In The Day Of Ruin
Raymond K. Campbell
- In The Day Of Ruin
- Guidance from Second Timothy Two
- Outside the Camp
- The Shipwreck of Acts 27
- Hezekiah's Day
- Daniel and His Companions
- Post-Captivity Days
- In the New Testament
In The Day Of Ruin
In our previous chapters we have sought primarily to consider the Church as it was set up by God in the beginning and to learn from Scripture its nature and order and how it should function according to God's mind. We have looked at the Church in its universal character and in its local aspect and have seen what should characterize a Scripturally gathered Assembly of believers locally and in collective relationship with Assemblies elsewhere. We have noted here and there how greatly Christendom has departed from the primitive pattern of the Church as originally instituted by God, and have frequently noticed that the profesesing Church on earth (embracing all that outwardly owns the name of Christ) is in a state of general ruin, decay, and disorder. We shall now consider the Church in the day of ruin and the path of God for the believer amidst this ruin.
This condition of the Church's ruin and departure from God's Word was foretold in the New Testament and had already set in in the days of the apostles. This state of ruin is irreparable and will grow worse until finally the Lord will take the true believers, His bride, to heaven and spue the false Church out of His mouth and execute judgment upon it (see Matt. 25:10-12; Rev. 3:16; 18:1-10; 19-11-21).
There is no hope given in Scripture for the return of the Church on earth to its Pentecostal, virgin state of purity, unity, and spiritual power. It will, on the contrary, end in the greatest apostacy and idolatry of Babylon the Great and of the antichrist (Rev. 17 and II Thess. 2:1-12). That which becomes the earnest Christian in the day of ruin, then, is not to seek to restore the Church to its Pentecostal state, but to own with sorrow and humiliation before God this true condition of ruin and the low estate of the Church (of which we all form a part) and to contend earnestly for the faith in holiness and love.
Guidance from Second Timothy Two
However great the ruin in the Church may become, those who wish to please the Lord and obey His Word need not despair. God, who allowed decay and disorder to begin in the Church in apostolic times, has also given us by His apostles ample guidance and light for the discerning of His path in the day of ruin. Second Thessalonians, Second Peter, John's three Epistles, and Jude all give us guidance and help for the day of decline and apostacy. In addition to the foregoing, we have special and definite guidance for our day in the second Epistle to Timothy which deals especially with this condition of ruin and the last days of the Church. In this Epistle we have the light of God shining upon the increasing gloom and confusion of the professing Church and pointing out His path for the exercised soul in all the ruin.
In the first Epistle to Timothy we have the order of things that should prevail in the Assembly and how one should behave in the house of God which is the Church of the living God. The second Epistle to Timothy was written when disorder and evil had come into the outward house of God and there was no power in the Church to deal with it. In this Epistle Timothy was told how to walk and what to do in such disorder, evil, and departure from God's Word.
When the first Epistle was written to Timothy the outward Church was the house of God, but when the second Epistle was written the Church on earth had become a great house containing vessels to honor and vessels to dishonor. It then became necessary for one to purify himself by separating from these vessels to dishonor if he would be a vessel to honor and meet for the Master's use. Thus the apostle directs in this last Epistle to Timothy.
The subject of the great house of Christendom with its vessels of honor and dishonor and the divine path for the faithful and godly soul is clearly delineated in Second Timothy two, verses 19 through 26. As this Epistle was the last one of 14 divinely inspired ones to come from the apostle Paul (this last one written just before his martyrdom) we have therein, especially in the above mentioned verses, the last instructions of God as to Church truth or Assembly fellowship from the special apostle to the Church.
This portion of Scripture is therefore very important and necessitates our special attention. These verses give us divine instruction and guidance as to the path which the individual believer is to pursue when the Church is in disorder, ruin, and apostasy.
The Sure Foundation
Before giving instructions as to the divine path which the exercised believer is to follow in the day of evil, the apostle Paul speaks of the sure foundation of God. "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his." And, "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (v. 19). The state of things was very bad in the professing Church at the time Paul wrote this Epistle to Timothy. Assemblies were departing from the faith and some individuals were teaching false doctrines and overthrowing the faith of others, as Hymenaeus and Philetus, of whom the apostle speaks in verses 17 and 18.
Evil deeds and evil teachings abounded and would increase, but amidst such a confusing and discouraging state of affairs, there is a word of cheer and comfort. Paul could write, Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure." In face of the disturbing apostacy he turns to what is immovable and abiding-the sure foundation of God. What God has established remains as an unchanging, dependable foundation. What is committed to man fails, but what is of God abides untouchable and the believer can rest serenely on that foundation, no matter how great the ruin of the professing Church becomes.
Previously Paul had written to the Corinthians, "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 3:11). He, the eternal Son of God and Son of Man, is that sure foundation, the rock upon which the true Church is built, and against which the gates of hades cannot prevail (Matt. 16:16-18). Christ is the foundation stone which Isaiah prophesied of: "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation" (Isa. 28:16).
Here in Second Timothy we are not told what the foundation is. The Spirit of God has purposely left it as a general term. Undoubtedly it is Christ Jesus and also embraces all those things that God has given us in Him which are unchangeable and abiding. What a comfort this is for us in the day of apostacy when the foundations of the faith are being undermined and destroyed by evil men. "All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen" (II Cor. 1:20). Christ and His promises are a sure foundation for the believer to rest upon.
While there are many wonderful things secured for us in Christ, there are three things that are especially prominent and precious.
- The abiding presence of Christ with His own in all His fulness and sufficiency, is guaranteed to us. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20). "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). This is a precious promise indeed for the day of ruin.
- The abiding, indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is assured to the believer. '`I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever... He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:16, 17).
- The Word of God abides for us. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35).
What encouragement and sustenance for the believer in the day of ruin is found in the abiding presence of the Son of God, the Spirit of God, and the Word of God. Thus the remnant in Haggai's day was also encouraged. "I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not" (Haggai 2:4,5).
Affixed to God's sure foundation is a seal with a divine and a human side "having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his." This is the divine side. Amid the confusion and evil of Christendom the Lord sees and knows each one who has a living relationship with Himself and is truly His. We do not know all the believers, even in a certain place, but He does. This knowledge of the Lord is what we still have to fall back on as a resource in the present ruin of the Church.
The walk of some professing Christians is such that one can have no certainty as to the reality of their profession. Such have to be left with the Lord who knows His own and will manifest in due time those that are truly His and those that are not.
On the other hand, those who are true believers and faithful to the Lord are often misunderstood, slandered, and persecuted by the world or worldly professors because they will not go along .with the world and the professing Church in their evil doings. One's ecclesiastical position may be judged and evil spoken of; he may stand alone and be scorned by the Christian community. It is thus a real comfort and steadying power to know that the Lord knows each one who is His and all about their circumstances. He understands when others may doubt us.
But there is another side to God's seal, the side of human responsibility. "Let every one who names the name of (the) Lord withdraw from iniquity" (New Trans.). Every one who names the name of the Lord and claims to be a Christian is under real obligation to follow Christ in righteousness and to withdraw himself from all iniquity. If one confesses the name of the Lord, he must walk according to that holy name and not associate it with iniquity or unrighteousness of any kind. As Lord, He claims obedience and submission to His authority.
Separation from evil is always insisted upon throughout the Bible. It is especially stressed as a prime necessity for the godly soul in days of ruin. Thereby one gives a visible proof of the activity of a divine nature that hates evil and loves good and desires to obey and honor the Lord. "Cease to do evil; Learn to do well" (Isa. 1:16, 17); this is ever God's order. The first step is to separate from evil and then God will teach that one His will and will show him the next step.
Anything that is not subject to the entire will of God is iniquity. It may be a certain thing or it may be a religious system that is iniquity for one and must be departed from. Sometimes iniquity seems very nice to the human heart, but if it is in opposition to the revealed will of God and contrary to His Word, it is evil and must be separated from.
The Great House
"But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor" (v. 20). The apostle here uses the figure of a great house with its various vessels of honor and dishonor. This is a picture of what the professing Church was becoming when Paul wrote this Epistle. It could no longer be characterized as "the house of God... the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," as it was when the first Epistle to Timothy was written (ch. 3:15). Then the Church held forth the truth before the world as a pillar, but now false doctrines were taught by some in it, unsaved ones had gotten in, and there was much confusion, mixture, and evil in the professing house of God.
What claimed to be the house of God was fast becoming like what is found amongst men on earth-a great house of mixed vessels. It no longer had that exclusively divine stamp of being God's house and characterized by holiness and righteousness. It had lost its character of holiness and truth. Such was the state of the professing Church at the end of Paul's life and this condition of things has continued and developed intensely since then, so that Christendom is today more than ever a great house of mixed vessels, some to honor and some to dishonor.
Vessels of gold and silver are the vessels proper to the service of the house of God. Nebuchadnezzar had once taken the vessels of gold and silver from the temple at Jerusalem and carried them to Babylon (Dan. 5:2, 3). Vessels of wood and earth ought not to be in the house of God. From Romans 9:21-23 we learn that vessels to dishonor are "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" and vessels of honor are "vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory." Thus, generally speaking, vessels of gold and of silver would represent true Christians; they are vessels to honor-"vessels of mercy," while vessels of wood and of earth would symbolize unconverted professors in the church-vessels to dishonor and of wrath.
However, a golden vessel of honor may be used to dishonor, as Belshazzar did when he used the sacred vessels of the temple at his idolatrous feast. Likewise in the great house of Christendom, where the vessels represent persons, a real believer in the Lord may do something dishonoring to the Lord or be associated with vessels to dishonor and thus become a vessel of dishonor. The Lord cannot approve of the service of one associated with evil, therefore the condition of separation from vessels to dishonor is laid down in verse 21 as a necessity for being a vessel unto honor.
Such, then, is the divine picture of the professing Church with its unholy mixture of saved and unsaved, true and false believers. This is its state in the day of ruin. The whole of that which calls itself Christian is looked at as a great house of mixed vessels. Every Christian is of it outwardly in spite of however true may be his heart and purposes toward the Lord, for the great house is all that calls itself Christian. But the earnest and faithful believer is called to cleanse himself, personally, from all vessels to dishonor in the house, though he can never go out of the house itself.
"If therefore one shall have purified himself from these, (in separating himself from them), he shall be a vessel to honor, sanctified, serviceable to the Master, prepared for every good work" (v. 21, New Trans.). When Christendom no longer answers to the character of the Assembly as God formed it, the call is for individual faithfulness and the responsibility of the individual believer to separate himself from whatever is contrary to the honor of Christ is stressed. The individual is here addressed and called to purify himself from the vessels of dishonor by separating from them.
If one would be a vessel unto honor and serviceable to the Master, he must stand apart and not defile himself with what is false, corrupt, and contrary to God's Word. One cannot be in association with those who dishonor Christ, deny His deity or perfect humanity, hold other evil doctrine, or allow evil in practice, and at the same time seek to honor the Lord in one's walk and be a sanctified vessel for the Master's use. No believer can rightly serve the Lord while connected with evil or maintaining an association with a religious system or a congregation where evil is allowed or where unsaved persons (who are vessels to dishonor) are members. One must be a clean vessel before the Lord can use him, and the condition necessary for being a sanctified, serviceable vessel, ready for the Master's use, is plainly stated here as separation from vessels to dishonor.
If an Assembly does not purge evil out of its midst, as commanded in I Corinthians 5, the faithful believer, after due warning and patience have been exercised, must purge himself out of it. One cannot have fellowship with evil and be a clean vessel. "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." It is when separated from evil that one understands what the holiness of God is, what His claims upon us are, and how incompatible His nature is with evil.
Of course, those who seek to obey God's command to separate from vessels to dishonor, from iniquity, and all that is contrary to God's Word, are often much opposed and condemned. As it was in Isaiah's day, so it is now: "truth is fallen in the street... Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey" (Isa. 59: 14, 15). Godly separation costs much, but also gains much. The pain of separation and the reproach of it must be borne if one would please the Lord above all others and be a vessel meet for the Master's use. Then one learns that "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (I Sam. 15:22). The obedient soul will find that he is brought into rich blessings and fresh power for his own soul.
Some may stress the unity of the Assembly and cleave to the allowance of evil under the plea of not breaking the unity and causing division, but such thoughts are rebuked and set aside by the authoritative words of the apostle, "purge himself from these."
When failure and evil has set in within the Church, there is danger lest the desire for outward unity should persuade even the faithful believer to accept evil and walk in fellowship with it rather than break this unity. But II Timothy 2:21 establishes the principle of individual faithfulness and individual responsibility to separate from evil, and sets it above all other considerations. Unity is never to be had at the expense of truth or righteousness, for that is contrary to the very nature of God who is light. In the day of ruin separation from evil is stressed above outward unity.
Some teach and advocate that one should remain in a Church or Assembly (even though things are not right and are contrary to God's Word) and seek to do all the good there that one can so as to improve the situation, or that one should stand as a witness for the Lord in that place. In view of the Scripture we have been considering, it should be apparent to our readers how erroneous and contrary to the direction of God this teaching is. One can only be a clean vessel, serviceable to the Master and prepared for every good work when in separation from vessels of dishonor. Then the Lord can use one in blessing to souls. One must first be out of a swamp before he can help one who is in it.
In the evil days in which Jeremiah lived, God said to him: "If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them" (Jer. 15:19). Jeremiah was enjoying God's Word in his heart and said, "I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand" (Jer. 15: 16, 17). Thus God could use him to separate precious souls from the evil of Israel and would use him as His mouth to speak His Word. But he must not return to that from which he had separated. "Let them return unto thee."
Another strong command to separate is found in II Corinthians 6:14-18: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?... Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." May every reader heed these words of exhortation and encouragement and walk faithfully for Christ amidst the evil of professing Christendom.
"Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, Charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (v. 22). We have seen from the previous verse that separation from vessels to dishonor in the great house of Christendom is necessary if one would be a clean vessel and prepared unto every good work. Now the apostle warns against personal dangers when one might be absorbed with public evils and occupied with necessary separation from them. The individual believer is here exhorted as to his personal conduct and the personal graces which he must follow as a separated vessel. We are not only to be occupied with the negative side of separation from evil, but must maintain the positive side of pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace with other believers like-minded.
In separating from ecclesiastical evils in the Church, it is of greatest importance that the believer watch his own conduct and maintain a practical walk in righteousness and Christ-likeness. It is vain to testify against evil and separate from it if one fails in personal conduct that is plainly seen and rightly branded as unchristian by those ensnared in iniquity and from whom one has separated. Therefore the apostle here earnestly urges Timothy, and every believer who would be faithful, to beware of that which would hinder and nullify one's testimony in separating from evil.
Youthful lusts must be shunned. Not only are worldly and fleshly lusts to be avoided, but the lusts characteristic of youth, such as self-confidence, lightness, impatience, impetuosity, independence, show of knowledge, and being argumentative are to be shunned. All these things so natural to youth, may come up in an older believer and spoil his testimony. A vessel unto honor must not be characterized by these lusts typical of youth in its selfsufficiency. He must flee from any tendency to give way to these youthful lusts and avoid anything that would manifest the lack of a sober, meek, and humble spirit which characterizes one who walks with God.
The separated believer must follow righteousness, faith, love, and peace. One must walk in practical righteousness, which is pursuing what is right and proper before God and man and acting consistently. We should notice that righteousness is listed first, then faith, then love, and that peace is last. Righteousness is the first consideration, not love and peace. If one thinks of love and peace as the first consideration he may be in danger of compromising the truth and sacrificing righteousness. Evil may be tolerated under the pretext of love and with the desire for peace. We are to follow love and peace, but we cannot have peace at the expense of righteousness, therefore we must pursue righteousness first and foremost. There can be no peace with evil or with the enemies of Christ.
Faith must also be pursued along with righteousness as this keeps one in communion with God and in dependence upon Him to sustain the heart in the path of righteousness and separation from evil. Faith keeps God before the soul and prevents one from looking at things from the standpoint of mere human expediency and reasoning. Faith is necessary for endurance in the path of righteousness. Moses "endured, as seeing him who is invisible" (Heb. 11:27).
Without faith and love our pursuing righteousness is likely to become a cold and legal thing and savor of Pharisaism. Therefore faith and love must be coupled with righteousness. Faith comes before love in the verse before us, for the eye must be on God, the fountain of love, before there can be true Christian love in activity. Love must be guarded by righteousness and faith. There can be no true love apart from obedience. True love to Christ and to souls will Cause one to walk in righteousness and faith.
When faith is active, God will be before the soul, His love will fill the heart, and one's walk will be characterized by divine love. This is very necessary for the vessel of honor. He must follow love and manifest the love of Christ in all his dealings.
Then the result of following after righteousness, faith, and love will be peace-peace on a righteous basis. The separated believer must not push his own will and engender strife, but "follow after the things which make for peace." "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men" (Rom. 14:19; 12:18). A contentions, troublesome person is a dishonor to Christ and manifests that he is not following righteousness, faith, love, and peace.
Verses 23-25 give us further instructions as to the personal conduct that should characterize a sanctified vessel unto honor. He is to avoid foolish and unlearned questions that gender strife and is not to strive with anyone, "but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves." Argument and strife over the truth or upon foolish questions are of no avail or profit. The truth of God should be clearly and graciously stated and taught in all patience, gentleness, and meekness, even to those who oppose, but the servant of the Lord must not strive with those that resist the truth.
Such are the instructions for the personal conduct of believers who seek to please the Lord and to be sanctified and serviceable vessels unto honor amidst the ruin of the great house of Christendom. May the Lord give us grace to be thus characterized.
Who to Associate With
Returning to verse 22, we notice that the separated believer is not only to follow righteousness, faith, love, and peace, individually, but "with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." He is encouraged to follow these graces in personal association and fellowship. with others who are doing the same and calling on the Lord out of pure hearts.
The faithful believer is thus given to expect the companionship of others in the path of separation from vessels unto dishonor. As he, by divine instinct, loves the communion of saints, he is hereby cheered by the prospect of having fellowship with other Christians in the new path to which faithfulness to God and His_ Word has called him.
One need not fear isolation as a result of separation from evil, nor should a believer choose to remain alone. God will work in the hearts of others and lead them to likewise separate from iniquity and to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, calling on the Lord out of a pure heart. With such who do so, we are called to associate ourselves in Christian fellowship. This is the path and circle of fellowship according to the mind of God for the earnest believer in the day of ruin.
There may be only two or three in a place who answer to these moral features. If so, they are not to be despised, but recognized as those in whose hearts the Lord has likewise wrought a desire and purpose to do His will, and as those with whom I am to walk in happy fellowship. Another has well written, "He that has not a heart for the two or three must be only a dead weight if he were among ten thousand" (W. Kelly). Numbers look great to the worldly spirit, but they must not influence one who would be faithful to Christ.
The Lord foresaw and graciously provided for just such conditions as have arisen in the dark days of evil in the professing Church. Therefore, He promised that "where two or three are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). He knew that it would come down to this-that there might be only two or three in a place that would be willing to meet His approval and obey His Word-so He has tenderly and lovingly guaranteed His presence to them as they gather to His Name alone. How comforting and how precious! What more could be desired?
We would here stress that isolation and remaining alone without association and fellowship with other believers is not the path of God for any Christian at any time. One is not to go on with evil and neither is he to stand alone and refuse identification with other believers. Second Timothy 2:22 clearly teaches this. God's will is that we "follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." One may not find anyone in the particular place where he lives with whom he can Scripturally gather, but the Lord will surely provide some believers elsewhere with whom he can walk in righteous fellowship.
Some would take the ground that conditions have become so bad in the Church that there is no company of believers left with whom one can have fellowship in righteousness, etc., so they stand alone and apart from everything. This is surely contrary to Scripture and we fear that it manifests a spirit of pride that considers oneself superior to everyone and everything else. When Elijah thought he was the only one standing for God, he had to learn that there were 7000 who has not bowed the knee to Baal (I Kings 19:14-18). God has always maintained a remnant of faithful believers as a testimony for Himself in every age.
As a separated believer, then, one is to fellowship with those who are marked out as following righteousness, faith, love, and peace, and maintaining corporate purity of heart. This is the company with whom the sincere believer is to walk. Those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart are those who are clearly manifested as such by the above characteristics. We can only discern the heart by the practical life.
Another has written on the verse before us as follows: "That which is in the mind of the Spirit of God here, is collective purity; that is, a purity marking the association. Those who are gathered together in the association which is spoken of here are those who meet on the ground of the Word of God with a devotedness and affection for the Lord Jesus Christ, seeking the maintenance of His name, His truth, and His honor; in the non-toleration of every thing that would be unsuitable to Him. That is, I believe, what the apostle speaks of when he says, `Them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart:' purity of heart, integrity of heart, and personal devotedness to Christ, are the characteristic marks of the association that I am bound to seek when I have individually purged myself" (W. T. Turpin).
Having found this Scriptural fellowship, this position is to be maintained in patience, gentleness, and meekness as stated in verses 23-25, which we have previously spoken of in connection with "Personal Conduct."
Truly we have sufficient and comforting guidance from Second Timothy two as to the path of God for the day of ruin. May reader and writer be found in that path till He comes.
Outside the Camp
At the close of the Epistle to the Hebrews, after so wonderfully setting forth the fulness of Christ's person and work for the believer, the inspired writer says: "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach" (ch. 13:12, 13). Here we have another important principle for the guidance of the exercised believer in the day of the Church's ruin. We will need to carefully consider this weighty truth.
The apostle draws attention in these verses to the fact that Christ was crucified outside the gate of Jerusalem, the center of Judaism, and therefore the believer is exhorted to go forth unto Him, the rejected One, outside the camp and to bear His reproach. But before we consider the above portion of Scripture it will be helpful to a clearer understanding of our subject to first consider the camp of Israel and the example which Moses set in pitching the tent of meeting outside the camp.
Idolatrous Camp of Israel
In Exodus 32 where we find the camp of Israel spoken of we notice that when God was displaced in that camp by the idolatry of the golden calf, He was angry and judgment was executed upon the people (v. 10, 27, 28). The camp of Israel had been owned of God and He had dwelt in their midst, but when the golden calf was set up and worshipped, He could not own them as His people.
Man had been busy with his graving tool fashioning a god, making an altar of his own, appointing his own feast day, sacrificing offerings, and sitting down to eat, drink, and play (v. 4-6). The people had corrupted themselves and God could not meet with them in that idolatrous camp.
In Exodus 33 we see Moses sensing what became God's holiness in such evil and how he acted in separation from the camp of Israel. "And Moses took the tent, and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the Tent of meeting. And it came to pass (that) every one who sought Jehovah went out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp ... And it came to pass when Moses entered into the tent, the pillar of cloud descended, and stood at the entrance of the tent, and (Jehovah) talked with Moses ... And Jehovah spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend" (v. 7-11, New Trans.).
Here we have an example of what it means to go outside the camp and of how necessary this is if we would have the Lord's presence with us in the day of apostacy and evil in the camp. The Lord was now outside of the camp of Israel, so Moses separated himself from it and pitched the tent (probably his own tent) outside of the idolatrous camp. Notice, he not only went outside of Israel's encampment, but "far from the camp' and called this separated tent the "Tent of meeting."
This tent now became the center of gathering for all who sought Jehovah and they went forth unto it outside the corrupted camp. Then the Lord put His stamp of approval upon Moses' action and that of some of the people and upon this new gathering place by the pillar of cloud (visible symbol of God's presence) descending and standing at the entrance of the tent of meeting and by His speaking with Moses face to face in the intimacy of friend to friend.
All the people in the camp saw the pillar of cloud stand at the tent of meeting and stood up to worship in their tent doors, showing they realized that the Lord could no longer vouchsafe His presence to the camp defiled by idolatry, and that He owned the new place of gathering outside the camp. And yet it would seem that the majority failed to act in separation from the defiled camp, for they "worshipped, every man in his tent door" (v. 10), instead of going out to the tent of meeting outside the camp.
The application of all this to the present state of Christendom should be quite apparent to any exercised soul. In addition to the direct exhortation in Hebrews 13:13 to go forth unto Christ without the camp, we have the statement in Romans 15:4 that "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning," so we know that the example of Moses and others in separating from the idolatry and evil in the camp of Israel furnishes the believer with a principle for guidance in a day when the professing Church is in ruin.
Christendom has become an idolatrous camp like the camp of Israel. Christ has been displaced and idolatry is practiced in a great part of the professing Church. Man has been busy with his graving tool and has fashioned gods of his own.
Systems of religion have been formed without regard to God's mind for His Church as revealed in the Scriptures and the authority of Christ and the sovereign operation of the Holy Spirit have been practically set aside by man's systems.
Every form of evil doctrine and moral evil can be found in Christendom which has become a "Babylon" of confusion and corruption. Revelation 18 gives us a prophetic picture of this Babylon in its final stage and full development of evil, and tells us of the judgment which God will execute upon it. There we read, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird . . . Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins" (v. 2, 4).
Like Moses of old, we must go outside of this idolatrous camp and separate ourselves afar off from all its evils and corruption if we would meet the Lord's approval and enjoy His presence with us. How sad to see many true believers clinging to the various systems in the corrupt camp of Christendom, instead of going forth without the camp. Like many in Israel, they worship in their own tent doors in the apostate camp from which Christ has departed. Should this be true of anyone reading these lines, we pray that God's voice may be heard saying, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins.
The Camp of Judaism
Now we shall consider this camp which the apostle in Hebrews 13:13 exhorted the Hebrew believers to go outside of unto Jesus Christ who suffered without its gate as the true sin-offering. The inspired writer shows that Christ is outside of this apostate, religious camp of Judaism, therefore those who love Him are to "go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach."
This was the third time that the glory of God was outside of Israel: first, in the wilderness as we have seen in Exodus 33; secondly, in Jerusalem in the days of Ezekiel (Ezek. 10:18, 19; 11: 23) ; and thirdly, at the crucifixion of Christ in whom the glory of God was manifested to faith in the face of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 4: 6). Thus those who would seek the Lord and enjoy His presence must go forth unto Him in the place of rejection and reproach where the religious world of His day put Him-outside its camp.
It may be well for us to inquire as to the nature of the camp of Judaism outside of which Christ was put. In Hebrews 9:1-10 we have a description of this camp, from which we gather the following distinguishing features:
- It was marked by a "worldly sanctuary," a sanctuary of this world, with majestic furniture and vessels (v. 1, 2).
- There was an inner part in this earthly sanctuary, known as "the Holiest of all," with a veil between it and the rest of the sanctuary. The priests went into the first part of the tabernacle to accomplish the service of God, but into "the Holiest of all" only the high priest could enter once a year with blood for his sins and those of the people (v. 3-7). God was shut in and man was shut out.
- Thus there was no free access to God under this system of worship. "The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest" .(v. 8).
- There was an ordained priesthood, an order of priests distinct from the people, who devoted themselves to the service of the sanctuary and officiated between the people and God. The people had no direct part in the service of the sanctuary (v. 6).
- This worldly sanctuary with its priests and sacrifices could not give the worshippers a purged conscience or make the offerers perfect or complete before God (Heb. 9:9, 10:1-3).
- It was a system of worship ordained of God for the nation of Israel in the flesh and embraced as worshippers all the nation in the camp. It did not suppose or require that the worshippers should be born again. They were thus a mixed company of believers and unbelievers on the ground of law-keeping for. righteousness (Heb. 3-4).
- It was an earthly religion, established on earth and suited to man in the flesh, with no thought of any reproach connected with it (Gal. 5:11; 6-12, 13).
The foregoing is a brief outline of the leading features of the camp of Judaism, which we would ask the reader to keep in mind, as we shall shortly refer to these features when we consider the contrasting characteristics of the true Christian portion and position and the similarity of the present camp of Christendom to Judaism.
Into this camp of Judaism God sent His Son, the promised Messiah, but He was rejected and slain outside the gates of its metropolis, Jerusalem. The cross of Christ put an end to the religious system of this camp with its types and shadows, and brought in the new covenant of grace and an accomplished redemption in Christ. However, God bore with the nation until the stoning of Stephen. Then Israel was fully set aside as a nation and the camp of Judaism was entirely disowned by God.
But true believers in Christ still clung to Judaism and some Hebrew believers were in danger of giving up the Christian profession and going back into this camp. Therefore, the Epistle to the Hebrews was written, some 30 years after the cross, directing them to the fulness of blessing in Christ and His work and exhorting them to go forth unto Christ without the apostate, rejected camp of Judaism. This is the Church's proper place, for the new wine of Christianity cannot be put into the old bottles of the legal system of the camp (Luke 5:37, 38). One cannot follow Christ and worship Him where He is rejected.
Contrast of Christianity
On the foundation of the one perfect, complete, and atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross, God formed the Church on the day of Pentecost by the descent and baptism of the Holy Spirit and instituted Christianity in its heavenly character as that which He owned and delighted in. This, in its true characteristics as given in the Scriptures, is the exact opposite of the features we have noted as characteristic of the camp of Judaism. Briefly, the contrasting points of Christianity (which the reader may compare with the correspondingly numbered points previously listed as typical of Judaism) are as follows:
- The Christian's sanctuary is in heaven and not on earth. Christ has gone into heaven itself and appears in the presence of God for us as a minister of the heavenly sanctuary and true tabernacle (Heb. 8:2; 9:24).
- The veil into the holiest of all is rent and we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, through the rent veil (Heb. 10:19, 20). God has come out to man in Christ, and Christ has gone in to God for the believer and opened the way for us to enter into the holiest also. Inside the veil of the heavenly sanctuary is the place that belongs to every Christian.
- 3. Thus there is full access to God. "Through him we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Eph. 2:18).
- Every believer in Christ is holy and is a royal priest, privileged to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God. There is no special class of priests distinct from the people in New Testament Christianity (I Pet. 2:5, 9).
- Through the one perfect and complete offering of Christ believers have purged consciences, are sanctified and perfected for ever before God, and are assured that their sins and iniquities are remembered no more (Heb. 9:14; 10:10, 14-17).
- The Church of Christ is composed of a people in vital relationship to God by new birth. It does not embrace any who have only a mere outward relationship to God by natural birth, as in Israel. Only those who have been "born again" are in the Church and able to "worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 3:3; 4:24). There is no mixture of saved and unsaved in the worship of the true Church.
- Christianity is distinctly heavenly. "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20, R. V.). It is, therefore, not suited to man in the flesh, but is an offence to the natural man. Thus the reproach of the cross and the rejection of Christ are connected with true Christian worship. "As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised (Judaism) ; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ" (Gal. 6:12).
Such are some of the leading features of New Testament Christianity in contrast to the camp of Judaism. True Christianity is thus not a religious camp on earth, but a called out company of believers, united to Christ, their glorified head, in heaven. Unto Him believers are to go forth without the camp of earthly religion.
The Camp of Christendom
We have noted the characteristics and position of true Christianity, which a study of the New Testament will show were manifested in the apostolic Church. But a glance at the history of the professing Church since then and at its present condition reveals the sad fact that it soon lost its heavenly character and the distinctive features of the proper Christian position.
That which bore the name of Christianity and the Church, which we may call "Christendom," soon settled down on earth and became an amalgamation of Judaism and Christianity. The Church soon became Judaised; the principles of Judaism, a religion suited to the unregenerate man in the flesh, were adopted with a little of the truth of Christianity mixed in. Christendom thus soon became a religious camp on earth, similar to the idolatrous camp of Israel in Moses' day and to the apostate camp of Judaism.
Recall the principal features of Judaism and note how they characterize more or less the various religious systems of Christendom. Some of the features are as follows:
- They have an earthly sanctuary with majestic appearance, furniture, and vessels, all pleasing to the eye of flesh.
- There is the railed off inner shrine into which the officiating priest or minister only goes.
- There is no direct, free access to God. God is in the distance and addressed as "Almighty God," "Most High," etc., but rarely as "Abba Father," which is the adoption cry of the true child of God (Gal. 4:5, 6). This in itself manifests the "far off" position of Judaism.
- There is an ordained, special class of priests and ministers who generally serve under the direction of higher officials and who stand between God and the people, making a division between the so-called "laity" and the "clergy." The leadership and presidency of the Holy Spirit is thus set aside by man's organization and leadership.
- A purged conscience, the knowledge of sins forgiven and of acceptance before God, is generally not known. Yea, to say that one is saved and sure of heaven is termed presumption and not possible by most of Christendom.
- Believers and unbelievers in heart, converted and unregenerate, are together as public worshippers on the ground of works and law-keeping for salvation.
- These systems recognize man in the flesh, appeal to man in the flesh, and are so constituted as to embrace man in the flesh. Hence there is no offence to the natural man or any reproach of Christ and His cross to bear.
Such are the characteristic features of Christendom which is as truly an apostate, religious camp as Judaism was, and perhaps more so. Therefore, the religious systems of Christendom are the camp which believers in this dispensation of grace are called to go outside of unto Christ, God's true gathering center.
As to what constitutes the camp, another has well said:
"It is anything where Christ is in name, but not in reality, enthroned supreme. I care not how ancient the authority may be... Wherever there is a human organization which displaces Christ, which is not according to the Word of God as given us in the New Testament, above all, wherever Christ is not directly and immediately recognized in absolute control by His Word and Spirit-there you have the camp." (S. Ridout).
The camp, which believers today are called to go outside of, is Christendom where men have revived Jewish elements in the guise of grace. Any system where man's authority is set up to the practical denial of the authority of Christ (which is done wherever the "clergy" is recognized as distinct from the "laity") is a camp to be departed from. The camp is a system of earthly or fleshly religion set up by man-a place where God is dishonored, His Word set aside, and where man is allowed a place to do what he likes.
We trust these remarks will help our readers to see what the camp of our present day is and enable them to better understand what is meant by Hebrews 13:13: "Let us go forth unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." And may each one who thus understands be energized by the Holy Spirit to act upon this divine precept. It is only there in separation from all that displaces and dishonors Christ, that His sweet presence can be enjoyed and worship in spirit and in truth truly known. Outside the camp in rejection with Christ below is what answers to our heavenly portion with Him on high. To truly enter within the veil as a worshipper, we must go outside the camp with Christ here on this earth. This is a great and necessary principle for the exercised believer to act upon in the day of the Church's ruin and disorder.
Go Forth Unto Christ
We would stress that going forth unto Christ is the positive side of this separation from the camp and that which should be the true motive and object in disassociation from the camp. This alone will sustain one in the negative path of separation with its trials and heartaches. Christ in all His beauties, glories, and sufficiency must be the object before the heart and the One whom the soul desires and separates unto. Thus it is that the writer of Hebrews presents throughout the Epistle the glories and all-sufficiency of Christ and His work before calling upon them in the last chapter to separate from the camp of Judaism.
The soul must long after Christ and desire to walk with Him and to be under His direction and under the control of the Holy Spirit. Separation in any other way will fall short of going forth unto Christ without the camp. If one only separates from a system of religion because of evils there, he may form another system, or become part of a system with more truth and holiness, but still a system where Christ is not the gathering center alone and where He is not given the supreme place of rule by the unhampered action of the Holy Spirit. Thus he is still a part of the camp of Christendom, though perhaps on the outer edge of it. Like Moses, we must pitch our tent "afar off from the camp" (Ex. 33:7) and gather fully unto Christ. May reader and writer know more of this blessed place with Christ outside the camp.
The Shipwreck of Acts 27
It is not without significance that the book of Acts, which begins with the formation of the Church on the day of Pentecost and continues with the narration of its early days of power and progress, should close with details of a voyage to Rome which ends in a shipwreck and in the imprisonment of the apostle Paul at Rome. We believe that the detailed description of this voyage, shipwreck, and imprisonment of Paul, who was the special apostle to the Church, gives us a symbolic picture of the journey of the professing Church from its apostolic glory and power to its last days of ruin, shipwreck, and enslavement by papal Rome. Surely the Spirit of God would not record for us all the details of this journey and shipwreck if they were only of historical value. He would have us gather spiritual instruction there from as well as facts, for "Every scripture (is) divinely inspired, and profitable for teaching" (II Tim. 3:16, New Trans.).
Our purpose is not to point out all the symbolical details of this journey which find their counterpart in the history of the professing Church, but to obtain encouragement and guidance therefrom for our pathway in the day of the Church's ruin and approaching shipwreck. We will, however, first notice a few things which give us a typical picture of the downward journey of the Church.
Steps Toward Shipwreck
Here, as elsewhere in the Word, the meaning of names unlocks for us spiritual instruction. The name of the town from which the journey was started was "Adramyttium," which means "not in the race." Hebrews 12:1, 2 tells us of the race we are to run to the heavenly goal. It is evident, then, that when the Church ceased to run in the heavenly race, but settled down on earth instead, it began the journey which ends in shipwreck.
In verse 2 we read of one Aristarchus being in the company on board ship. His name means "the best ruler," but we hear no more of him throughout the journey. Surely the best ruler for the Church is the Holy Spirit, but His rule and guidance were soon set aside by the professing Church and human organization and rule substituted. Sidon and Cyprus, places touched in the journey, mean "taking the prey" and "blossom," which suggests how the Church settled down in the world, seeking possessions, and became occupied with nature, the old creation, instead of realizing the new creation in Christ Jesus.
The second ship of Alexandria, in which the journey is resumed, is from Egypt and speaks of this world in its independence of God. We know that the Church soon joined hands with the world and adopted its principles instead of walking in separation from it. This ship is the one which is completely broken to pieces later on. During the voyage the apostle Paul admonished them and warned of coming disaster, but his advice was not heeded.
So too, the Church has had the warnings of apostles, which are recorded for us in the Scriptures, but they have been unheeded and the professing Church goes on to ruin and shipwreck.
No Hope of Recovery
Next we read of the tempestuous wind that arose and of the efforts put forth to preserve the ship. This tempest may speak of Satan's opposition which the Church encounters. "And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away" (v. 20). Everything was dark and hopeless and such is the outlook of the professing Church today. The darkness of evil teaching, apostacy, and moral ruin increases and there is no hope of recovery. The prophetic Scriptures point us to such a scene of darkness and evil in the last days of Christendom.
Second Thessalonians 2, Second Timothy 3, Second Peter 2, and the Epistle of Jude all describe these days of darkness, increasing evil, and hopeless conditions.
Encouragement and Testimony of Paul
But amidst the darkness there is cheer and encouragement for those who truly belong to the Lord. During the storm the angel of God appeared to Paul telling him to fear not, that he would be brought before Caesar and that God had given him all that were sailing with him (v. 22-25). Thus we see again that the Lord never forsakes His own, but encourages them in the dark days of ruin and despair. So in our day of the Church's ruin and darkness we are to realize the Lord's presence with us and to be of good cheer.
Himself encouraged and strengthened by the Lord's presence and message of cheer and assurance, Paul exhorted his shipmates to be of good cheer and testified to them of the Lord. "There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve." He stated clearly to whom he belonged and whom he served. So should every believer testify for the Lord to his associates and tell them of salvation, safety, and cheer in Christ. Paul further testified, "for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me." He definitely declared his faith in the word of the Lord. Amidst the unbelief and apostacy of our day we, too, should tell men and women "I believe God. It shall be even as the Scriptures tell us." Whether people believe the Bible or not, we should state unequivocally, "I believe God," and warn them of coming judgment.
There was also encouragement for Paul in the assurance that God had given him all that sailed with him. Applying this spiritually to our present day we need not stand alone and despair, but should faithfully testify of the Lord and count upon God to give us souls to sail with us to the port of heaven. We are not to be occupied with the declension, darkness, and ruin of the Church and to be despondent, but are to walk with the Lord giving out the message of cheer and salvation in Christ and looking for souls to be saved and to journey with us.
The ship was to perish, as Paul was told, but there would be no loss of life. So the professing Church as a vessel of testimony will end in shipwreck, but the Lord will take out of it unto Himself in glory every true believer. All that sail with Paul, those who belong to Christ and believe God as he did, will safely reach Immanuel's land.
"Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day" (v. 29). Thereby they were kept safely from the rocks and shipwreck during the night. Here we have an important example and illustration of the way of safety for us in our day amidst the storms of Satan's opposition. There are many rocks about us which will make shipwreck of our faith if we fall upon them. Writing to Timothy, Paul charged him to maintain "faith and a good conscience; which (last) some, having put away, have made shipwreck as to faith" (I Tim. 1:19, New Trans.).
In order to be kept and preserved during the dark night of apostacy, we likewise need to have four anchors and to have our souls firmly anchored by them. We believe that the Epistle of Jude, which pictures the darkness of the last days of Christendom, gives us that which answers to the four anchors of Acts 27:29.
After speaking of the awful apostacy and evil, Jude turns to the believers and tells them to do four things. "But ye, beloved, (1) building up yourselves on your most holy faith, (2) praying in the Holy Ghost. (3) Keep yourselves in the love of God, (4) looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (v. 20). These are four necessary things for the evil day; they are strong, practical exercises of soul which will keep us from the rocks of evil about and from making shipwreck of faith.
First of all, we must build up ourselves on our most holy faith. We need to cleave to the truth in all its sanctifying and preserving power and not to lower the standard of truth one particle. To the Ephesian elders Paul said, "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance" (Acts 20:32). It is the Word of God that builds up and makes us strong and firm. We must feed upon it, act upon it, and build up ourselves with it upon the ground of our most holy faith. This is a real anchor for our souls.
Secondly, we need the anchor of "praying in the Holy Ghost." This is the most important spiritual action that could be in any believer. Prayer in the Spirit is the necessary balance to feeding on the Word and keeps the soul fresh before God and in communion with Him. For prayer in the Spirit there must be a walk in the Spirit and self-judgment exercised. Prayer is the Christian's resource and source of power at all times; it is a special stay of support and means of encouragement in dark days of ruin and disorder.
Thirdly, we need to keep ourselves in the love of God. In doing so, we will have a real anchor for our souls in the day of Satan's power and activity of evil. It is not that we are to love God, which we surely should, but we are to keep our souls in the enjoyment of His love. It is like keeping ourselves in the sunshine; it is healthy and provides warmth and cheer.
This means that we must always have confidence in God and never doubt His love, no matter what the circumstances or trials may be. Nothing can altar His love towards us, not even our own failures, though for the enjoyment of His love we must walk in the Spirit so that there will be the conscious realization of it in our souls. Satan ever seeks to get us to doubt God's love and to come between our souls and His love. But keeping ourselves submerged in the unfailing and unchangeable love of God will anchor our souls firmly against every wind and wave of Satan and preserve us from shipwreck.
As a fourth anchor we are exhorted to be "looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." This is the bright outlook-the mercy of the Lord all along the way to the very end, His coming for us, which will bring us into the fulness of eternal life. Because of the great need of the evil day, because of the distress, weakness, and everything that would cause one to be downcast, the mercy of the Lord is that which we are exhorted to look for. His coming will be a merciful deliverance for His own from all the ruin of the Church an also from the surrounding evil. Thus the hope of the mercy of the Lord, especially at His coming, is a real anchor for the believer. Notice that in Acts 27:29 they cast out the four anchors and wished for the day. The day of His coming is the hope and bright prospect of the true Church.
The foregoing four anchors will keep us unmoved by every stormy wind during the night of Christ's absence. Added to these, we have the anchor of Hebrews 4:19, 20: "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus." This anchor is fastened to our Savior Jesus in the sanctuary of heaven.
Returning to Acts 27, we notice that while the ship was anchored it was preserved, but that the next day when they cast off the anchors into the sea and fell into a place where two seas met the ship was wrecked. This illustrates for us the importance of being anchored and shows how soon shipwreck follows when the anchors are cast aside. If we as individuals give up one or all of these anchors provided for us it will mean disaster for us, spiritually. Christendom is already casting away these anchors of Jude 20. The Bible is no longer believed to be the infallible Word of God; the faith is departed from, prayer is given up, the love of God is unknown, and the hope of the Lord's coming is not believed or looked for. Soon shipwreck will come upon it and God will completely disown it.
All in the ship got safely to land on boards, etc., and after three months a third ship is entered which has the sign of "Castor and Pollux," sons of Jupiter and guardians of navigation according to heathen mythology. In this ship the journey is made to Rome where Paul is kept a prisoner. This may symbolize that which is taught else where in the New Testament, how the apostate Church will end up in the heathen idolatry of Babylon the great and of the antichrist and all Pauline truth will be imprisoned by Rome (Rev. 13, 17, 18).
May we who know the Lord witness faithfully for Him amidst the apostacy and ruin of Christendom, look for souls to sail with us, hold fast to the anchors, and look for the day of His coming again.
Throughout the Scriptures we find that no matter how great the ruin, failure, and moral darkness of the general testimony or times, God always had some true-hearted believers who were separated from the corrupt and godless masses or lifeless profession of those who claimed to belong to God, and were characterized by genuine devotion to God and His interests. We observe that God never leaves Himself without witnesses who shine as lights for Him in the darkness. Such are spoken of as a "remnant," meaning those who are left as a witness for God when the majority have departed from Him and His Word and have corrupted themselves with the evils about.
We find the term "remnant" a number of times in the Bible. Ezra in his prayer of confession to God said, "grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape" (Ezra 9:8). In Ezekiel 6:7, 8 God said, "And the slain shall fall in the midst of you . . . Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the sword." And the apostle Paul in speaking of the people of Israel said, "Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11: 5). These are a few examples of the occurrence of the term "remnant."
As in the Old Testament there was ever a remnant of true and faithful believers, so we find in the New Testament that amidst the ruin and apostacy of Israel and of the Church, God ever has a remnant of true-hearted and faithful believers with whom He communicates and to whom He manifests Himself in a special way. Thus in the day of the ruin and apostacy of the professing Church, those who would be true to the Lord and His Word are but a little remnant amidst the vast professing mass.
It is, therefore, helpful and encouraging for all who would be faithful to the Lord in these last days of the Church to study the characteristics of the remnant of loyal believers in all ages and to note how they were sustained and encouraged of God in the evil day. In these pages we can only point out a few features of some of the remnants of old, but would urge the reader to study this subject in detail for himself. (A pamphlet, "The Remnant: Past and Present" by C. H. Mackintosh will prove very helpful).
We may state at the beginning that the fact of there being a remnant proves the failure of the outward witness or professing body, whether Jewish or Christian, to be a true testimony for God. If all were faithful, there would be no ground for the distinguishing of a few from the professing body. The remnant at any time will always be seen to consist of those who feel and confess the common failure and ruin of the general testimony, but count upon God and cleave to His Word while walking in separation from the evil.
It will also be seen that the greater the ruin of the outward testimony, the richer the display of divine grace in the remnant; the deeper the gloom of the day, the brighter the outshining of individual faithfulness to God. Though man has ever failed to maintain that which God has entrusted to him, God is ever faithful and merciful and true to His promises and ever maintains a testimony for Himself. This is what is revealed by a study of the remnants in Scripture.
The above is of immense encouragement to every truehearted child of God who feels and owns the hopeless wreck and ruin of the professing Church. It is indeed cheering to be assured that, however the Church has failed, it is the privilege of the individual believer to enjoy as full and precious fellowship with God, and to walk in as high a path of obedience and blessing as in the brightest days of the Church's history.
In Second Chronicles 30 we have the account of a revival in the days of Hezekiah at a time when the outward unity of the nation was broken and things were at a very low state in Israel. Though Hezekiah's call and proclamation to all Israel and Judah to come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to keep the Passover was scorned by the majority and his messengers mocked, yet some of the people of various tribes humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. There they kept the Passover in the second month and the Feast of Unleavened Bread with great gladness. "So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem" (v. 26).
The grace of God met those of His people who owned their sin and neglect of God and took their true place of humiliation before Him. There was much weakness in obeying God's Word, but the Lord was gracious and blessed them richly and gave a great reviving. They did not set themselves up as those who were "the approved of God" or assume to be something, but simply took a place of humiliation and confession before God and sought to obey His Word. The result was that they experienced great joy and gladness, such as never had been in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon. What an example and encouragement for true believers today.
Daniel and His Companions
In the book of Daniel we have the account of Daniel and his companions, in whom we see another example of a godly remnant of faithful believers in a day of ruin and evil. Though Jerusalem and the temple there, where God had placed His name, lay in ruins and Israel had been carried captive to Babylon, this little band of devoted men were true to God's Word amid the pollution and abomination of Babylon's idolatry. They walked in separation from it all and endured the fiery furnace and the lion's den rather than compromise the truth of God.
They purposed in their hearts not to defile themselves. They engaged in earnest prayer before God and received the revelation of His secrets. Daniel felt the great ruin of the testimony and the sins of Israel and confessed them to God. He identified himself with it all, saying, "We have sinned, and have committed iniquity" (Dan. 9:5). The mercies of God were counted upon and His grace implored in confiding faith in His promises with the resultant display of power and wonderful prophetic revelations. Wonderful lessons, indeed, for us in the day of the Church's ruin.
In the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai we have the record of a remnant that availed themselves of the opportunity to leave the captivity in Babylon and return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the wall around the city. They were but a small and feeble company from among the nation of Israel who had a heart for the worship of Jehovah. Having returned to Jerusalem, they did not pretend to be "Israel," but would contemplate all Israel. This is seen in their building "the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt-offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses" (Ezra 3:2). They also "set the altar upon his bases" and "kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written" (Ezra 3: 3, 4).
Their first concern was the worship of Jehovah and they returned to the divine order and did "as it is written in the law of Moses." They did not set up something new, but returned to that which God had before set up. They set the altar upon its bases-where it had been before. They kept the Passover with "all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the Lord God of Israel" (Ezra 6:19-21). Thus they were a company separated from evil and devoted to God and would receive those who likewise separated themselves from evil. When failure and sin came in among them later there was confession, trembling before God, and putting away of the evil (Ezra 9:10). Precious encouragement and example for us in our day of ruin.
In the book of Malachi we behold this same remnant some years later. Though they were in the divine position before God, their state was very sorrowful and bad. Still, we find among them those who were faithful to the Lord and met His approval. They were, so to say, a remnant within a remnant. Of these we read, "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name" (Mal. 3:16). How refreshing to read of such a company, amidst the terrible scene of evil, who honored and loved the Lord and found in Him their center and their delight. For them there was a book of remembrance written, something we never hear of in the glorious days of Moses, Joshua, David, or Solomon. We can learn much from this godly remnant of Malachi's day.
In the New Testament
In the Epistle of Jude, where the appalling evils of apostate Christendom are pointed out, we find a Christian remnant spoken of and addressed.
The Epistle is written to this remnant: "To them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called." Amidst the evil and corruptions around them, they are exhorted to build themselves up on their most holy faith, pray in the Holy Ghost, keep themselves in the love of God, and look for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 20, 21) exhortations which we considered in our previous studies.
We would here quote the excellent words of C. H. Mackintosh relative to this remnant and as to that which should be found in the present day Christian remnant: "Here, then, we have a lovely view of the true Christian remnant and their occupation among themselves... There is no pretension, no assumption, no setting themselves up to be anything, no attempt to ignore the sad and solemn fact of the utter and hopeless ruin of the professing church. It is a Christian remnant in the midst of Christendom's ruins, true to the Person of Christ, true to His Word; knit together in love true Christian love -not the love of sect, party, clique or coterie, but love in the Spirit, love to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity; love expressing itself in true devotedness to Christ and His precious interests; and loving ministry to all who belong to Him and seek to reflect Him in all their ways. It is not resting in mere position, regardless of condition-a terrible snare of the devil-but a healthy union of the two in a life characterized by sound principle and gracious practice; the kingdom of God established in the heart and developing itself in the whole practical career.
"Such then is the position, such the condition, such the practice of the true Christian remnant; and we may rest assured that, where these things are realized and carried out, there will be as rich enjoyment of Christ, as full communion with God and as bright a testimony to the glorious truth of New Testament Christianity as ever was known in the brightest days of the Church's history. In a word, there will be that which will glorify the name of God, gratify the heart of Christ and tell, with living power, on the hearts and consciences of men. May God, in His infinite goodness, give us to see these bright realities in this dark and evil day.
"As in Israel of old, so in the professing Church, the remnant will be found to consist of those who are true to Christ, hold fast His word in the face of everything, are devoted to His precious interests, and who love His appearing. In a word, it must be a living reality and not mere church membership or nominal fellowship, here or there, with this or that. Moreover, it is not assuming to be, but really being of the remnant-not the name, but the spiritual power; so the apostle says, `I will know, not the speech ... but the power.' "
In closing we would call attention to the remnants that are singled out and cheered in the messages to the seven Churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3. In Thyatira we find a remnant addressed for the first time in these messages and there also we read for the first time of the Lord's coming. Here, too, the hearing ear is no longer looked for in the Assembly, but in the overcomer (see Rev. 2:24-29). This shows that all hope of corporate recovery of the professing Church is here given up. But the remnant that was clear of Jezebel's teaching and the depths of Satan is encouraged to hold fast what they have till He comes and is promised a place of reigning with Christ.
In Sardis the few who have not defiled their garments are promised that they shall walk with Christ in white and that He will confess their names before His Father and His angels (Rev. 3:4, 5). In Philadelphia we have a precious picture of a company of humble and feeble Christians who are true to Christ, keep His Word, and do not deny His name (Rev. 3:7-13). In Laodicea, where there is heartless indifference to Christ and deplorable self-satisfaction, the individual is appealed to. Christ is outside the door of the Church, knocking. "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20).
In each of these messages to the seven Churches the overcomers are appealed to and given precious promises if they overcome and heed the Spirit's voice. Thus we learn that when all is in ruin, failure, and apostacy the Lord looks for overcomers who will hear His voice and obey Him. Such are the true remnant of the Church in every period of its history. May the Lord enable us to be true overcomers and to render a faithful remnant testimony in these last days of the Church's dark ruin.
Here we close our meditations on the great and glorious subject of "The Church of the Living God." We have considered its nature and order in its universal and local aspect and have viewed its divine characteristics and order as originally instituted of God and its present state of ruin. We have noted its ministry and its gifts from its glorified Head, considered the divine relationships that should exist between local representations of the Church and observed the path marked out for us in the day of ruin.
May the reader, like the Bereans of old, receive the word with all readiness of mind and search the Scriptures daily to see whether these things are so (Acts 17:11).
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