwards God, having sent His Spirit, gathers out the church, and, although the mystery of iniquity began immediately to work mingling the will of men with the worship of God in Spirit, God had always (He still has) the object of His loving care upon the earth. The Holy Ghost was here below; the assembly, be its condition what it might, was still on earth, and God maintained the barrier. And as the porter had opened the door to Jesus in spite of all obstacles, so He sustains everything, however great the energy and progress of evil. The evil is bridled: God is the source of authority on earth. There is one who hinders until he be taken out of the way. Now when the assembly (the assembly, that is, as composed of the true members of Christ) is gone, and consequently the Holy Ghost as the Comforter is no longer dwelling here below, then the apostacy takes place, [See Footnote #6] the time to remove the hindrance is come, the evil is unbridled, and at length (without saying how much time it will take) the evil assumes a definite shape in him who is its head. The beast comes up from the abyss. Satan -not God-gives him his authority; and in the second beast all the energy of Satan is present. The man of sin is there.

Here it is an outward and secular power that is spoken of, but the religious side of Satan's energy.

With regard to the individual instruments who compose the barrier, they may change every moment, and it was not the object of the Holy Ghost to name them. He who was the one of them that existed when this epistle was written would not be so at the present time; to have named him then would have been of no use to us in the present day. The object was to declare that the evil which should be judged was already working, that there was no remedy for it, that it was only a hindrance on God's part which prevented its full development: a principle of the highest importance with regard to the history of Christianity.

Whatever form it might take, the apostacy of the men who would renounce grace would necessarily be more absolute than any other. It is opposition to the Lord. It has the character of an adversary. The other principle of human iniquity enters into it, but this is the source of the "perdition." It is, the rejection of goodness; it is direct enmity.

" That which hinders" is in general only an instrument, a means, which prevents the manifestation of the man of sin-the wicked one. So long as the assembly is on earth, the pretension to be God in His temple cannot take place or at least would have no influence. Satan has his sphere, and must needs have it, in the mystery of iniquity; but there is no longer a mystery when the place of God in His temple is openly taken. That which hinders is therefore still present. But there is a person active in maintaining this hindrance. Here I think indeed that it is God in the Person of the Holy Ghost, who, during the time called "the things that are," restrains the evil and guards divine authority in the world. As long as that subsists, the unrestrained exaltation of wickedness cannot take place. Consequently I do not doubt but that the rapture of the saints is the occasion of the hindrance being removed and all restraint loosed, although some of the ways of God are developed before the full manifestation of the evil.

This thought does not rest upon great principles only: the passage itself supplies elements which shew the state of things when the power of evil develops itself. 1st, The apostacy has already taken place. This could hardly be said if the testimony of the assembly still subsisted, as it had in time past, or even yet more distinctly as being freed from all false and corrupting elements. 2nd, Authority-as established of God, so far as exercising a restraint on man's will in God's name-has disappeared from the scene, for the wicked one exalts himself against all that is called God and to which homage is paid, and presents himself as God in the temple of God. Compare Psalms 82, where God stands among the gods (the judges) to judge them before He inherits the nations. Before that solemn hour when God will judge the judges of the earth, this wicked one, despising all authority that comes from Him, sets himself up as God: and that on the earth, where the judgment will be manifested. And then, 3rdly, in place of the Holy Ghost and His power manifested on the earth, we find the power of Satan, and with precisely the same tokens that bore witness to the Person of Christ. So that the passage itself, whether as to man or as to the enemy, gives us (in the three points of which we have spoken) the full confirmation of that which we have ventured to set forth.

The assembly, the powers ordained by God upon the earth, the Holy Ghost present here as the Comforter in lieu of Christ, have all (as regards the manifestation of the government and the work of God) given place to the self-willed unbridled man, and to the power of the enemy. In saying this we speak of the sphere of this prophecy, which moreover embraces that of the public testimony of God on earth.

Definitively then we have man here in his own nature-as it has displayed itself by forsaking God- in the full pursuit of his own will in rebellion against God; the willful man, developed as the result of apostacy from the position of grace in which the assembly stood, and in contempt of all the governmental authority of God on the earth. And since that authority had shewn itself directly and properly in Judea, this contempt and the spirit of rebellion in man, who exalts himself above everything, but who cannot be heavenly (heaven, and all pretension to heaven, is given up by man, and lost by Satan), display themselves by man taking the place of God in His temple under the most advanced form of Jewish apostacy and blasphemy. At the same time Satan acts-God having loosed his bridle-with a power (a lying power indeed, but) which gives the same testimony before men as that which the works of Christ did to the Saviour; and also with all the skill that iniquity possesses to deceive. It is in the wicked, the lawless one, that Satan works these things. Our consideration of the development of the latter part of this solemn scene will come (God willing) in the Book of Revelation. We may add, that there we have this wicked one as the false Messiah, and as prophet, in the form of his kingdom-two horns like a lamb. He had been cast down from heaven where he had been anti-priest, and now takes up Christ's titles on earth of king and prophet. In Daniel 11 he is seen as king; here, as the unbridled man, and in particular as the result of the apostacy[See Footnote #7] and the manifestation of Satan's power. In a word, instead of the assembly, the apostacy; instead of the Holy Ghost, Satan; and, instead of the authority of God as a restraint upon evil, the unbridled man setting himself up as God on the earth.

Another circumstance, already mentioned, demands particular attention. I have said that he presents himself as the Messiah (that is to say, in His two characters as king and prophet, which are His earthly characters). In heaven Satan has then nothing more to do; he has been cast out from thence, so that there is no imitation of the Lord's high-priesthood. In that respect Satan had, in his own person, acted another part. He was previously in heaven the accuser of the brethren. But, at the time of which we are speaking, the assembly is on high, and the accuser of the brethren is cast out never to return there. In a man inspired by him he makes himself prophet and king. And in this character he does the same things (in falsehood) as those by which God had sanctioned the mission of Christ before men. (Compare Acts 2:22) In a Greek the words are identical. [See Footnote #8] I would also recall here another solemn fact in order to complete this picture. In the history of Elijah we find that the proof of the divinity of Baal, or that of Jehovah, is made to rest upon the fact of their respective servants bringing down fire from heaven. Now in Revelation 3 we learn that the second beast brings down fire from heaven in the sight of men. So that we find here the marvelous works that sanctioned the Lord's mission, and there that which proved Jehovah to be the true and only God. And Satan performs both in order to deceive men.

This may give us an idea of the state in which they will be; and it indicates also that these things will take place in relation with the Jews, under the double aspect of their connection with Jehovah and their rejection of Christ and reception of Antichrist.

Thus, thank God, the truth is abundantly confirmed, that these things do not relate to the assembly, but to those who, having had opportunity to profit by the truth, have rejected it, and loved iniquity. Neither does it relate to the heathen, but only to those among whom the truth has been set forth.[See Footnote #9] They refused it and God sends a lie, and an efficacious lie, that they may believe it. He does this in judgment: He did the same thing with the nations (Romans 1:24, 26, 28); He did it also with the Jews (Is. 6:9, 10); He does it here with nominal Christians. But it does relate to the Jews as a nation that rejected the truth-the testimony of the Holy Ghost (Acts 7)-but still more to Christians (in name); in short to all those who will have had the truth presented to them.

With nominal Christians this has necessarily the character of apostacy, or at least it is connected with this apostacy, and is consequent upon it; as verse 3 teaches us, the apostacy takes place, and then the man of sin is revealed.~

In connection with his character of the man of sin he presents himself without restraint in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.[See Footnote #10] In relation to the lying power of Satan and his efficient work, he presents himself in the character of Christ-he is the Antichrist, assuming consequently a Jewish character. It is not only the pride of man exalting itself against God, but the power of Satan in man deceiving men and the Jews in particular, by a false Christ; so that it it were possible, the very elect would be deceived. We may remark that all these characters are precisely the opposite of Christ-falsehood instead of truth, iniquity instead of righteousness, perdition instead of salvation.

It is to a power like this, of lies and destruction that man-having forsaken Christianity and exalted himself in pride against God-will be given up. The apostacy (that is to say, the renunciation of Christianity) will be the occasion of this evil; Judea and the Jews, the scene in which it ripens and develops itself in a positive way.

The Antichrist will deny the Father and the Son (that is, Christianity); he will deny that Jesus is the Christ (that is, Jewish unbelief). With the burden upon him of sin against Christianity, grace, and the presence of the Holy Ghost, he will ally himself with Jewish unbelief, in order that there may be not only the full expression of human pride, but also for a time the Satanic influence of a false Christ, who will strengthen the throne of Satan among the Gentiles occupied by the first beast to whom the authority of the dragon has been given. He will also set up his own subordinate throne over the Jews, as being the Messiah, whom their unbelief is expecting; while at the same time he will bring in idolatry, the unclean spirit long gone out who then returns to his house which is devoid of God.

And now, with regard to his destruction (whom the Lord Jesus will consume with the spirit of His mouth and destroy with the manifestation of His presence, or of His coming), the first of these means characterises the judgment; it is the word of truth applied in judgment according to the power of God. In the Revelation, it says that the sword proceeds out of His mouth. Here He is not spoken of in the character of a man of war, as in Revelation 19. The spirit of His mouth is that inward and divine power which kindles and executes the judgment. It is not an instrument, it is the divine source of power which executes its purpose by a word. (compare Isa.33:33) But there is another aspect of this judgment. The Lord, the man Jesus, will return. His return has two parts-the return into the air to take His assembly to Himself, and the public manifestation in glory of His return.

In the first verse of our chapter we have read of His return and our gathering together unto Him. Here, verse 8, is the manifestation of His presence publicly in creation. At the time of this public manifestation of His coming He destroys the whole work and power of the wicked one. It is the Man formerly obedient and humbling Himself on the earth, exalted of God, and become Lord of all, who destroys the lawless man that has exalted himself above everything and made himself as God, instead of being, obedient to God.

This evil- on the side of Satan's influence-was already working in the apostle's time; only it was bridled and kept back, until that which restrained it should no longer be on the scene. Then should the wicked one be revealed. To sum up, the taking away of the assembly, and the apostacy, were first necessary; and then this man should present himself as an unbelieving Jew, [See Footnote #11] and the power of Satan would be displayed in him.

Now this Satanic influence was for those who had rejected the truth. Of the Thessalonians -to whom he had given these explanations respecting the day which they fancied was come-the apostle thought very differently. God had chosen these "brethren beloved of the Lord " from the beginning for salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, to which He had called them by Paul's gospel (and that of His companions), and to the obtaining of the glory of the Lord Jesus. How different was this from the visitations of the day of the Lord, and the circumstances of which the apostle had spoken! They were numbered among those who should be the companions in that day of the Lord Jesus Himself.

Footnotes for 2 Thessalonians 2
3: "As God" is to be left out before "sitteth," in chapter 2:4.
4: In 1 John 2 we find the double character of the Antichrist as regards Christianity and Judaism. He denies the Father and the Son, rejects Christianity; he denies that Jesus is the Christ, which is Jewish unbelief. His power is the working of Satan, as we find here. As man he sets up to be God. So that his impiousness is manifested in every way. As the question is more upon the earth, it is the God of the earth, the man withal from heaven, who judges him.

5: Note this point. All was ready and complete in the apostle's time, only restrained. So Christ was ready to judge. Only the patience of God waits, in the accepted time.

6: The principle of this may be widely at work individually, as in 1 John 2, it had begun, but the open public manifestation was to come. Jude gives the creeping in to produce corruption John, the going out which characterises the Antichrist.

7: We may remark that the apostacy develops itself under the three forms in which man has been in relationship with God; Nature-it is the man of sin unrestrained, who exalts himself; Judaism-he sits as God in the temple of God; Christianity-it is to this that the term apostacy is directly applied in the passage before us.

8: Only the word for "miracle" or "power" is plural in Acts 2.

9: I only allude here to the connection between the renunciation of Christianity and the development of apostate Judaism, which are linked together in the rejection of the true Christ, and the denial of the Father and the Son-features given in 1 John as characteristic of the Antichrist. But I am persuaded that the more we examine the word, the more we shall see (perhaps with surprise) that this fact is confirmed. Moreover the turning back to Judaism, and the tendency to idolatry by the introduction of other mediators and patrons, and the losing sight of our union with the Head, and thus of the perfection and deliverance from the law which are ours in Christ, have, at all times, characterised the mystery of iniquity and the principle of apostacy. The apostle had incessantly to combat this. That of which we spoke above is but its full manifestation.

10: This is the culminating point in his character as an apostate who has renounced grace. The ninth and following verses develop his positive and deceitful activity by which he seeks to win men. This explains the mixture (which, moreover, generally resists) of atheism in will, and superstition

11: I do not say that his first appearance will be the apostacy of Judaism; I do not think it will be. He will present himself to them as being the Christ, but according to the hopes and passions of the Jews. But afterwards it will be an apostacy even from Judaism, as had partially been the case in the days of the Maccabees-a fact which the Spirit uses in Daniel 11, as a figure precursive of the time of Antichrist. He is from his first appearance an unbeliever and the enemy of God, an apostate as to the assembly, and denying that Jesus is the Christ. We are taught positively by John, that the rejection of Christianity and Jewish unbelief are united in the Antichrist. It appears that apostacy with regard to Christianity and Jewish unbelief are connected and go together; and afterwards Jewish apostacy and open rebellion against God, which, causing the cry of the remnant, brings in the Lord, and all is ended. Now the apostle (chap. 2: 3, 4) presents the complete picture of man's iniquity, developed when apostacy from the grace of the gospel had taken place (he exalts himself even to the making himself God), without touching the Jewish side or the manifested power of Satan. These verses shew us the man of sin is the result of the apostacy which will break out in the midst of Christendom. Verse 9 begins to teach us in addition, that the coming of this wicked one is also in immediate connection with a mighty display of the energy of Satan, who deceives by means of marvelous works and a strong delusion to which God gives men up, and of which we have spoken in the text. It is man and Satan here, with enough to shew its connection with Judaism in the last days (even as the mystery of iniquity was linked with Judaism in the days of the apostles, although it is not the occasion of giving the details of the Jewish development of the evil. We must look for these details elsewhere, where they are in their place, as in Daniel. The Apocalypse and 1 John furnish us with the means of connecting them: we do but allude here to this connection.

Taken from Synopsis of the Books of the Bible vol.5