Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Prophecy vs. Mystery


When it comes to rightly dividing the word of truth, it is imperative that we first of all identify the main division in the scriptures. Once we do that, the details in understanding God’s word will start falling into place as we study the with the main division in mind.

Most would say that the main division in the Bible is between the Old and New Testaments. You will hear preachers and teachers say things like, “The Old Testament was for the Jews and the New Testament is for the Church.” Technically, the Old Testament did not begin with Genesis but about 2,500 years later in Exodus, and the New Testament did not begin with Matthew 1 (Heb. 9:15-18). Israel will be saved by the blood of the NT (Matt. 26:28). When the Jews are gathered out of the nations into their land and kingdom they will be a NT church (Ezek. 11:17).

Another serious blunder is to suppose there is only one church in the Bible. A church is simply a called-out assembly. Israel was a “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38), and the “little flock” of Jews that followed the Messiah was also a church (Matt. 18:17; Acts 2:47). There is a prophesied kingdom church (Matt. 16:18; Ps. 22:22; Heb. 2:12). The church which is the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23) is a spiritual organism that is neither Jew nor Gentile but one new man (Eph. 2:14-16). It was a mystery hid in God and first revealed through the apostle Paul (Eph. 3:1-13).

God dispensing the mystery through Paul (with accompanying mysteries) fulfilled the word of God (Col. 1:25-26). The rest of scripture revolves around one main theme: the King and His Kingdom. That is why it was not until Paul wrote his last epistle by inspiration that we are told to rightly divide the word of truth.

The most important division in the Bible is between prophecy (SPOKEN since the world began) and mystery (SECRET since the world began). A mystery in the Bible is not something we can’t know, but a divine secret that we cannot know until God reveals it (there are also mysteries of the kingdom related to prophecy). 

Consider the stark contrast between prophecy concerning Israel and the mystery of the Body of Christ.
 
The Prophetic Kingdom Program of Israel (Lk. 1:67-75; Acts 3:17-24)
1)     Concerns a KINGDOM; a political ORGANIZATION (Dan. 2:44)
2)     The kingdom to be established ON EARTH (Jer. 23:5, Matt. 6:10)
3)     The kingdom PROPHESIED since the world began (Lk. 1:67-75)
4)     Israel to be given SUPREMACY over the nations (Isa. 61:6)
5)     The Gentiles blessed through Israel’s RISE AND INSTRUMENTALITY (Zech. 8:13, 23)
6)     Prophecy mainly concerns NATIONS (Isa. 2:4)
7)     Prophecy concerns blessings, both MATERIAL and spiritual, on EARTH (Isa. 11:1-9)
8)     Christ comes to His people, Israel, ON EARTH (Rev. 1:7)
9)     Justification is by a man’s faith and it must be a faith that WORKS (Jam. 2:24)
10)  The proclamation of the prophetic program committed particularly to the TWELVE apostles (Matt. 19:28; Acts 1:6-8)

The Mystery Program of the Body of Christ (Rom. 16:25-26)
1)     Concerns a BODY; a spiritual ORGANISM (1Cor. 12:12-13)
2)     The Body given a position in HEAVENLY places (Eph. 2:5-6)
3)     The Body was chosen in Christ before the world began, but kept SECRET since the world began (Eph. 1:4, 3:9)
4)     Jew and Gentile placed on the SAME LEVEL before God (Rom. 10:12, 11:32), baptized into ONE body (Gal. 3:27-28)
5)     The Gentiles blessed through Israel’s FALL AND DIMINISHING (Rom. 11:11-12, 15)
6)     The mystery concerns INDIVIDUALS (2 Cor. 5:17)
7)     The mystery concerns all SPIRITUAL blessings in HEAVENLY places (Eph. 1:3)
8)     Christ comes for His body, the Church, meeting them IN THE AIR (1 Thess. 4:17)
9)     Justification is by the faith of Christ (Galatians 2:16) and is received through faith WITHOUT WORKS (Rom. 3:28; 4:5)
10)  The proclamation of the mystery committed particularly to PAUL (Col. 1:24-27)








Monday, May 21, 2018

Dispensational Truth



God does not change in His person, principles, or promises (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8), but He certainly does change in His dealings with man. If you don’t understand that, the Bible will be a confusing book to you. We cannot possibly obey everything in the Bible. 

Consider the basic issue of what we are to eat:
1. Adam (Gen. 1:29) = no meat
2. Noah (about 1500 years later, Gen. 9:3-4) = meat without blood
3. Moses (about 1000 years later, Lev. 11:46-47) = clean meats
4. Paul (over 1500 years later, 1 Tim. 4:1-5) = nothing is to be refused

We must distinguish moral truth and dispensational truth. There are moral principles that never change. For example, murder is wrong in every dispensation. The sabbath day is an example of dispensational truth. God gave Israel sabbaths to observe, not the Body of Christ (Col. 2:16). Paul reaffirmed 9 of the 10 commandments (Rom. 13:8-10).

All scripture is profitable for us (2 Tim. 3:16) but we will not gain the profit that God has for us in His word unless we study it His way (2 Tim. 2:15). It is fitting that we find these two great statements in the last book that was written. 

I. Mandate What we are to do - STUDY
II. Motive Why we are to do it - to shew thyself approved unto God
III. Method How we are to do it - rightly dividing the word of truth

All the Bible is the word of truth, but we must recognize and consistently maintain the divisions that God put in His word if we are going to understand it. What was truth for Israel under the law may not be truth for the Body of Christ under grace. This is the dispensational approach to Bible study. The context of 2 Tim. 2:15 interprets what it means to rightly divide the word of truth (vs.15-18). Hymenaeus and Philetus did not deny the truth of resurrection, they failed to rightly divide it. 

All Bible students divide the Bible to some extent, but most do not rightly divide it. We must be careful not to invent our own divisions (e.g. Acts 28 position) or ignore the ones that God placed in His word (e.g. Acts 2 position). 

There has always been at attack on dispensationalism. Many simply do not understand the matter which is proven by how they misrepresent it when they attack it (Prov. 18:13). We believe the WHOLE Bible. We are not chopping it up and trying to get rid of any part of it. We are not exalting Paul, but simply acknowledging that God chose him to be the pattern and spokesman for this present age of grace (1 Cor. 11:1; 1 Tim. 1:16). It is not about Paul as a man, but what Christ revealed through him for us (Eph. 3:1-13). 

A “dispensation” (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25) is basically a dealing out, distribution, or dispensing of something. It is an administration. Dispensations are not periods of time. Ages are periods of time, but dispensations operate within ages. 

A dispensation is marked by five things:
1. Divine revelation (clear changes in God’s dealings with men)
2. Human spokesman (e.g. Moses for the Law and Paul for the Mystery)
3. Human responsibility to the revelation (testing)
4. Human failure (every dispensation ends in apostasy except last one)
5. Divine judgment (no remedy for apostasy)

Twofold division
1. Prophecy (Acts 3:21, Israel, earth)
2. Mystery (Rom. 16:25, Body, heaven)

Threefold division (Eph. 2:11-13, 7): 
1. Time past (Genesis thru Acts)
2. But now (Romans thru Philemon)
3. Ages to come (Hebrews thru Revelation)

In the Bible, seven is God's number of perfection, and eight is the number of a new beginning. I believe there are seven dispensations in human history and that the eighth and final dispensation (of which there will be no end) is the "dispensation of the fulness of times" (Eph. 1:10). That is when God’s purposes as revealed in the times of human history will have finally come to their fulness. 

1)     Innocence (Gen. 1-3)
2)     Conscience (Gen. 4-8) 
3)     Human Government (Gen. 9-11) 
4)     Promise (Gen. 12-Ex. 19) 
5)     Law (Ex. 20-Acts 8, transition) 
6)     Mystery (Rom.-Phile.) 
7)     Kingdom (Heb.-Rev.) 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Paradise


The word "paradise" appears just three times in the Bible, and in each reference we find it in a different location.

1. Time Past (Lk. 23:43) - In the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:40) 

2. But Now (2 Cor. 12:4) - Above the earth in the third heaven 

3. Ages to Come (Rev. 2:7) - On the earth 


Monday, May 7, 2018

Understandest Thou What Thou Readest?


That was the question that Phillip asked the Ethiopian eunuch as he sat in his chariot reading from the book of Isaiah (see Acts 8:26-40). The eunuch responded, "How can I, except some man should guide me?" He didn't know if the prophecy in Isaiah 53 was about the prophet himself, or some other man. He didn't have the spiritual understanding to see it was about Christ because he was yet to receive the Holy Spirit. He needed a spiritual man to show him Christ in the scriptures. 

It is not my point in this post to expound the passage. I realize that it concerns the kingdom program of Israel. By the way, what was the eunuch reading that would make him ask about water baptism (v.36)? I believe the answer is found in Isaiah 52:15. I just want to draw an application in regard to understanding the Bible.

There are many people who read the Bible but do not understand it. How important is it to have understanding? It is a "wellspring of life unto him that hath it" (Prov. 16:22). We cannot "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God" without "spiritual understanding" (Col. 1:9-10).  

Understanding comes from receiving the spiritual light of God's word (Ps. 119:130). We need the Spirit of God to illuminate our understanding to the spiritual truth of God's word. We cannot know the things of God without the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:6-16). The Bible is God's word, so we need Him to open our understanding to His truth (Lk. 24:45). 

The first step to understanding the Bible is salvation. The Spirit of God dwells in every believer (Rom. 8:9). We are brought out of darkness into God's light the moment we believe the gospel (Acts 26:18; Eph. 5:8). Sadly, most are blinded to the gospel of the grace of God because they have only heard counterfeit gospels (2 Cor. 4:3-4; 11:4) that pervert the message by adding works (Gal. 1:6-12). They must hear the gospel light that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-4). We are saved by grace the moment we believe the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16).   

The saved can still be in the dark when it comes to certain truth in the word of God. Traditions of men blind people to the truth of God's word. Paul prayed for believers to have the eyes of their understanding enlightened that they might know what is the hope of His calling (Eph. 1:15-18). Sadly, the majority of professing Christians today do not know the truth about our blessed hope (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

The Spirit of God will help us understand the word of God as we sincerely believe it, and study it His way (2 Tim. 2:15). We must depend upon the Spirit of God if we are going to be serious students of the scripture. As we believe and walk in the light that He gives us, He will give us more light. We must study the Bible in light of where we are living in God's plan of the ages. Christ raised up Paul to be the pattern and spokesman to the Body of Christ in this present age of grace. That is why he said, "Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee UNDERSTANDING in all things." (2 Tim. 2:7).


Dispensational Salvation

One of the most important things about right division is that it enables us to understand and clearly present the only gospel by which sinn...