Monday, November 20, 2017
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(6) THE TESTIMONY OF PETER TO THE DAYS OF NOAH

After the great gap formed by the loss of Paradise, the record divides into two according as the false or the true seed are spoken of, until we come to the next great crisis, the Deluge. Here history seems to repeat itself. The deep (Heb. tehom) of Genesis 1:2, is not referred to again until we read the record of the flood (Gen. 7:11; Gen. 8:2). The "dry land" (Heb. yabbashah, Gen. 1:9-10), which appeared on the third day from beneath the waters, finds an echo in the "drying up" of the earth after the flood (Heb. yabesh, Gen. 8:7, Gen. 8:14). There are a number of interesting parallel features between Adam and Noah which establish that the relationship is intentional.

For example, both Adam and Noah are commanded to replenish the earth, both have three sons, one of whom becomes involved in a curse and is either "of that wicked one" or the father of Canaan, who in his turn is seen to be of the evil seed. These parallels are so close that most commentators have accepted without question that Peter, in 2 Peter three, refers to Genesis 1:1 and 2, whereas a careful study of his epistles will show that he ALSO had, the days of Noah before his mind. This testimony is important, and the examination of it will necessitate a fairly intensive study, but the subject matter is of the deepest solemnity and fully justifies all the time and space which we can devote to its elucidation.

Just as the Primal Creation is balanced across the gap of the ages, by the new heavens and new earth, and just as Paradise lost is balanced by Paradise restored, so the structure persists and another pair of corresponding members appears.

The days of Noah               a The irruption of the sons of God (Gen. 6:1-4)
    The nations just                       b Preservation in the Ark Noah
    before the call of                         uncontaminated (Gen. 6:9)
    Abraham                                      c Punishment by flood (Gen. 7,8)
                                                            d Spirits in prison (1 Pet. 3:19-22, Jude 1:6)

C  As it was in the                  a Antichrist, and the Son of Perdition (2 Thess. 2)
    days of Noah.                          b Preservation, the lamb's book of life.
    The nations just                          Uncontaminated (Rev. 21)
    before Israel are                            c Punishment by fire (Rev. 14:9, Rev. 14:10)
    saved and blessed                             d Spirits liberated for a season (Rev. 9:14).

Let us now attend to the teaching of Scripture with regard to this great epoch. A very superficial reading of Scripture will convince the student that there are revealed three great creative movements one past, one present and one future.

1. "In the beginning" (Gen. 1:1). Primal Creation.
2. "In six days" (Gen. 1:3 - 2:3). Present Creation.
3. "In the day of God" (2 Pet. 3:12-13). New Heavens and Earth.

The Primal Creation of Gen. 1:1 is separated by the chaos of Gen. 1:2 from the Present Creation while the Present Creation is again separated from the New Heavens and Earth by the dissolution of 2 Peter 3:10, and the following diagram visualizes this great purpose of the ages.

            Gen. 1:3
            to
               Gen. 1:1                                    Rev. 22:21                             1Cor. 15:24-28
____________________                _____________________               __________
"Before the Foundation |              |                                    |               |               
(or overthrow) of the |              |                                    |               |           
world"          |________| <------ Age Times ------> |_________|
  "before Age-Times"       Gen.                                          2 Pet. 3:10            
                                       1:2                                            Rev. 20:14,15          

The "first" heaven and earth of Revelation 21:1 is strictly "the former" of two (see Rev. 21:4 where the same Greek word is translated "former"). This is the sequel to the six days' creation, not to Genesis 1:1. A reference to Isaiah 65:17-25 and to Isa. 66:22-24 will show that in the new heaven and earth (outside the Holy Mountain), death will still be possible. Not until the end of the ages, long past the end of the Revelation will the last enemy be destroyed and God be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24-28).

Peter as a minister of the Circumcision, is particularly concerned with that portion of the purpose of the ages that impinges upon the hope of Israel. There is, however, in the history of Israel much that is typical of vaster things, and we are not surprised, therefore, to discover much that foreshadows the larger issues dealt with by Paul alone. This vast sweep of the ages which we have suggested in the diagram given above, finds an echo in the words of Peter, when he speaks of past, present and future heavens and earth, as they appear in the prophetic view of Israel and its hope.

We may use Peter's language as a guide to the wider purpose of the ages thus:

  • For Genesis 1:1 we may use the words, "the world that then was".

  • For Genesis 1:3 - Revelation 20:13 we may use the words, "the heavens and the earth which are now".

  • For Revelation 21:1 the words, "the new heavens and the new earth".

Peter was "a minister of the circumcision" (Gal. 2:7-9), and wrote his epistles to

". . . the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (1 Pet. 1:1).

As 2 Peter three opens with the words, "This second epistle, I now write unto you", it is evident that the chapter before us was equally addressed to the "circumcision". The term diaspora, "scattered" became a name to designate "the twelve tribes scattered abroad" (Jas. 1:1), or the "dispersed among the Gentiles" (John 7:35, R.V. margin). This term had become fixed during the two hundred years before Christ that the Septuagint had been in use, for in such passages as Deuteronomy 30:4, Nehemiah 1:9, Psalms 147:2; diaspora is used of the "outcasts of Israel". As we shall have occasion to compare some of the language of Peter with the Gospel according to Mark, it will be well to make sure that the reader is aware of the close association of these two servants of the Lord.

From Acts 12:12 we learn that Peter was friendly with Mark's mother and in 1 Pet. 5:13 he speaks of "Marcus my son." Jerome speaks of both Paul and Peter with their assistants thus:

"Therefore he (Paul) had Titus for a Secretary, as the blessed Peter had Mark, whose Gospel was composed by him after the dictation of Peter".

To this may be added the testimony of Eusebius:

"After the departure of Peter and Paul, Mark the disciple and secretary (hermeneutes or "interpreter") of Peter, transmitted to us in writing what Peter had preached".

The four Gospels, therefore, stand related to one another as follows:

A Matthew Independent

B Mark Interpreter of Peter

B Luke Fellow worker with Paul

A John Independent.

We are now free to examine 2 Peter three, and we shall remember as we do it, that Peter, the minister of the circumcision, admits in that same chapter that the Apostle Paul has many things to say, which were hard to be understood both by himself and his hearers, and we shall not expect to find the sweep backward beyond Gen. 1:2 in Peter's most far-flung statement, that we find in Paul's great epistles of the Mystery. We must now make a preliminary inquiry into the testimony of 2 Peter 3:1-14 and discover the scope of Peter's Ministry and epistle.

We note that chapters one and two must be considered as introductory, for it is chapter three that opens with the words, "this second epistle, beloved, I now write to you", and the burden of the chapter is the denial by "scoffers" of the possibility of the Lord's return by an appeal to a supposed "Uniformity of Natural Law", and the exposure of the weakness of this objection by the Apostle. An examination of the first chapter will show that this was prominently in the Apostle's mind all the time. 2 Peter 1:16-21 is an anticipation of 2 Peter 3:2-3 and 2 Peter 2:1-22 is an anticipation of 2 Peter 3:3-13 and correspond in the structure which will be given later.

These selfsame scoffers, or their predecessors, had evidently charged the believer who expected the personal return of the Lord, with following "cunningly devised fables" (2 Peter 1:16), and from this the Apostle proceeds to the nature and trustworthiness of prophecy, recalling in passing the conviction he himself had received of its truth when upon the Mount of Transfiguration.

The structure of the passage is as follows:

A 2 Pet. 1:16 What the apostle's witness was NOT "Cunningly devised fables"

B 2 Pet. 1:16-17 What it WAS" Honour and glory"

C 2 Pet. 1:17-18 How it CAME "The voice from heaven"

B 2 Pet. 1:19 What the Prophetic Word IS "A light, till the day dawn"

A 2 Pet. 1:20 What it is NOT "Not of its own unfolding"

C 2 Pet. 1:21 How it CAME "Moved by the Holy Ghost".

In this opening argument we have similar features that are restated or amplified in chapter three.

Chapter One
The Second Coming of Christ.
The charge made "cunningly devised fables".
The testimony of Apostle and Prophet.
The introductory phrase "knowing this first".

Chapter Three
The Second Coming of Christ.
The scoffers' charge "where is the promise of His coming?
"The testimony of the Prophets and Apostles.
The introductory phrase "knowing this first".

To piece together the complete structure in all its details would take us too long, and is not necessary for our present purpose. The following abridged outline will be all that is required to demonstrate the scope of the epistle and particularly the correspondence that exists between 2 Peter 1:16-21 and 2 Peter 3:2-3, and 2 Peter 2:1-22 with 2 Peter 3:3-13. If this be realized, we shall have reached the first step in our inquiry.

We draw special attention to the two words "overthrow" katastrophe and "overflow" katakluzo, and the correspondence established between the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, with the dissolution of the elements.

THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PETER

A 2 Pet. 1:1-4 Opening Benediction.
Grace, peace, through the knowledge of God.
Called to His own glory

B 2 Pet. 1:5-11 Give all diligence-never fall (ptaio)
Give diligence-make sure

C a 2 Pet. 1:12-15 "Stir up", "remembrance"
b 2 Pet. 1:16-21 The Apostles and Prophets
(details given above)
"Knowing this first"
c 2 Pet. 2:1-22 False prophets and False teachers
Reference to fall of angels,the Flood
and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
An overthrow (katastrophe)
Lusts of flesh and uncleanness

C a 2 Pet. 3:1 This second epistle beloved.
I now write unto you: in both which I stir up
your pure minds by way of remembrance
b  2 Pet. 3:2-3 The Prophets and the Apostles"Knowing this first"
c 2 Pet. 3:3-13 Scoffers
Reference to Creation and Flood
Dissolution of elements
Overflow (katakluzo)
Walking after their own lusts

B 2 Pet. 3:14-17 Be diligent-fall (ekpipto) stedfastness

A 2 Pet. 3:18 Closing Benediction.
Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour
To Him be glory.

In the second chapter, which corresponds with the section dealing with the scoffers and their condemnation, Peter speaks of the following recorded interventions of the Lord, showing how untrue the scoffers were when they attempted to rule out the future Divine intervention of the Lord's return by saying, "since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were". Four instances are given by the apostle of judgments that could not be the mere working of natural law.

  • The casting down of the angels that sinned (2 Pet. 2:4).

  • The bringing in a flood in the days of Noah (2 Pet. 2:5).

  • The turning of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemning them by an "overthrow" katastrophe (2 Pet. 2:6.)

  • The rebuking of Balaam by the speaking of a dumb ass (2 Pet. 2:15-16).

From these examples the Apostle draws the conclusion:

"The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished" (2 Pet. 2:9).

We have now advanced a step in our pursuit of the truth. The fact has been established, that there were three Creative Movements recorded in Scripture, and that Peter whose reference to Creation is occupying our attention, was a minister of the circumcision, when he wrote his second epistle. To this we have now added some idea of the general scope of this epistle, and of 2 Peter 3:3-14 in particular. We are, therefore, now ready to give 2 Peter 3:3-14 a fuller and more detailed examination.

Before we can come to any definite conclusion about the intention of the Apostle in 2 Peter 3:3-14, we must arrive at some certain understanding of the terms he uses. There are few students of Scripture who, when they read the words of 2 Peter 3:4, "the BEGINNING of creation", will go back in mind immediately to Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1, where the same word arche "beginning" is found either in the Septuagint or in the original Greek N.T. Yet upon examination, such a reference back is proved to be untrue. We have already spoken of Mark the "interpreter" of Peter and the present is an opportunity to test his words. Mark uses the word arche "beginning" four times thus:

A "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God" (Mark 1:1)

B "From the beginning of the creation" (Mark 10:6)

A "The beginning of sorrows" (Mark 13:8)

B "The beginning of the creation which God created" (Mark 13:19)

The two references to creation challenge our attention, and we are sure that the established meaning of these two passages in Mark's Gospel must influence most profoundly our interpretation of the same words in 2 Peter three. Here, therefore, is the second passage in full.

"But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female" (Mark 10:6).

It is not a matter of debate, therefore, that Mark uses the expression, "the beginning of the creation", to refer exclusively to the creation of Genesis 1:3 - 2:3, and so by logical necessity cannot include Genesis 1:1. Let us read the second reference:

"For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be" (Mark 13:19).

All we need to do to show that the same limitation must be observed is to place beside this reference, two parallel passages.

"For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matt. 24:21).

"There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time" (Dan. 12:1).

We cannot conceive that any reader with these passages before him, would wish to read into Mark 13:19 a reference back to Genesis 1:1. The words "since there was a nation" being the earliest statement, out of which the others have grown.

We are, therefore, certain that the words quoted by Peter "from the beginning of the creation" are limited to the Adamic earth. The context moreover of any expression has a part to play in deciding its meaning, so we must now observe the way in which it is introduced and with what other terms it is associated.

"Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation".

It is strange enough to think of linking up the death of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ("the fathers") with the six days of creation; it is unthinkable when we attempt to link such events with the remote period of Gen. 1:1. The argument appears to be that just as the "fathers" died one after the other, and no interference with "nature" has yet broken the hold of death, so, from the beginning of the world all things have continued without a break, and ever will, so rendering either the hope of resurrection, the Second Coming or the Day of Judgment unreasonable.

Peter, however, has already met this argument. Did all things continue as they were, in the days of Noah? Was there no Divine intervention in the days of Sodom? Is there no import in the use of the two distinctive words katastrophe and katakluzo?

Further, we must not forget that the words in question were spoken by the "scoffers". What did these scoffers know about the primal creation? What did they know of the "overthrow of the world"? Not one of them so far as there is any record had ever seen the skeleton of a brontosaurus or a fossilized ichthyosaurus. The science of their day made creation originate from chaos (see Hislop's Two Babylons), and these scoffers most certainly did not know more of ancient history than the inspired Apostle.

In his opening rejoinder the Apostle says, "For this they willingly are ignorant of", a sentence that does not do justice to either the English language or the inspired original. The R.V. reads, "for this they willfully forget" and some even render the passage, "for they are willfully blind to the fact". No person can be charged with "willful forgetfulness" if the matter lies beyond his knowledge. The heathen world was without excuse in their idolatry because of the witness of creation around them, but not even the scoffers could "willfully neglect" the evidences of the primal creation because they were unrevealed and were unattainable by human search at that time. These scoffers, however, could be charged with willful neglect of the Divine record of Genesis which shows how the selfsame water that played so prominent a part in the six days of creation, was actually used to bring about the flood in the days of Noah. This they could have known, and with its neglect they could be charged.

Lanthano, the word translated "be ignorant" in 2 Peter 3:5 A.V. occurs again in verse 8, "be not ignorant of this one thing". This fact must not be "ignored" by ourselves, as it is evident that such a recurrence indicates a structural feature, and is of consequence to true interpretation. The word lanthano seems to demand an English equivalent that lies somewhere between the "ignorance" of the A.V. and the "forgetting" of the R.V., and Moffatt seems to have chosen wisely here, for he renders the word in both passages "ignore". Ignorance of any fact modifies the culpability of a person, forgetfulness while serious, nevertheless modifies the guilt of an act, but to "willfully ignore" leaves no such margin of excuse, and that is the thought here. Without making too great a diversion by dealing with the structure of 2 Peter 3:1-13 as a whole, it will be sufficient for our present purpose to confine ourselves to verses 2 Peter 3:4-9.

A     2 Pet. 3:4            The Promise.     Where is this promised Advent?
                                                            False argument derived from
                                                            misconception as to time

B     2 Pet. 3:5-7  They                  a Heavens of old and Earth
                           willfully ignore       b The Word                            Water
                                                               c The World
                                                                    d Perished
                                                    a Present Heaven and Earth
                                                         b Same Word                         Fire
                                                              c Ungodly Men
                                                                   d Destruction

B    2 Pet. 3:8    Do you                  The argument concerning relative time
                        not ignore

A    2 Pet. 3:9           The Promise         The apparent "slowness" of the Lord
                                                             must not be misconstrued as "slackness".
                                                             The day of the Lord will come.

God does not hold man accountable where knowledge is unattainable. Knowledge concerning things that happened during the Primal Creation of Genesis 1:1 could not be "ignored" by anyone, because no details are given in the Revealed Word. These men, however, could, and evidently did, willfully ignore the testimony of Genesis 1:3 - 8:22, and so were without excuse. The reference to "the world that then was being overflowed with water perished" must either refer to the chaos of Genesis 1:2 and must exclude the flood in the days of Noah, or it must refer to the flood of the days of Noah and exclude Genesis 1:2, it cannot refer primarily to both. We have positive evidence that Peter makes reference to the Deluge of Noah's day as part of his teaching and while this does not prove anything so far as 2 Peter 3:6 is concerned, it is a weight in the scale. We must continue our study of the terms used by Peter.

"The heavens were of old". Do these words refer to the primal creation of Genesis 1:1? or do they refer to the creation of the world for Adam and his race? Ekpalai occurs in but one other passage in the N.T., namely in 2 Peter 2:3.

"Whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not".

There is no need for any argument here. These false prophets must belong to the Adamic creation, and consequently there is added reason to believe that Peter's second use of the term will be but an expansion of the first, and that 2 Peter 3:6 refers back as far as Genesis 1:3 but no farther.

Palai simply means "old", palaios, palaiotes and palaioo also occur and should be examined. We give just two examples.

"But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins (2 Pet. 1:9).

"God Who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past" (Heb. 1:1).

The expression, "the heavens were of old", therefore refers quite legitimately to Genesis 1:6. This "firmament" was temporary and is to pass away, as many passages of Scripture testify. There is no passage, however, that teaches that Heaven Itself, the dwelling place of the Most High, will ever pass away, and this is an added reason for limiting Peter's words to the present creation.

The earth "standing" out of the water, appears to refer to the way in which the present system was brought into being. Sunistemi is translated "consist" in Colossians 1:17, and while it would take a scientist to explain the meaning of 2 Peter 3:5, the reference is so evidently back to Genesis 1:3 onwards that scientific pro of is not necessary to our argument.

The association of the "water" and creation, with the "water" that caused the "overflow" of 2 Peter 3:6, is emphasized when one observes that after the many references to water in Genesis one, no further mention is made until the ominous words of Genesis 6:17 are reached, "I do bring a flood of waters upon the earth".

These things the scoffers "willfully ignored". The future dissolution will involve the heavens as well as the earth (2 Peter 3:10) whereas it was "the world" not the heaven and the earth that "perished" in the days of Noah. The heavens and the earth remained, and so could be called by Peter "the heavens and the earth which are now". In the second chapter of his epistle, Peter refers to the Flood and speaks of "the old world" and "the world of the ungodly" (2 Peter 2:5), similarly in both 2 Peter 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:7 he uses the word "reserved" in reference to judgment.

Again in 2 Peter 3:6 the Greek word katakluzomai is used where the translation reads "being overflowed with water". In 2 Peter 2:5 he uses the word kataklusmos (which becomes in English "cataclysm") "bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly", which makes the parallel between these two chapters even more obvious. The result of our examination leaves us with the conviction that Peter refers to the creation that came into being for the habitation of man, and that we are not justified in using his words to cover the whole of the record of Scripture, except as a type and shadow of the greater event.

 

(7). PARADISE LOST AND RESTORED

If "before the overthrow of the world" and "before the age times" refer to the same datum line, and, if the "overthrow" be Genesis 1:2, then this must have taken place before the ages began, and consequently we have an indication that the ages are coincident with the present temporary creation, which together with its "firmament" will pass away when the purpose of the ages shall be accomplished.

The opening and closing members of the Purpose of the Ages may be set out as follows:

A      The beginning         a   Christ Firstborn of all Creation.
         "Before Age                Image of Invisible God times
           times"                      b  Satan Cherub (Ezek. 28:12-19)
                                               c  The overthrow (Gen. 1:2)

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

A       The End                a  Christ Head Every knee shall bow
          Ages                         b Church In the heavenlies
          Finish                            Satan destroyed
                                               c  Reconciliation achieved.

The space indicated by the * * * is spanned by the ages. The first of the series of fullnesses that fill this gap is, as we have seen, the "six-day creation" of Genesis 1:3 - 2:3.

The opening "generation" is NOT that of Adam, as recorded in Genesis 5:1, but of "the heavens and the earth" which occupies Genesis 2:4 - 4:26. This is followed by twelve generations, which open with "the book of the generations of Adam" (Gen. 5:1), and closes with "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ".

The relationship of these generations may be set out as follows:

A The generations of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 2:4 - 4:26)

A a The BOOK of the generations of Adam (Gen. 5:1, Gen. 6:8) Plural

         b The generations of Noah (Gen. 6:9 - 9:29)

            c The generations of the Sons of Noah (Gen. 10:1 - 11:9)

                 d "The generations of Shem (Gen. 11:10-26) The Seed

            e The generations of Terah (Gen. 11:27 - 25:11) Mesopotamia

                 f The generations of Ishmael (Gen. 25:12-18) Bondwoman

                 f The generations of Isaac (Gen. 25:19 - 35:29) Free woman

           e The generations of Esau (Gen. 36:1-43) Canaan

                d The generations of Jacob (Gen. 37:2 - 50:26) The Seed

          c The generations of Aaron and Moses (Num. 3:1-4)
               b The generations of Pharez (Ruth 4:18-22) The Seed

          a The BOOK of the generation of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:1-17) Singular.

It will be observed that the word "generation" is used in the plural of each except the last. The generations refer to the descendants, as may be seen by an isolated generation like that of Ruth 4:18-22, the generation of Jesus Christ however, refers to His human ancestry not to His descendants, for He had none. In the generations of the heaven and the earth, are recorded the following features: 

 1. The forming of man from the dust, and his becoming a living soul.
 2. The planting of the garden eastward in Eden.
 3. The prohibition concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
 4. The naming of the animals and Adam's conscious loneliness.
 5. The formation of the woman as a help meet for him.
 6. The temptation and the fall, the curse and sorrow.
 7. The promise of the seed of the woman and ultimate victory.
 8. The return of man to the dust from whence he had been taken.
 9. The expulsion from Eden and the placing of the Sword and Cherubim.
10. The two seeds as manifested in Abel and Cain.
11. The appointment of Seth "instead" of Abel.

More complete details could, of course, be included, and the reader must remember that there is no significance in the number that we have indicated. In view of the balancing feature in the book of the Revelation we can write over this period the words "Paradise Lost", without borrowing any ideas from Milton, even as we can write over the closing chapter of the Revelation "Paradise Restored".

Two main themes commence in Genesis three, that continue to the end of time, and which constitute the conflict of the ages. These are (1) the promise of the woman's seed, (2) the continuous enmity between the two seeds until ultimate victory is achieved. (See booklet on "Job".) The loss sustained as a consequence of the fall is symbolized in the expulsion from the garden, with the consequent loss of access to the tree of life, but restoration is pledged by the placing of the Cherubim together with a flaming sword "to keep" the way of the tree of life. In the sequel, when the intervening gap is filled by the fruits of redemption, we are taken by a series of steps back to Eden and its blessedness, as is made manifest by the following extract from the close of Revelation.

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away . . . and he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life . . . and there shall be no more curse . . . that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Rev. 21:4; Rev. 22:1-3, Rev. 22:14).

Here is the complete reversal of the consequence of the fall of man in Eden, and we have surveyed yet another "fulness", the fulness of Redemption that spans the ages and their burden of sin and death. The creation of the universe, being the act of the infinitely wise God, brought into being a definite purpose, and that purpose can be perceived at least in some measure by reading what the Scriptures indicate will be the condition of things at the end. The Tabernacle of God will then be with men and He will dwell with them, God will be all in all. Two things are linked with the Cherubim in the Scriptures, "dwelling" (1 Sam. 4:4), and "speaking" (Num. 7:89).

Where the word is used in the singular, we read, "He rode upon a Cherub and did fly", but this has to do with deliverance from enemies. While we read both in Exodus and Ezekiel of a "Cherub" in the singular, it always has reference to "one" of the Cherubim, but in Ezekiel 28:14 and Ezek. 28:16 "the anointed Cherub" seems to be associated with "the overthrow of the world". The change from the singular to the plural takes place after the fall of man, and the Cherubim with their four faces, the lion, the ox, the man and the eagle, symbolize Adam and the dominion put in subjection under his feet, who in turn is the figure of Him that was to come. While the purpose of God to dwell with His creatures was temporarily checked by the failure of the first creation, it was reintroduced at the creation of man, for we have the homely words of Genesis three, that speaks of the "voice of God" in the "garden at the cool of the day" and the call, "Adam, where art thou?" Once again the fall of the creature hindered the attainment of the Divine purpose, yet Love found a way; the purpose was not abandoned but the whole purpose was placed upon a redemptive basis, consequently the Cherubim are seen to be an integral part of the Mercy Seat. Some idea of the way the purpose is pursued through the ages may be visualized by the following graph:


ORIGINAL PURPOSE         THE "GAP" FILLED         THE GOAL REACHED
   Purpose to                           Cherubim.                 "The Tabernacle of
    dwell.                              Man and his                 God is with men
The Cherub.                         dominion, sin                and He will dwell
"Cover"                             enters and                        with them".
(Ezek. 28:14-16,                 Cherubim now                                          
Exod. 26:14).                        part of the                                            
  Mercy seat  

THE OVERTHROW                              DISSOLUTION
OF THE WORLD                                 OF HEAVEN

From the "Anointed" that failed, on via the cross to the glory of the "Anointed" Who gloriously succeeded, the purpose of love is carried to its goal on the wings of the Cherubim, or rather on the grace that these strange creatures set forth. Thus the outstretched firmament coincides with the outstretched wing of the Cherubim, the whole span of the ages being Under the Redeeming Aegis.

"The term aegis', really a Latin word, means 'a goat skin', and later a shield. . . . This redeeming conception took on a primeval form in the cherubim set up, together with the sword of flame, at the gate of the lost Eden. . . the idea of atonement, therefore is as old as the Bible, nay as redemption itself. . . . This 'day of Atonement' itself was called 'Yom Kippur', i.e. the 'Day of Covering'. . . . Ours is at bottom an evangelical universe, no other form was ever conceived for it in the mind of God". (Under the Redeeming Aegis, by H. C. Mabie, D.D., LL.D.).

We can, therefore, set out the steps of the goal of the ages, thus:

B The Ages           Earth       Remade and blessed
     begin                              (Gen. 1:2-2:4)
                                           Subjected to curse.
  Paradise lost                      Thorns and thistles
                                           (Gen. 3)

                             Man
      For a little lower than
                                           angels (Psa. 8)
                                           The First Adam.
                                           Living Soul.
                                           The image of God
                                            Dominion over the earth

                             Usurper   The Serpent.
                                            The Shining one
                                            Nachash (Gen. 3)
                                            Ye shall not surely die
                                            Ye shall be as God

                             Hope
       The seed of the woman

               * * * * * * * * * * * *

B     The                Earth        Restored and blessed
Consummation                       (Hos. 2:18-23)
   of the ages                          Curse removed
                                             (Rev. 22:3, Isa. 55:13)
Paradise
Restored                Man         Christ, made much
                                             better than angels
                                             (Heb. 1:4)
                                             Last Adam.
                                             Quickening Spirit.
                                             Image

                             Heir
        Lamb is the light,
                                             brightness of glory
                                             Immortality conferred (1 Cor. 15)
                                             Every knee shall bow

                             Hope       Creation's groan hushed
                                            (Rom. 8:21, Rom. 16:20).

 

(8) THE FILLING UP OF THE NATIONS (Gen. 48:19)

The family of Noah after the flood were told to "replenish" the earth, which would have constituted a fulness, had this replenishing been accompanied by grace and righteousness. Alas, by the time we reach the eleventh chapter of Genesis, the evil character of the world was made manifest, and Babel, and the scattering of the people, brought another movement in the purpose of the ages to a close. Babel in Genesis eleven, will yet find its corresponding member when great Babylon comes up for judgment, but the gap formed by the rebellion of Nimrod and the introduction of idolatry which is so closely associated with this mighty hunter before the Lord, was filled by the calling of Abraham and the promises made to him concerning the great nation Israel.

In Genesis 48:19 we read, "his seed shall become a multitude of nations". It so happens that the word "multitude" occurs earlier in this same chapter, namely in verse 4, where we read:

"Behold I will make thee fruitful and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people" (Gen. 48:4).

Two words are found in the Hebrew original which are here translated "multitude" and these must be distinguished.

The word translated "multitude" in verse 4 is the Hebrew word qahal "to call" or "to assemble", but the word translated "multitude" in verse 19 is entirely different, it is the Hebrew word melo "fulness".

Let us bring together three more passages which make the promise that Israel shall be a multitude or company of people or nations.

"And GOD ALMIGHTY bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people" (Gen. 28:3).

"And God said unto him, I am GOD ALMIGHTY; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee" (Gen. 35:11).

"Behold I will make thee fruitful and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people" (Gen. 48:4).

In these passages "multitude" translates the Hebrew word qahal. When Jacob blessed Joseph's younger son Ephraim, putting his right hand upon his head, instead of upon the head of Manasseh his elder brother, Joseph said:

"Not so, my father," Jacob answered, "I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations" (Gen. 48:19).

Here, as we have already observed, the Hebrew word translated "multitude" is melo, "fulness".

We must, therefore, become acquainted with the usage and meaning of these two words which are translated "multitude" before we can proceed with our study. Qahal, means "to call together", "to assemble", and the noun form is translated "congregation", "assembly" and "company". In seventy passages, the Septuagint renders the Hebrew qahal by ekklesia, and Stephen speaks of "the church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38). In the three passages quoted from Genesis, "multitude" and "company" are represented by "synagogue" in the Septuagint. In Genesis 48:19 melo which is translated "multitude" is rendered in the Septuagint plethos, which in the N. T. is rendered by the A.V. "multitude" thirty times, "company" once and "bundle" once. Unfortunately the English word "multitude" has to stand for two very different conceptions. Plethos, is from the same root as pleroma and retains the idea of fulness or filling, but there is another Greek word translated multitude, namely ochlos which means rather "a crowd" or "a mob", the unruly nature of which is reflected in the verbal forms which mean "to vex" or "to trouble" (Acts 5:16; Acts 15:19; Acts 17:5, Heb. 12:15). While, therefore, we are compelled to use the English word multitude in these passages of Genesis, we must dismiss the thought of a "mob" or of an unruly "crowd", and retain the idea of a properly assembled gathering and a filling.

Returning to the usage of the word qahal, we observe that from Exodus 12:6 where we read "the whole assembly", the word is used of Israel as a nation, but in Genesis, before Israel as a nation existed, it is used prophetically, looking down the ages to the day when the seed of Abraham shall indeed become "a filling of the nations" (Rotherham). The four occurrences of qahal fall into their place in the structure, which can be seen set out in full in The Companion Bible.

The following extract will be sufficient to demonstrate this fitness here.

Gen. 27:42 - 28:5. Departure. Jacob to Padan-aram
"that thou mayest be a multitude of people"

* * * * * * * *
Gen. 35:1-15. Return. Jacob from Padan-aram
"a nation and a company of nations"

Gen. 48:1-20. Blessing of Joseph and his sons
"I will make of thee a multitude of people"
* * * * * * * *
Gen. 49:1-28. Blessing of all his sons
"unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united",
It will be remembered that in the endeavor to obtain the birthright and the Abrahamic blessing, Jacob, at the instigation of his mother who knew that "the elder shall serve the younger" (Gen. 25:23), attempted by fraud to make the prophecy sure, but failed. When Jacob as a consequence was obliged to leave home, the coveted blessing for which both he and his mother had schemed was given to him freely:

"And GOD ALMIGHTY bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; and give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham" (Gen. 28:3-4).

Not only is "the land" a definite feature of this promise, but a peculiar character attaches to it, it is called "the land wherein thou art a stranger". This is repeated in Genesis 37:1 and in Gen. 47:9 Jacob uses the same word where it is translated "pilgrimage", The margin of Genesis 28:4, reads, "the land of thy sojournings". This term is used seven times in the law and is repeated in Hebrews 11:9 and Heb. 11:13. After the formation of Israel and the giving of the law, the nation is not again reminded that they were strangers and sojourners except in one passage, namely in Leviticus 25:23, where the laws governing the sale of land showed that the Lord Himself was the true Owner, Israel only holding the land as it were on a lease. One further note is necessary before we attempt a conclusion, and that concerns the word translated "nation". An attempt has been made, in order that a certain popular theory might be supported, to show that Ephraim was to become "Gentilized". The Hebrew word translated "nations" is goyim, the plural of goi. This word is translated in the A.V. as follows: "Gentile" thirty times, "heathen" 142 times, "nation" 373 times, "people" eleven times. It is easy, when we are reading the passages where "Gentile" and "heathen" occur, to jump to the conclusion that the word means, "all nations of the world, excepting the Jews", but this is an error.

The first six occurrences of goyim occur in Genesis ten, and as Israel was not in existence at the time, it is evident that the word can only mean "nations"; the inclusion of the word "Gentiles" in the A.V. of Genesis 10:5, being an anticipation and having no immediate meaning until placed over against the word "Jew". The R.V. has recognized this, and inserted "nations" instead. In Genesis 12:2 we read the words of the great prophetic promise to Abraham concerning his seed, Israel, "I will make of thee a great nation", while in Genesis 17:4-6 this promise is expanded to include "many nations", returning in Gen. 18:18 once more to the "great nation". So in Genesis 35:11 we read, "a nation and a company of nations", the only distinction between Jew and Gentile being, not in the use of a different word, but in the use of the singular for the Jew, and the plural for the Gentile. So again in Deuteronomy four, we have interchangeably "this great nation" , "what nation is so great", "the heathen" , "a nation from the midst of another nation" and "the nations" , that were to be driven out of Canaan, all being translations of the one Hebrew word. Even in the Greek N.T. when the distinction between Jew and Gentile is acute, we still find ethnos used both of the Gentiles and of Israel (Acts 22:21; Acts 26:4, Acts 26:17; Acts 28:19, Acts 28:28).

While, therefore, goyim means at times Gentile or heathen, it always means "nation" whether the nations outside the covenant, or the great nation of promise. The promise that Israel should be "great" must not be misunderstood. With us, "greatness" is associated with nobility of mind, but originally the word gadol translated "great" means "growth" or "augmentation", So we read of "great lights", "great whales", a "great city" in Genesis. The word, moreover, is used to indicate "the elder" son (Gen. 10:21; Gen. 27:1; Gen. 29:16) who may not necessarily have been "greater".

Israel today are indeed at the present day "minished and brought low through oppression" (Psa. 107:39), but it is an integral part of the promise to Abraham, that Israel should not only be great in spiritual qualities, but great in numbers. The promise reads, "I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered" (Gen. 13:16).

The figure is changed in Genesis 15:5 to the innumerable stars of heaven, with the added words, "so shall thy seed be". Yet once again the figure is changed to "the sand upon the sea shore" (Gen. 22:17).

It is possible that one hundred thousand million stars make one galaxy, and one hundred thousand million galaxies, make one universe. The number of stars in a universe therefore would be ten thousand trillion, or expressed in figures,

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

that is equal to the number of drops of water in all the oceans of the world, or grains of fine sand sufficient to cover the whole of the state of Oregon, to a depth of a foot.

While it is not intended that Israel was ever to reach such astronomical figures, the contemplation of the possible number of the stars, compels us to admit that an extraordinary increase in number constitutes an essential feature of the Divine purpose for this "great nation". According to Deuteronomy 1:10 these promises were on the way to fulfillment even when Israel stood upon the borders of the promised land, and the present drop in their numbers is coincident with their being in disfavor. "If ye walk contrary to Me, I will make you few in number" (Lev. 26:21-22).

When at length the Lord causes the captivity of both Judah and of Israel to return "as at the first", when He performs that good thing which He has promised unto the house of Israel and of Judah, then "as the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David My servant, and the Levites that minister unto Me saith the Lord" (Jer. 33:7, Jer. 33:14, Jer. 33:22).

At the time of the end of this age the world will be so ravaged and desolated by the destructive method of atomic or other super scientific weapons that the prophet Zechariah speaks of "every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem" (Zech. 14:16), words that suggest a terrible depletion in the number of the inhabitants of the earth at that day. In Zechariah 13:8 the prophet's meaning is made very clear, when he says, "and it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein".

Something of what may be expected when atomic warfare breaks out over this devoted earth can be sensed by the words of the Apocalypse:

  • "The third part of trees was burnt up".

  • "The third part of the sea became blood".

  • "The third part of the ships were destroyed".

  • "The third part of men, slain (Rev. 8:7-9; Rev. 9:15).

The day is passed when these catastrophic times could be brushed aside as mere figures of speech, we have lived through days when "a third part of the ships" were well nigh literally destroyed. We have seen that following the desolation of Genesis 1:2 came the creation of man and the command, "replenish the earth". We have seen that the same command was given to Noah after the cataclysm of the flood. This same command will be fulfilled in Israel when they, too, shall "blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit" (Isa. 27:6). Ephraim, as the "firstborn" will indeed be great, and his seed "shall become a FILLING UP of the nations" (Gen. 48:19).

Once again we see the principle of the pleroma at work, with its promise of a better day, when sorrow and sighing shall have fled away, when the true seed shall flourish, and the seed of the serpent be no more.

 


(9) THE FULNESS OF THE GENTILES (Rom. 11:25)

We have seen that the promise to Abraham concerning his seed, has followed the same pattern that has characterized the earlier moves in the outworking of the purpose. Their failure came to a head just before the Babylonian captivity and, with Nebuchadnezzar, "the times of the Gentiles" began.

"In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and beseiged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god" Dan. 1:1-2).

With these words the book of Daniel opens, and it may not be too much to say that they are only paralleled by the words of Acts twenty-eight in their burden of crisis and dispensational change. With such vast issues hanging upon these momentous words, vast because they cover the whole sweep of Gentile dominion, and vaster still because they lead steadily on to that kingdom of Christ which is to last for ever, with such issues and such a burden, no pains should be spared in acquainting ourselves with all that God has written for our learning in relation to this crisis in the history of man. Space will not permit of the full quotation of Jeremiah 25:1-26. We can but point out one or two features that connect this passage with the opening words of Daniel.

The reader will be struck by the fact that whereas Dan. 1:1 speaks of the "third" year of Jehoiakim, Jeremiah 25:1 speaks of the "fourth" year of that same king in connection with the coming of Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem. This apparent discrepancy has not passed unnoticed by the critic, being one of his many "proofs" of the untrustworthiness of the book of Daniel.

The Hebrew word translated "came" in Dan. 1:1 is bo, and it frequently has the sense of "went" or "marched". This, however, has been denied by the gain sayers. Hebrew scholars understand that "the verb bo does not mean to set out but to arrive at", and when men of such standing and authority speak thus, who are we to oppose them? Humility is indeed a grace to seek and preserve, but while Galatians two remains for our encouragement, we may still dare to bring all statements to the touchstone of the Word. So-called "higher criticism" as has been suggested that the Hebrew word bo is used in the sense of "to set out" in each of the five books of Moses, in Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and in six out of the twelve minor prophets!

Let us look at Jonah 1:3 and translate it as some would have it: "And Jonah . . . sent down to Joppa, and he found a ship arriving at Tarshish"! If this should be the sense, then in some miraculous way Jonah would have no sooner set foot on board at Joppa than he would have "arrived" at Tarshish.

Doubtless this would have made the journey far more pleasant than it actually was, but the simple fact is that the Hebrew word bo means that the ship was "going" or "setting out" for Tarshish. The plain fact of Daniel one and Jeremiah twenty-five is that the former writer tells us the year in which Nebuchadnezzar "set out" from Babylon, while the latter tells us when he "arrived". Moreover, Jeremiah tells us what occupied Nebuchadnezzar on his journey from one capital to the other.

"Against Egypt, against the army of Pharaoh-necho king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah" (Jer. 46:2).

Instead therefore of discovering a discrepancy in the narrative of Scripture, we have the obvious fact that Nebuchadnezzar took time to accomplish this march from Babylon to Jerusalem, and was obliged to meet and overcome Pharaoh at Carchemish by the Euphrates before he could arrive.

In Jeremiah 25:3 the prophet reminded Israel that since the thirteenth year of Josiah (see Jeremiah 1:1-2), the word of the Lord had come urging them to turn from their evil, and because they had not turned He said:

"Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land. . . and this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years" (Jer. 25:9-11).

What God therefore had threatened, He brought to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, and the historic record of the captivity of Jehoiakim is found in 2 Chronicles thirty-six, the last chapter of the Hebrew Bible!

Yet with all this apparent on the surface of Scripture, and needing no more scholarship than ability to read in one's mother tongue, some have had the audacity to say:

"We know by the book of Jeremiah that no such event (as the siege of Jerusalem, Dan. 1:1) took place in the reign of Jehoiakim".

"We know"! We also know that it is written, "professing themselves to be wise they became fools", and by such statements they demonstrate that they are but "blind leaders of the blind".

Jehoiakim was appointed king of Judah by Pharaoh-nechoh in the place of Jehoahaz (2 Kings 23:34). He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and filled Jerusalem with innocent blood. He was succeeded by Jehoiachin. In the reign of the latter, Nebuchadnezzar carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, whereas Daniel 1:1-2 tells us that at the first he only carried away a part.

Jehoiachin or Jeconiah is deprived of the Jehovah element in his name, and under the name Coniah is utterly rejected by the Lord:

"Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah" (Jer. 22:30).

It is evident that Israel is passing; dominion is leaving them and is being transferred for the time being to the Gentiles. This is emphasized by such statements as Daniel 1:2; "And the Lord gave. . . into his hand", or Jeremiah 25:1: "The fourth year of Jehoiakim . . . that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar". The times of the Gentiles had therefore begun. And so with Zedekiah the glory departs, and Ezekiel twenty-one reveals the condition of things that will obtain "until He come":

"And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more, until He come Whose right it is, and I will give it Him" (Ezek. 21:25-27).

"Until He come"; Gentile dominion obtains on the earth until the coming of the Son of Man. No interim "Kingdom" is to be found here. Daniel's prophecies are occupied with this period of overturning, of the exalting of the base and abasing of the high. "This shall not be the same", saith the Lord, "this shall not be this", as the Hebrew reads, i.e. Nebuchadnezzar's dominion and dynasty would not be a real continuance of the throne of David. It would be in character rather a rule and dominion of wild beasts. The words, "it shall be no more, until He come", leave us in no doubt that the throne thus vacated shall be occupied by none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

The times of the Gentiles are characterized by one great feature, marked by the Lord in Luke 21:24, "and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled". The kingdoms that succeeded Babylon may have been larger or smaller, more powerful or weaker, more autocratic or less so, but the one essential characteristic of Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Turkey and any succeeding mandatory power is the Gentile domination of Jerusalem. That is the great distinguishing feature, and will only be removed when "He comes Whose right it is".

We have, therefore, a period of time which fills the "gap" caused by Israel's failure, which gap is filled by the dynasty started with Nebuchadnezzar and which will persist until, in the Day of the Lord, "the stone cut out without hands" strikes this colossus, and "the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ".

It is characteristic of the times of the Gentiles that this Jerusalem should be "trodden down". Those times will not end until Jerusalem is free from the yoke of Gentile dominion, surveillance or protection. Each succeeding ruler of the Gentiles has dominated Jerusalem-Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, Turkey, the British Mandate, the United Nations, and so on to the last great Dictator and his ten subsequent kings at the time of the end.

When Jerusalem is at length free, the times of the Gentiles will be "fulfilled" (pleroo), and "the fulness (pleroma) of the Gentiles" will have come (Luke 21:24, Rom. 11:25). Immediately following this statement concerning the times of the Gentiles, the epistle to the Romans goes on to say "and so" or "thus" "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26). The "gap" in the outworking of the Divine purpose in Israel is stressed in Romans 9 - 11, because of their failure, but a "remnant" shall be saved at the beginning, for had the Lord not left them a "seed" they would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah.

Throughout the period covered by the Acts, "all day long" the Lord stretched out his hands "to a disobedient and gainsaying people" (Rom. 10:21). However low Israel may have fallen during this period, the answer of God to Elijah has a parallel, "I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal" (Rom. 11:4). Yet such is the grace of God, the very diminishing of them led to the enriching of the Gentiles, and leads the Apostle to ask, "how much more their fulness?"

The figure of the olive tree, with its broken branches but emphasizes the "gap" that is in view, and the fulness of the Gentiles occupies the interval occasioned by Israel's blindness (Rom. 11:25). Israel's failure, in the days of Nebuchadnezzar led to the times of the Gentiles, speaking nationally, but Israel's spiritual failure registered in Acts twenty-eight led to the present dispensation of Gentile blessing, the Church which is called by the wondrous title, "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all". This, however, is so great a theme that it must be considered in a separate study.

To be continued.
The Pleroma

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