Tuesday, July 17, 2012
The Church Which is His Body
We can hardly believe that any redeemed child of God would "prefer" to wait on earth for the descent of the Lord from heaven if the "manifestation with Hin in glory" were a possible hope before him. Manifested "in glory", i.e. where Christ now sits "on the right hand of God". While, therefore, the hope before all other companies of the redeemed is "the Lord's coming", the "prior-hope" of the church of the Mystery is rather "their going" to be "manifested with Him in glory" While the epistle to Titus is not a "Prison Epistle", it belongs to the same group as 1 and 2 Timothy. There, too, we read that we should live "looking for that blessed hope, and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). Parousia and Epiphany Believing as we do that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, we must be careful to distinguish between the different words used by God when speaking of the hope of His people. We observe that the word parousia usually translated "coming", is found in such passages as the following: "What shall be the sign of Thy COMING and of the end of the age?" (Matt. 24:3). "The COMING of the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:15). "The COMING of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 2:1). "They that are Christ's at His COMING" (1 Cor. 15:23). "The COMING of the Lord draweth nigh" (Jas. 5:8). "The promise of His COMING" (2 Pet. 3:4). "Not ashamed before Him at His COMING" (1 John 2:28). This word is used to describe the hope of the church during the period when "the hope of Israel" was still in view. Consequently we find it used in the Gospel of Matthew, by Peter, James and John, ministers of the circumcision, and by Paul in those epistles written before the dispensational change of Acts twenty-eight. A different word is used in the Prison Epistles. There, the word parousia is never used of the Lord's coming or of the hope of the church, but the word epiphany. In 1 Thessalonians four the Lord descends from heaven; in 2 Thessalonians one He is to be revealed from heaven. This is very different from being a manifested "in glory", i.e. where Christ now sits "on the right hand of God". While, therefore, the hope before all other companies of the redeemed is "the Lord's coming", the "prior-hope" of the church of the Mystery is rather "their going" to be "manifested with Him in glory". While the epistle to Titus is not a "Prison Epistle", it belongs to the same group as 1 and 2 Timothy. There, too, we read that we should live "looking for that blessed hope, and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). The four Prison Epistles are: A EPHESIANS .- The Dispensation of Mystery. Basic Truth B PHILIPPIANS. -The Prize. Outworking.K A COLOSSIANS. -The Dispensation of the Mystery. Basic Truth B 2 TIMOTHY. -The Crown. Outworking. The reader will find in each of these epistles, evidence that they were written from prison and that they form part of the ministry referred to in Acts 28:31. The above notes on features (1) to (7) are necessarily brief and are not intended to do anything more than provide the merest outline of the subject. Any reader who is not convinced as to the peculiar and unique character of these prison epistles and the dispensation they reveal, should give them a personal study, noting all their claims, and their distinctive features. This article has not been written to prove to the satisfaction of all that a new dispensation commenced at Acts twenty-eight, but has been prepared rather as a help to those who, having realized that a change most certainly did take place in the dispensational dealings of God with men at that time, desire to understand what effect this change had upon the hope of the church. It might be well if the reader pondered the marginal reading of Ephesians 1:17 where, instead of "in the knowledge of Him", we read, "for the acknowledging of Him". This raises a most important point. Many fail to go forward with the truth, not because of inability to understand the meaning of plain terms, but because of failure to "acknowledge Him". The Apostle' pauses in his teaching to tell his hearers that before another step can be taken, acknowledgment of what has already been revealed must be made. To acknowledge the truth of the Mystery is to put oneself out of favour with denominationalism; and many a child of God who says, "I do not see it", is really making a confession of failure to acknowledge the revelation of truth connected with the ascended Lord. What promise is in view? There is but one promise in the Prison Epistles. The Gentiles who formed the church of the One Body were by nature "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise" (Eph. 2:12), but through grace they became "fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel; whereof I (Paul) was made a minister" (Eph. 3:6-'n. This promise takes us back to the period of Ephesians 1:4, "before the foundation of the world" "According to the promise of life, which is in Christ Jesus . . . according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began" (before age-times) (2 Tim. 1:1,9). It is this one unique promise that will be realized when the blessed hope before the church of the one Body is fulfilled. Its realization is described by the Apostle in Colossians three: "When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. 3:4). It is impossible to defer this "appearing" until after the Millennium, for the church is waiting for "Christ their life" and so awaiting "the promise of life", which is their hope. The word "appearing" might be translated "manifestation", and will be familiar to most readers in the term "epiphany".